Wednesday, April 26, 2017

BOTH SCREENWRITER AND FILMMAKER


In a world where film has largely been replaced by digital the modern screenwriter needs to consider the idea of being both screenwriter and filmmaker. 

 For the first century of film making the writer hoped to be part of the film making process as a voice on set or to work their way up to directing someday. This was because movies costed so much to make. Millions of dollars meant that there was a system that allowed very little if any vertical movement. Now low budget films are shot for under a million dollars. The ultra low budget film can be done for less than one hundred thousand. The micro budget film can be done and done well for under ten thousand dollars.


 If you want to be the writer, the producer and the director you can now do this. You do not have to use your own money either. You can shoot a scene of a minute or two to prove your concept and then use it in a crowd funding campaign. You can now craft a no budget screenplay, shoot it and use it to market your skills as a writer or better yet the all in one filmmaker. Let's look at the no budget short film.


 

  Perhaps it is time to consider that the best way to become a successful screenwriter is first to become a film maker. 

If you wish to learn how to craft a micro budget screenplay I have written a great little book that you can check out. It is a paperback that soon will be for sale as an audiobook. What I have suggested here is one path to becoming a successful screenwriter. 

In the next post we will look at the Hollywood way. If you wish to learn more about micro budget film making I would suggest visiting my other blog on the subject. Click here to do so. 


Thanks and good luck with your screenplay.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The New World Of Screenwriting

The New World Of Screenwriting

The Dslr revolution amongst low and micro budget film makers has changed the way that screenwriters are looked at by film makers. 
 

   There are now two worlds. The Hollywood way of looking at screenwriters. The screenwriter is a tool that is to be used, abused and when it begins to make noise to be replaced with a younger and cheaper version. Hollywood believes in the need for quality screenplays, but not necessarily the need for writers. You can still get rich there, but you stand a better chance of hitting it big with a novel as you do with a dozen quality screenplays.

 The indie world of film making offers the screenwriter far less money up front. Face it most of us will be working of spec, but the script will get made and the power of the screenwriter in the micro budget world is like that of the writer in the world of network television. You matter more and if you want to be the film maker then all that is required is a great deal of hard work, a few dollars, a strong computer to edit on and a dlsr camera. Christopher Nolan wrote and directed his first film Following for a few thousand dollars with a bunch of friends. The film was shot over the span of a year of weekends.

 

 
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  Look at it this way. In the Hollywood system you as the screenwriter is looked upon as a house elf who may serve long enough to earn your clothes. In the micro budget universe you at worst a high ranking resistance fighter and at best a long lost Jedi Knight.Your skills are viewed as important as those of the leading actor, the director or producer.

 


The thing that I wish to leaved you with today is a single piece of advice moving forward. Decide on what kind of screenwriter that you wish to be. A Hollywood writer or an indie writer. 

 Can’t I do both? 

Yes and no is my answer. 

A low budget writer who pens a film like Mad Max can write films like Thunderdome and Fury Road. A guy who writes the Evil Dead can do three Spiderman films scripts. While someone who did Star Wars films for twenty years cannot think in terms of less than thirty million dollars or once you have done big budget horror films such as the Village and the Happening you think that spending five million dollars to shoot The Visit (most indies could have done it shot for shot for less than a hundred thousand) cannot got micro budget. 

Decide which type of writer you are, not want to be, but are and you will be on your way. 

Thank you for visiting today and my final piece of advice is to study film making this cannot help but to make you a best writer of film.


 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Adapting a Public Domain Comic Book

How About Public Domain Comic Books

 As we watch another summer where many of the massive budget films were adapted from popular comic books. as a micro budget screenwriter there are not many direct ways for you to get in on the action. These adaptations are for those who have worked in the Hollywood system for a while. There are however ways for you to prove yourself capable of writing one of these types of screenplays. I have superheroe dreams like many of your. I would love to do a Green Hornet screenplay, but no one is going to offer me a shot unless I have a track record. 

 How do you build a track record in this genre? 

 You can write a great fan film based upon one of your favorite heroes. The best micro budget superhero film that I have ever seen (better than a few of the big budget versions as well) is a fan film titled Joker Rising. That movie’s script is a great calling card. You could do the same thing. The only problem with this is that you either need to be a film maker or network with film makers who are interested in shooting a fan film.


    

 Recently I was introduced to a new concept. Instead of adapting a famous comic book into a screenplay why not adapt a public domain comic book. A little known fact is that there are thousands of comics that have fallen into the public domain due to the fact that the companies in the forties and fifties that released them went out of businesses and never renewed the copyrights. 

 “That was a long time ago. You can not be serious. Who wants to bring back a character from the forties or fifties?”You say. 

