Archives

QandA

NDAs and other acronyms

Craig and John open the mailbag to answer questions on acronyms in dialogue, off-the-air specs and international WGA jurisdiction. Plus we look at the growing trend of non-disclosure agreements on studio projects, and whether the nature of film requires less complex characters.

Diary of a First-Time Director

John and Craig sit down with Marielle Heller, the writer and director of the acclaimed feature Diary of a Teenage Girl, to talk about the journey of getting her movie made, from optioning the novel to the Sundance Labs through production.

The International Episode

Craig and John look at how movies are translated, including an interview with a guy who does subtitles for a living. Plus, how Pixar and other companies are localizing movies for international audiences, and what happens when China becomes the largest film market.

Short cut-aways, and the value of BACK TO:

When dealing with cutaways and flashbacks, screenwriters have a few choices for how to portray it on the page.

One-Handed Movie Heroes

John and Craig discuss why movie heroes — unlike those in novels or musicals — generally don’t profess internally conflicting views. In reality, our feelings on a topic are likely shades of gray. On the big screen, characters tend to articulate a single point firmly.

How to Not Be a Jerk

Craig and John look at best practices for screenwriters promoting their films, both in traditional media and online. We’re not subtweeting anyone, and neither should you.

How descriptive audio works

John and Craig take a deep look at how descriptive audio for the blind works, with clips from Daredevil and an interview with a woman who does it for a living. It’s a fascinating form of writing, with many of the same challenges screenwriters face.

How descriptive narration gets written

On this week’s episode of Scriptnotes, I asked whether listeners had any experience with how descriptive narration for the blind was written, and whether those writers consulted the screenplay. Several listeners quickly pointed me to WGBH, and this FAQ.

Why movies have reshoots

Reshoots used to be a sign that something had gone horribly wrong. But not anymore. John and Craig look at the reasons why Hollywood movies often go back for additional photography, and how the writer is involved.

Everything but the dialogue

John and Craig take a deep dive into scene description, looking at how seven produced screenplays arranged the words on the page. With samples from Aliens, Erin Brockovich, Oceans 11, Unforgiven, Wall-E, Wanted and Whip It, we tackle verbs and metaphors, ellipses and underlining.

Fight the Giant, or Moving Up the Showdown

In most stories built around a heroic quest, the big confrontation comes at the end. But moving it earlier can pay off.

The One with Alec Berg

Craig sits down with Silicon Valley writer/director Alec Berg to talk about set ups and payoffs, editing comedy and how writing teams get screwed.

The road to becoming a professional artist

Noah Bradley, who illustrated several of the weapon cards for One Hit Kill, has a great post up about his journey to becoming a full-time professional artist.

No one makes those movies anymore

Craig and John look at why certain genres of movies — mid-budget thrillers, adult dramas and romantic comedies — aren’t getting made, and whether there’s any way to get them back.

How to Get Staffed on a TV show

Gina Ippolito writes about how she got staffed on her first TV show.

Stack of Needles, and giving your characters too much of a good thing

Heroes are often searching of the proverbial needle in the haystack. Like many of the cards in Writer Emergency Pack, “Stack of Needles” invites you to consider doing exactly the opposite.

Nobody Eats Four Marshmallows

John and Craig take an in-depth look at turnaround and reversion, and how screenwriters get their scripts back from a studio.

When do characters deserve to die?

Like Devin Faraci, one death in Jurassic World stuck out for me, because it didn’t feel deserved. But was does “deserved” really mean?

Really Short Stories

Daniel Wallace, who wrote the novel Big Fish, sent me the syllabus for the college writing class he’s teaching, including a first-week requirement of a 100-word short story.

Everyman vs. Superman

From Wolverine to The Rock, male action heroes have literally gotten bigger over the last decade. Craig and John look at how that impacts story. Is there hope for the the ordinary man in an extraordinary situation? Will we ever get back to Kurt and Keanu?

How would this be a movie?

John and Craig look at three current news stories from a screenwriter’s perspective, discussing how each lends itself to becoming a movie.

The Automatic Gate

As a screenwriter, I’m always looking for ticking clocks to increase the tension in a story. One my favorite sub-tropes is the Automatic Gate.

The 200th Episode Live Show

Craig, John, and Aline record the 200th episode of Scriptnotes live with a worldwide audience listening in — and chiming in — as they discuss TV showrunning and whether quality really counts at the box office.

8 Common Mistakes Made by New Screenwriters

B.J. Novak is all about lists. He asked me to write this one about issues I frequently see in scripts written by beginning screenwriters. 1. Starting with a concept rather than a character We don’t want a movie about a lost relic. We want a movie about Indiana Jones. 2. Being too nice to the […]

Second Draft Doldrums

Craig and John discuss finding your way back to your story — and your enthusiasm — when writing your second draft. Craig has tips and suggestions. John has sympathy and war stories.