Top 25 Must Listen to Screenwriting Podcasts (Oscar® Winners)

Finding a great Screenwriting Podcast is a treasure trove of knowledge for the aspiring or professional screenwriter. We have put together the Top twenty five must listen to screenwriting podcasts from the archives of the Indie Film Hustle Podcast and the Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast.

The list below is definitely has  podcasts for screenwriters with a who’s who in the screenwriting world. From Oscar® and Emmy® winners like Eric Roth, Edward Zwick, Richard Linklater, David Chase to screenwriting coaches like Robert McKee, John Truby and Chris Vogler.

These episodes are the best podcasts for screenwriters wanting to learn more about the craft and business of screenwriting. Be sure to take notes because there are a ton of knowledge bombs that are dropped in these screenwriting podcasts.

This list will be updated every few months so keep checking back.

Click here to subscribe to the Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or Spreaker.

1. Eric Roth

This week, I sat down with one of the most legendary and successful screenwriters/producers in Hollywood, Oscar® Winner Eric Roth. Over a 50+ years career, he’s well-known for writing or producing films like Forrest Gump, A Star is Born, Mank, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Munich, Ali, and the list goes on.

2. Oliver Stone

Today on the show I bring you one of the most influential and iconic writer/directors in the history of cinema, three-time Oscar® winner Oliver Stone. Throughout his legendary career, Stone has served as writer, director, and producer on a variety of films, documentaries, and television movies. His films have been nominated for forty two Oscars® and have won twelve.

3. Richard Linklater

We are joined by indie film icon and Oscar® nominated writer/director Richard Linklater. Richard was one of the filmmakers who helped to launch the independent film movement that we know today with his classic 1991 indie film Slacker. As a bonus, we will not only dive into the extraordinary career of Richard Linklater but also that of collaborator and longtime friend writer/director Katie Cokinos, the filmmaker behind the film I Dream Too Much. 

4. David Chase

The legacy of the crime drama television series, The Sopranos remains a defining art of storytelling for mob TV shows. We have the genius behind this hit TV series, David Chase as our guest today.

As expected, Chase is a twenty-five-time Emmy Awards-winner, seven times Golden Globes winner, and highly acclaimed producer, writer, and director. His forty-year career in Hollywood has contributed immensely to the experience of quality TV.

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of Chase, let’s do a brief of the HBO 1999 hit show, The Sopranos: Produced by HBO, Chase Films, and Brad Grey Television, the story ran for six seasons, revolving around Tony Soprano, played by James Gandolfini, a New Jersey-based Italian-American mobster, portraying the difficulties that he faces as he tries to balance his family life with his role as the leader of a criminal organization.

5. John August

Today on the show we have Hollywood screenwriter, director, producer, podcaster and novelist John August. He is known for writing the hit Hollywood films Go, Charlie’s Angels, Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Big Fish, Charlie, and the Chocolate Factory and Frankenweenie, the Disney live-action adaptation of Aladdin and the novel Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire.

6. Edward Zwick 

We have been on a major roll lately on the podcast and this episode keep that going in a big way. Our guest on the show today is Oscar® Winning screenwriter, producer, and director Edward Zwick. Edward made his big shift from his childhood passion of theater to filmmaking after working as a PA for Woody Allen in France on the set of Love and Death.

7. James V. Hart

I’m so excited to bring this episode to the BPS Tribe. Today we have legendary screenwriter James V. Hart. James is the screenwriter behind some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters like HOOK, directed by Steven Spielberg based on an idea by Hart’s then 6-year-old son, Jake, BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, directed by Francis Ford Coppola, MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND, directed by Brian Henson, and CONTACT, directed by Robert Zemeckis. MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN, TUCK EVERLASTING, AUGUST RUSH, SAHARA, LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER: THE CRADLE OF LIFE, AUGUST RUSH and many more.

“No one has a job in our business until you type ‘the end’.” — James V. Hart

8. Jordan Peele

Get ready to have your mind blown! I’ll be releasing a 3-Part Limited Series of conversations between the legendary screenwriter James V. Hart, the writer of Hook, Contact, Bram Stroker’s Dracula, and Tomb Raiderjust to name a few, and some of the top screenwriters in the game.

First up is the screenwriter that took the world by storm with his Oscar-Winning screenplay Get Out, Jordan Peele. If you have been living under a rock for the past few years here is what the film is about.

This was recorded before Jordan’s next hit film Us was released. Listening to these two masters discuss character, plot, theme, and more is a rare treat. It’s like being a fly on the wall. When you are done listening to this conversation you can read some of Jordan’s screenplay here.

9. Damien Chazelle

Today on the show we have Damien Chazelle, the Oscar® Winning director and screenwriter of La La Land. He bursted on the scene with his debut film Whiplash. The film is about a young musician (Teller) struggles to become a top jazz drummer under the tutelage of a ruthless band conductor (Simmons).

James and Damien discuss how he wrote and structured La La Land and much more. Enjoy this rare conversation between James V. Hart and Damien Chazelle.

10. Joe Cornish

Have you ever  wondered what it is like screenwriting inside the Marvel and Studio machine? Wonder no further, today we have screenwriter and director Joe Cornish. Joe was one of the writer’s on Marvel’s Ant-Man.

Joe honestly, was extremely forthcoming and transparent about a lot of things; like what really happened behind the scenes on Ant-Man and what it’s like to write inside the Marvel machine, having Edgar Wright as a writing partner, working with filmmaking legends like Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. And we also discuss his craft, how he approaches screenwriting and directing, and much more.

11. Joe Carnahan

It’s been a hell of a year so far. I’ve been blessed to have had the honor of speaking to some amazing filmmakers and man today’s guest is high on that list. On the show we have writer/director Joe Carnahan. Joe directed his first-feature length film Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane. which was screened at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival, and won some acclaim.

12. Troy Duffy

I’m always looking for success stories in the film business to study and analyze. Edward Burns (The Brothers McMullan) Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi), Kevin Smith (Clerks), and Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity) come to mind. I’m sure many of you are familiar with the cult indie film classic The Boondock Saints but many of you might not know the crazy story of its writer and director Troy Duffy.

Well, prepare to get your mind BLOWN. I had an EXCLUSIVE discussion with Troy this week, and let’s say, he did not hold back. Nothing was off-limits – from his instant rise to fame to the brutal fate he met – getting blacklisted, all of it. He wanted to set the record straight because there is always another side to the story, and what better side to hear than that of the man who lived this brutal Hollywood adventure?

13. Sacha Gervasi

Being a podcaster now for over 600 episodes I’ve heard all sorts of stories on how people make it in the film business. From Sundance darlings to blind luck. Now today’s guest story is easily one of the most incredible and entertaining origin stories I’ve ever heard. We have on the show today award-winning director, producer, and screenwriter, Sacha Gervasi.

Sacha won the screenwriter lottery with his first-ever screenplay, which was a un-produceable short film script, caught the eye of the legendary Steven Spielberg. That script, My Dinner with Herve would eventually be expanded and released in 2018 by HBO. The film stars the incomparable, Peter Dinklage.

Sasha is such an interesting human being, I had such a ball talking with him.  We talk about the film business, his origin stories, his screenwriting craft, what he’s doing now, and so much more.

Enjoy my entertaining conversation with Sacha Gervasi.

14. Edward Burns

Today’s guest is a writer, director, producer, actor, and indie filmmaking legend, Edward Burns. Many of you might have heard of the Sundance Film Festival-winning film called The Brothers McMullen, his iconic first film that tells the story of three Irish Catholic brothers from Long Island who struggle to deal with love, marriage, and infidelity.

His Cinderella story of making the film, getting into Sundance, and launching his career is the stuff of legend. The Brothers McMullen was sold to Fox Searchlight and went on to make over $10 million at the box office on a $27,000 budget, making it one of the most successful indie films of the decade.

15. Mark L. Smith

I’ve spoken to many people in the film business over the years but today’s guest is one of the hardest working craftman I’ve had the pleasure of sitting down with. Today on the show we have screenwriter, producer and director, Mark L. Smith.

If you look at his IMDB you’ll see a list of 15 projects at various stages of development. He’s come a long way from entering the Hollywood scene some 15 years ago with his fear-striking horror screenwriting and directorial debut, Séance in 2006.

I had an absolute ball speaking to Mark. He’s one of the hardest working screenwriters in Hollywood. We discuss everything from The Revenant, genius-level tips on how to adapt a book to the screen to what it was like work with Quentin Tarantino on the Star Trek script that has yet to be made.

If you pray, please pray to the Hollywood Gods that Mark and Quentin’s Star Trek gangster film sees the light of day.

16. Diane Drake

Today on the show we have million-dollar screenwriter Diane Drake. Her produced original scripts include ONLY YOU, starring Robert Downey, Jr. and Marisa Tomei, and WHAT WOMEN WANT, starring Mel Gibson.

Her original script for ONLY YOU sold for $1 million, and WHAT WOMEN WANT is the second highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time (Box Office Mojo). In addition, both films have recently been remade in China featuring major Chinese stars. And WHAT WOMEN WANT has recently been remade by Paramount Pictures as WHAT MEN WANT, with Taraji Henson starring in the Mel Gibson role.

17. Boaz Yakin

We have for you on the show today screenwriter and director, Boaz Yakin, The writer behind The Punisher, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, The Rookie, & Safe and directing, The Fresh, Remember the Titans and the comedy-drama, Uptown Girl among others.

Boaz and I chatted about his creative process, the business side and political side of screenwriting and directing in Hollywood during this conversation. He was extremely raw and honest about what it really is like working inside the Hollywood machine.

18. Jeffrey Reddick

Today on the show we have screenwriter and director Jeffrey Reddick, who is best known for creating the highly successful Final Destination horror film franchise. The franchise has grossed over $650 Million world-wide. Not bad for an idea that was first conceived for an X-Files episode.

Jeffrey has had an amazing career so far and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.

19. Billy Crystal 

There are performers that impact your life without you even knowing it and today’s guest fits that bill. On the show, we have comedic genius, multi-award-winning actor, writer, producer, director, and television host, Billy Crystal. We’ve seen Billy’s versatile work across all areas in the entertainment world, stand-up, improv, Broadway, behind and in front of the camera, feature films, television, live stages like SNL, and animated movies.

20. Larry Wilson

If you were a kid of the late 80s or early 90s then today’s guest definitely had an impact on your life. Larry Wilson is the co-creator of the cult classic Beetlejuice (directed by Tim Burton), writer of Addams Family and worked on the legendary television show Tales from the Crypt.

Larry wasn’t always a screenwriter, he worked on the studio side of things as well as an executive. In this interview, he tells the story of how he championed a young and pre-Terminator James Cameron to be the writer/director of Aliens. Great story!

21. Robert McKee

Our guest today is the well-regarded screenwriting lecturer, story consultant, and eminent author, Robert McKee. Reputable for his globally-renowned ‘Story Seminars’ that cover the principles and styles of storytelling.

I read his book years ago and refer to it often. I discovered McKee after watching the brilliant film Adaptation by the remarkable Charlie Kaufman. Kaufman literally wrote him into the script as a character. McKee’s character was portrayed by the Emmy Award-winning actor Brian Cox.

If you haven’t heard of Robert McKee then you’re in for treat. Robert McKee is what is considered a “guru of gurus” in the screenwriting and storytelling world.

He has lectured on storytelling for three decades, and his book Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting (FREE AUDIO BOOK VERSIONS HERE) is a “screenwriters’ bible“. It’s also become the bible for TV writers, and entertainment executives, and their assistants.

McKee’s former students include 67 Academy Award winners, 200+ Emmy Award winners, 100+ Writers Guild of America Award winners, and 52 Directors Guild of America Award winners.

Some of his “Story Seminar” alumnae including Oscar® Winners Peter Jackson, Julia Roberts, John Cleese,  Geoffrey Rush, Paul Haggis, Akiva Goldsman, William Goldman, and Jane Capon, among many others.

22. John Truby

Today on the show we have one of the most popular guests to ever be on the Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast, the legendary John Truby. John is the author of The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller.

John Truby is one of the most respected and sought-after story consultants in the film industry, and his students have gone on to pen some of Hollywood’s most successful films. The Anatomy of Story shares all his secrets for writing a compelling script.

Based on the lessons in his award-winning class, Great Screenwriting, The Anatomy of Story draws on a broad range of philosophy and mythology, offering fresh techniques and insightful anecdotes alongside Truby’s own unique approach to building an effective, multifaceted narrative.

His is former students’ work has earned more than $15 billion at the box office, and include the writers, directors, and producers of such film blockbusters as Ratatouille, In Treatment, Pirates of the Caribbean, X-Men I/II/III, Shrek, Mother Mary of Chris, Breaking Bad, House, Lost, Planet of the Apes, Scream, The Fantastic Four, The Negotiator, Star Wars, Sleepless in Seattle, Outbreak, African Cats (which Truby co-wrote for Disney) and more.

23. Chris Vogler

Today on the show we bring the legendary story analyst and best-selling author Chris Vogler. Chris wrote the game-changing book  The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. I read this book over 25 years ago and it changed the way I look at “story.” Chris studied the work and principles of the late master Joseph Campbell.

His book The Hero with a Thousand Faces was the basis for Star Wars as well as almost every other Hollywood feature film in the past 60 years using what Campbell called the monomyth.

24. Pen Densham

Today on the show we Pen Densham. Pen is a successful award-winning screenwriter, producer, and director, with an extensive track record in film and television. He is responsible for writing and producing some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters, such as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Backdraft, Blown Awayalong with some of its longest-running television series including The Outer Limits.

I had a ball speaking to Pen about his time in Hollywood, what it was like to screenwriter/producer monster hits and his screenwriting philosophy on how to make it in Hollywood.

