Friday, December 31, 2010

... BRING ON 2011
New Year's Eve, Times Square
Another twelve months gone?  Seriously?  Just like that?  In a blink?  

So I flipped through my planner to see what I actually accomplished from January to December of 2010.  (I don't keep a journal anymore, just a daily planner to jot down events, meetings and experiences from the day.)  What do you know?  2010 was a fairly good year.

I blogged a lot more.  Hope you enjoyed it here.

I had my second play Extreme Green produced in Florida and New York City.  Fun times -- worked with some great NY theater folks at Thespian Productions.

I met or got to see in person some of my heroes: Edward Burns, Thelma Schoonmaker, James Taylor, Carole King, and Bono.  Not bad.

I worked out pretty regularly.  Surprising!

There was even an opportunity for travel -- from sunny Florida in winter to the southwest of Arizona in the spring to camping on the beach in the Outer Banks of North Carolina in summer to an autumn drive to the heartland of Indiana.  It was a great year for visiting family, enjoying the company of friends and road trips!

How about you?  Was it a good year?  Did you write that script yet or get closer to your dream of writing it?  I like looking back on my planner to see when I write most, the projects I worked on and the ebb and flow of my process.  There were some dry spells, but overall, I keep plugging away on some story, play or script.  Keep a record yourself -- to see when you're most prolific, and if not, what's getting in your way?

If you need some written inspiration, check out this website to read free screenplays online

And finally, with this being my final post for '10, I want to thank all of you for following The NY Screenwriting Life for another year.  Five years!  Big thanks to those readers who take a moment to email me with a shout out about the blog.  It's awesome to know you're all out there... and that I'm not writing in a void.

I hope all your dreams come true in '11.  That you have love, good health, success and passion. Who could ask for more?  Maybe a good agent would be nice.

Happy 2011, everyone!!  Toot your horn!  Sip champagne.  Now it's off to the madness of Times Square shortly.  I'll post video or pictures in the New Year!

Until next year...

Tuesday, December 07, 2010


Creative Screenwriting: Understanding Emotional Structure is a new book out by Christina Kallas.  It will get you thinking about movies -- and your scripts -- in a fresh way.
writer/producer Christina Kallas
Kallas is a screenwriter, producer and academic.  She's also the President of the Federation of Screenwriters in Europe.   

She presented a lab recently held by the Writer's Guild of America, East. 

Kallas champions writing emotion and imagery in your stories.  Plot points are important, but so is  emotion.  We've all seen movies that were supposed to move us, but somehow didn't quite accomplish what it set out to do.  That's why movies rely so heavily on musical scores to manipulate our feelings -- have you really LISTENED to a romantic comedy lately?  Not watched it, but listened... the music takes our hand and leads us along to make sure we're getting the message.

Kallas suggests a writer excite his imagination by turning to Improvisation.  I know about improv when it comes to acting class or stand-up comedy, but screenwriting?

She gave a great example in the lab.  Two actors, male and female, were given key information about a scene. The information was a young couple was divorcing (the relationship), they have a three year old son involved in a custody battle (goal), and the husband has returned to their home to retrieve "his books" (action).  Haven't we all ended relationships and had to go divvy up all the books and CDs before parting ways?  Not a pretty scene.  Talk about emotions and subtext.  Kallas had the male actor leave the room and she told the female actor that her motivation (action) was to get the husband to get violent (for custody points).  The male actors returned and was told his key emotion was anger.  Begin scene...

What resulted was completely unexpected by us in the audience and Kallas.  The actors started out angry, bickering, name-calling, swearing, but then soon softened, joked easily and reconciled right before our eyes.  It was amazing.  The dialogue was rich, spontaneous and deeply emotional.  Actors have to remain truthful in order to reach an audience, as does the writer.  Emotion and truth.

The point of the exercise?  To be innovative, creative and open to your scene with actors (or friends) and see what develops from the main situation.  We tend to get to locked into our beat sheets, outlines and rigid notes. Improvisation is a way to see a scene come to life in an authentic way... you may use what you hear or toss it away, but you will get some direction from the actors interpreting your work.

In this example above, the husband was so set on getting "his books" because he revealed later that he's lonely staying in a hotel room twelve blocks away from his family... and reading is his only salvation under the circumstances.  The actress/wife quipped "Read the Bible".  It got a big laugh.  

I recommend Creative Screenwriting: Understanding Emotional Structure.  Be warned, it's not a breezy read -- you'll need to have read several screenwriting books before getting this one.  It refers to Aristotle, Plato and all the classic screenwriting mechanics and theories.  But, it should make it's way on your writing shelf along with books by Syd Field, Linda Seger, Michael Hauge and Robert McKee

The book is available at Amazon and at and www.palgrave-com in the UK and the rest of the world.

Go tackle your scripts with images, thematic richness and feeling.
Nice Guy Johnny by Edward Burns
Which reminds me...  one of my favorite filmmakers is Edward Burns.  I had the pleasure of meeting him this year at a Tribeca Film Festival event and he couldn't have been sweeter. Support his new indie movie Nice Guy Johnny (I liked it) -- it's available to rent this week only for .99 cents at iTunes!!
Here's the trailer.

Until next time.