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How to Create an Emotional Impact in Your Screenplay with Karl Iglesias
This week we were lucky enough to have as our guest best-selling author Karl Iglesias. He has written award-winning books including The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters, Writing for Emotional Impact, and Cut to the Chase. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)
I discovered Karl Iglesias’ work reading Writing for Emotional Impact. It really transformed the way I wrote screenplays and created a bunch of new habits that I still use today.
Karl is a script-doctor, author, award-winning instructor, and story consultant, specializing in the reader’s emotional response to the written page. He helps writers, filmmakers, producers and advertising executives craft better stories that connect emotionally with an audience.
It was a major threat to interview Karl on the show. His work is so specific but yet broad. His one rule that can never be broken,
“Always be interesting.”
I think most films coming out of Hollywood today should take that advice. Keep your audience engaged and emotionally invested. So many filmmakers and screenwriters today don’t understand that basic concept.
I really asked Karl the tough questions so we could fill this episode with amazing content for you. This is one podcast you won’t want to miss. Enjoy!
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- Karl Iglesias – Official Site
- Writing for Emotional Impact (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)
- Cut to the Chase
- The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters
- Pixar’s Emotional Core: The Essential Element in all Successful Stories
- Bulletproof Screenplay Script Coverage Service – Get Your Screenplay Covered by Industry Pros
- Indie Film Hustle TV (Streaming Real-World Screenwriting Education)
- Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story) FREE AUDIOBOOK
- Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: FREE AUDIOBOOK
REAL-WORLD STREAMING SCREENWRITING EDUCATION
- Storytelling Blueprint: Hero’s Two Journeys
- The Dialogue Series: 38 hours of Lessons from Top Hollywood Screenwriters
- The Script Lab Workshops
- How to Write a FAST Screenplay
- WGA Presents: The Art of Screenwriting
- Screenwriting Masterclass: Crafting Complex Characters
- Download FREE Screenplay Collections
- Download Most Wanted TV Pilots
- Download Your FREE Screenwriting Audiobook
- Indie Film Hustle® Podcast
- Filmtrepreneur® Podcast
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Stuff You Need in Your Life:
IFHTV: Indie Film Hustle TV
Book: Rise of the Filmtrepreneur®: How to Turn Your Film into a Moneymaking Business
Book: Shooting for the Mob (Based on the Incredible True Filmmaking Story)
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Welcome to the bulletproof screenplay podcast episode number 7. The work never matches the dream of perfection. The artist has to start with William Faulkner broadcasting from a dark windowless room in Hollywood when we really should be working on that next draft. It’s the bulletproof screenplay on cast showing you the craft and business of screenwriting while teaching you how to make your screenplay bulletproof.
And here’s your host Alex Ferrari. Welcome to another episode of the bulletproof screenplay podcast. I am your humble host Alex Ferrari now Today’s Show. Sponsored by bulletproof script coverage now unlike other script coverage Services bulletproof script coverage actually focuses on the kind of project you are in the goals of the project you are so we actually break it down by three categories micro-budget indie film market and Studio film.
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So if you need your screenplay or TV script covered by professional readers. Head on over to cover my screenplay now after speaking to so many screenwriters out there. I know and I’ve heard so many times that they want to learn how to produce their own screenplays. They want to produce their own work and have no idea how to do it.
Well wanted to let you guys know that I just launched a brand new game changing producing course called the indie film producing master class with award-winning indie film producer Suzanne lions. Master Class focuses on $1,000,000 and Below budgets, but all the things you learned there can easily be translated to a hundred million dollars if need be so if you want to learn how to produce your own material just head over to producing Master Class.
Not today on the show. We have any emotions expert his name is Carl Iglesias. He’s a best-selling author and um Master lecturer around the world and he really focuses on the emotional impact of writing and getting the most emotion out of the words that are being put on the page. I’ve read all his books and taking a few of his courses and he’s wonderful and really made me start thinking differently about how I write what kind of words.
Use to just pull out that emotion to really get the reader really excited about what they’re reading. So I wanted to bring on the show and this episode. I beat him up something fierce. It’s literally kind of like a free master class on screenwriting and emotional impact of your characters and story and even told me afterwards.
He’s like my God you you really beat me up in this episode. I’m like, yeah, why did get as much stuff out for uh screenwriter? As humanly possible, so please get ready to take some detailed notes as we drop some major knowledge bombs in this episode. So without any further Ado enjoy my conversation with Carl Iglesias.
Welcome Carl. Thank you so much for being on the show. Thank you. My pleasure. So we’ll jump right into it. So um, uh, what is um, your teachings are focused on the emotional impacts of stories and screenplays. Can you explain this a little bit to the audience? Uh sure so um, I was I was a writer I’m still a writer.
Uh, and um, and I tend to be kind of very left brain. Uh, my wife likes to say that I have uh, two left brains, uh, very very mostly logical on end and the thing that drives you more is the try to understand how things work. So, uh, I’ve always wanted to tell stories always wanted to be in filmmaking.
Um, and and I wanted to know why. You know, you read all the books and tells you you need to do this you need to do that three act structure character development character arcs and everything that been that was being taught. I was wanting to know why and and so I started to get more into the effect of Storytelling more than the rules.
And it really didn’t take long to understand why I was loving certain films more than others and it was basically about the emotional response that I was getting from these films, you know attend I did until like, uh, you know comedies or Thrillers and I realized well, the comedy doesn’t make you laugh is not it’s not never going to be your favorite movie or a horror film that doesn’t scare you is not going to be your favorite horror film so it’s really.
All about the emotions, uh and response of the movies and so I attend I kind of went, you know with reverse engineering figure out. Okay, the effect the end effect is the emotion the emotional response of the audience. And so how do you get there? How do you do that? And that’s what I tend to focus in my studies and in my teaching, uh, you know, it’s the kind of you know, people say it’s the kind of book that you always wanted to read but uh couldn’t find out there so you wrote it.