25. Marshall Herskovitz

Our guest today is producer, director and screenwriter Marshall Herskovitz. Many of his production projects have been in partnership with his long-time filmmaking collaborator, Edward Zwick whose films, he’s produced and written half of. Their decades-long filmmaking partnership was launched as co-creators of the 1987 TV show, ThirtySomething.


Screenwriting Books You Need to Read – Top Ten List

1) Screenplay by Syd Field

The first book I ever read about screenwriting. Syd Field is the forefather of the how-to for screenwriting. He cracked the code of the three-act structure and paved the way for all other screenwriting gurus that would follow. As far as I know, he created the terms like “turning points,” and “pinch”, and much of the language that screenwriters use to describe elements and devices used in their scripts(FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

2) Story: by Robert McKee

Immortalized by the film Adaptation, McKee delves deeply into the components necessary for making a great script. I find his principles of “controlling idea” (which closely resembles Lagos Egri’s concept of “premise” in The Art of Dramatic Writing) and “gap between expectation and result” incredibly useful. I always turn to McKee’s teachings for guidance. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

3) The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

Vogler takes the workings of Joseph Campbell about myth and archetypes and breaks it down into easy to chew, bite-size portions. What makes Campbell so special? His writings about the universal appeal of mythological tales have inspired many other storytellers to create great pieces of work with timeless resonance — does George Lucas ring a bell? (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

4) Making a Good Script Great by Linda Seger

Seger’s book I found as a great companion piece to Syd Field’s Screenplay. What I particularly like from this book is her method of ramping up conflict by the use of “obstacles,” “compilations,” and “reversals.”

Also, check out Linda’s amazing podcast interview here: Making a Good Script Great with Linda Seger (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

5) Save the Cat by Blake Snyder

You can see echoes of all the other aforementioned writers in this book. What I like about Save The Cat is that it’s a stripped-down, fun read with a lot of helpful information. I especially appreciate Snyder’s Beat Sheet which shows with almost page number accuracy where to place those particular plot moments that help keep your story moving. Some might find it formulaic, but I think it functions very well and points to exactly the kind of scripts Hollywood has come to expect from writers. One of the best screenwriting books. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

6) How Not to Write a Screenplay by Denny Martin Flynn

Just when you think you’ve got it all figured out on how to write a screenplay along comes this book to point out where you may have gotten it wrong. Despite the length of the title, it’s a quick read and VERY illuminating. As I skimmed through the examples of what not to do, I discovered what I was doing right, and most importantly what I was getting wrong. They say you learn from your mistakes, and reading this book sure helped to show how. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

7) The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats by Cole Haag

This book was a required textbook back when I was at film school. Some of the formatting suggestions may be a little outdated, especially if you have Final Draft or Movie Magic screenwriting software, but there’s still a ton of knowledge to be gained about proper formatting. The quickest way to spot a novice writer is by how unprofessional their script is formatted — this book shines a light on the Hollywood standard. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

8) The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier

Not only do I dig this guy’s first name, but I found his book to be more current as far as the conventions of formatting. It covers a lot of ground with how to write a screenplay and everything else that goes with being a screenwriter and Filmtrepreneur, like how to register your script and how to write a query letter to literary agents. It’s a broad overview, but one of the most informative screenwriting books. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

9) The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri

This is actually a book for the aspiring playwright, but most if not all the principles can apply to screenwriting. Egri gives examples of poorly constructed scenes and explains why they don’t work — then compares and contrasts against scenes that do. This is one of my favorite books, and one I strongly recommend. One of the best screenwriting books out there. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

10) The 101 Habits Of Successful Screenwriters by Karl Iglesias

(FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE) Have you ever wondered how successful writers do it? If you’ve reached this point on my top ten, I would say, “of course you do!” There are good work regimens and not so constructive methods. This book gives us a glimpse into how the top Hollywood writers work, how they fight writer’s block, as well as deal with the daily grind of writing. I found it very insightful and definitely worthwhile. 

BONUS: Pulp Fiction – The Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino

A must-read for any screenwriter. Tarantino…nuff said! These are our Top Ten Screenwriting Books You Need to Read. We hope they help you on your journey as a screenwriter. Remember just keep writing! 

David R. Flores is a writer and artist (aka Sic Monkie) based in Los Angeles. He is the creator of the comic book series Dead Future King published by Alterna Comics and Golden Apple Books. Website: www.davidrflores.com & www.deadfutureking.com

Transcript for Robert McKee Interview:

Alex Ferrari 0:04
I'd like to welcome to the show, Robert McKee. How are you doing, Robert?

Robert McKee 0:08
Very well, very well. Thank you.

Alex Ferrari 0:10
Thank you so much for coming on the show. I am have been a fan of your work for quite some time. I've read your first two books, and I'm looking forward to reading your new one, which we'll talk about later character. But I was first introduced to your work in the film adaptation like so many. So many screenwriters and filmmakers were how, by the way, how, how was that whole process? I mean, it was a very odd request, I'm sure that you got when you got that call?

Robert McKee 0:40
Well, it certainly was, my phone rang one day and producer named Ed Saxon calling from New York and, and he said I am mightily embarrassed. This is a phone call I've dreaded. We've got this crazy screenwriter Charlie Kaufman and, and he has made you a character in his screenplay, and he has freely cribbed from your book and from your lectures, and he has no permission to do either. And, but we don't know what to do. So I said, well, send me a script, you know, I'll you know, see what's going on. So they sent me a script, and I read it. And I saw immediately that he really needed my character as a central to the film, because he wants me to, he wanted my character to represent the the imperatives of Hollywood. And that you have to do certain things certain ways, blah, blah, blah. And, you know, which is on one level nonsense. Such rules, they their principles, and there's genre convention, but anyway, but so I was a typical kind of need to slander Hollywood in favor of the artist. And, and they wanted me to do the slandering. So, but I realized that without my character there to provide some source of conflict. The story didn't work at all. So I said, and so I tell you what, I made two phone calls. I called William Goldman. And I said, Good, he was, you know, a student of mine. And I said, Bill, they there's a film and they want to use me as a character in it. What do you think? And he said, Don't do it. Don't do it. He said, it's Hollywood. And he said, they're out to get you don't do it. I said, Yeah, but I'm okay. But suppose I had casting rights. And he says, Okay, okay, who do you want? I said, Well, let's say Gene Hackman, is it? Okay. Okay. It'll be Gene Hackman, with a big pink bow around his neck. If they want to get you, Bob, they're gonna get you don't do it. So then I called my son. And I said, Paul, you know, and he said, do it. I said, Why isn't because Dad, it's a Hollywood film, you're gonna be a character in the Hollywood film. And he said, it'll be great. Do it. So I talked to Ed Sachs, and I said, Kenny, three things. One, I need a redeeming scene. I said, you know, you want to slander me fine. But then you can't leave it at that. You got he got to give me a redeeming scene. Right? To I have to have the controller the casting, I won't tell you exactly who to cast. But you got to give me a list because I ended need to know their philosophy. I mean, for all I knew this was the Danny DeVito Dan Ackroyd School of casting,

Alex Ferrari 4:28
you know, fair enough.

Robert McKee 4:31
I said, and very importantly, the third act sucks. And I cannot be a character in a bad movie. So we need meetings, they're going to have to be willing to rewrite. And, and those are my three conditions. And, and they agreed to them. And, and so they sent me a casting they gave me my redeeming scene and then they they they sent a list. Have the 10 best middle aged British actors alive? You know, everybody from Christopher Plummer to Alan Bates and I, and and I looked at the list. And I said, I want Brian Cox. And they said, Who's Brian Cox? And I said, He's the best British actor you don't know. Because Brian had been a student of mine up in Glasgow, and I'd seen him on stage in the West End of London and, and what I didn't want, see all those actors. They're all wonderful. But there's always actors have this Love me Love me thing, no matter what they want to be loved. And there's always this subtext like my heart's in the right place. And I really, you know, and I don't want to be loved. I really don't want to be respected, I want to be understood. And I want to inspire people and educate, but I do not want a bunch of people following me around like a guru. Right, loving me, right? And I knew that Brian would not do that. And, and then we had meetings and about the Act Three, and eventually got to a never got to a perfect accuracy. But it got to a point where I could sign off on so and it was, so they took my son to a screening at so at Sony and I said, you know, we think ball, and he said, Dad, he said, Brian Cox nailed you. Which I thought was great. So you know, and it was, it was, but that's not the, you know, I was I put myself in a funny date. So it's not just, but yeah, it was, um, it was a difficult choice. But I think William Goldman was wrong, that, you know, there was a way to you have your cake and eat it too. And I think an adaptation is loved. Oh, and millions and millions of people. So, so it certainly didn't hurt my brand.

Alex Ferrari 7:20
It didn't hurt your brand or business, I'd imagine. It's the term irony comes to play where you would be working with Charlie Kaufman, on a script, where your character is the establishment that he's trying to get away from and to give art but yet you are working with him to put the script together and finish the third act, which is amazing. Charlie,

Robert McKee 7:42
Charlie's one of those guys. He's got, you know, a great talent. But he's a bit delusional. What he wants to achieve is the commercial art movie. He wants it both ways. He wants to be known for making art movies, but they have to make money too. And a lot of it because he knows that, you know, his career. If he loses money, it's over. And so and, and so he wants to he wants to create the commercial art movie and a salsa dance understood, you know, things, the notion of the commercial art movie, you know, the, the, the English Patient and films like that. And I you know, in the meetings with a spike and and, and, Charlie, I, you know, I pointed out to Charlie, so you can't have it both ways. It's a you, you know, you if it's a true art movies have a very limited audience period. And art filmmakers understand this. And they budget accordingly. You want 30 million

Alex Ferrari 8:59
for an art film?

Robert McKee 9:03
Was 5 million we could, but Okay, so anyway, but it was. Yeah, the irony of it is wonderful.

Alex Ferrari 9:10
So, so you've worked with so many screenwriters and filmmakers over the course of your career, what is the biggest mistakes you see screenwriters, new screenwriters to the craft make?

Robert McKee 9:24
Well, it's not mistake so much. Yeah, I guess it is a mistake. But, uh, there's two problems. One is cliches. And they think that it that they want to be, you know, like an artist, they want to be original, but at the same time, they want. They want to be sure that it works. And so they recycle the things that everybody's always done. And they've tried to recycle them with it. difference and which is absolutely necessary, I mean, that's I get it, you're not going to reinvent the wheel, you have to just spin it yet another way. And, but then they get very easy once they sell their soul. It's hard to get it back. And, you know, you can pour on your soul for a while, but you've got to get the cash to get back. And, and so that's the war on cliches is not some, you know, it's not a fault, it's just a problem everybody faces. And, but there's a greater problem. And it's the willingness to lie. In an effort to tell their story to get it out, somehow they get it together. And they will write characters and scenes, and whatever that that lack credibility that they know perfectly well, in their heart of hearts is pure corn of some kind. And it's a it's, they're bending the truth. It's not it's, there's something false to some. And, and, and to, to, to get to something that is really profoundly honest. And it doesn't matter what the genre is, from action, to comedy. to, to a you know, as an education plan, something very interior doesn't matter what the genre is, there's truth, and then there's lie. And somehow they think that because it's fiction, that gives them a license to lie. But but they don't have that license, they have a an obligation to express the truth of what it is to be a human being and in whatever genre, they're they're writing, they have a, they have a an obligation, if they're writing comedy, to really stick a knife in some sacred cow and expose the bullshit of society. I mean, they, you know, it's not enough to be amusing. comedy is a is an angry art, that savages, all those things that, that that that are false in life, and starting with politics. Right. And, and so there's they, there's a willingness to, to fit and lie and in order to please that, okay, let me take a step back. I bulldozing cliches and truthfulness are all the byproduct of the young writer, especially the young writers desire to please they want to be loved, they want people to love what they do they want to please people. And so they write what they think, is pleasing for people, whether it's all the cards in fast and furious. Right, or the sentimentality or whatever they want to please people and and which is fine, but you can't please everybody and so you're going to write for a certain mind a certain audience a certain mentality and an educational level and taste and whatnot in a certain group of people that you know, are out there, they're like you pay and and you can't please everybody. And and so, a film like for example, Nomad land is certainly not trying to please there's an audience for it, that will get it and enjoy it and and recognize this as a deep truth about our society and about human nature.

But it's, it's not going to have a mass audience. And because it will turn off more people than it will turn out. And, but it's, it's a excellent film is an honest film. So that's the I think it's fishing around here. Because when you open the door and say, you know whether

Alex Ferrari 14:53
you're wrong, there's 1000s of things

Robert McKee 14:57
to bring up, but if I can do it down, it's that it's that the willingness to please results in recycling cliches, and basically not telling the the, the, the dark truth of things. And so you have to be it's tough, you have to be disciplined not to copy other people's success, but to, to write what you honestly believe to be the

errors in the central new genre.

And, and be rigorous about that.

Alex Ferrari 15:36
Now, one of the the hallmarks of a good story is conflict. How do you create conflict in a story?

