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IFH 745: Screenwriting & Hollywood in the Times of COVID with Greg Gertmenian

Today on the show, we have Greg Gertmenian, who is the Head of Script Analytics and Film Development at Slated. He is also the co-inventor of the Script Score, the only screenplay evaluation tool proven to accurately predict good films. Helped arrange to finance of films like SUPER TROOPERS 2, DEEP MURDER, CRUISE, AT FIRST LIGHT, GOD BLESS THE BROKEN ROAD, BECOMING, and WHAT BREAKS THE ICE.

Prior to his time at Slated, he produced short format content, including the fan-beloved short film BALROG: BEHIND THE GLORY and the award-winning AFI Fest film THE HAIRCUT.

I wanted to bring Greg on the show to discuss Hollywood, screenwriters, and the COVID pandemic, and what we all can do to survive and thrive during these crazy and uncertain times.

Enjoy my conversation with Greg Gertmenian.

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IFH 744: The Screenwriter’s Guide to Video Game Writing with Robert Denton Bryant

I always wondered how someone would get into the video game writing business. Today’s guest is screenwriter/game development guru Robert Denton Bryant and he answers that question and so much more.

Robert Denton Bryant has worked in Hollywood in marketing and production, and in video games as a publisher and a developer. He has been Executive Producer on dozens of games on platforms ranging from CD-ROMs to the iPad, including the bestselling World Championship Poker and Pinball Hall of Fame console franchises.

He is the co-author (with Charles P. Schultz) of Game Testing: All in One and (with Keith Giglio) Slay the Dragon: Writing Great Video Games.

Writing for the multibillion-dollar video-game industry is unlike writing for any other medium. Slay the Dragon will help you understand the challenges and offer creative solutions to writing for a medium where the audience not only demands a great story but to be a driving force within it. Aimed at traditional writers who want to learn interactive narrative as well as game creators who want to tell better, more emotionally involving stories, the book is written by two creative veterans of both Hollywood and “Nerdyhood.” Through lively discussions and self-paced-exercises, Bryant and Giglio step you such topics as the:

  • “No-act” structure of video games
  • Writing great game characters
  • Making gameplay emotionally meaningful
  • Bringing your game world alive

I can’t tell you what an amazing episode this is. Robert takes me down the rabbit hole of writing for video games, the business, how to break in as a writer, and a ton more. Who says you can’t write for both video games and the big screen.

Enjoy my conversation with Robert Denton Bryant.

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IFH 743: The Guide for Every Screenwriter with Geoffrey D. Calhoun

After many requests, I decided to finally tackle the dreaded query letter. I bring back to the show screenwriter, author, and IFH Academy instructor Geoffrey Calhoun. Below Query Letter Checklist and a few areas, we discuss in the episode.

  1. No Snail Mail
  2. Do Your Research
  3. Address the Letter to Individuals, not “To Whom It May Concern”
  4. It’s about the script, not you!
  5. Be Casual but not too casual
  6. Cut to the chase
  7. Don’t forget the Logline
  8. This isn’t open mic night
  9. Its CATS meets The Goonies
  10. Dig through your contacts
  11. Proofread

Some resources to help you with your Query Letter:

I hope this helps you write that query letter. Best of luck and keep on writing!

Enjoy my Conversation with Geoffrey D. Calhoun.

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IFH 742: Writing a Screenplay from the Inside Out with Brian Herskowitz

Today’s guest is screenwriter Brian Herskowitz. He wrote the book called Process to Product: From Concept to Script: A Practical Guide for the Screenwriter.

Like millions before him, Brian Herskowitz moved out to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.  He soon learned that there was a dearth of roles for shorter leading men and began searching for other outlets for his creative passions.  In 1980 he wrote his first screenplay, an action thriller about a young man who moves to Tokyo to train for the Olympics in Judo and gets caught up in an intrigue with the Yakuza.   

Through that script, based on his true-life experience as an international judo competitor, he uncovered a knack and passion for writing.  As a writer, Brian has completed well over a dozen feature films.  His first produced feature was a low budget slasher titled DARKROOM.  He currently has several projects in active development including, THE ABDUCTION, THE EMPRESS OF ELSEWHERE (co-written with Theresa Nelson based on her best selling novel), TAKE A RIDE, and FAIRIES (co-written with Pam Dawber and Andy Tobey).

