Monday, October 19, 2020

Writing for Television Animation

In this month's Let's Schmooze podcast, I welcome writers Steven Melching (X-Men: The Animated Series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Transformers Prime, Star Wars: The Clone Wars) and Shaene Siders (Niko and the Sword of Light, DC Super Hero Girls, Saint Seiya) to discuss writing for television animation. 

 

Video

Audio Podcast

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 The Hollywood Pitching Bible

“ ‘Bible’ is the right word. This is the Truth about pitching. Just do what it says.”
- Gary Goldman (Writer/Producer, "Total Recall," "Minority Report," "Big Trouble in Little China")

 

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Writing the Sample Pilot

 In my latest podcast, I talk with television writers Hollie Overton (Shadowhunters, Tell Me a Story, The Client List) and J. Holtham (Supergirl, Jessica Jones, Cloak & Dagger) about writing your sample television pilot.

Video:

 

Audio Podcast:



 The Hollywood Pitching Bible

“ ‘Bible’ is the right word. This is the Truth about pitching. Just do what it says.”
- Gary Goldman (Writer/Producer, "Total Recall," "Minority Report," "Big Trouble in Little China")

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Transitioning from Film School to the Industry

In my latest podcast, I talk with three of my former students, Mae Catt (Transformers: Cyberverse), Matthew Epstein (Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist), and Rebecca Cremona (Simshar). We discuss the process of transitioning from film school to the professional world.



Audio version:

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Ten Comic-Con at Home Panels for Screenwriters

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, San Diego Comic-Con has been cancelled this year. But good news! It has gone online. And it is totally free and open to everyone. So, if you’ve ever wanted to experience Comic-Con but have been unable to get a pass or to travel to San Diego, now’s your chance to get a taste little taste.

You can see the whole line-up of online panels at the website. There are over 350 panels. That’s a lot to wade through. So, below are my ten suggestions for panels that will be of particular interest to film and television writers. Some of these I’ve attended in previous cons, some just look intriguing.

Go to the website to see full descriptions. The con begins Wednesday, July 22nd, but many of the panels will be available indefinitely – which is fortunate because there’s some good ones at the same time.


1. Writing for TV - Sunday 7/26, 1 pm

2. The Art of Adapting Comics to the Screen: David S. Goyer – Saturday 7/25, 11 am

3. Writers Journey: Producers Mentality - Sunday 7/26 3 pm

4. Scary Good TV: A Conversation with Horror’s Top Showrunners - Saturday 7/25, 6 pm

5. Collider: Directors on Directing – Thursday 7/23, 2 pm

6. From Idea to Hired: Books, TV, Film, and Comics (a panel of agents) – Friday 7/24, 1 pm

7. Finance for Creatives – Saturday 7/25, 11 am

8. Authors on the Best Advice I Ever Got – Saturday 7/25, 3 pm

9. The Future of Entertainment – Thursday 7/23, 1 pm

10. Artists as Brand, Rise of the Artist Entrepreneur – Thursday 7/23, 3m

And be sure to watch my Let’s Schmooze Vlog about Comic-Con, networking, and writing in various media. My guests were:

Benjamin Raab - TV writer (Arrow, The Flash) and comic book writer (The Phantom, Green Lantern)

Spiro Skentzos, TV writer (Grimm, Arrow) and host of the “Intro to TV Writing” Comic-Con panel

Eugene Son, animation writer (Avengers Assemble, Star Wars Resistance) and comic book writer (Ultimate Spider-Man)



It’s also available as an audio podcast:

Monday, June 22, 2020

My New Vlog

Hi Let's Schmooze fans. I wanted to let you know about a new project I'm working on that might be of interest to you: my Let's Schmooze Vlog. Once a month I will gather two or three guests to discuss writing for film, television, and other media. In the premiere episode, my guests were Matt Federman, co-showrunner of the CBS show Blood and Treasure, and Jill Blotevogel who was show runner on the Scream television show.

Here is the episode:


Next month I'll be doing an episode themed to Comic-Con. My guests will include television writer Spiro Skentzos (Arrow, Grimm) and Eugene Son, animation writer (Avengers Assemble, Star Wars Resistance) and comic book writer (Ultimate Spider-Man). Subscribe to my YouTube channel to see it!

What else have I been up to? Well, I have a project I'm very excited about. I co-wrote with my sister, Kris Bock, a prequel novel to Sweet Home Alabama called Felony Melanie in Pageant Pandemonium. It tells of the teenage adventures of Melanie and Jake. Here's a summary:

Before Melanie Smooter became hot fashion designer Melanie Carmichael, she was known as Felony Melanie, the teenage troublemaker of Pigeon Creek, Alabama. Aching to escape the boredom of small-town life, she gets into many reckless adventures. Her boyfriend, Jake, is always by her side – and the local sheriff is usually close behind.

Melanie’s mother has been shoving her into every beauty pageant within twenty miles since Melanie was a toddler. Melanie is getting a little sick of it. She’s on the verge of quitting when she qualifies for the Miss Alabama Princess Pageant in the big city of Mobile. The first prize scholarship could be her ticket out of Pigeon Creek, not to mention that one of the judges is a real, live New York fashion designer. The competition will be fierce. Can a "trailer trash" girl outshine the snooty debutantes?

Meanwhile, Jake and his friends go to Mobile to support Melanie – and to party in the big city. But when strange disasters befall pageant events, the gang suspects someone is sabotaging the contest. They try to figure who’s behind it and why, but it isn't easy when everyone dismisses you as redneck kids.

Melanie needs to prove herself on stage. Jake and the gang need to make sure she gets the chance. Can they show they're more than what people see on the surface? 