Robert McKee 15:46
Well, depends on where you start. If you start with a choice of genre, let's say you're going to write a thriller. Right? You know, the source of conflict immediately by that choice. I need some kind of psychopathic villain. Right? I need Russell Crowe, in unhinged. Why? And so that's done for you. So that the genre sort of automatically tells you, right, on the other hand, if you're telling a family story, and that will be called domestic. Until the characters are a family and it's a family with problems, wow. The conflict could come from any direction. Who's with? Is it the mother? Is it the father? Is that rebellious children? Is it Whose is it? Some some, you know, older grandfather grandmother figure that's pulling people strings, and you know, whatever, given a family what's wrong with this family? And so you have to figure out what is it and is it social, or psychological? Is it instinctive is a deliberate you have to think your way through all that. And so you, you you start with a family and you create a little you know, a cast? And then and then you ask the question or what's wrong with this family. And a million different things can be wrong in human nature inside of a family. And that requires knowledge, you have to understand people, you have to understand that you know, the mother, daughter, mother, son, Father, daughter, Father, Son relationships, and, and you need to dig into your own experience. And ask yourself, you know, what was wrong in my family? What What do I believe, to be the truth about families? And, and, and that the genre doesn't give you that answer. And so, you have the answer will come from your depth of understanding of human nature, human relationships of a certain personal kind in this case. And, or if you're writing comedy, so as mentioned, the starting place of writing a comedy is to ask yourself what is pissing me off? What in this world is pissing me off? Is that relationships? Is it men women? Always it? Is that the is that the the the the social networks? Is it is it politics? Is it the military? Is it the church? Why what what is what what do I hate? What's pissing me off? Because the root of comedy is is anger. The comic mind is an angry idealist comic comics are idealists who want the world to be perfect or at least and when they look around the world they see where sorry, sick one place it is. And, and they realize that they're complicit, they're part of it too. And so what spacing me off then it points them in a direction to an institution or behavior in society. me like I think that great comedy series. Curb Your Enthusiasm. You know, and, and, and yes, you know, what is pissing me off and he will finds really egregious fault in, in, in people's lack of propriety. Or, or logic or clarity of thought, you know, why should there be a handicapped stall in toilets? Right that no one can use except the two times a year that a handicapped person comes into this particular toilet. Okay. Right. That is

Larry David, that is an egregious absurdity and it infuriates him. And so he goes into the handicap stall, and sure shit, this is the day

a guy in a wheelchair. So, um, so that, you know, that that's, those are the various things, you know, you, you look at yourself, as a writer, and you you have to understand your vision of life, you have to understand the genres. When you make a choice, there's certain conventions. And, and a, you can bend those conventions, what breaker if you want, but not without an awareness of what the audience expects. And so somehow, it'll between picking the setting and the cast, the genre, and then looking inside of yourself, like your comic wouldn't ask you what's pissing me off? You find your way. If I if you're in conflict, and the the most importantly, you know, it has it that you know that that conflict has to be something you deeply believe in. Now, or, or you will do what we were talking about earlier, you will fall prey to cliches because you'll you'll create false conflict, false antagonist empty, a cliched antagonisms. And like that. So it's a very important question. Now.

Alex Ferrari 22:28
So as far as one thing a lot of a lot of screenwriters try to get away from is structure, saying that structure and trying to fall into side of a structure is, it's like holding me back as an artist and I need to be free and I need to run free like a wild stallion, I personally find structure to be very freeing, because it gives me a place to go. How do you approach structure?

Robert McKee 22:55
Well, in this day, people have a course accused me of imposing structural rules in my teaching, and it's nonsense. When

I am opposed to structure, it's inhibiting my creativity do not know what the hell they're talking. They just don't they use the word structure. But they wouldn't understand or know story structure, if it fell from a height under their foot, okay, they just don't know what they're talking about. structure in every scene, ideally, is a turning point of some magnitude, the character's life, they go into a situation wanting something. And something in that moment, kind of prevents them from getting it. They struggle with that. And they either get what they want, or they don't get what they want. Or they get it at a price or they don't get it but learn something. Change takes place. And it's in a simple scene is minor. And then these changes per scene build sequences in which moderate deeper change wider change happens, these sequences build x in it. And then that climax is a major turning point that has greater depth or greater breadth or both have impact on a character's life. And so minor moderate major changes are building a story progressively to an absolute irreversible change at climax. Now, why would anyone object to what I just said? Why would anyone think that you can change Do concrete scenes in which nothing changes. And do that three scenes in a row and people will not be walking up. They come there, they come to the writer, they read a novel, kind of trying to have insight into life as to what forces in life positive and negative, bring about change outwardly or inwardly in characters lives. I mean, that's why we go to the storyteller. And so and so why would you not want change? Or why would you want repetitious change? Because the same change degree of change, that happens three times in a row, you know, we're bored. So because it's not giving us what we want, it's not giving us the insight that into character that we want. And so people who say they're opposed to structure don't understand what structure is it they don't understand, it's a dynamic and a progression of minor moderate major changes. And so I have no patience with that kind of ignorance. Hear the people who say that are the very naive, ignorant, really, people who think that if they just open up their imagination, emotion, picture will flow out of it.

Alex Ferrari 26:30
Very true.

Robert McKee 26:32
And, and they are childish in that way. I mean, you open up your imagination and see what flows out, then you have to go to work on it. And you have to step back from every, every time you you know, or let me put you this way. What in truth is it to write? What is writing actually, like, as an experience, you open up your imagination, and you have an idea for a character or two or three, and you write a page, things happen? Action reaction dialog, that when you write a page, that takes 20 minutes, then what do you do? You read that page? And you could take it does this work? would he say that? Would she act like that? would this happen with it? Is there a better way to do this? And is this repetitious? Is there a hole does it make sense, you constantly critique what you've written, and you go back, and you rewrite it. And then you read it, again, you critique it again. And this goes on all day long. And so you go inside to create, you go outside to critique, you create, your critique you curate, and the quality of your critique that guides your rewriting is absolutely dependent on your understanding to make judgments, when you ask the question, does this work? You have to know what works and what doesn't work. And, and so that on one level, everything you do is structure. Its structured to have a character say x and another character respond with y that structure action reaction, that the person who said x did not expect to hear why

Alex Ferrari 28:36
right exit Exactly.

Robert McKee 28:39
And that structure that beat of act reaction and human behavior, that structure. So is I said, People say this, say it out of out of emit amateur understanding of what the creativity, what the act of writing really is.

Alex Ferrari 29:07
And I, whenever I've come up against that, when I say no, every you know, every movie has some sort of structure. Most movies, especially popular movies have structure. And your definition of structure is wonderful. They always throw out Pulp Fiction, and I'm like, no Pulp Fiction is an extremely structured film. Do you agree?

Robert McKee 29:28
Yeah. I've when I was we were talking about when I was when they were doing adaptation, and I was working with Charlie Kaufman. Charlie had exactly that attitude. I said, the third act doesn't work. We have to restructure it. And in the end is his face went into a panic mode. He didn't want you know, scared the hell out. He said, I know. I know that. It needs some, you know, just it'll come to me it was a clo and whatnot. And it's as easy as I don't write with structure. He said that I don't write with structure. I said, Charlie, would you like me to lay out the three act design of being john malkovich as because it's a three act, play, want to hear them, act 123. And, and he almost ran out of the room. He didn't want to hear it. He wants to live in the delusion that it somehow flows, and there is no structure. And when in fact, subconsciously, at least being john malkovich is a three activist

Alex Ferrari 30:48
is a great, it's

Robert McKee 30:50
a model, it's a model, BJ Mack is a model three act design. But it's but to the romantic like, Charlie, he doesn't want to hear it. Because he thinks that that's going to constipate his creativity. And I have to agree with it. If he wants to write out of this notion that it's all a flow. And if he is aware that there's a, that there's a design happening, it would, it would inhibit him. So it's because he's a good writer, he's very talented. So it would be better for him to live in that delusion, and let it all pour out. And then he goes back, and his taste guides the rewriting and so forth. And, and, and so if you're talented, like Charlie and, and the idea of structure is frightening, then you should listen to those feelings. And not think about structure and just, you know, do what you do, and hope it works.


that's rare.

Alex Ferrari 32:10
Very, very, very rare. But yeah, but and so for everyone listening, you have to understand that someone like Jeff Hoffman is writing. And as he's writing, he's subconsciously working within the three act structure, honestly, on a subconscious level. And even the great writers is like, Oh, I never even think about outlining or plotting, is because they have such a grasp of the craft, that it's already pre wired in them. It's like me building a house, I wouldn't even think twice about how to pour a foundation, or how to how to how to lay out the walls, because I've done it a million times. I don't have to sit there and think about it, it's just done. But that is rare, and it takes sometimes years to get to that place or you're a prodigy, which happens once in a generation or twice in a generation.

Robert McKee 32:57
And and you're absolutely right. That's very, very well put and, and in fact, it goes beyond that you have been watching the stories on screen you have been reading them in novels, you've been to the theater, that form form is a better word than structure that form of action, contradictory reaction and reaction to that and a giant dynamic of action reaction building to change that is so built into you as a as a reader as an audience member from I don't know two three years old. Mother read your little you know, bunny rabbit stories, right? Your bunny rabbit goes out and something happens that not happy for the bunny rabbit and then you know of bunny rabbits mother comes along and pictures things whatever it takes, I mean that that form is ingrained in you from from the earliest. And so you do know it?

Alex Ferrari 34:08
Without question. Now you do more dialogue is something that is you've wrote an entire book dedicated to dialogue. Obviously, your first book is story. But your second book is dialogue. What are the three functions of dialogue in your opinion?

Robert McKee 34:25
Well, there's many of them and certainly one of them is is the obvious one of exposition by various means. So for examples simple in writing dialogue, a character has a certain vocabulary so for example, you you've done construction on houses, right? Some sure I And so how many different kinds of nails Do you know? From spiked to tact of,

let's say 10? Yeah. Okay. Now most people may know, to me one nail on a screw, basically, that's all they know.

Okay. So if if in there, if a character in their dialogue uses the, the carpenters terminology. And even metaphorically, you know, call something a five, many nail, right? The fact that he knows the difference between a temporary nail and pipe and whatever it is, his exposition is it tells us something about the life of this character, by the very word, the names of things that that this character uses in their vocabulary helps us understand the whole life of this character. So if somebody grew up, you know, around boats, and they use nautical terminology, right? And so that they the language inside of the dialogue, all that just the vocabulary alone gives us exposition, it tells us who is this character? What's their life been like? Etc. Okay, then, at the same time, the characters talking about things that are happening, or have happened. And when somebody says, you know, you're not going to leave me again, we are to instantly know, that's it, she's already left them once, at least before

Alex Ferrari 36:46
it says it says volumes with one word.

Robert McKee 36:49
Yeah, there's no word again. But so we have an insight into what their life has been like, in this relationship. And so that's number one is is, is exposition. And number two is action. When people speak, what they say, is an action they take in order to get what they need and want in the moment, but underneath that is what they're really doing. And it's what in the subtext, the action they take in the subtext is what's driving the scene? So when somebody says, Well, I didn't expect that. Right? What they're really doing, perhaps, depending, right, is attacking, criticizing the other person for doing something that's completely inappropriate. What they say is, well, I didn't expect you to say that I didn't expect you to do that. I didn't expect that. But what that is, is a way of attacking another person for inappropriate behavior. And so it's right. And so and so the dialogue is the text by which people carry out actions. But underneath the dialog, is the true action. And it that's based on a common sense, understanding that people do not say out loud and do out what they're really thinking and feeling. They cannot, no matter how they try, if they're when they're, when they're pouring their heart out and confessing to the worst things they've ever done. There's still another layer, where they're actually begging for forgiveness, let's say, right? So by confessing, actually, you're begging for forgiveness or whatever it is. And so dialogue is the outer vehicle for interaction. And, and the great mistaken dialogue is writing the the interaction into the dialogue. stead of having somebody confess, did they beg Please forgive me, please forgive me, forgive me, forgive me. Right. And, and if somebody is actually begging, there's got to be another level of what they're really doing underneath the baking. And, and so you have to, you know, the writer has to think to that by begging. What that dialogue is actually a mask for manipulating that person. Do what you have to do, right. And so, exposition, action. Okay. And then, you know, just beauty. Just Just wonderful dialogue, in character, and all that, but but a way of creating a surface that is that it draws us. Because, you know, we just love to see scenes where characters speak really well. in there. And even though even if we're using just gangster talk, good gangs, your dog, it's right to talk to each other and that kind of rap and that kind of unite. Right? That's, that's a form of beauty. It's wonderful, you know, it's pleasurable, right. The dialogue ultimately ought to be pleasing, and in his sense of kind of verbal spectacle. And so that's just, you know, that just three off the top of my head functions, but there's is there's much more right and I, I like I'm sure like you, we all love. Wonderful, memorable quotable dialogue.

Alex Ferrari 41:24
Yeah, very much like it's so obviously Tarantino and Sorkin and Shane Black and these kind of screenwriters, their dialogue is just, it's poetic in the way that they write something, certainly is, certainly, and the genius of them is they're able to do the first two things you said, within that poetry, as opposed to just poetry for poetry sake,

Robert McKee 41:46
which is, you know, that is that just decorative. They all happens all at once. You know, you're getting exposition, see who these characters are, whatever actions or reactions are driving the scene, and it's a pleasure to listen to.

Alex Ferrari 42:03
Now, one thing I've noticed in years and even in my own writing descriptions, in a screenplay, a lot of screenwriters, when they starting out, they feel like it's a novel. So, they will write a very detailed description about a scene or about something, where from my understanding, over the years, less is more and it becomes more of a of an exercise in Haiku is than it is in the novel writing. Can you kind of talk a little bit about the importance of of compacting your description?