And that’s that’s what it is. They also I wrote that you know, as far as I know. I’m the only one who speaks about this and I think it’s the most important thing. Um, you know, if you know when people read your script if they don’t if they’re not engaged by your script, then you lost that’s it doesn’t even go pass the faster reader to the executives let alone two actors and directors and you know, the studio abetting, you know, 100 million dollars to make you film if it does engage them.
So so the rule number one and the only. Rule in storytelling is to engage the audience and not be boring. And that’s really, you know, I like to say my classes that there’s only you know, there’s this thousands and thousands of rules and principles from all the books, but and you can bring all of them.
Except one you cannot break this one rule, which is be interesting. And as long as you interesting, you can break any rule you want and I think you’ll still be a good Storyteller, but that’s the key you got to engage your audience. And and so uh, so I focus more on the actual specific techniques that generate those emotional responses.
So with that said I’m gonna I’m gonna put you on the spot a little bit and one of my favorite films of all time and arguably now according to IMDb the number one film of all time the Shawshank Redemption. Okay? Yeah, great film it is it’s absolutely amazing and I’ve analyzed that movie so much because I’ve I’ve wondered what what is in that story and in the way that Frank Darabont wrote that story and also directed and the characters and the actors in the hole.
But what in that movie that? Touches so many people. I mean like in a way that there’s never been another movie that I know right that when it came out. It wasn’t like this blowout success. Obviously, it was not a bigot nominated for best picture but it didn’t win but it’s one of those movies that kind of grew later and then to till now all of a sudden it kind of just came up and took over the Godfather like, you know, absolutely.
You know when The Godfather came out it blew everything out the water. Everybody knew was the greatest thing ever made at that right? But didn’t and I’m here Senor take of why that story hits so beautifully with everybody. Well there. I think there’s two combinations first of all and you’re right when the movie first came out it wasn’t a success at all.
And and the thing that makes a movie a success usually. From the start which is the beginning is usually the concept so the concept is like the book cover right? There’s something about the concept that unique, uh, that drives people to the theaters. Not a great concept. Uh, all right, it actually kept people away like okay movie about people in prison who care, you know care in the I mean I admit I was one of them, you know movie does not interest me, right and it was only through word of mouth and reviews and and and then you finally, okay.
I’ll go see it and then you walk by it. So when you’re in. So, you know when you’re trying to make a when you try to write a story, I always recommend, you know, since since you’re not, you know, you’re out tell you you’re a nobody and you want to interest people you got to do with a concept first at least people open your script and read it but um in this case, You had a simply word of mouth.
So what is it about once you’re inside the theater once you’re committed to watching these two fences this film. What is it that that while so the very first thing is always characters that the first thing is a character that you connect with and the very first thing that they connect you with is is Andy and a character who is unjustly accused.
Of something that he didn’t do and that automatically connects you. So if you’re familiar with the um, you know my techniques for uh for connecting emotionally with a character, uh, you know, one of the most powerful one is pity so feeling sorry for someone and you automatically feel sorry for him because he didn’t do you know, he’s accused of something and is Accused for I guess it was life, right, uh for something that he didn’t do.
So this, uh, Undeserved Misfortune is one of the biggest biggest, uh techniques you can use to connect with the character. And so you automatically connected. So you already on board and then you realize okay. Well, you know what you do when you’re inside of prison, I mean, so, you know, the only thing you can do to survive is Hope and hope is probably one of the most powerful, uh themes and messages.
In stories, you know because all of us in our lives our lights our struggle and especially in the movie business. Yeah exactly. Uh, but if you look at you look at uh, you know, great stories and certainly the foundation of most religions is hope, uh, you know, it’s one of the most powerful things so you got character with care about um, you know, combined with this message of hope, you know, uh, you know, get busy living.
Uh or get busy dying, which is such a powerful line right amazing. Um, and there you go and then of course, you know, you gotta you gotta tell a good story. So there’s elements of suspense the server tension anticipation surprise humor other characters you care about uh, yeah, you know, certainly fear uh, uh, you know, once you’re once you’re connected with a character, What you do what you do as a Storyteller as you’re trying to make us worry about that character, you know you hope that they will be happy and you hope that they’ll survive or what they do whatever they want.
Uh, the interesting about this this this movie though is that we didn’t know what you know, his, you know, his goal was secret for 19 years. And and so, uh, we didn’t really know what his main goal was either than surviving. But if you create Jeopardy for the character throughout and they certainly do in this in this film, uh, you’re worried all the time.
And so you’re constantly engage, uh in in this film. So you have you have the character you care about you have to struggle and then of course the big, you know Epiphany and the way everything is resolved, which is very clever surprising, uh, you know, Poetic Justice at the end. I mean, it’s just friendship.
I mean, You know, everything is very good only the great ingredients and of course you got to you know, give kudos to Stephen King for the story and for prabang for the adaptation, but it’s just one of those one of those things where everything all the stars are aligned and you know with great characters and performances and uh, you know a great script.
I mean, yeah, it’s definitely one of the one of the greatest movies out there and then uh Darabont I heard he literally gave the mood descript away to get the opportunity to direct it. Uh, yeah, he was he was offered a few million because people who read it in the business understood that that would this was like, oh, this is serious.
This is a good script. Yeah, but he they offered him like seven figures like Heist like mid to high seven figures for it and he’s like, nope. He finally corrected. He started his career and I think I think it was a good idea for him. Absolutely. Yeah. It’s kind of like, uh Sylvester Stallone and raw.
Yeah. Do you actually believe that Rocky was written in three days? Uh, he says he wrote it in three days. I mean possible that you wrote it in three days, but he probably developed it over a longer period of time right because and that’s another great. I mean, yeah, absolutely. That script is the ultimate Underdog Story.
Yeah, um, so let me ask you a question. Why is Hollywood’s why is Hollywood lacking such emotion true emotion and it’s films today. And what are they? Like? Why do you why do you think because in the 70s in the 80s, even there was more emotion and character in their movies than today today. It just seems to me.
So flat and so reliant on visual effects and Concepts and things that we’ve we’ve seen back from the 70s and 80s that they’re rehashing today. Why what do you think of the in the business today in general? It’s you know, the business is always a sign of the times it’s always a you know, a reflection of the culture and you know our culture in the 60s and 70s was a different than it is today.
