Judging for Humanitas

  According to Wikipedia, "Humanitas" is a Latin noun meaning human nature, civilization and kindness.  What a lovely word, isn't it? It's also the name of a wonderful organization in Los Angeles, established in 1974, which, among other things, annually gives out...

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I recently had the pleasure of being invited to moderate a group discussion of this script for The Storyboard Development Group at Fox Studios, and I gotta say, if you are in Los Angeles, have aspirations of being a screenwriter and are not attending these gatherings,...

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Awhile back I was contacted by something called the Virginia Quarterly Review, and asked to write a piece for them for their upcoming Hollywood issue. I pitched them “Quentin Loves Girls”, about Quentin Tarantino and his generally pretty great treatment of women in his otherwise very violent movies. They love, love, loved the idea and asked me to pretty please write it. I did…

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Building Character(s) – 5 Tips for Creating a Lead Character Your Audience Will Really Care About

“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through the experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired and success achieved.”
~ Helen Keller

From a certain angle, a writer’s job can be boiled down to three simple words: “Make me care”. Consequently, a note screenwriters often get is that they need to make their lead more “sympathetic”, more “likable”. Reasonable enough in theory, but how exactly? It’s a little vague, like telling a chef to make a meal more tasty. But, as with cooking, if you break it down, I believe there are some time-tested techniques which go into making us relate to and care about what happens to your hero…

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The Power of Stories

Had to share this link to Ron Suskind’s incredibly fascinating and moving tale of how Disney stories helped him and the rest of his family connect with his autistic son, Owen. I don’t know when I’ve read a greater testament to the power of story-telling and the vital role it plays in our lives.

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“I Wish I’d Written That” – Writers Guild Foundation Evening – May 23

The Writers Guild Foundation and the Humanitas Organization, (a wonderful group – more on them here), are co-sponsoring what sounds like a terrific panel called “I Wish I’d Written That – What Makes a Great Movie” featuring writers Stephen Gaghan, Lowell Ganz, Nicholas Meyer, Paris Qualles, David Seidler and moderated by Robin Swicord. General admission is $20, $15 for WGA members and a mere $10 for students. If you’re anywhere near LA, you owe it to your writing self to take advantage of these opportunities to learn from and be inspired by some of the best. More info on the evening here.

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I like to think we’re all this, in a good way. I’ve long believed that a sense of forward momentum is one of the essentials to human happiness. Everyone wants to feel like they’re moving forward, like they’re ‘progressing’ in life in one way or another. It’s like that old advertising tag line, “I’m not getting older, I’m getting better.” But the key word here is “work”. There’s the rub. Alas, real progress in any arena almost never simply happens all by itself. It takes effort, and usually a lot of it. And the same is true for our characters…

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The Path of Most Resistance


In the world at large the idea of peace on Earth is a noble, if seemingly unattainable, goal. But in the world of drama, it’s death– because the essence of “drama”, (and by that I mean both drama and comedy), is conflict…

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And speaking of the Black List…

Congratulations to my clients Nick Pollack and Ryan Hayward for their recent great review from the Black List for their script, "Any Girl Who Loves the Beatles is Bound to Break Your Heart", and for making the list's weekly "Scripts of Interest". I'm so pleased for...

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The Black List Opens to Unrepresented Writers

This is an interesting development. Franklin Leonard, (a fellow Sydney Pollack alum), has opened his famous Black List to unrepresented writers– for a fee. Yep, there’s money involved, a monthly $25 fee to have your script hosted on their website. But given the Black List’s excellent reputation, it might be worth doing IF, and only if, your script is truly ready to be seen. Sometimes cliches are cliches for a reason, and here’s one of them — you only get one chance to make a good first impression. So, before you pony up and submit, be sure you bring your script to its highest possible realization. I can help you with that. Click here for the details on this new wrinkle in the business.

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How to Win a Best Screenplay Oscar

I have a theory– if you want a best screenplay Oscar, (and who doesn’t?), one way to stack the odds more in your favor is to write a script about a particularly unlikely, yet not fantastical, event or relationship. If you can find a way to somehow make us buy in and believe, as far-fetched as the story might seem on its surface, (and the more far-fetched, yet still very human, the better), you’re onto something…

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Ask Me if I Care

A common note which writers frequently hear is that they need to make their lead character more ‘sympathetic’. Which begs the question of how, exactly? Blake Snyder’s answer to this question even engendered the title of his well-known book on writing, “Save the Cat”. I.e., have the character engage in some sort of altruistic behavior early on that tells us they’re a good person. There’s admittedly some truth to this, but if all you’ve got is some obligatory bit of Bobby bringing hot soup to the old lady shut-in next door, it seems like a cop out to me– too cheesy, too easy and worst of all, too tired…

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What’s the Big Idea?

In today’s marketplace, the critical importance of a strong log line cannot be over-emphasized. You need to be able to boil your idea down to its essence, i.e., two to three sentences at most, and other people need to be able to grasp the movie in that description, and ideally be intrigued by its creative possibilities. If you can’t do this and you’re trying to write a major motion picture, I’d maintain that not only will you have trouble marketing it, but also that you haven’t really nailed your story yet….

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Nora Ephron – The Heroine of Her Own Life

“Above all, be the heroine of your own life, not the victim.”

Of all the moving things written and quoted in the wake of her far too early passing, the line above touched me the most. What wonderful, wise advice, and how clearly she seems to have lived it. She’s been quoted as saying, “My mother wanted us to understand that the tragedies of your life one day have to potential to be the comic stories the next.”

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An interview with Diane Drake

from: adelaidescreenwriter.blogspot.com.au Diane Drake is a screenwriter based in Los Angeles.  She is best known for writing Only You (1994) and What Women Want (2000), and also teaches screenwriting at the UCLA Extension Writers' program. I first came across her...

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Writing Secrets from Hemingway

I love me some Ernest.  Okay, sure, there’s the philandering and the alcoholism, the excessive machismo and animal slaughter, (special condolences to the bulls of Spain, the elephants of Africa and the marlins in the Gulf Stream.   Though, on balance, he did seem to...

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