His TV credits include a staff writing position on the NBC sit-com BLOSSOM, multiple episodes of the syndicated series HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS, and ACAPULCO HEAT, the HBO hit comedy DREAM ON, CBS’s RENEGADE, THE EXILE, MURDER, SHE WROTE, the FOX Network’s YOUNG HERCULES, and CBS’s critically acclaimed was series TOUR OF DUTY (associate producer). Brian co-wrote the FOX pilot MANTIC with Jason Alexander.   In addition, he worked as a punch-up writer on BOB PATTERSON, and LISTEN UP.

Brian currently holds the title of lead faculty in screenwriting for the prestigious  BOSTON UNIVERSITY IN LOS ANGELES – WRITER IN HOLLYWOOD PROGRAM.  Brian has taught online for UCLA EXTENSTIONS and has had students from every corner of the earth. 

Enjoy my conversation with Brian Herskowitz.

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IFH 741: How to Break into Television Writing with Steven Vitolo

Have you ever wondered what it takes to break into a network television writer’s room? Then this episode is for you. Today’s guest is Steven Vitolo and he did just that. His latest written episode is on the hit ABC show Black-ish. Steven has over 10 years of experience working in writer’s rooms, most recently as a script coordinator on the TV series Black-ish, where he co-wrote the episode “Dream Home”.

Steven Vitolo also is the CEO and founder of Scriptation, the script reading and annotating app for film, television, and video production. Steven developed Scriptation after seeing first-hand the staggering amount of paper that gets consumed onset and is dedicated to promoting sustainable practices that inspire productions to go paperless.

Enjoy my conversation with Steven Vitolo.

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IFH 740: Screenwriting Rules You Need to Learn Then Break with Julian Hoxter

You should all know this by now. I love bringing on different perspectives on the craft because you never know what might click for someone. At the end of the day, we are all trying to tell a and compelling story. 

I invited to the show this week Julian Hoxter to talk about his book, The Creative Screenwriter: 12 Rules to Follow and Break to Unlock Your Screenwriting Potential

Julian is a published writer, lecturer, and screenwriting story consultant with extensive experience in scholarly writing.

After film school at UCLA, Hoxter returned to his homeland, England, where he served as a senior lecturer at Solent University for some years before starting up at San Francisco State University, where he currently is an associate professor of cinema.

Hoxter’s latest textbook, The Creative Screenwriter: 12 Rules to Follow―and Break―to Unlock Your Screenwriting Potential, distills the craft of screenwriting into 12 key elements, from developing your story to revising and rewriting, plus plenty of inspiration to create your screenplay with confidence. It encourages readers to look behind the scenes at iconic films using a classic screenwriting structure, along with experimental films from innovative writers that have transcended the rules and paved their way to the silver screen. 

Apart from academia, Hoxter has been producing his independent features, documentaries and doing rewrites collaborations with other filmmakers. One of his most known productions is the award-winning documentary feature, Imagine a School… Summerhill, produced in 2009. 

Other must-read textbooks or scholarly papers written by Hoxter include, Off The Page: Screenwriting in the Era of Media Convergence, The Pleasures of Structure: Learning Screenwriting Through Case Studies, and Theorizing Stupid Media: De-Naturalizing Story Structures in the Cinematic, Televisual, and Video Games

Keep an eye out for Hoxter’s sci-fi novels that will be out soon, The Ballad of Coopy Meakes.

I collected a lot of knowledge bombs from chatting with Julian. Enjoy this conversation with Julian Hoxter.

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IFH 739: Horror Screenwriting – The Nature of Fear with Devin Watson

I was glad to take a deep dive into the deep end of horror screenwriting with writer and producer, Devin Watson, notably known for writing and producing The Cursed (2010) which was the first draft he wrote in only two days. 

He’s also written several books, the latest of which is Horror Screenwriting: The Nature of Fear. 

Horror has, among all of the genres in film and written works, one of the longest, most distinguished, and often misunderstood bloodlines in history. It is often overlooked by critics who don’t see anything more than blood and guts on the screen or a collection of cheap scares.

But what is missed is the hard-hitting commentary on society and life contained in those works.

Devin got his start working with the website, ‘moviepartners.com’ in the late 90s which was one of the first websites out there that really had any kind of information on independent filmmaking.