Um, and you know, you got to understand that the the film studios are a business their corporations. They’re in the business of making money. So, uh, they’re not in the business to making art. Um, it’s one of those really interesting paradoxes where you know, I think in Europe the more interesting making art because there comes a subsidized by the government, you know, uh, but but in the United States, it’s all you know, it’s capitalism.
So you basically go. Okay. Well what who buys our fans who are films for who is our audience? What do they. You know and when you have a huge population of you know of the 14 15 year old boys who who goes to the movies, that’s why you have so many, you know, superhero movies and and kind of like, you know video game type movies and hard films and comedies and you know, but.
That’s the sign of times and and uh, you know, once in a while you get, you know, a great movie that goes across all uh, all demographics, you know the for cube of these uh, and then, you know, then try to make the same kind of movie and people get bored. It’s one of those things. I mean we’re you know, one of the one of the strongest emotions we have is an audience is is the sense of we always want something new.
And when we get the same thing over and over and over we eventually get tired of it and we gravitate that we credit home to this new thing. So you always get those in and movies always get that one film that just just just you know, the the sleeper hit basically and then everybody wants to make it you know, and then they they beat it to death and I mean to death and try something new the thing that really really surprises me, uh still is this, um, you know, the superhero movies are going on and on.
Ben, you know slated for release until you know 2020 which is unbelievable that just you have such a you know high confidence in movies and I’m constant prize that they has, you know, the so much saturation of time. I’m surprised that they the audience hasn’t tired of it. But and now and now Warner Brothers is getting into it another bring all their slates out.
So yeah, I’m I’m I’m wondering about how much longer I’m a comic book geek, so I’m happy about it, but right at a certain point. I you know now they’re gonna be doing Star Wars every year right until it foreseeable future, you know, it’s so it’s well the thing is, I mean as long as you tell a good story, um, that’s what I mean.
That’s what counts so so if you guys sometimes you can maintain, uh, great storytelling within that within that concept and then I think you okay, I think so far they’re doing okay, you know, I mean in comic books have been you know, yeah, I’ve been in business for you know, uh over 80 years, I think and so it’s like, yeah, Uh, and and they’re still in business.
So, you know, as long as we’re good storytelling and characters. Yeah, absolutely. So, um, what are the biggest mistakes you see in first time screenwriters? Oh, I know it’s a short a short show, but you try to condense a little bit. How long do you have probably the uh, the biggest mistake. Do you love the biggest mistake is is um, I think over relying on plot over character.
That’s one. Um, and so you can’t have flat characters, um, another big mistake. I see, you know dialogue usually is pretty crappy. Uh, and that’s usually the one thing that we can read most of in a script here. We’re trying to get the story from the characters, you know, and good dialogue usually reflects the character’s personality.
So, you know, um, and and the fact that the script descript’s on really amount to anything. Uh, they don’t really go anywhere. She go anywhere or they don’t say anything. They don’t have any meaning we don’t know what the characters what the author wanted to really say, uh, you know, which is usually reflected in the.
Um, so, you know, there’s always a reason for everything, you know, when they say like, you know structure is another thing to everybody talked about structure, but I don’t think anybody understands what that means. You know, they think well three obstruction beginning middle and end but they don’t understand that they turning points.
That create that structure are more about character than actually plot points. You know, they called, you know the corn plants. But so people think well, it’s gotta be something big and that changes the story. It’s not really that it’s more about the character and the character decisions and the character changes, uh, you know, in the epiphany of the character and what that means to the overall story.
Uh, that’s what that’s what we can so we talkin about I think mostly a. Yeah, you know kind of like there’s a lot of there’s a lot of Education out there for scratch, but I don’t think it goes deep enough or I think people most people don’t really understand kind of like the deep deep deep principles of story and how it relates to us as human beings, which I think once you really understand that that’s kind of like a.
It’s mostly what my my focus is at this at this stage of my career is really kind of going deeper into story and understanding why what it means and why we why we like stories are why we why story has such an effect on us emotionally. It’s good to say. Well, you know, we enjoy stories and we you know like to feel suspense but why is that and I think once you understand that, uh, it kind of teaches you that how to do it teaches you why you should do it and you know kind of.
To see when you don’t have it in a script to kind of refocus on it, you know, not did you have you happen to see Straight Out of Compton yet? I haven’t seen that yet. No, and I thought I saw it this last weekend and it’s but it was good. It’s my it’s so far. This year is probably the best film I’ve seen which says a lot about the industry today like a about a good Storyteller a good story.
About you know gangster rap is like the best story out there right now which which fascinates me but it was good. I mean my wife who had no idea about gangster rap. She sat there said that was a really good movie of the character in the story which leads me to my next. Uh, my next question. There has been great debate about this question for many years and I love to hear your thoughts about it.
What in your opinion is more important plot or character?
Well, uh, that is a very good question. Um, well you probably heard I mean you heard this before, uh, you know, right you get both ends, right? But most people tend to lean toward character. And the reason for that is because you will you will hear that character creates plot, uh, you know, the more since since we need to connect with character in since we tend to appreciate more three-dimensional characters, uh, you know, you can.
Really? Can I have just a plot that’s already ready made, uh and trying to fit characters in it because the end result will be flat characters. Um, so characters tend to have the edge but here’s my point on it. Here’s my view on it stories are neither plot-driven nor character-driven. Okay. Okay.
So that’s going to be probably kind of the controversial thing to say you think it’s one of the other but it’s neither what I like to say is that stories are tension driven. Okay, so it’s not the character. It’s tension that grabs an audience that makes you appreciate a story and tension is really, you know, a problem that needs to be solved um or a character that needs to change.
Okay. Um, so, you know you could have you need tension at the story level. To keep us it’s the only thing that keeps this engage basically when when I talk about all the emotions of story and I talk about the audience emotions, not the character motion. So you have for example, you have character emotions like, you know, uh, you know sadness and joy and fear, uh, when I’m talkin about the audience emotions the emotions you pay money to go see in the theaters.