Robert McKee 42:37
Well, it does need to be economical. Of course. On the other hand, it has to be vivid,

Alex Ferrari 42:44

Robert McKee 42:46
And that's, you know, where does that balance strike you that the ambition is to project a film into the readers head. So that when they read their screenplay, they see a motion picture without camera directions without you know smash CUT TO for transitions and, you know, Dolly on and you know, and you know, pull focus, whatever nonsense, you got to use the language and description to create the effect of a motion picture, then you only use ideally, you only use the master shots, it you you only the the the shots, the angles, the setups, camera setups that are absolutely necessary. And no more you do not try to direct the film. And, and instead, you project a motion picture into the readers head. And, and, and so you need to it over, often in overriding and when, in fact, was not only overwritten, but it's not vivid. It's because writers rely on adjectives and adverbs. And what they need is to know the names of things. You know, he, he, he picks up what we're talking about before a big nail. Well, you know, big is an adjective. And so, put an image in the readers head, he picks up a spike. Spike is a vivid image. A he, he walks slowly across the room, will slowly is an adverb. Right? Right. And so you name the action of verb is the name of an action. He pads across the room he ambles, he strolls he saunters. He you know, Waltz's is an active verb without an adjective, adverb, concrete nouns without adjectives. And we see things and we see actions. And it becomes vivid. It reduces the word count. And, and here's here's something a good it's a good note for writers take your screenplay. And, and search the verb is or our urge is an are throughout your descriptions and eliminate every single one of them. know things are nothing is in a screenplay. Everything in a film is alive. And action. So you know, a name the thing. So a line like a big house, there, there is a big house on a hill.


And what's a big house a mansion or a state? a villa? What's a, you know, a hill, a mountain. At add and add and turn it into a villa sits just that verb sits is more active than is a big house sits with a spectacular with this spectacular view. And so easy, a big house up high with a great view. And it's an image and it's active, it sits sprawls across, whatever. And so active verbs concrete nouns, and and make us see a movie. And every writer finds every good writer finds their own personal way to do that. And Paddy Chayefsky wrote elaborate descriptions. Harold Pentre described, nothing, nothing. He would just go interior kitchen dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, dialogue, describe nothing. And because his attitude was, we all know what a kitchen looks like. And they'll probably play it in the garage anyway. But if they mess if they mess with my beats of action reaction and you know, in dialogue, then they're in trouble. Okay, so every writer has to find their own way to accomplish the task of a vividly projecting emotion picture in the imagination, as you turn pages who make them see a movie.

Alex Ferrari 48:23
Now, your new book is called character. And I wanted to ask you a couple questions in regards to character because, arguably, I always like to ask the question, do you start with plot or you start with character I always say to people, you don't like Indiana Jones, his plots aren't nearly as memorable as Indiana Jones James Bond's plots aren't as memorable as James Bond. Like I don't you throw me the plot of thunder ball. I don't remember. I remember scenes, but I do remember James Bond. And that's what draws me back to his stories. So, can you talk a little bit about the difference between roles and character?

Robert McKee 48:58
Well, a role is a generic term. And so hero is a role villain is a role victim is a role. You know, sidekick is a roll. goon is a roll. shopkeeper his role in the role is as a position in a in a cast. as defined by its relationship to other characters, and or a profession. Like waiter, asked driver. And, and they're generic, they wrote something waiting to be filled by a character. And as a character comes into a story to fulfill a certain role but it's a it's a You know, it's it's a, it's a generic to that to that genre. And so if you have a family, the roles are mother, father, children guide, they're okay, those are roles, characters are our unique human beings, we inhabit those roles. And and there's a design of a cast, such that the protagonist, and the central character at role is the most complex character role. And they are they, they're, depending on the genre, they are the most dimensional character of all. And they are ideally, they, they are the center of good, there's a, there's a positive human quality, not every way certainly, but there's, there's some quality, within the complexity of that character, with which we recognize we empathize, we recognize a shared humanity, the character is then in orbit around that character that protagonists are less dimensional, but they can be dimensional as as well, then you go all the way out to the second third circles, where you have people only playing a role. cashier, restaurant cashier, okay. Now, even when you're writing a scene where your character goes up to the cashier in a restaurant, to pay a bill, and discovers that his credit card is cancelled, right, you have a clerk standing there, at the at the take, who takes the credit card and finds that it's, it's been rejected that clerk character, he be very useful to imagine that role, very specifically, what kind of human being, you know, is she or he, it because it does the, the way in which that clerk that roll says responds to your card is canceled. Your card didn't go through the, the, the way you write the words and gesture for that character gives her a trait. And so roles have traits and, and to make, even that moment, when there's a human being behind that, that trait. And so if she's sarcastic, if she's fed up with with the job itself or with with people whose cards never work, or she's sympathetic because her cards don't work.

Alex Ferrari 53:19

Robert McKee 53:21
so, even in a in a simple role like that, you try to write it with a as a specific trait in the way in which he deals with that moment. And it creates a character for an actor. And so the actor come in there and realize, Oh, this is an antagonistic clerk or this is a sympathetic cleric, or an indifferent or bored or falling asleep, or glancing at her watch constantly, she just wants to get out of here, whatever it is, you give her a trait. And that makes her a character, she sends the GM to life and it gives the actor something to hang their performance on. And so dimensions the protagonists, the most dimensional of all dimensions are contradictions within the nature of the girl. And so you populate that with in my book on character, I look at characters everybody from from Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey has an eight dimensional character, all the way up to Tony Soprano, as a 12 dimensional character Walter White, as a 16 dimensional character. And so and so the complexity of character today given long form television, especially, is at is becoming your astronomical And then you have to give all the, that every one of these dimensions if a character is, is kind and cruel, okay? Sometimes they're crying, sometimes they're cruel. Therefore, you're going to need a cast of characters where the protagonist, when they meet character a, they treat them kindly character B, they treat with, with a slap with cruelty and, and so you need to design a cast around each other characters. So that when, whenever any two characters meet, they bring out sides of their dimensionality or traits of behavior that no one else brings out of them. And so, every single character is designed that whenever they encounter any other character, they bring out each other's qualities in ways that no other character does. And, and when you have a, you know, when you have that kind of cast, where every single character services, every other character, and no redundancies every relationship is unique. every relationship develops a different aspect or a different dimension. Then you have a fascinating group of people that creates a world that the audience can really

Alex Ferrari 56:38
dive into,

Robert McKee 56:39
dive into now, you know, when characters when and carrot one characters behave toward each other in the same way, no matter who it is. That, you know, that's it's a boring and do it's false. People do not treat other people, different people the same. Everybody behaves in a uniquely subtly but uniquely different way, depending upon the relationship. And it takes a lot of concentration and imagination in the writer to realize that every relationship brings out different sides of the character's nature.

Alex Ferrari 57:21
Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests. Robert, what are three screenplays every screenwriter should read? You see? I don't answer that question. Okay. For this reason, I don't want people to copy anybody. Okay, fair enough.

Robert McKee 57:46
And so if I say, you know, if I named my, you know, my favorites, like, say, trying to tell people you know, then run to study Chinatown and emulate it. And that's a mistake. The really important question to ask people is, what's your favorite genre? Because they should be writing the kind of films they love.

Alex Ferrari 58:15
It's a good point, what

Robert McKee 58:16
I love, what are my favorites may have nothing to do with their favorites. And so the first question is, you know, what do you love? What kind of movies do you go to see what kind of things do you read? What do you love? And then seek out those? And the second thing is that if I name favorites, and, and that they, you know, they're in their pieces of perfection. Okay. What does that teach the writer? They got a model of perfection. Great. Okay, that's important, you should understand you should have an ideal, what you're trying to achieve. But one of the ways to achieve it, is to study bad movies. break them down and ask yourself, why is this film so boring? Why can't I believe a word of it? Why does this fail? and break it down and study it? To answer what this What does it lack what went wrong, etc. Okay, and then rewrite it.

Alex Ferrari 59:37
Just thing,

Robert McKee 59:39
rewrite it. fix that broken film. Because that's what you're going to do as a writer. Your first draft is going to suck. And you're going to go in and try to fix your broken script. Try to bring it to life. Try to cut edited shape and rewrite it reinvented, you're going to read it over and over again, right? Having fixed broken films, not just one, but many, many, many take bad movies, studying them and make them make them work is practice for what you're going to have to do with your own screenplay. Because it's not going to work in the beginning, it's going to need a lot of work to work. And so having rewritten bad films to make them work is, is a real learning experience. And so I say, study good films are of your genre, so that you have a an ideal that you achieve, rewrite the bad ones to teach yourself how to fix broken work. And so, and that's a personal choice. I can't say what that should be for those people. For every one of them, loves whatever they love, which may or may not be what I love.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:00
Now, where can people find out more about you? And where can they purchase your new book character? Amazon? It's pretty much it is pretty much it nowadays, isn't it? It's pretty much it nowadays, isn't it? Amazon.

Robert McKee 1:01:17
bookstores, I'm sure are opening up. And if you know if you love bookstores, as I do, you know, you can go to a bookstore and get it. But the most direct way that will be there in your budget for the next morning. It's incredible what they do, what Amazon does, and bash, you know that the other other Barnes and Noble stew or whatever it is, but yeah, it's very simple. You just go to amazon.com. Right? Just write the word McKee. And comes story, dialogue, character, in hardcover, in an audio and in Kindle,

Alex Ferrari 1:02:05
and everything else? And then how can people read it? And how can people learn more about you what you offer?

Robert McKee 1:02:13
Ah, the go to make peace story.com. The key story.com will take you to our website. And we have a upcoming. We've been doing webinars now for a year and a half since the plague hit us. And they've been very successful, very, very pleased with it. And in July, we're doing a series on action. Nice on the action genre. And so these, these are every Tuesday, three Tuesday's in a row. And they're two hour events, hour and a half worth of lecture and a half hour of q&a. Then on Thursday, I I give an additional two hours of q&a.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:01

Robert McKee 1:03:03
And because I realized how important it is for people to get answers to things they're working on. So So Tuesdays and Thursdays for three weeks in a row. And there's you know, four hours of material each week. So and we will we will look at the action genre in depth with lots of illustrations and examples of an adage and I love giving these acts. webinars. And it's a favorite of mine. Actually,

Alex Ferrari 1:03:38
I love a good action movie is it's hard to come by nowadays. So I appreciate it. Robert, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to to my audience and I appreciate all the work that you have done over the years and help so many screenwriters as well. So thank you so much for everything you do.

Robert McKee 1:03:54
It was a lovely chat. Great chat. Nice talking to you.


Top Ten Best Screenplays Ever Written

If you want to be a screenwriter you have to read screenplays. There’s no better place to start than reading the masters of the craft. The Writers Guild of America (WGA) published this list of the top ten best screenplays ever written and I would have to agree.

My personal favorites on this list are Casablanca, Chinatown, and Annie Hall. Click on the links below and start reading. Happy Reading…then get to writing.

Screenplay by Julius J. & Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch. Based on the play “Everybody Comes to Rick’s” by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison

Screenplay by Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola.

Written by Robert Towne

Written by Herman Mankiewicz and Orson Welles

Screenplay by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Written by Woody Allen and Marshall Brickman

Written by Charles Brackett & Billy Wilder and D.M. Marshman, Jr.

Written by Paddy Chayefsky

Screenplay by Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond.

Screenplay by Francis Ford Coppola and Mario Puzo.

Screenplay by Frank Darabont. I had to add this remarkable screenplay to the list.


Want to read more screenplays by the best screenwriters working in Hollywod today?

The Bulletproof Screenwriting collection of screenplays are organized by screenwriter's & filmmaker's career for easy access.


Aaron Sorkin Screenwriting Masterclass

Who is Aaron Sorkin?

One of the most acclaimed, both hated and loved and a prominent screenwriter of modern times who has made a name for himself in the industry is Aaron Sorkin. Claim to fame The West Wing, Sorkin’s signature style can be recognized and is matchless. His screenplay is unmistakable with witty and rapid dialogue or monolog, morality tales and sharp, intelligent male protagonists.

His dialogues often hint liberal political messages, and he is renowned for his smart stories of politics and the government. Aaron Sorkin has written both on the media industry and television especially.

Though the style gets diverging at times, Sorkin undoubtedly happens to be a brilliant writer who’s credited with the creation of modern classics like A Few Good Men including recent successes like The Social Network. Sorkin has won several Emmys, an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe and carries on still to be a powerhouse both in television and Hollywood.

Born in Manhattan New York City to a Jewish family, Sorkin was raised in the suburb of Scarsdale. His father was a copyright lawyer who had battled in WWII and had put himself through college on the G.I Bill. His mother was a school teacher and both of his siblings, a brother, and sister went on to become lawyers.

Aaron Sorkin took quite an early interest in acting and before he had become a teenager, he loved shows like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? And That Championship Season. Scarsdale High School was where Sorkin got involved in drama and the theater club.

When he was in 8th grade, he played the role of General Bullmoose in the musical, Li’l Abner. In the senior class production of Scarsdale High called Once Upon a Mattress, he played Sir Harry. Sorkin also acted as the vice president both in his junior and senior year at Scarsdale High School and in 1979, he graduated.

Sorkin got himself enrolled in the Syracuse University, and in his freshman year bad luck struck, and he flunked a class which was a core requirement. It was a very devastating setback as Sorkin had aspirations to take up acting and become an actor but the drama department did not permit the students to come up on the stage unless they had passed all the core freshman classes.

Resolute to do better, he returned again in his sophomore year and then graduated in 1983. According to Sorkin, his drama teacher Arthur Storch had a great influence on him back in college and his reputation as a director and being under the tutelage of Lee Strasberg was the primary reason why so many students aspiring to do something in theater and film industry chose Syracuse. And it was always Storch that pushed him to do better and encouraged him on his capacity to do better. Sorkin earned his bachelor degree from Syracuse University in musical theater in 1983.

Shortly after graduation, Sorkin moved to New York City. Most of his time in the 80s was spent struggling as an occasionally employed actor with lots of odd jobs like delivering singing telegrams, touring Alabama with children’s theater company Travelling Playhouse and handing out fliers that marketed the hunting and fishing show, driving limousine and bartending at Broadway’s Palace Theatre.

While housesitting for a friend one weekend, he came across an IBM Selectric typewriter and according to Sorkin, he felt such joy and phenomenal confidence that he had never felt before in his life.