We did a virtual book launch party featuring several special guests, including a couple of the cast members from the movie: Courtney Gaines (Wade) and Fleet Cooper (Clinton). You can watch it here:



If you want to read a free preview story, sign up for our newsletter at: sendfox.com/lp/1rpny3 

You can buy the book on Amazon.

Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Ten Best Written Films of 2019

It’s time once again for my selection of the ten best-written films of the year. I was shocked that 2019 turned out to be an exceptionally good year for movies. I had no shortage of films in contention for the list. More surprisingly, only one of the films on my list could be described as part of a franchise, and then only tangentially. This year bucked the trends of recent years. Of course, not all of the movies on my list were big hits, but many of them were. Is this just a blip, or is it a good sign for the industry? Time will tell.

Before I get to the list, a reminder of my usual caveats: I see a lot of movies, but I haven’t seen everything. For example, I still haven’t seen The Irishman, which is a significant awards contender. Also, this is a list of the best-written movies, not necessarily the best movies or my favorite movies. For example, I thought 1917 was an excellent film, but the script was fairly straightforward. Nothing wrong with the writing, certainly, and it laid the foundation for the excellence of the film, but the real success of the film derived more from the directing and cinematography than the screenplay.

One more thing: I, like much of the industry, have had to wrestle with what qualifies as a “movie” in this age of streaming. I’ve been limiting my annual lists to theatrical releases, but this year I considered any standalone, self-contained, continuous film story (i.e. no episodes) no matter how it was released. The downside is there are many, many, many movies on streaming and cable I will not have seen. In the end, every movie on my list got at least a token theatrical release.

So, without further ado, here are my picks for best written movies of 2019:



1. Jojo Rabbit (screenplay by Taika Watiti) – Hands down the best movie I saw this year – the best movie I’ve seen in a few years, really – was Jojo Rabbit. Every piece of this movie was exceptional, but none more than the screenplay. It’s hilarious and heartbreaking, a movie that will truly make you laugh and make you cry, and one that contains a powerful, relevant message about the insidious nature of propaganda. Not to mention, with its delicate subject matter, there was a high degree of difficulty to pull this story off. Taika Watiti succeeded and then some.

2. Knives Out (written by Rian Johnson) – This is the kind of quality cinema entertainment that almost everyone will enjoy. It has a tricky, twisty, mystery at its core, fantastic characters, a good dollop of humor, and a subtle satirical punch. This kind of movie absolutely depends on the screenplay (and the performances), and Rian Johnson nailed it.

3. Booksmart (written by Emily Halpern & Sarah Haskins and Susanna Fogel and Katie Silberman) – This film got a lot of attention for making two female characters the leads of a raunchy teen comedy and presenting a lesbian lead without making a big deal about it. That’s all worthy of commendation, but don’t miss how funny the writing was and how complex the characters were. This was an excellent screenplay.

4. Luce (screenplay by J.C. Lee) – A star-studded but small independent film, this was a thought-provoking, complex story of race and issues of trust between parents and teenagers in America. It is also a powerful domestic drama with some of the most complicated characters on screen this year.

5. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (written by Noah Harpster and Micah Fitzerman-Blue) – This one surprised me. It is ostensibly a story about Mr. Rogers, but it’s really about a reporter and how his assignment to interview Mr. Rogers changes his life. So many things could have gone wrong here, but the deft screenplay keeps it on track, and the result is a touching, thoughtful movie.

6. Parasite (story by Bong Joon Ho, screenplay by Bong Joon Ho and Jin Won Han) – The buzzy international film is a smart comedic satire and twisty gruesome thriller rolled up in one. The characters are well developed, although the plot goes borderline over-the-top by the end. Still, it’s a unique and thought-provoking film.

7. Joker (written by Todd Phillips & Scott Silver) – I’ve gotta be honest, I was prepared to dislike this film. Turns out, it’s an excellent dark drama and character study that fits nicely into the more sophisticated versions of the Batman world. It may be a little derivative of King of Comedy, but I was won over by the smart screenplay nonetheless.

8. Ford vs. Ferrari (written by Jez Butterworth & John-Henry Butterworth and Jason Keller) – This may be the most conventional film on my list, but it deserves credit for a tightly crafted screenplay and well-developed characters.

9. Little Women (screenplay by Greta Gerwig) – It can be difficult to determine how much credit to give to an adaptation of strong source material. Gerwig’s screenplay teases out the most modern elements of the book – making a few changes and then justifying those changes within the narrative – while not losing the emotional melodrama that has made this a beloved novel for generations.

10. Dolemite is My Name (written by Scott Alexander & Larry Karaszewki) – This is a worthy true story about a groundbreaking and often ridiculous Black artist striving to achieve fame in a world that doesn’t understand his culture. It’s a story that ought to be told and is told well here. It’s also very funny.

There were plenty of other enjoyable films with well-written screenplays this year, some of which could easily have found their way onto this list. My “honorable mentions” include strong genre entertainments like Captain Marvell, Toy Story 4, Spider Man: Far From Home, and Doctor Sleep, as well as excellent art house fare like Marriage Story, The Two Popes, The Farewell, Hustlers, and Richard Jewell. As I said, it was a surprisingly good year for movies!

I try not to denigrate movies on my list, but I do feel obligated to mention Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood, particularly because it just won a Golden Globe for screenplay. I’m a Tarantino fan, but I did not like it very much, and I think the screenplay was one of the weakest aspects. So yes, I did see it, and no, it does not make my list. Still, even when Tarantino fails, his movies are more interesting than half of what’s in theaters.

That’s my list. If you don’t like it, make your own!

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Get The Three Stages of Screenwriting

"I used to always recommend that new writers read Story as their first and most important introduction to the craft of screenwriting, but from now on, I’m going to recommend The Three Stages of Screenwriting."
-LA Screenwriter Review