We talk about curiosity anticipation tension. Hope. Worry surprise laughter, right. Those are the emotions you like to feel in as an audience and all of these could be incompetent like into that one umbrella of tension. In other words. When you feeling tension in a story, there’s no way you’re bored.
You’re completely engaged when you feel intention. So that’s really the key. Emotions you want to feel tension and tension and what’s it like tension any kind of tension or comedic tension or pension? It’s all tension and tension. Basically me is basically to me. It’s the opposite of boredom basically, okay, you know you like if you used passively sitting back in your seat and you’re going on, you know, you think about something else when you’re feeling for example, if somebody creates a question on the character enter a room the very first thing that goes in your mind is who is this character?
Right? So why? In the room. What are they doing? Where are we so all these questions when you first started movie that creates curiosity, right? So curiosity that sense of curiosity in your brain is tension, right? But you have this question when that question gets answered you have tension relief, okay and everything, you know everything that’s enjoyable about life.
Is tension relief basically, right? I mean when you’re you know, when you when you’re having, you know, you want to have sex with someone you have this, you know, you have tension and it gets it gets released at the end when you have uh, you know, when you’re hungry that’s tension you eat, you know, you have take you feel satisfied, right?
Uh, you’re tired that’s tension you go to sleep you feel relieved. So it’s all about attention. Excuse me for a second. Um, And so so it’s all about tension. So all these, you know, when you feel anticipation, you know, like the character says okay. I’m uh, I’m gonna go and you know to and then you should go to Europe to catch a killer right?
So when I’m going to Europe so your anticipate the arrival to or uh, you know, uh, meet me meet me in the parking lot. So I’m going to beat you up later after school. That’s a dissipation. So that’s tension anticipation is tension curiosity is tension. Um, You know and You’re Gonna Kiss Me Or Not exactly.
So even so when you go deeper, right you all know that you know storytelling is or filmmaking is all scenes, right? So at the scene level, uh, that’s another thing too that when you’re talkin about, um, what’s really doesn’t work in script says mostly seen so identity a lot of classes on scene writing because I think it’s at the same level, you know, that that counts and things are really many stories.
So you have a character who want something in the scene. Difficulty getting it and that’s what creates tension in the sea because you weren’t will they get it? And that’s what drives the scene. That’s what drives the whole story if you have a main tension in the story. Um, and really when you think about all stories are just tension until they are.
Relieved until you have a resolution, right, you know, the three extraction people structure people have to say that it’s you know, beginning middle and end but I like to say it’s mostly uh, you know, set up struggle and resolution, right and the struggle is that middle which is the struggle to get what they want.
Then in a lot of scripts. You see characters first one that you don’t know what they want. That hasn’t been photo of so that’s already. Broken right there and if we know what they want usually it’s not that difficult so you so it’s not that interesting. So there’s no struggle. Um, and so there you go.
That’s my answer. It’s all about tension. There. It is that yeah, we’ve put that we put the end of the debate right now. Yes, this is just a coating to me of course. Yeah. So um in your opinion, what is the functions of dialogue? The functions dialogue, uh, boy you had like really big questions here.
I’m trying to answer those. I’m sorry. I’ll start throwing some were softer. Uh, well the functions of dialogue. I mean, uh, there’s only two ways you can tell a story really you can you can um, you know, you can describe something right? So and then you could you can have characters talkin about right?
The difference between the two is that traditionally the The Narrative part of it is more passive and the dialogue is more active meaning that when characters speaking dialogue you are immersed in the experience. You’re you’re there with them. You’re like a fly on the wall, like really kind of being part of the conversation and that’s usually in your brain that usually more interesting than just reading.
You know if I told you, you know, uh, Bob entered the room and said to Suzie, uh that he loved her and that he couldn’t live without her. So I’m just kind of describing something right. So I’m just telling you a little story. But if I say, you know Bob came into the room. And so any goes Susie I love you.
I can’t I can’t live without you and Suzy says well, sorry. I don’t love you back. I’m seeing your best friend or whatever. So, you know by by actually having the character speak, uh, you’re a lot more and more. It’s more of an active experience than just uh description usually readers, you know, when they read scripts and the returns of scripts, they usually.
Tend to just read dialogue only they trying to grasp the story because after read a script so fast so that I like to say that they revert vertically most readers that they you know, the ones that I know from experience, uh, because they have to read scripture very fast. Um, So they usually get the story from the dialog.
So, uh, you know, when you see scratch with a lot of description, they usually don’t tend to like that. They take some longer to read it takes longer to understand the story. Um, and also the great thing about dialogue is that not only you can communicate the story. You can also communicate the characters personalities and attitudes so you have to get to really get to learn the characters.
Um, and also dialogue tends to be the joy of of the, you know, the width and cleverness and sarcasm and of the story, you know of characters. Now with dialogue I I would argue to say one of the greatest dialogue writers alive today is um, Quentin Tarantino. What um, what is your take on his thigh?
Which is so unique that I mean. I’ve till I tell people all the time like there’s certain directors certain writers that might have not made it in this market this time or that time, but honestly, I think if Tarantino shows up today with Reservoir Dogs it. It would it would create a revolution just because of who he is and his talent.
What is what is your take on his technique and how he does his things because they are if such a unique person I know is tell filmmakers if you want to learn how to write dialogue listen to his dialogue. Don’t try to write his dialogue, but she’ll never be able to write right but as well. Well the thing about Tarantino, I mean first of all he is a extremely knowledgeable about film, you know used.
Because in a video store and used to like pretty much immerse himself in movies and even really obscure movies, you know, foreign films and and Hong Kong films and uh crime films. Um, so he’s very knowledgeable. So he’s able to ask actually, you know, uh, my belief in of art or creativity is really creativity is really a way of combining old things into something new and this is what he does.
So the more things you know, the more you the more resources you. Which is the knowledge of film The more you can combine them into something unique and that’s what he does very well. Um, so that’s that too is that he’s not afraid to break the rules. Oh, yeah, and like I said, like I just turned 10 all the time and examples of when I say that you can break every rule except one be interesting and that’s that’s the one that’s what he does.