Reflecting his experiences that he had with the touring theater company, Sorkin wrote Removing All Doubt which he sent to his theater teacher at Syracuse University, Arthur Storch. Impressed, Storch staged Removing All Doubt for the drama students at his alma mater.

Sorkin made quite a professional leap when he wrote his second play Hidden in This Picture which was debuted Off-off Broadway (which are smaller than standard Broadway and Off-Broadway productions,) at the West Bank Café Downstairs Theatre Bar which belonged to Steve Olsen, in 1988. The content of this first two plays ended up with him having a theatrical agent.

While having a conversation with his sister Deborah, Sorkin got inspiration for his next play. A courtroom drama called A Few Good Men. Deborah told him how she was going to defend a group of Marines who were about to kill a fellow Marine in a hazing which was a direct order by a senior. Sorkin was working as a bartender at the Palace Theatre, and he wrote all that information on cocktail napkins.

He returned home and typed all in Macintosh 512K which was purchased by his roommates.


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The Hits

Sorkin sold the rights to David Brown before its premiere who produced it at the Music Box Theatre. Starring Tom Hulce, it was directed by Don Scardino. It ran for 497 performances, and by the time it hit the big screens, with Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise, Sorkin had become a major Hollywood team player.

In 1993, Sorkin co-wrote Malice, a dramatic thriller. It starred Nicole Kidman and Alec Baldwin but still got mixed reviews. In 1995, Sorkin came up with The American President which took him few years to write. With the presence of Michael Douglas and Annette Benning striking up romance, it was critically acclaimed.

Sorkin made a comeback to the small screen in 1998 with Sports Night which was a comedy regarding the behind-the-scenes production of sports news program. It was filled with quick wit and snappy dialogues and garnered Sorkin a nomination in the Emmy Awards for outstanding writing. It lasted only two seasons though. This cult hit was loved by many fans and critics and won many awards too.

Unwavering, Sorkin’s next project earned him the repute of one of the best American television writers in the history being pure Sorkin-ey. When he was writing The American President, the screenplay was huge which was cut down, and that ended up in creating West Wing which was an hour-long primetime drama revolving around the staff of a fictional Democratic President, Jed Bartlet which was incredibly played by Martin Sheen. The show ran for seven seasons and Sorkin left after the fourth with his production partner in 2003.

The West Wing was a huge hit and got Sorkin one of the record nine Emmy awards that were awarded to the show in 2000. The show is regarded as one of the best television dramas of all time. It featured a dazzling cast of Bradley Whitford, Rob Lowe, Allison Janney, Alan Alda with Stockard Channing.

The West Wing was where Sorkin earned his reputation for a particular writing style which was witty, quick and sarcastic at time. The walk and talk are the best portrayals of his style in which the characters would be briskly walking together in hallways and fired sharp line at each other with brilliant speed. It also earned him a repute for having quite a heavy-handed political opinion which was hated by conservatives.

The Bartlet Administration depicted the ideal progressive administration of Sorkin, and the characters would often comment in detail delivering lengthy monologs on current controversies and events. None could stop the show, and it still has a very respectable place in television history.

The follow-up series by Sorkin Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, died out just after one season. He made a comeback to the theater with The Farnsworth which failed to impress. But Sorkin found success again with a political comedy-drama which was an adaptation of Charlie Wilson’s War (2007). It starred Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts.

Sorkin then centered his focus on the origins and the following legal battles behind the upheaval of the social media giant, Facebook. Starring Jesse Eisenberg as the Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, it was adapted from a book by Ben Mezrich. The Social Network (2010) it happened to be a rewarding achievement for Sorkin and he won both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for this screenplay.

Garnering Oscar buzz, Sorkin followed with another adaptation and co-writing the script for a baseball movie, Moneyball (2011). The Newsroom (2012) was Sorkin’s another return to television. It combined elements from his last projects, and it emphasized on the excited behind-the-scenes production this time, at a cable news channel. The cast did an excellent job of witty banter and passionate speeches.

By the end of the show in December (2014) Sorkin had completed the screenplay for a biopic of the co-founder of Apple, Steve Jobs. It was released the next year and starred Michael Fassbender as the lead. This earned Sorkin his second Golden Globe for Best Screenplay. As of January 2016, Sorkin announced he would be making his directorial debut with an adaptation, Molly’s Game a chronicle by an underground poker organizer, Molly Bloom.

Aaron Sorkin would be working with Bartlett Sher this time for an adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, for the stage. In March 2016, A Few Good Men would go into production on NBC and will be aired in 2017.

Aaron Sorkin Screenwriting Masterclass

Learn how to write incredible screenplays from Aaron Sorkin in the most comprehensive screenwriting course he’s ever taught. In addition to both improving your storytelling skills and outlining what it takes to write incredible scripts, Aaron invites you into his writer’s room for an eight-part screenwriting case study where he and his team will script, rewrite, and break down a new Season 5 premiere of The West Wing.

Aaron Sorkin first broke out with his Broadway play (and the film adaptation of) “A Few Good Men” starring Tom Cruise before creating “The West Wing” and the remarkable HBO show “Newsroom“. He won an Oscar for writing “The Social Network” and was nominated again for “Moneyball”; more recently, he wrote “Steve Jobs.”

Diving deep into screenwriting fundamentals, Aaron offers detailed lessons on narrative structure, character development, generating new ideas, and his signature style of dialogue. Aaron knows that great screenwriting requires intention and obstacle. He dedicates several lessons to explain how to create conflict, raise dramatic stakes, and keep audiences watching.

Designed to offer useful lessons to seasoned and emerging screenwriters, Aaron’s class can be enjoyed by writers of all skill levels.

Over the course of 25 video lessons spanning five hours, as well as a 30-page workbook and interactive assignments. His workbook includes an entire lecture devoted exclusively to the walk-and-talk. Sorkin is going to share “his rules of storytelling, dialogue, [and] character development,” critique select student submissions, and work with real-world examples from the decades he’s spent writing movies, TV shows, and plays.

You can ENROLL in the course now to this game-changing screenwriting course. Click here to gain access

FREE Screenwriting Master Classes: Top Ten List

Screenwriting Master Classes: Top Ten List

What you are about to listen to is probably the equivalent of taking at least five years of screenwriting courses or classes at a top tier film school.

BAFTA (The British Academy of Film and Television Arts) has an amazing collection of FREE screenwriting lectures from some of the biggest and most successful screenwriters in the world.

There’s easily between 15-20 hours of remarkable content here. Take a listen and get ready to take notes from these masters of the craft of screenwriting and storytelling.

When you are done reading take a listen to Apple #1 Screenwriting Podcast The Bulletproof Screenwriting Podcast, with guest like Oscar Winner Eric Roth, James V. Hart, David Chase, John August, Oliver Stone and more.

Also, keep a look out for the bonus content at the end of the post!

Joss Whedon – Screenwriting Master Class

Joss Whedon’s work ranges across both film and television was strongly conveyed as he discussed the success of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003) and Toy Story (1995) through to his recent cinematic interpretation of Much Ado About Nothing (2012).

Having debated the thematic elements of Buffy and Angel (1999-2004), the interview moved towards The Cabin in the Woods (2011) and The Avengers (2012). Whedon’s emotive intentions in his writing remains steadfast, advocating how “the end game is getting people to feel, and if you can get them to think? Bonus”.

It was clear how much his “absurd love of story-telling” motivates him. Whether writing for the big or small screen, Whedon’s passion for “build[ing] narrative structures” and always working to give his audience something unexpected permeated the interview and has warranted high expectations for his projects, including The Avengers 2 (2015).

With an array of unforgettable characters, emotionally heartfelt and witty scripts, and more end-of-the-world apocalypses than you can shake a vampire stake at, writer and director Joss Whedon has established himself as one of the most original voices working in the film and television industries over the past 20 years.

Charlie Kaufman – Screenwriting Master Class

Kaufman – one of the few contemporary screenwriters whose name commands top-billing status alongside his films’ directors – has quickly established himself as an uncompromisingly original and imaginative talent.

1999’s Being John Malkovich, in which the eponymous actor plays a fictional version of himself, earned Kaufman a BAFTA Film Award for Best Screenplay – an award he picked up again for Adaptation (2002) and Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004).

Failure is a badge of honour. It means you risked failure.

Nancy Meyers – Screenwriting Master Class

Screenwriter and director Nancy Meyers is an Academy Award nominee for her script Private Benjamin (1980) and Golden Globe nominated for her screenplay It’s Complicated (2009).

Across a career spanning 35 years her credits include Father of The Bride (1991), The Parent Trap (1998), Something’s Gotta Give (2003), The Holiday (2006) and The Intern (2015), starring Robert DeNiro and Anne Hathaway.

In an inspiring lecture laden with advice for up-and-coming writers, Nancy Meyers discussed creating characters, producing and directing her own work and her concerns for the film landscape in Hollywood.

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Brian Helgeland – Screenwriting Master Class

Brian Helgeland stands out as one of Hollywood’s master screenwriters of intelligent crime film.

After cutting his teeth in horror (Nightmare on Elm Street 4 was an early credit), he quickly jumped to A-list status with an Oscar® win for the pitch perfect noir thriller LA Confidential and Oscar® and BAFTA nominations for Mystic River.

As a writer, Helgeland is highly prized for smart, muscular thrillers like Green Zone directed by Paul Greengrass, and The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 and Man on Fire, both directed by the late Tony Scott, as well as Payback which he wrote and directed himself.

On writing crime film, he says:

“It strips people down to their basic elements. It gets to the hunting-gathering heart of the matter. I don’t want to write about the ennui rich people feel. I could care less. I want to write about what’s in people’s heads, hearts and between their legs when they either are in prison, might go to prison, have a gun in their face or are pointing one”.

In this lecture, Helgeland urged screenwriters to ‘fight’ to assert themselves in front of studio executives, argued that films should be ‘commercial’ (that is, profitable on some level) and paid tribute to Cool Hand Luke screenwriter Frank Pierson.

Scott Frank – Screenwriting Master Class

Scott Frank, a remarkably diverse writer whose films have grossed over a billion dollars at the box office. During writing the screenplay for Kenneth Branagh’s 1991 thriller Dead Again that he says he really learned his craft.

Frank cemented his growing reputation with a brace of Elmore Leonard adaptations – Get Shorty and Out of Sight – and has since gone on to pen films as diverse as Minority Report, The Lookout (which Frank also directed) and Marley & Me.

Frank began his candid, funny and informative lecture by explaining that when writing he finds it useful to follow a set of rules that he has laid out for himself.

He confessed that they are a set of rules that may only work for him, whilst also noting that

“rules are something to cling to when ideas fail.”

His first and possibly most important rule was

“why you decide to write something doesn’t matter, but how you do it is important.”

Frank revealed that he was initially motivated to write Out of Sight because he wanted a bigger house but that it ultimately turned out to be

“the single most enjoyable job of my career, and is perhaps the work that I’m the most proud of.”

He explained,

“It’s okay to write something just for the money, and it’s also okay to write something just because you want to.”

John Logan – Screenwriting Master Class

The man behind Russell Crowe’s brilliant line “At my signal, unleash hell” in Oscar® Winning film Gladiator, John Logan is widely regarded as one of Hollywood’s most prolific writers.

John Logan has collaborated with some of the most visionary directors of our time: Tim Burton, Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Steven Spielberg.

He is notable for the diversity of his projects: in 2011 alone his writing is at the heart of the Academy Award® Winning animated comedy Rango, Ralph Fiennes’ directorial debut Coriolanus, James Bond’s Skyfall directed by Sam Mendes, and Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator and Hugo.

What I say to to young writers is: read your Shakespeare. Read your Shelley. Read your Keats. Read your Byron. Love language.

He discusses the techniques of writing for the big screen.


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Guillermo Arriaga – Screenwriting Master Class

Arriaga came to screenwriting relatively late in life, having been a university teacher and novelist before meeting his collaborator Academy Award® Winning Director  Alejandro González Iñárritu, with whom he made some of his better-known films – Amores Perros, 21 Grams, and Babel. His work is famous for utilizing a fragmentary, non-linear approach to plot, which contributed to Amores Perros’ winning countless awards.

The first rule of screenwriting, or any art, is having no rules.

Emma Thompson – Screenwriting Master Class

The writer and actor’s feature screenwriting debut Sense and Sensibility (1995) remains one of the definitive Jane Austen screen adaptations.

In 2001 she wrote the Golden Globe-nominated Wit for director Mike Nicholls, and in 2005 penned the family hit Nanny McPhee. She returned in 2010 with the sequel Nanny McPhee And The Big Bang.

Emma Thompson described how her writing routine involves yoga and Hoovering, reflected upon her early acting experiences at Cambridge Footlights, and explained why ‘if you can’t fail, you can’t do this job’.

Aline Brosh McKenna – Screenwriting Master Class

Relatively new to the industry but with a string of commercial successes to her name already, Aline Brosh McKenna is one of Hollywood’s current ‘It’ writers, with a particular finesse for romantic comedy.

A first feature credit on Three To Tango (1999) led to Laws Of Attraction (2004). McKenna’s feature script for box-office hit The Devil Wears Prada (2006) was adapted from Lauren Weisberger’s novel.

McKenna’s sharp and sassy screenplay for The Devil Wears Prada was nominated for a BAFTA and a Writers Guild of America Award.

Nick Hornby – Screenwriting Master Class

Nick Hornby is an Oscar-nominated screenwriter and award-winning author. His most recent screenplay is an upcoming adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s acclaimed novel Brooklyn (2015), directed by John Crowley, many consider a front runner for Best Picture at this year’s Oscars®.