Eventually, he decided to try out writing some scripts. But reading what every he could find to prepare him for scriptwriting. He was influenced in a big way by Lew Hunter’s book, Screenwriting 434

Here, Lew Hunter shares the secrets of his course on the screenwriting process by actually writing an original script, step by step in Screenwriting 434.

When he felt ready, Devin wrote his first five scripts, all of which turned out not very good. Not until November 2006 that he wrote a script in 2 days for his friend, Phil Melfi. That was when he felt confident in his work. That script became his debut production and writing, The Cursed, which is still a sci-fi channel Halloween rotation regular.

Devin’s book Horror Screenwriting really dives into the craft of horror and screenwriting pretty deeply.

Enjoy my conversation with Devin Watson.

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IFH 738: Inside Warner Bros Writing Program with Rebecca Windsor

Today on the show is Rebecca Windsor, the Vice-President of the Warner Bros. Television Workshop, the premier writing and directing program for professionals looking to start and/or further their careers in television.

As an extension of her role developing new talent, Rebecca was recruited to help launch Warner Bros. new digital content brand Stage13, overseeing the critically acclaimed short-form digital series Snatchers, which premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and is available on Verizon’s go90 platform.

Previously, she was the Creative Producing Initiative Manager of Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program, playing a key role in coordinating the Creative Producing Lab and Summit, Screenwriters and Directors Labs, and Episodic Story Lab.

Prior to Sundance, Windsor was Manager of Development at Samuel L. Jackson’s television company, UppiTV, and at Mandeville Films. She started her career as an assistant at the Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann Agency and ICM. A San Diego native, she attended Northwestern University, where she received a BS in Theatre.

Enjoy my conversation with Rebecca Windsor.

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IFH 737: How to Write for and Land a Movie Star for Your Indie Film with Shaye Ogbonna

We have on the show today writer Shaye Ogbonna.

When not in pursuit of retro sneakers, Shaye Ogbonna can be found worshiping at the Temple of Story. His most recent feature project is the contemporary western feature GOD’S COUNTRY — starring the incomparable Thandiwe Newton.

Based on a short story by acclaimed author James Lee Burke, God’s Country is a character-driven thriller set in the snowy wilderness of the American West. Thandiwe Newton plays Sandra Guidry, a Black professor living and working in a rural college town. She’s also grieving her recently-deceased mother, for whom she’d served as primary caretaker. On the day of the burial, Sandra discovers a mysterious red truck parked in her driveway.

She soon learns it belongs to a pair of local hunters seeking to enter the forest behind her house. Sandra turns them away politely but firmly – her experience tells her these are not the sort of men to welcome freely into her world. But they won’t take no for an answer, and soon Sandra finds herself drawn into an escalating battle of wills that puts her most deeply-held values to the test.

In the television/streaming space, Shaye is currently developing JUMPMEN — a one-hour drama set in the cutthroat world of the sneaker industry – with Showtime. He is also staffed on Showtime’s THE CHI and JJ Abrams’s DUSTER on HBO. His feature writing debut — 2017’s genre-bending LOWLIFE — opened the 2017 Fantasia Film Festival and became a darling of the genre festival circuit, culminating in its acquisition and worldwide distribution through IFC Midnight.

Shaye’s creative mission is to center marginalized voices within genre storytelling.

Enjoy my conversation with Shaye Ogbonna. 

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IFH 736: How I Got My Screenplay on Disney Plus with Arash Amel

Acclaimed screenwriter and producer Arash Amel is known for writing the critically-lauded motion picture, A PRIVATE WAR (2018), directed by Matthew Heineman and starring Rosamund Pike as celebrated war correspondent, Marie Colvin.

He recently served as Executive Producer on the Netflix sci-fi action movie, OUTSIDE THE WIRE (2021), starring Anthony Mackie, which was viewed by 66 million households in its first 28 days. In addition to writing RISE (2022) for Disney + and telling the coming-of-age story of NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, Amel wrote Paramount Pictures’ feature film, THE MINISTRY OF UNGENTLEMANLY WARFARE, a World War II action adventure directed by Guy Ritchie and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer that is slated to start production later this year.

He also wrote the screenplay for SNAFU, an upcoming action comedy starring Jackie Chan and John Cena. Currently, Amel is in pre-production as producer on the Amazon Studios feature film, FRED & GINGER, which is based on his screenplay, directed by Jonathan Entwistle, and stars Jamie Bell and Margaret Qualley as the icon screen pair, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

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