I mean, he breaks every single rule except one. He’s always interesting and that’s why he’s successful because people people gravitate to a strong because they know they’re not going to be bored. Right? And so if you watch if you watch Pulp Fiction, which the structure of that film is non, obviously not standard.
Right, but if you look at the plot points, they actually hit. Yeah, well, you know, which is kind of weird. Absolutely. Well, yeah. Well, it’s um, you know, the French filmmaker genre is known it’s known for her to have said, you know, uh, every everything that has a beginning middle and end not necessarily in that order, right?
So when you if you don’t put fiction in the order of the stories just would be decided to tell it in and it just nonlinear way, you know, I just played with time a little bit. Um, you know, and it just yeah, obviously, yeah, it was very unique. Absolutely. Which is the most important thing, I mean, you know, you know, I’ve seen films where people try to experimenting with things but they were just boring as hell, you know, right and this case he experimented then and it turned out okay because it was interesting, you know, he still told the story with interesting characters and surprises.
So, um, you wrote a book called 101 Habits of Highly Successful screenwriters, uh, can you share a few of those habits with the audience? Some of the top ones that you think are really important. Well, the very very top one is the one that started it that’s that led to the writing for emotional impact which was uh Habit number 69 which was uh, evoking emotion on the page.
And so one of those habits was, you know, successful writers are are successful because they’re able to evoke an emotion on the page consistently. Right, so they’re able to create that emotional response in the reader the always entertaining. Uh, so they’re masters of their craft and um, And when I started teaching, uh, because of that book at the time.
I was just a writer and I had no interest in teaching. I was just a writer. I just wanted to be alone in my room right completely terrified, but I was invited to the very first screenwriting Expo and because of that that those habits book the book and uh, the thing that most people wanted to know was it was of course this particular habit, which is the craft they all wanted to know about the craft so.
I started teaching about the Critter that part of it, uh, and then people eventually wanted to wanted to have a book and that’s the reason why the the second book was written because people just kept asking, you know from after my presentation. So is there a book with all that information that I was given?
Um, so but in terms of how is there so that’s the number one by far. I mean you could you could like I said, you could ignore any other habit if you consistently are able to create. An emotional response in the reader from your words you’re guaranteed success, um, because you know, you can just, you know, you can drop your script in the middle of a Beverly Hills Park.
You know an agent will pick that up and read it and if they’re totally wild like that script, there’s no way he’s not gonna pick up the phone and call you. Um, but that’s the key. They have to Be Wild by the script and 99% of the scripts out. There are not that you know that great unfortunately, so that’s that’s why there’s so much problems.
Um, but um the other thing too and this is more. About the business aspect of it is that one of the habits is that you you have to have you have to develop a really thick skin in Hollywood because most of the businesses rejections you have to be able to be able to take rejection and be able to live with it and be able to persevere and keep writing and keep getting better and keep having hope you know, I’ll turn tearing it took forever.
Yeah, and uh, one of the one of the you know, surprising things when I was interviewing all those writers was that their very first script that they sold was usually their 10th or more, you know that they kept writing even though they kept being rejected and not selling anything and having to you know, work crappy jobs or even not having any money in the bank and struggling but they just kept at it and I think a lot of writers even very talented writers who could be great writers usually.
Because of life and family and um usually give up because because of the realities of life and don’t have that persistence and that passion to uh to keep riding and I think Riders are one of the most undervalued, um parts of the filmmaking process. Absolutely. Yeah. It is all part. I mean it starts on the page.
Yeah, it starts really the most important element. I mean when you think about it without the writer if there’s no script. Nobody in this town has a as a job. Right? Right, I think about all the jobs in this industry, right? There’s over 200 300 jobs that are related to making a film if not more right if not more and and we’re not talking about just the film.
We’re talkin about the business. Oh, yeah, uh producers and accountants and lawyers. I mean if without a script nobody has a job. As Hollywood realizes every time there’s a Writers Guild strike. All of a sudden everyone goes. Oh, wait a minute. We need these guys, right? Maybe we should pay them a little bit here.
That’s that’s that is the Paradox that they you know, they. They know secretly that they’re the most important but they think that they could do it. They think that it’s not that hard that anybody can do it. Well, that’s the thing and if I’ve seen a movie so I could write one. It’s kind of like if everyone says that and then I’m like, well you could also listen to a symphony doesn’t mean you can write one.
It’s exactly. Yeah, it’s a lot more than just that this is all joke that I like to say about this guy who’s who goes to a piano store and and he goes inside the camera stories as old man. He sits down and starts playing the piano and he’s awful and that the cells becomes what’s going on? What do you thinking is?
I can’t understand this. I’ve been listening to music my whole life.
Why doesn’t it work? I don’t know exactly. So that’s the big people think that you know, because they because we immersed in films because we see movies all the time. We know how they work and everything. Uh, it’s like telling a joke to so people, you know, some people everybody understands jokes and appreciates jokes, but uh, nobody can be a comedian, you know.
Oh, it’s it’s rough to be up on that stage. No question about it. Yeah. Um, so what are some of the mistakes you see in indie film stories and in their screenplays in general? Because I know they’re very kind of different than your mainstream movie. So yes any films I find a lot of times when they hit their wonderful, but the majority of them are, you know, a little rough sometimes.
Yeah, what’s your experience with that my experience with them is that um it it’s not be surprising me just for me to say it’s worth again the emotional response. So, you know when you say and then you film doesn’t hit. It does basically what it means. It means it’s just didn’t grab the audience.
The audience was mostly bored by it. Uh, so, you know, there’s always good elements in any film that that that made the people on board to commit to it and make it and usually it’s about characters. Um, the thing about India hits is that. Most of them as far from my experience don’t really have a concept, you know, it’s mostly very soft concept and its really kind of relies on character in the drama of characters.
Um, and so, you know, great the characters are great. But but ultimately if the audience is Bored throughout in other words, if the other elements the other emotions are ignored, you know, like like tension or surprise or twists, uh, you know, something unique about it, you know, Um, they just don’t grab the audience and or maybe it’s the maybe it’s the statement of the you know, the filmmaker wants to make maybe it’s a statement that we just don’t care about right?