Prior to that, he adapted Cheryl Strayed’s NY Times bestselling memoir into the film Wild (2014) which was directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, and starred Reese Witherspoon.

Nick was Oscar® and BAFTA-nominated for his screenplay adaptation of Lynn Barber’s memoir An Education (2009) directed by Lone Scherfig and he adapted his own memoir for the screenplay of Fever Pitch (1997) starring Colin Firth.


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IFH 120: What the HECK is a Scriptment?

So what is a Scriptment? I found it to be a liberating form of prepping a story to be filmed? When I was in pre-production on my first feature film This is Meg, I wanted to get into production as fast as I could without waiting to develop a full screenplay.

I’ve written a few screenplays in the past and as any screenwriter will tell you, it ain’t easy. So I found inspiration from filmmakers like Mark DuplassJoe Swanberg, Lynn Shelton, and the Godfather of independent film John Cassavetes. According to Justin Ladar (writer of Mark Duplass’ The One I Love), he defines a scriptment as follows:

“Basically a full script minus a lot of the dialogue…If you take away exterior or interior sluglines, it reads like a short story.”

He explains what it was like working with Mark on The One I Love:

“What would happen is that I would script [the dialogue in] a scene the night before or while the crew was prepping. [The cast] would get the pages and they would see just from a pacing standpoint [what needs to happen and when].”

When I was working with Jill-Michele Meleán on This is Meg we came up with a style that would work for the budget and time we had. It was the most freeing experience of my creative life.

No pressure, no hitting your marks, and no drama (except in the story of course). As the director, I was there to capture the lighting. The remarkable actors that were cast in Meg brought themselves to the project.

Jill and I would discuss the scenes with each actor prior to the shoot day. We would have plot points in each scene that need to be hit for the story to move forward, how the actors got to those points was up to them. They would improv the dialog and flow at the moment. It was amazing to watch.

That energy spills off the screen when you watch my two feature films This is Meg & On the Corner of Ego and Desire.


The term “scriptment” was coined by the legendary filmmaker James Cameron, during his involvement in bringing SpiderMan to the big screen. Cameron wrote a lengthy 57-page scriptment for the first proposed Spider-Man film (read the James Cameron SpiderMan scriptment here).

According to Wikipedia,

“Cameron’s scriptment for Titanic (1997) was 131 pages. The term became more widely known when Cameron’s 1994 scriptment for the 2009 film Avatar was leaked on the internet during pre-production, although other directors, such as John Hughes and Zak Penn, had written scriptments before. The scriptment for Avatar (2009) and its notoriety caused the spread of the term.”

Though James Cameron used a scriptment as the starting point of the screenplay, Mark DuplassJoe Swanberg, and Lynn Shelton used the scriptment as the blueprint of the film. Take a listen to my explanation of what a scriptment is to me and how it can jump-start your first feature film.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
So guys, today's show is all about giving you freedom to make your feature film. And I you know it this is one of the most freeing experiences that I ever had while I was making this is mag is being able to move so quickly through the creative process, from from idea to script meant to shooting it, editing it, finalizing it. And we did it all within I think about four months, literally from the idea all the way to the final edit and color and export. And it was such a freeing amazing experience that I wanted to share with you guys what exactly it was. And hopefully you guys can do something similar for your first few films. Now, what is a script meant? Scripting is basically a full script minus all of the dialogue. It allows it takes away a lot of the exterior, the interior kind of slug lines, and reads like a very cool short story. Now, I'm not the first to think about Scrivener is by any stretch. Mark Duplass has been doing it basically his entire career as well. I mean someone like James Cameron and Quentin Tarantino, they love writing scripts prior to writing their screenplays. But what Mark does is he actually writes the script and and that is what he uses to make his movies. So what he likes to do and I'll tell you from from what I heard about what Mark does and to also what I did was you reverse engineer your story based around things you have around you. Robert Rodriguez did this so to Kevin Smith, these guys, this is not a new concept. I think it needs to be a lot of people need to remind be reminded of what this could what this very powerful thing is for especially for first time filmmakers for people just you know, just starting out people who just want to make a feature film, and, and not get caught up in the drama, if you will of writing a screenplay at the very beginning of their career. You know, I've written screenplays before. They're very taxing. They're very, they're rough. You know, as anybody will tell you, they're rough they write they can be extremely rough to deal with. But I didn't want the writing and the formatting and all this kind of stuff to kind of get in my way of telling the story that I wanted to tell with Jill on this as Meg. So we decided, hey, let's just do this. Kind of like the league, the effects show the league did or Reno 911 or Curb Your Enthusiasm. All these guys have very loose scripts. So they would just start with an idea and structure it out very well. And that's it. That's the misnomer. That's a kind of myth about scripts, or about these non scripted feature films or television shows as they are scripted, but there's just scripted in a different format than you're normally used to. So let's say that you were going to do, you know, like, again, I'll use Meg as an example, what I did was,

I took, I took me and Joe sat down, and we're like, Okay, what do we have access to, okay, we have my office, my back office, your house, this other house, this other house, this other location. And we'll you know, we'll go up to the Hollywood sign and do a location shot there. And we'll grab some stuff on the street and be like, okay, boom, boom, boom. And once we knew all of our locations, and all the things we had access to, we started riding around that idea, and started building everything around what resources we had at our disposal. And by doing that, we were able to construct a screenplay or a scriptment fairly quickly, Jill, did a lot of heavy lifting, and came up with a story. I gave her my notes and like, hey, no, you know, what, we have this location, let's try to change it over here. And, you know, gave her some guidance in regards to the production aspects of things what we had access to, but, you know, she came up with this scriptment that was, at the end, almost like 45 pages, so wasn't like, you know, we just throw a three or four page outline together and ran, it was it was a pretty detailed script meant, and there were scenes that were fully scripted out. And there were other scenes that were very loosely screened, or scripted out, you know. So, once the movie gets released, I can talk a little bit more about specific scenes in the movie. And you guys, and inside the inside the indie film Syndicate, I'm going to be going over this in detail in the coming weeks and months, on on how exactly we did this. So by doing this guy's, we were able to get this movie done so so quickly. And, you know, a lot of people who work with Mark do plus, you know, especially screenwriters, they just get are in awe of how quickly they're able to put stuff together, like he'll come up with an idea. And six months later, they're done, like literally done six months later, because he keeps the budgets very low. And that's the other thing too, you keep the budget very low, you use what you've got, it's a collaborative art, you need a lot of help from a lot of different people to make something like this happen. But it's extremely doable. And you write around what you have. And it's not that difficult to do, honestly, you have to use proper structure, you have to get your storyline and everything organized properly, have your your points, your hero's journey, or whatever kind of story you want to tell if it's a three act story, if it's four Act, or 6x story, or two acts story, you can do so but just organize it out. And then when you get on the set, this is what happens. When you get on the set. You've already hopefully talked with your actors prior to get on the set. When you do that, when you get on the set, you could start riffing, and you go, Okay, guys, this is what the scene is really about. We need to we need to hit this point, this plot point, this plot point, and this plot point. And we have to hit these marks, how you get to those marks is completely up to you. But we need to hit these marks in order for the story to continue to move forward. And when you allow actors to really feel free to do so. The magic that comes out is pretty remarkable. Now again, you have to hire the right actors who are really kind of versed in improv, and are comfortable doing this. But you'll be surprised at a lot of actors who are able to do this. And also, you know, when you're casting actors, this is on a side note when you're casting actors, try to cast people who are very close to the role that they're going to play that there is not it's not a complete stretch for them to do I mean look, Daniel Day Lewis is Daniel Day Lewis, Robert De Niro's Robert De Niro. And you know, all these guys do Meryl Streep's Meryl Streep, generally speaking, if you as a director, or as a filmmaker can cast someone who's close to the character that you are trying to have them portray, it's going to make things a lot easier, because at the end of the day, you don't want them to act. You want them to be, you want honesty out of those performances. And if they can be themselves and just come up with lines or read lines that you've written for them, all the better. And that's how fast that's how we were able to do what we did on this as make so fast is we, you know, Jill actually wrote the screenplay, or wrote the script meant around her friends. And she talked to her friends before she wrote the scenes. And she knows like, Look, I know this person, and I'm going to write the scene based on her or based on him on their characters on their, their people. And, you know, I know I can get this performance out of Carlos or Deborah or Joe or Krista. And and, and that's how we wrote the scenes out and we kind of found things on the day, and it's so freeing, it's so exciting and so fun because you really don't know what's going to happen as a director as a filmmaker. And a lot of times I was just there trying to capture the lightning in the bottle. That was my job was there to just capture the lightning that was coming off in front of that lens.

It's my job to capture it, and then to mold it when I get into the editing room. But that is the power of a scriptment. And it's something that I think a lot of filmmakers, you know, the screenplay, at least for me, was always this big monstrous thing that had to be perfect and had to be read perfectly and you know, if the the formatting wasn't right, or the the way you said things wasn't right, or this or that it just created so many obstacles from actually going out and making your movie that I think that discriminant is a way to loosen those shackles, if not shake those shackles completely off, where you could, in theory, grab 1000 bucks and go make a movie. You know, grab a camera, grab some lights, maybe even lights, maybe no lights, grab some audio, get some friends together make a movie, this is what Mark Duplass did. This is what Joe Swanberg did this is what Lynn Shelton did, you know these guys all did that, and they kind of just ran with it. And they made some really fun, heartfelt movies by doing so. And I don't think it's something that you guys can't do yourselves. Now, it also depends on the kind of story you're trying to tell guys. If you're trying to tell a story. That's super action packed, big thing, you know, big action sequences and all that kind of stuff. This, this process might not work for you this is this process will work. You know, though I am I'm interested to one day try this formula on an action movie, or on a horror movie. I'm really curious to see. And I might do that in the future, just to see what happens. You know, and it has been done to the horror genre, as well. So, you know, well, I mean, the biggest example of that was Blair Witch, The Blair Witch Project was done, they did that there was literally no script, they just kind of were guided along and the actors kind of made everything up as they went along. So it can it can work in those genres as well. But if you have a lot of big science, you know, big science fiction or big visual effects and things like that, you really have to plan certain things out. But there's no reason why it's some of the dialogue in those scenes cannot kind of riff like this, but again, you have to keep that budget low. And you know, I kept I kept the budget under 25 million, like I say all the time. afford this is Meg and kept it in a budget range that I felt very comfortable with by doing this kind of this kind of work, but I know that Mark do plus and those kind of guys they'll work with, you know, under a million dollar budget, sometimes a little bit over a million dollar budget. You know, I know drinking buddies the movie with Olivia while Jake London, and a Kendrick by Joe Swanberg. They, that movie budget was about $550,000 I'm like, that was his biggest movie ever, budget wise. And that movie was completely done by this way. It's just that was his. That's, that's Joe's process. That's how he likes to to work. And I understand I once I did it with this as Meg, it's so fun, so freeing, and the actors get to really have fun with the characters and create the characters on the fly. And by just being able to loosen things up a little bit. It works so wonderfully. And again, this is not for everybody. But I think for a majority of you guys out there for at least a portion of you guys listening to this, this might be a way for you to get off the ground to get your first feature made, you know you do very low risk, again, 1000 bucks. You know, if you guys can't raise 1000 bucks by asking your parents and friends, you're in deep trouble my friends. So you gotta at least raise a grand, let's say, get somebody who owns a camera or shoot it with your iPhone, for God's sakes. Do something like that. Make sure your sound is good, make sure your visuals are decent. And go tell your story make a movie, there's very little risk involved there. When you start getting into the 50 100,000 to 200,000 million dollars, you guys better know what the hell you're doing. You know before before you get going, you better have a distribution plan and all that kind of stuff. But at this level at that low budget. Under $10,000. You can you can have some fun and experiment. So if you don't feel comfortable doing with a feature film right away, do it with a short, you know, take take 50 bucks, take 100 bucks, and go make a few shorts like this. Get your feet wet. And see how it works. Do a few scenes do a few five minutes short films like this. Again, keep the budget really low 100 bucks, you know no more because if you start doing like 234 100 500 bucks, well shit then you could go make a feature at that point. But anyway,

I just hope that this this podcast kind of helps you guys understand that there is another option out there for you. There is another path to make your first feature film that you don't have to go the traditional route Out of getting a screenplay like getting it developed going through all of the rigor Maryrose submitting this to a to actors and so on. And again, at the beginning guys, I know, I know a lot of people are gonna have this question like, Well, Alex, if I have a script, and I've never done anything, can I approach named talent? I'm gonna probably say no, unless you have a relationship with that name talent, or some somebody like that it's going to be very difficult. We were lucky that Jill had very, you know, you know, they're her friends. And they were able to reach out to her friends and and we were able to do this in this fashion because they trusted her, and they trusted me. But when you're starting out, don't don't worry about getting actor like big name actors, if you can. Great. It all helps, you know, even if it's you know, TV actors, or people that we recognize are just good solid. performers. Great. But don't get caught up in that. That's another obstacle. Again, you go look at Mark Duplass. Go look at Joe Swanberg. Oh, look at Lynn Shelton. All of those movies when they first started out, did not have names in them. They just wanted to tell a good story with their friends, or people that they knew who can act, and so on. So that's what I would recommend for you guys to do as well is to go in, get a bunch of your friends or actors that you can find, to go out and have some fun with. And that's a big key point, guys have fun. This should not be stressful. There should not be anger, and high jinks and drama and all this kind of stuff. It should be fun, guys, if not you'd go out and get real jobs. You know what I mean? I know it's hard work. And I know it's sometimes it's stressful. And I know, it can be a little bit overbearing, sometimes making, making movies and being an artist in this sense. But at the end of the day, man, you have to have fun. And if you don't have fun, that shows up on the screen. And when you guys finally see this as Meg, I hope you can sense the fun we had. We had no drama at all ever on the set. We everything flowed so beautifully, so wonderfully all the way through the editing to the final part to the final, you know, cut of the movie in the final color in the mix and everything. It all just worked so beautifully. And I've never I've never experienced an artistic endeavor like that in my entire career. And I was like, wow, because I completely loosened the shackles. I completely just said, Fuck it. I'm just gonna go out and do this, I'm not going to think about it. I'm not going to think about, oh, I got to do this, or I got to do that. And this is the way I have to do I finally after 20 odd years, decided, You know what? I'm not gonna listen to what everybody else is doing and do and I'm going to do it my way. And for me, it's working, you know, and I did again, I did make a budget that I can feel very comfortable with that I can continue to do those kind of movies indefinitely if I have to. You know, Joe Swanberg made, has made like 32 feature films, you know, when you have made six feature films, you know, I'm going to put in the show notes, my links to both Mark do plus and just wants Berg's keynote addresses at South by Southwest and, you know, backgrounds on both those guys because if you want to study, you know, people the process, these guys are definitely two guys that you should definitely look look for, look at and study their processes. And again, of course, the show notes are at Indie film hustle.com forward slash 120. But, but again, Jo Jo was one of those guys that just kind of decided to keep making movies, he's like, Well, if no one's gonna pay attention to me, at least I want to be prolific. And that was such a great way of looking at, he's like, I'm just gonna keep making movies. And he'd made one year he made six feature films. He made it with his you know, I think I don't know if it wasn't VHS, but it was mini DV cameras. You know, he just went on shot with a bunch of friends, no stars, no faces, no marquee value.