 

Superman, Batman, Wonderwoman and my favorite Captain America began their careers around World War 2. Those characters have endured and changed with the times. You should take the time to investigate these lost characters. There are also characters that are based upon mythical heroes such as Thor or Isis. You can take these heroes and created a screenplay featuring them as long as they do not resemble their comic book counterparts. Sci-fi channel does things like this all the time. They did a Thor movie and it was pretty bad, but they did it and had no problem with the copyright. 

You can make the Frankenstein monster into a hero an antihero like Dracula which is done to perfection in the anime series Hellsing.






 

  If you chose to do this you must first find a subject that you love. Read the original material over and over until you know every single detail and then get to work on the story. If you do not love a character and comic book based films are usually character driven stories then you should not attempt the task of writing a screenplay based upon that character. 


 Good luck with your project and please take a moment to add me to your google plus. I may have some news soon about a screenplay I have been working on for sometime.



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Consider The Audience

Consider The Audience

 My favorite film maker Alfred Hitchcock would constantly talk about the audience. He always had what each and ever scene was doing to his audience. Film making to him was the art of conducting an audience like a conduct would conduct an orchestra. 

 When sitting down to craft your screenplay are you only considering the characters on the page or are you thinking about the audience that someday will be getting to know them. When you have mastered your craft you will find yourself considering what each scene and within those scenes what each line of dialogue and or action is going to be doing to this audience.

  

The first and best way to get the audience involved with your screenplay is to get them to care about you characters. These characters do not have to be likeable, but they do need to be understandable and relatable. If they care about your lead character or villain then you are half way home.


 

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  Thank you very much for visiting my blog. If you are interested in learning all the basics of writing a micro budget screenplay then I would recommend my ebook on the subject. Good luck with your screen writing and have a nice day.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Screenwriting Advice, From the Pros

Screenwriting Advice, From the Pros


 I know that it has been over six months since my last post. I have been busy writing a series of ebooks, two of which will be available by the middle of the month of November. Until then I thought that I would touch base with all of my blogs. I have had little to say about screenwriting due to the fact that I published a really good book on the subject last year and the fact that it comes easy to me these days. 

Part of writing about any given subject is the effort to find a better way to understand that subject. I write about film making at my other blog because there is a lifetime of lessons left to learn on that subject. Returning to this blog I can predict that I will approach future post more from the angle of a film maker rather than a screen writer. 

As a writer first, I thought only in terms of story. Now I look at the screenplay in a new light. I will explain what I mean by this in future post. Right now I would like to share a backlog of videos from a few accomplished screen writers.

 First up is Joe Eszterhas. 

 

Next up is Peter Russell.





 The last writer we are going to hear from is Thunder Levin. If you do not know him he wrote a certain shark/tornado movie. Okay, fine, I will say it. He wrote Sharknado and he seems to be proud of it. 

 


 Thank you for visiting my blog and if you would like a complete tutorial on how to write a micro budget screenplay you may want to check out my book pictured below. Good luck and please take a moment to share this post and to like it on stumbleupon. 


Monday, February 17, 2014

The Found Footage Vs. The Footage Script

                    The Found Footage Vs. The Footage Script


    The found footage film is here to stay as long as it grows and adapts. Adaptation is the key to this. The western, the gangster film and the horror film changed over time. The horror film of the silent era grew up to become the four star films produced by Universal films in the 1930's. The genre nearly died off and then came back with a vengeance in the 50's. Led by Hammer horror films and aided with a massive wave of the newly introduced scifi horror film.

    We all know the formula by now. A group of people, one armed with a recording device, find themselves in a life and death situation. This situation is usually supernatural or thriller related. Despite the best efforts of the mostly brain dead or functioning brain damaged lead characters they end up getting themselves killed while the camera is still recording. That death is symbolic for the death of the genre.

    Found footage, must become footage films. This is done at the screenplay level and that is the reason for this post.

    What I have found is that most found footage films are not written they are outlined. They are usually structured in the form of a treatment. The basic scenes are written in normal screenplay style. The interiors or exteriors are noted and then there is a description of what the characters are suppose to do and talk about in the scene without actually stage direction or dialogue being written. As a writer you are leaving to much to chance in the found footage genre.

    The footage film screenplay is the wave of the future.

    What is a Footage screenplay and have I ever seen an example.

    The footage screenplay is a screenplay that incorporates footage shot by someone or a series of people and or security cameras on screen and mixes it with footage from a third person shooter (the cameraman).  The best example of this kind of film making is the movie End of Watch. Where the editing is done so well that you have to really focus on each scene to notice when and where the switches are made.



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    Below is a great example of how footage and found footage can be combined to produce a quality low budget film.  Screen was shot on a budget of about four thousand dollars and combines footage from iphones and the Canon 5d mark II.





    This style of screen writing gives control back to the writer to deliver a quality story. If you are going to put your name on a found footage screenplay even if you only wrote a twenty page outline you are going to be blamed if it stinks. For the sake of your writing career the Footage screenplay gives you more control over the content that will comprise the finished product.