Yeah a lot of things, you know, so can you give an example of a few indie films that blew your way and why they blew you away? Oh, it’s been and there’s been a while. It’s been a while. You can go back and go back to the early nineties. You go back to the early nineties if yeah, yeah for me. I mean the type of movies that I tend to like up.
There are more. I like you no more thought provoking films. So I tend to gravitate towards the you know, sci-fi and futuristic not necessarily fantasy But but so the movies like, you know, a Stranger Than Fiction, for example. Yeah. Uh, so anything that has a really. Really very unique concept to it.
But definitely an indie film, um, you know, uh, I usually tend to like it because I’m because I’m more intellectually challenged or you know, like my mind is constantly working in thinking and you know, I tend to have more of a philosophical kind of mind thing. So anything that has a really kind of high concept within the NFL I tend to like, uh, uh, I’m trying to think of the last uh, The last one momenta was a pretty romantic.
Absolutely. Yeah, that was one of those ones obviously Reservoir Dogs and right and all the fiction section was kind of an indie. But yeah, yeah. Yeah. Oh, yeah, uh, you know, very very old film but uh, uh, you know that he made the very Indie right only only seven thousand dollars, but there was something really unique about it and it was entertaining.
Um, So so high concept good characters, but also great, you know a good story there that really keeps you engaged from start to finish one film. I think that I don’t know if you like that and I think you might have adaptation. Uh, yeah. Yeah. Um, that was a very interesting. I liked it. Yeah, uh, it was an interesting and of course, we all enjoyed it because we’re writers and we could be like we could identify how bad could we?
Yeah, but you know what I didn’t I didn’t like it as much as I enjoyed Eternal Sunshine because oh yeah, you know Eternal Sunshine had this really high concept. So there’s a good example from the very very same filmmaker, uh, a very unique filmmaker. Exactly. Yeah, Kaufman. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, although if you don’t.
Spike Jones as the Director. Yeah speaking of Spike Jonze, uh her to was it was a good film. That was really yeah, very very nice film. I like that one a lot as well. Right? Um, is there any um any advice you can give Indie filmmakers on writing their first script other than what we’ve already kind of discussed any specific like.
Techniques or tools at maybe that could help them to kind of get off the ground. Uh, just just learn more about story and and we’re not talkin about just the you know, the usual The Usual Suspects books and mckeon’s it felt we talk about just go deeper into into story and how to tell a really good one.
Uh, I think there’s still a lot of. People that don’t know how to tell a good story. Um, and of course it starts with the emotion. So obviously I would tell people go read my book or you know, of course, of course and learn that it’s really about the emotions and that you could break every single rule as long as people feel those emotions.
So learning learning how to write. Scenes, uh, that would be another aspect. We learn how to write a good scene. Um, I always tell writers to take acting classes because um, even if their nitrogen being an actor because you get to learn how to write good scenes from from actors because that’s you know, they’re all there, you know, their main thing is is what do I want in the scene and then the different beats in the scene and that’s really how you write a good scene.
Um, it’s interesting. That’s a really good. That’s a really good tip. Yeah. Um and. Yeah, learn how to create that feeling really knowing what an audience wants out of a story, you know, so we definitely want something new so we want something so probably a thought-provoking concept. We want characters we can connect with emotionally.
So there’s actually techniques for that to talk in the book. Um, and then once we connect with a character, You know, give us give us a uh, you know, a a goal that that is worthy, you know, a lot of times, you know, character goes after something that we you know, it’s tends to be more of a selfish goal and we don’t really connect with that.
Uh, this is this is something that I also speak about about the Paradox of the goals we have in life. Which is to you know to be rich right? We’ll try to make money and survive. Uh, but you never see that in films. You really never see that as a goal in film. So say that again and this is interesting.
Okay. So there’s this Paradox of okay, if you if you think about if you ask people in real life what their what they aspire to right that’s inspired to have a good job to be rich to be happy to have things to have material things a big house of good car. Scarface exactly. Yeah, exactly power, right?
Uh, well you see that but usually it’s the in the in the uh, cautionary tales right the but about in films when you think about what is it that people aspire to in films like what their goals are it’s usually about love but family about saving the village about doing something for another about finding their child.
You know, it’s more about what’s really important in life that people kind of still are trying to learn on their own. So there’s the there’s the connection between stories and the meaning of stories and why we like stories and what is the the power of stories in our life? Um, but do you think do you think that a story that had the goal of being.
Just rich or successful or comfortable and having a good family and which are most of the goals of real-life people, right? Yeah. Do you think a story like that or do you have an example of a story? Well not we don’t I mean other than I mean so many rings, uh, the example of How To Succeed in Business and never trying which is a famous play.
But but you never see that or you see that in a character that originally goes after that goal, but then learns that’s not the, you know, usually midpoint that the that’s not the the solution. So yeah, and there’s a reason for that is because it doesn’t work, you know, you know, it doesn’t you know and to go back to your question about the the common errors I’ve seen film is that usually the the the goals, um that characters have in a story are usually not what I call worthy goals, right?
So this worthy goals and you know flat goals or whatever, um unworthy goals. Um, they’re mostly unworthy like that. I just don’t care or I just I can’t really. But that character who goes after that, you know, I just don’t care. Um, and so that’s important. Um, one of the things that I teach about connecting with characters that not only you have to use this these techniques to make it, you know, feel sorry for him, uh show their humanity and show their admirable traits to that’s what you care about them.
Right? But the second part of that equation is what are they go after and why? And so in the movie, what did they go after her is very important because if we don’t care what they go after we just not gonna care I’m going through the motions and struggle, but we’re not gonna care and that’s why one of the things that I’m um, I teach a lot about his Pixar because Pixar knows how to tell great stories.
And uh, and so and I go through this whole list of the entire movies that I and I go and show them what the characters are after and if you see what they’re after. It’s always about you know, saving a friend saving a child falling in love saving the village. It’s all these things that are considered, you know that goes deeper into our humanity and our uh our sense of being social with, you know, part of this group as opposed to being a selfish single person that goes after what they want just to be happy and you never see that, you know, if talk about structure and function, you know, its goal was to.