He just said, Hey, I'm gonna go make some indie movies. And he did. And he sold them. He did some for a lot. But he sold them and he was able to make that year he said he was able to make 50 or $60,000 by selling six movies, you know, and having some other movie money come in, in that keynote address. He really talks a talks a lot about the financials, of how he was able to make it and it's so wonderful to hear. It's very honest, and tells you exactly what you want to hear. So definitely check that out anything else.com forward slash 122 in the show notes for his his keynote speech because it's it's really amazing. But back to scripts. Again, I just want to give you guys the tools to feel free to make your movies no matter where you are in the world. I want you to be able to feel free to make these kinds of movies and just go out and make them and then from there that grows to the next level and the next level the next level. And one last thing before I go guys, I want you to just please and I've said this before in the podcast, but I'm going to continue to repeat this until people understand it. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. You can't expect every movie that you make, to be the homerun, to be that one lottery ticket win that you're looking for. When you put that kind of pressure on the movie, it will succeed, you will be you will fail many times, and you are setting yourself up for failure. With this as Meg, I am putting it out into the universe, I'm putting it out into the world. And whatever happens happens, people will love it, people will hate it. I know that for a fact that people will love it, and people will hate it. That's it. And there'll be some people in the middle and other people on the extremes. And that's just the way it is. That's just the way it happens with all arts. So you have to prepare yourself for that. But am I expecting it to get you know, to get into Sundance and when me the lottery ticket? No, because you know what I didn't get into Sundance. And it wasn't the end of the world. Because I was excited. I was like, hey, if I get it great. If I don't, let's go on, you know, so you always go for you always aim for the fences. But understand that don't put the pressure that if it doesn't, your whole world is over and you can't make any more, I want you not to feel that way, I want you to feel like I'm going to make five feature films. And I'm just going to keep going no matter what. And you make them at a low enough budget that you could keep going, you could have a day job and save yourself up 1000 bucks, find yourself somebody with a camera or shoot it with your own iPhone, and you make your movies. And that's how you do it, you just keep going. But the thing is that if if you're going to go and I'm going to use baseballs and analogy, because it's a great analogy. But if you're going to go up to the plate, a lot of filmmakers will go up to the plate for the very first time. And they expect to hit a homerun when they've never taken a swing. That's what happens with most filmmakers. Most filmmakers have not been shooting commercials or music videos, or short films, or anything for a long period of time where they have gotten a lot of swings at bat. You know, I've gotten a tremendous amount of swings at bat. But I've never want I've never done one with a feature. But I've done a lot of other shooting in my career. So I feel comfortable up there at the plate, you've got to feel comfortable up there at the plate. So Robert Rodriguez before he made mariachi, he shot like 20 or 30 short films, he do it every weekend. And he didn't show those films to anybody. The no one, he was just doing them to practice, because he's kept going up there and swinging away, swinging away. Sometimes you hit maybe he'd made it single. Maybe he fell out. If you guys don't know about baseball, you got to look up the rules. But anyway, um, but that's what he did. And that's what I plan to continue doing with my features. Because I think what you need to do is you got to focus on those singles, those doubles, possibly some triples, instead of going for the home run every time. Because if you focus on those singles, so let's say, you know, let's say you make a movie and that movie, you know, you made for 1000 bucks, and you sell it for 4000 bucks you make on it. We've made four times your money. Well, how that's a success for me. It might not be the game winning home run, but damn, you made money as a filmmaker. You're, you're the top 1% of filmmakers if you're able to do that. So what do you do next, you make another movie for maybe $2,000 This time, I if it was me, I'd make I make another movie for 1000 bucks. But that's just me. But you make another move for 2000 bucks this time. And let's say you go out there and you make another 4000 bucks, you doubled your money. And you move on and you make another movie for 2000 bucks. And that other movie makes 10,000 bucks. And all of a sudden somebody's looking at you some people are like, hey, this guy's making movies. This girl's making movies. How much do you need for your next movie? You go well, I you know, I feel comfortable. Now. I need about six or $7,000 to make the next movie. I want to 10,000 bucks for the next movie. Okay, great. Now mind you, you're working other jobs to make a living and all this stuff, but you're making art and you're making you're building up a business and it takes time to do that. So I want you guys to focus on the long game. And I've said this a million times, focus on the long game and a scriptment can do that for you can help you get that movie made very quickly where you could, in theory, make a movie, two movies in a year once you get the ball rolling. Next year, I'm going to announce a dish. I'm going to announce it that today. I'm already in prep for my next movie. I'll announce it after the New Year sometimes I don't know I'm working on this on the scriptment as we speak and and I already have a second one I'm working on as well. So my goal next year is to shoot one feature and at least begin either shooting or in pre production on the second one and see how see if I can do two in one year. That would be ideal for me next year. without anything happening with this as make you see you notice I'm not even paying attention to this as make, you know, Mrs. Maga is going to do what she does. But I'm not putting any pressure on her. I'm moving, I'm moving along with her without her without anything that she happens to bring, if she gets sold for a million bucks, or for five grand, or, you know, it gets a manager or it gets a producer to come in and give me money for another movie, I'm not counting on any of that. I'm only counting on what I can control. And what I can control is going off and making another movie and, and getting ready to make a third movie and so on. And that's the mentality that I think filmmakers starting out who want to tell their stories who want to make a living doing this have to do and I hope this podcast brought some light into your into your darkness now brought some light to the subject and shows you and kind of informed you that there is another way there is another way to go make a movie, there is another way to get your feature filmmaking career started and going off and by the way, this can work for series too, if you want to make a little pilot and like a bunch of like you know, a webisodes you know, web series. Or you know, you want to create a pilot to pitch to Netflix or to Hulu, or Amazon or crackle or one of these guys, this process works wonderfully. Because if you're able to create and this is what Mark Duplass I'm gonna go back to mark my man Mark, he was able to pitch togetherness, an HBO show and ran two seasons on HBO based on this premise. This is how he worked on that show. I don't know how he did a pilot or anything like that beforehand, but but this is how he did the show. And it was wonderful because it was very low cost. And you know what studios love low cost high quality, they love that. And if you can get something out to a point where you can do that, you're going to work you're always going to work, guys. So just keep that in mind. So it can translate to a lot of things. But we're focusing on feature films right now. But that's I hope this helps you guys. I really do. Because I you know, I think sometimes I've had to go through all this pain in my career, to be able to share this, this information with you guys. And I hope that I can continue not going through pain. Hopefully we don't go through too much more. But you know what, at the end of the day, guys, honestly, your failures and your pain is who makes you what makes you a better person. And what makes you a more informed person to make sure you are who you are. So all these years of struggle and everything that I've gone through, I'm hoping that my journey can be a beacon of light for you guys at least a beacon of information to at least share it with you what I'm doing. And hopefully it can translate and help even one of you guys out there.

It's worth it. I know that sounds really cliche, but but that's, that's I think it makes sense. So thank you for listening to my ramblings this week guys, I hope it was helpful to you and we will continue doing more ask Alex episodes in the future you guys keep sending me tons of questions. So I had no idea that this was going to be such a big deal. So I'm glad I'm helping you guys out I'm glad you like the episodes and and please keep sending your your suggestions for questions at ifH [email protected] And also guys don't forget the show is also sponsored by masterclass and you gotta head out to indie film hustle.com For slash masterclass to get access to Werner Herzog's master class the Oscar winning a director as well as Aaron Sorkin screenwriting masterclass, which is honestly remarkable I again taking it again since I'm going through my my process right now, it's my scriptment for my next project, as well as now the new Hans Zimmer film score masterclass, is up. And as far as also acting, the Kevin Spacey masterclass, and the Dustin Hoffman, Master Class learn their techniques. They're on my list of things to watch. I've actually purchased them already, because I want to I want to see what Dustin and Kevin have to say about acting. I mean, it's invaluable these courses, so head over to indie film hustle.com forward slash master class. So as always, keep that hustle going, keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.



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IFH 071: Save the Cat – Screenwriting Story Structure Made Easy

Why would you want to ‘Save the Cat’? If you are a screenwriter or aspiring one you should have heard by now of Blake Snyder’s game-changing screenwriting book.

In his 20-year career as a film producer and screenwriter, Blake Snyder sold dozens of scripts, including co-writing Blank Check, which became a hit for Disney, and Nuclear Family for Steven Spielberg — both million-dollar sales. Named “one of Hollywood’s most successful spec screenwriters,” Blake sold his last screenplay in 2009.

His book, Save the Cat!® The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, was published in May 2005 and is now in its 24th printing. When I read this book it really had an impact on my storytelling and screenwriting.

Thankful Blake was not done and apparently it was not quite the last book on screenwriting you’ll ever need, as the eagerly awaited sequel, Save the Cat!® Goes to the Movies: The Screenwriter’s Guide to Every Story Ever Told, was published in October 2007 — shooting to #1 in the Screenwriting and Screenplay categories on Amazon.com. Blake’s third book, Save the Cat!® Strikes Back: More Trouble for Screenwriters to Get Into… And Out Of was published in November 2009.

Blake’s method has become the “secret weapon” of many development executives, managers, and producers for its precise, easy, and honest appraisal of what it takes to write and develop stories that resonate. Save the Cat!® The Last Story Structure Software You’ll Ever Need has codified this method. Blake passed unexpectedly in 2009 but the Save the Cat community carries on Blake’s work.

I had the pleasure of interviewing one of Blake’s main pupils Jose Silerio. Jose is carrying the torch of Blake’s work and travels around the world well…saving the cat.

Enjoy my informative interview with Jose Silerio.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:15
Jose man, thank you so much for joining us on the indie film hustle podcast. I really appreciate you taking the time, man.

Jose Silerio 3:17
Hey, thank you very much for having us. Alex, it's I mean, we're happy from Sema from save the cat to be part of this and you know, just to help out screenwriters as much as possible.

Yeah. I'm a huge, huge fan of Blake Snyder's work and save the cat. I read all three books. And they're, they're amazing. And they've kind of changed the business a lot ever since they were released. So can you tell me a little bit about Blake and save the cat? For people who don't know?

Alex Ferrari 3:44
Yeah, definitely. You know, as you said in the save the cat three sort of became big in the industry. And that's not you know, it's not just simply us tooting our own horn. But it's really from our own experience. Even when Blake was still around. We saw how his his method, his books really became popular. And Blake, really, you know, he's a screenwriter yet, just like most of us, right? He started screenwriting way back in the 80s. He was even he started working for his dad in his in his dad's animation series, doing the voices for the kid in the in the show and all that and he got into screenwriting way back in the 80s. And he's he's sold, you know, several scripts throughout his career. I'm telling you, I think 12 or 13, all together in in in a couple of their made which is blank check and stop or your mom or mom does shoot which are kind of the more famous ones he did. That came up. But I think from Blake really what he did with save the cat and how it kind of how we didn't vote for him was that, you know, just like everybody else in the industry, especially for writers, there are those ups and down moments. And as a writer, you're always you know, struggling to sort of break Even though and I said that even though you're in already you kind of have to keep proving yourself over and over it's

Jose Silerio 5:07
What have you done it's like Janet Jackson says What have you done for me lately?

And I think that kind of came from him knowing that that struggle who went through you wanted to make sure that other writers following him sort of had it a little bit easier if I can put it that way. And He found you know, he had his own method of developing structure and which you see it's funny because he had this little story and I can't actually remember if it's it was in the book where in his introduction to structure was that he you know, this was like, early late 90s or late 80s system where he was he went into one of these development meetings, he submitted a script you know, the producer was there and they decided talking about the script and the producer goes to him so what's your you know, break after break? And he was just Oh, um, you know, he says kind of just sort of nodding his head and kind of just talking what the story more than after the meeting ended in a way when all other producers moved out and all that the one producer who's really only with him pulled him aside and said you don't know what the actual break is right? Yeah, I have no idea what to do. Right sort of became his introduction into creating structure and him realizing that you know, in order to tell a good story, regardless of the story, we need structure and again so he's developed his own system which eventually began to save the cat method and again because it's from his own experience of wanting to help other writers later down the road you know he just simply wanted to share it because it started working for him and in and like you said, you know once he published the road save the cat The first book was published and people really gravitated toward it and it just exploded

Now we're good you know what were save the cat came from the name

But the name save the cat itself is a term that he uses you know and it's it's it's a simple way for your audience to like your your main hero You know perfectly it's the same the cats literally comes from the term you know, saving a cat you know what it is it's it's you just put you give your your your hero and action to do early on in the industry in the movie in the script, you know, that makes us say Oh, that's a nice guy. You know, I like this person, you know, which will make me want to follow this person's journey for the rest of the movie

Alex Ferrari 7:25
Which would be the opposite of that would be kick the dog which would be my book, kick the dog how to be evil person.