    You will have to pick your devices and where and when to embed the on screen devices. Writing one of these films will require you to think at times as a director within the film itself.

When inserting them into the script put these scenes down as point of view (POV).

Character’s name and then POV.

POV of security cam or webcam.

    You will find the best way of doing this. Just think in terms of footage rather than found footage and this will be a gift both to characters and audience. The audience that views the finished product will thank you. The characters that survive rather than finding themselves laying dead in a pool of their own blood beside a sputtering camcorder will love you.

    Now go write some great scenes so that you or your director can go out and shoot some great footage.
That will be it for today. Please take a moment to add me to your Google plus and to share this post on your facebook.



Friday, December 6, 2013

The Low Budget Holiday Script



Another holiday season has arrived and we find movies in theatres and on television with holiday themes. This is nothing new. Holiday movies have been part of the film making landscape since the very early days. Simple stories about home and faith and family.

I say home and faith and family while leaving out Santa Claus because after watching two weeks non stop of these kinds of films I am going to suggest that we all take a step away from the I am Santa films.

I understand why many filmmakers pick the Santa film, it is a way of making a movie all inclusive and a way of avoiding questions of faith. I would ask those film makers the question “Is that what you really want to be?” The equivalent of oatmeal or canned tuna? The holiday film that embraces faith and family most of all is the most popular of them all, It’s A Wonderful Life. The second most popular are versions of A Christmas Carol. Even the story of Santa Claus is based upon the life of a Christian Saint.

To do something truly memorable and lasting you may need to embrace this part of the holiday theme.

Switch for a moment to the area of comedy I am not against in anyway films such as - Plains, Trains and Automobiles or the first two Home Alone films. Comedy has its place. Although those movies are not low budget. You should always try to find a place to include a little comedy in your film even if is a serious drama. A holiday film script that is too down beat can be a hard sell. I wish that good old fashion tear jerkers were still popular, but audience are not demanding them. A lead character with a strong sense of humor is a good thing. They may not tell the jokes, but they should be able to get the joke or have the ability to laugh at themselves. 

   

 The great thing about holiday films is that most of them are at their core very simple scripts to write. The plots usually come down to two subjects. Either going home or appreciating what you had at home. A nice twist on this theme is the Nicholas Cage film, The Family Man.

The going home plot can fit perfectly into the no budget screenplay world. You can set one of these stories inside of a car or on a bus. Keeping your characters on the move can keep your story fresh as you introduce new characters and situations every few pages.

A few words on watching your budget in the travel and home types of scripts. Do not constantly change mode of transportation. This works great in a large budget film like Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but will kill a micro budget film. If your character or characters are travelling by car you can change vehicles a few times without blowing up a budget. If it is by bus the same bus location can double for multiple buses locations. After all if you have seen the inside of one cross country bus then you have seen them all. Plane and train travel can be done on a low budget depending on area of the country and access to sets. If you or the person that will be shooting your script lives in LA. NY. or a Canadian film making center then this can be done without blowing up a budget.

Now a note on the faith based holiday film.

You can write for a larger cast and crew than a standard low budget film because the film maker will, if he or she is smart, partner with a church or community organization that will open the doors to many free locations such as churches and community centers along with many people who will be willing to offer their services for free. Just remember the trade off in this area is that you must present a G or PG rated story with no subject material that will be objected to. This will include Santa and elves, do not include them. In the faith based world Christmas is a high holy day. Christmas is the beginning of the love story between mankind and god. Although there are a few dozen new family and faith based films coming to television this year there is only one that will playing in theaters. The Christmas Candle, and it like almost every such film has been beaten up by critics. If you want to be loved by critics and to win awards you are not going to get them if you write in this niche. Critics did not care much for It’s A Wonderful Life so understand that you will have little to no hope of winning them over.
    

I may have suggested rules, but the truth is that there are no rules. You can tell your holiday story anyway that you wish if you are going to be the film maker. If you want to take your screenplay to market then you will have to consider some of the basic rules. Directors and producers seem to want the familiar. This is perhaps why there has been hundreds of variations of the Christmas Carol plot.

Last note on the subject, you can mine classic songs for material. By classic I mean those in public domain. If you want to use a modern song then go out and negotiate for permission to do so. One of the most popular Christmas films in recent years was the movie Christmas Shoes. I believe that most movies based upon songs are thinly plotted, but it can get you from start to finish and just finishing a script gets you ninety percent of the way to seeing it produced someday.

Now if you feel that I have left out the subject of horror and holiday films. I did this because I have seen all of the Silent Night Deadly Night films. A few about killer snow men and the legendarily bad Santa Slays. I do not want to aid you in writing a horror movie for the holidays.

Peace on earth and good will towards men.

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Thank you for visiting and happy holidays.