To not to die but not to be yeah not to be stuck in this prison, right? So he was for 19 years. He planned to escape and he finally escaped but if you look at what is the thing that really makes us completely fall in love with that movie is based the last you know, 30 seconds. No, no notnot a Twist of him escaping.
Oh right about it. Remember it’s not Andy story. It’s red story. That’s another thing that is very true. So if you think about the way the movie ends the movie doesn’t end with any escaping. It ends with red connecting as a friend with Andy on that Beach. And I right and did you know that is the moment that that makes us go?
Oh it’s done. It’s done. Exactly exactly. There’s actually a very you know, who Lindsey torian is the producer. Yes. Yes. So she’s uh, uh, she’s known for talkin about story to which is acting like a couple of videos online some TED Talks that she did about the ending of films and how the thing that people.
Uh really really care about about a film is not the achievement of the of the characters goal. It’s what happens afterwards, which is the ability to share that feeling with people they love so she mentions Rocky for example think that Rocky, you know, a lot of people think he won the fight which he did.
He doesn’t know but uh, but they remember that thing when he goes like, you know, Adrienne Adrienne, but that, you know, they think it ends on the five, but that doesn’t that ends with him and her at the end and saying I love you. I love you, right and she mentions Dirty Dancing to about the fact that.
As an end with with the with the girl leaping, uh in the arms of Patrick, so it ends with her reconciling with her father. Um, so there’s all these. You know what’s really important I think film and stories talk about what’s really important in life, you know the kind of like they’re the teaching us how to live there.
The I like to say that stories are kind of like the how-to manual for life. Um, and and they’re kind of like their quoted in this uh in this Entertainment form because you know, I mean people have stories. Yeah, exactly people can actually tell you how to live, but that’s usually what you know, like documentaries or.
Nonfiction or documentaries but stories are a lot more powerful because they’re they’re they’re entertaining but the messages in there the message, you know, they’re kind of like suddenly telling you how to live by entertaining, you know, it’s like a sugar-coated tail like myths and legends essentially.
That’s how exactly the meat and potatoes of our society is passed along, right? Exactly. So an interesting note though on that Shawshank Redemption that last scene from what I understand was added by the studio. That’s the scene about the yeah, from what I’ve studied the movie a lot. Right? I’ve watched every documentary every made and originally the original script did not have that scene and how this original script and you remember it ends with him driving in the bus going towards.
Oh, okay, but it’s still uh time. That’s fine. It was so powerful. I think I mean well, but the beach was like we needed to see it. Yeah. Yeah, and it was as long as it’s not that it doesn’t focus on Andy because it wasn’t any story that was read on this on the on the bus and he just drove off and then if you notice that the helicopter, I think it was a helicopter shot that kind of goes off into the ocean right and then it dissolves into that because that was the end.
That was the last shot. And then they put in that does dissolve on and the beach Words which I think with as Studios notes go I think that’s probably one of the best ones I’ve ever had. That’s true. I think that was very powerful. So, um, I have a couple more questions for if you have time, um one, um, can you explain and I know this might be a big question.
So if you don’t have enough time, can you explain to the audience? What is subtext and why is it so important?
I’m sorry, if I’m asking it’s okay you hitting on the questions that I have a whole course about you know what I mean? Like I teach a whole course on septic. So this is I’ll give you the 30 seconds exactly. Yeah, that’s all we ask. Okay so so subjects. Okay, so I’ll give you an example. Um, so if I if I say to you, uh, three plus two equals five, And you your mind will go.
Okay. Yeah, I I I I got that. It’s pretty obvious. Right? But if I say to you or showed you a piece of paper and showed on the board and said, uh 3 plus x equals 5. Okay, your brain will automatically start solving X sure because you’re challenged by it. Where are you go? There’s a challenge. Ah x equals 2.
I got it. I saw this right? So that’s a good example of the difference between obvious dialogue or an obvious thing. You see right where it’s just obvious and on the nose. We call it right and subjects because so subtext makes you an active participant in the seen by making your brain work a little bit so when somebody says.
Um, like in the famous scene in When Harry Met Sally when at the end the connect and she says I hate you Harry. I hate you and she kisses him. Right? Right. We all know what she really means and Fields. Ryan we know she loves him. So the line I hate you is really suck text for I love you, but she really feels right.
So I hate you plastic is equal subtext and that’s really more interesting than a character saying I love you and kissing him because then you go. Okay, it’s obvious. It’s just there so the obvious and that’s another by the way. That’s another thing that you see a lot of in terms of problematic scripts tends to be very lack of subjects throughout.
It’s mostly on the nose. Obvious it tends to be a passive experience. You kind of mostly bored by it because you’re not challenged challenged by whereas when you subjects you go. You’re not completely engaged because your brain is working. You’re like they’re trying to figure this out. Oh, I know what she’s really feeling like you’re actually working a little bit ahead of your head of the audience a bit.
Yeah. Yeah exactly as a writer as a writer has arrived. Yeah. Well you want the audience to feel to be an active participant versus a passive one. So so and there’s actually techniques for that and really the good writers the ones that can hire all the time, especially in dialogue, you know, you get the writers who are hired for two weeks to to rewrite the dialogue.
It’s usually to take the dialogue. There’s a flat and obvious and on the nose. And give it some life and the life is usually give it some type of subjects got it. Got it. All right. So one last one last, uh big question at this is just a geek question. This is just something I want the answer to um, because I know you know, your you who you are and you’ve studied so many stories.
Um, I’m a huge fan of Breaking Bad. Okay, and it is one of those stories that uh, it’s obviously not a screenplay but in the scope of the story and the Arc of that character and the Ark of the show, there’s never been a television show ever to do what he did. Um, what’s your thoughts on how um Gillian Vince Gilligan Gilligan Gilligan Gilligan Gilligan, actually.
Was able to create like what are the key moments are points that amazed that makes that story so good because unlike like very much like Shawshank Redemption and film world breaking bad’s one of those shows that I can’t say, universally everyone loves but it is pretty well respected and pretty well break him is not the only one.
I mean The Sopranos that to and the wire also did that too. I mean we’ve talked about and madman. I mean we talked about shows just. That took the great storytelling. It’s just great storytelling. You know, if you have a show that has great storytelling with great characters and interesting scenes and surprises and I mean, you know, and I’m a big fan of Breaking Bad.
It was just a big novel. It was just a novel I took five seasons, and I don’t know how many episodes. Um to tell a story and it was a complete story. It was about a character. That was very interesting. Right? It wasn’t your typical good guy. Uh, it was just Arc and just kept us engaged because we wanted to know how that would turn out and that’s really kind of like the key question of stories, uh, good stories.
I think always make you think and make you wonder what’s going to happen next. You know, if you can have that that sense of kind of mystery or you know, JJ Abrams calls it the mystery box, you know. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, um of constantly making the audience want to know what’s going to happen next.
They’re constantly tuned. They’re gonna keep watching scene after scene after scene in the case of Breaking Bad just watching episode after episode after episode except that one episode with the fly. Yeah, except that one episode with the entertaining, you know, everybody says like what the hell would they did the writers just take the day off.
They just like what we could do with the. All right, but he still kept you engaged right to a certain extent. Yeah. Um, so yeah, as long as it makes you wonder you know, what the hell is going on. What is the meaning of this or but that was a you know, it’s funny because I get that question all the time, especially in the sense of you know, writers are told all the time to make sure your character is likable, you know, it’s the biggest note and you know, and they always mention breaking bad because you know here to care.
You really connect with who you don’t really agree with you in terms of his moral at moral part of it. You know, I mean he’s doing something is illegal. But the thing that’s brilliant about him is at the beginning you did. He was just as the beginning you did and that’s the Brilliance of it you got into him and then he turns into Scarface.
Right at the thing is is why do we keep why do we keep living? Yeah, because I mean if you if you if it’s almost like, uh, you know, if you had a friend and then you and then your friend started killing people and enjoying it. You suddenly wouldn’t become his friend anymore. You want anything to do with him, but if you bet if you cared about him, right, you know, that’s the thing.
So the thing is there’s the lesson in there, but making sure you care about that character and you worry about them. Yep about what’s gonna happen. Then you then you can tell a good story. That’s really the basis of telling a good story and uh creating a character you care about and it doesn’t have to be doesn’t have to be likeable, but you have to care.
And I was I was lucky enough to binge-watch most of it up into the last eight episodes and it was I have every day my wife and I would just didn’t watch three or four. I know thank God for Vigil watching. I know right? I think it’s a better way to enjoy story because it’s a lot more immediate than you have to wait a week.
You know, it’s all fresh in your mind. Thank you Netflix. Yeah. Yeah, so where can people find more about you and more about your work? Oh, very simple they just saw you have to do is Google my name or just put Carl Iglesias and takes it to my website and you just get to see all my work there. Uh, yeah, I you know when any time somebody asked me for a business card, I don’t have business cards.
I was tell them just go to my website, you know, that’s that’s my business card right there. Just my name and you have um, you have a bunch of books you’ve written. You have a DVD course as well that you sell. Uh, yeah. Well, I don’t really sell it. It’s mostly the writer store in Creative screenwriting, um magazine.
They have the DVDs. I just basically, you know, uh, they asked me to do something. I I don’t like to say no, so I do something and then they sell it, uh, same with the teaching I teach at to screeners University and I just select tensions writers program both online. So people can. Take courses with me.
Okay. I also consult. So if anybody wants consultation, that’s the details on my website and then I appear on you know writers conferences sometimes, uh, you know, there’s uh this year. I’m going to be actually in a few weeks. I’ll be at the writers conference in San Luis Obispo. Uh, I’ll be delivering the keynote address there and uh next year.
I’ve been invited to a script conference in Poland and and then an Animation Festival in South Africa so becoming kind of. National now, that’s awesome. Yeah. So, uh one last question I asked this question, I guess um, and it’s a tough question. What are your top three films of all time? Wow, and every and everybody says to save.
Oh really. Wow. Wow. Oh wow. Yeah. Well, that’s that’s a very big question and it doesn’t have to be in order. Just three films. Yeah, and the moment that you can remember. Well, you know Blade Runner is is right up there Silence of the Lambs Shawshank Redemption, uh, The Godfather. And anyting by Pixar except maybe Cars and Cars to those are the I think the two weakest the films but but in terms of story, um, you know, we just I just watched up last night with my kids.
So, you know, and I’ve seen it 100 times so it’s gonna you know, it always get to uh, they just know how to tell great stories. So so anyting by Pixar, um, and there’s one movie to it’s a kind of an well I want to obscure because it’s a classic match. Don’t know because it’s it takes to be an adult film and that’s Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights City Lights where he falls in love with a blind girl in that that’s 180 was probably uh, one of the earliest romantic comedies, but but very very moving.
That’s the last if I remember, right? It sounds yeah, but it’s known for the very last scene in the movie, which is what I was powerfully emotional us, you know scenes in the world and the history of Cinema and they always showed that they always showed that clip or that moment in every every Oscar telecast about you know, the, you know, the history of films and stuff like that.
So very very powerful and pretty entertaining films. I would say that’s that’s right up there with. Um top favorite movies. Very good. Good list a good. Thank you Carl. Thank you so much for being on the show. We really appreciate you gave us a lot of great gems. Uh, so hopefully, uh have to do it was my pleasure as promised Carl brought the Thunder and brought some amazing knowledge Bob so Carl, thank you so much again for being on the show and dropping some major knowledge on this episode.
Now if you want links to any of Carl’s books, Courses anyting about we talked about in this episode just head over to indie films /b that’s bulletproof screenplay and guys, if you’re enjoying the show, please don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes and leave us a good review and give us a five star review.
If you really like it really helps us out a lot and gets the word out to help other screenwriters on their Journeys. So just head over to screenwriting podcast. Dot-com and that is a end of another episode of the bulletproof screenplay podcast. Thank you so much for listening. And as always keep on writing no matter what talk to you soon.
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