It's a great way to introduce a villain

Right! You kill anybody who kicks a dog like that guy's bad so it's a perfect example Yeah, so that's where it comes from. Okay, great. So how did you get involved with save the cat?

You know it's funny I got involved with save the cat exactly the same way like everybody discovers save the cat which is I read the book. I didn't know Blake you know before the book came out but when I read the book, you know and I tell this to all you know people or writers I work with I'm a very lazy reader I'm sorry to say the book you know even was thick a save the cat man it's not really that thick. That's not it's not it's not a hard read. Yeah, it will usually a book that thick won't even take me something like a year to read.

Jose Silerio 8:15
You're really lazy, you're really lazy writer reader.

Save the cat, a Kenyatta Indeed, I sat down open page one couldn't put it down it just like he said it was a very easily but more than being an easily. I think it just it says, you know, you get it, right. The way you get the bag is talking about it, what the thing, the nice thing about it really, so sort of, for me, this is my reaction. It was very encouraging. It is really telling me that, you know, this is something that I can do and a lot of the things that I found myself like, Oh, no, as a screenwriter, like, I'm getting stuck here, you know, he was kind of explaining it and telling me you know, this is all you have to do. And that's how I got into save the cat, you know, read the book, you know, he had this email address there, which everybody knows have read the book. I wrote him, can you just ask him about other stuff and all that and then one day, he can tell immediately, not one day, but immediately he's going to ask me saying, hey, I need to help you with a script that we need to read. And if you can give me notes, you know, maybe we can build something together. And luckily,

you were at the right place at the right time. Exactly.

You know, the stars aligned for me kinda you know, so that's how I got into say the gap and it was like, way back in 2006 2007.

Alex Ferrari 9:24
Can't believe that's way back. Yeah.

Jose Silerio 9:28
10 years now.

Wow. So So can you explain to everybody what a beat sheet is? Because I remember the first time I was in an executive meeting, and someone goes so where's your beat sheet and I'm like, so you see the character does this. This is very similar to what Blake did. I'm like I just tried to keep going with it. But then afterwards, I found out what a beat sheet was. So can you explain to everybody what a beat sheet

is? Well, a BGA especially you know, we'd save the cat and a lot of, you know, a lot of other I guess, teachers producers, so every everybody has their own kind of definition for the beat sheets. Okay, so I'm gonna go with the save the cat definition, it's really as Blackboard you know, the beat sheet really has an end for us we have what we call the 15 beats, the 15 key beats and this what it does is the 15 beats of the beat sheet the same that the Blake Snyder beat sheet it just really pinpoints the 15 key beats that your hero must go through in order to tell a good story. These are moments that must be happening to your hero, right and your hero must be doing as well in order for us to be able to follow that structure that story in a way that's very familiar for for for for the audience. And again when I say familiar I'm not saying you know, you're just merely copying from other movies, other scripts or other books that you've read before. But you know, story structure is something that's been ingrained in all of us ever since you know from Nursery Rhymes like jokes there's always a structure and and that beats you know, those 15 beats is something that Blake sort of not only develop, but he even says this isn't all discovered but even not discovered but he just kind of made it clear for everybody gotcha gotcha. And he said and he having studied all these films that he felt like you know what really successful film really like he said you know, I this he discovered there were just 15 beats that were always present. And that's what you know, I guess a beat sheet is you know, you have this this 15 beats that go from in save the cat, terminologies go from opening image, all the way down to 15. The final image that, like I said earlier that we that your hero must go through So in short, I guess it's really like an outline, or, but really, it's a good way to really help you as a writer, figure out what's happening, and more importantly, when it should be happening to your hero,

right? It's kind of well, what I've taken from structure is because when I write I my structures pretty sound because I like structure I like having that those tent poles to be able to like write to so it's like okay, from here to this point to this point. This has to happen so how I get to point A to point B is up to me as the writer but I have a place to go without that structure you're just kind of like meandering all over the place.

Alex Ferrari 12:24
Exactly. I think it's what you said you know, the nice permit to use was temple which is exactly what Blake also mentioned that I think a lot of times and I say this all the time like when I went to film school way back when you know the writing screenwriting classes one to one The thing that really always got was okay there's act one act two and yeah right and they're like oh, that's very vague. You fill it in and that's what you know the the save the cat beat sheet of Blake the assessor at least in Act One you know what should be happening act one because right away you know which beats must be happening within the PAP and where again it's happening then same thing when you go to act two and act three

Jose Silerio 13:03
Yeah, it's it's pretty amazing there's a series on YouTube that has a they take the save the cat method and they beat it out with movies. It's wonderful to watch because you're like Back to the Future Ed, you know Terminator Titanic and you just start watching them and they literally are beating it out. So they're like here's this Pete This is when this happens in the movie this is when his happens in the movie and you just sit there and you use examples of it Can you give us a few examples of films that use save the cat very very well? hours the hours of the minute but just a couple of the big ones

Alex Ferrari 13:36
Yeah, even that big one guy like you know some of the Oscar winners like King's speech. Argo mean very clear and strong beats an Oscar nominated one which I really liked from two years ago was whiplash briefing again all the beats were there but the nice thing about you know this movies where you can see is that you know you can go there and I'm probably biased already by this night at this point right and done this for 10 years but right now I'm watching there and But still, right I try to avoid saying oh, there's the catalyst. Oh, there's the midpoint. Oh, it's

Jose Silerio 14:10
rough you know it's in Look, I'll tell you I've been in visual effects and post production for a long time. And you know, it's tough for me to go to a movie sometimes it's tough for me to kind of just let go and I just recently let go when I saw Star Wars so I completely was not looking at anything technical. I was just on the ride and it's for film to do that to you know, people like us that are really into it. It's at me that's a really good sign of the filmmaker who's been able to cut through all of our all of our armor, if you will, of biases like oh, that green screen didn't really look that great. Oh, oh, that story point. That's the catalyst. Oh, that's the turning point. And I catch myself doing that all the time now with with lesser movies, but like you

said, you know, the well made ones really are those where you forget what's there, but you don't see it.

Exactly oh you look back you go back to it later and watch it a second time and then you'll analyze it maybe in the second or third screening of it but the first time you just enjoy it and you know it's coming but you just kind of you're in the story as you should be.

exactly exactly and you know those are you know that they did their job well you know and like I said you know when we go back then we start realizing oh that's why you know we like this part because yes it was building up to the midpoint it's going down to the last and and all that

now did you have you seen new Star Wars? I have and how how's it how's it How's it hanging in this in the saving the cat paradise

Alex Ferrari 15:36
thanks very well in terms of the beat sheet itself of having the beats there in the way they introduce the characters of the setup you know, the setup,

no spoilers, no spoilers.

Yeah. Very careful. You know, even you know, the big moment the big all is lost moment. I think, you know, even though I'm not gonna say it out loud. I think I know you would definitely you know what I'm talking horse? Of course, of course. Right. So, you know, even though we don't specifics, we know that that beat was there. Till your third act, right, you know, what, the third app? Yes. And it did the beats are still there. So yeah, I think I would love to say that, you know, yeah, of course, JJ Abrams, and never wrote read save the cat before. Yeah, of course, I think. But, you know, I think great filmmakers, great writers, they just know, you know,

well, the thing is, if you look at all the big movies, the most successful movies, whether they be blockbusters or Oscar winners, generally they all follow the beat, they all follow the the structure, whether whether and I think what Blake did so well with save the cat is that screenwriting is a complex scenario, it's not an easy way to write, it's much easier to write in many ways a modern novel because you can Miranda and you can kind of just delve into the deepness of how the the tree looks today and you can't do that in the screenplay has to be very condensed has to be very concise every word is has to have a meaning and move the story forward. And I think what Blake did so brilliantly is that he brought it down to the masses where a lot of that kind of terminology was more upper tier if you will like at the you know at a at a film school or at the higher end like UCLA, you know, screenwriting programmer, these kind of really epic big huge institutions that were kind of like guarding the information and Blake kind of took that information and said now you all may have it and now here here now go and rights be well

Jose Silerio 17:36
I agree with you on that yeah there's definitely you know if you kind of go the the Joseph Campbell route of course which is very again there's nothing wrong but it's a great system as well but like you said, you know, when when Blake would save the cat he kind of brought it down to the masses those who weren't kind of more into mythological stuff but just wanted to set up this goes straight into well

Alex Ferrari 17:55
I mean the right idea what the writers journey was or what the hero's journey is it works well obviously with save the cat it's it's it's there but it's it's different it's a little bit not as simple like save the cat is as simple as you can get like if you're a screenwriter starting out, read save the cat then go off and read everything else but save the cat is a great base to start from because and that's again one of the reasons I wanted you guys on the show because the book was so influential, and then you can go off and read a million 1000 books. There's a nice

Jose Silerio 18:31
thing about that though, is that you know, Blake really started in roadsafe The gap is for writers really more than anybody for writers to help them move forward with their own writing and they feel like they're stuck and kind of go but it's also a great way to analyze movies oh god yes and figure out you know why they're working

Alex Ferrari 18:49
that's why he wrote that second book right the the exact the cat goes to the movies right? Exactly. Which was great. It was a wonderful example to kind of go in he's just started breaking down the movies. And you just like oh my god, I remember the first time I discussed with the first book I ever read was Sid fields. That was when I wasn't now I'm going way back this is like the 90s so and when I discovered that there was a structure because he was the first one I ever heard any kind of structure. Yeah, and I was like wait a minute, at 15 minutes this happens and I can't stand that I just started going back to all my movies. I'm like, oh my god this and I thought I'd cracked the code. It's like it was like it was so revolutionary to me. For someone who doesn't understand it doesn't know about it. It's so great. But again, let's say the cat does so well is it simplifies it so beautifully. And it's I don't want to say it's like right by numbers because there's a lot of creativity involved. But it gives you those 10 poles that you can just make it's a lot easier. You don't have to think about structure. You can you could just decorate the house, you'd have to worry about the foundation.

Jose Silerio 19:50
Exactly. I think that's the best way to put it. Because there is always an eight always stuff about it. But the serious you know there are always those the detractors who come to say disappointed by them. First thing and I think it when people say that they're not getting the whole picture because we're just talking about structure, you know, your your character traits,

Alex Ferrari 20:10
they're not a log everything exactly, it's

Jose Silerio 20:13
on the writer right and that's for you to make your characters unique and once you add that then it becomes a totally different story but you have the structure there already.

Alex Ferrari 20:22
Yeah, absolutely. It's like I said before, it's like literally you could you could have a house with a complete foundation and structure done. Now how that's decorated, it could be be accurate in a million different ways. It's all depending on how the writer wants to, to go forward. So a lot of screenwriters to always hear about coverage like oh, well can I get coverage and I got bad coverage, I got good coverage and your script needs coverage from a studio or production company. Can you explain a little bit about coverage to those who don't know in the audience? Well, I

Jose Silerio 20:51
think like you said, you know, coverage really is more of like, you know, you have the reader obviously, you have the higher ups who can't read all the scripts that go through their studios, so they need the cliff notes version scripts that come in, and I think that's that, to me, that's kind of what coverages you have the readers who who read it, and they put their notes down on the script that they read, kind of go into structure characters dialogue, you know, giving it it's sort of last and you know, different students have different styles, different methods, but it can be they have kind of a point system and they point they graded graded accordingly. And that's you know, I think that's the simple way of just describing what coverage is that now that piece of paper and hopefully, for most it's a one pager right? That goes not to the next Junior executive

Alex Ferrari 21:43
if it passes if it passes because they might they might have

Jose Silerio 21:46
exactly right it passes and goes to them they read the script and they they do their own version of the next higher up coverage it goes to the next higher up guy so that's you know, I think that's a simple like I said a simple version of explaining with Cobra GS it's really a cover letter you know for for for the script. Can you just telling us what the script is we're telling the the executive what what this group is all about and what what in what and how it meets certain criteria for them

Alex Ferrari 22:12
Now the thing is that as a as a screenwriter and I've gone through the coverage processes in the studio system it's very frustrating because sometimes you might not get the reader that you that's really gets it and a lot of people have passed on Oscar winners, you know in coverage and it happens and that's very frustrating a lot of times because you're like oh my god i like i forgot there's some legendary ones. I just don't remember any of them off the top of my head but that guy passes at certain studios will Star Wars was passed everywhere. I mean, just the original Star Wars was like what Yeah, you know,

Jose Silerio 22:46
that's very true. Yeah. Bigger producers going to like I don't think you know, they don't didn't get it.

Alex Ferrari 22:52
They don't they don't get it. So in the script was like, Oh, what's this? What's this? This giant monkey? Who's walking around with this guy? And he's his sister. What? No, forget there's incest involved. This is horrible. So yeah. So it has to do like

Jose Silerio 23:08
you said, you know, if there is it's sort involved in it, that your script gets to the right person at the right time. Yeah. So that they, you know, they that to ever the reader is that they're reading it in the right frame of mind in order to get it and be in, hopefully be objective enough. While while reading it.

Alex Ferrari 23:30
I think also one thing that I've learned in my my journeys and from talking to so many different screenwriters is and recover and producers and executives is that at a certain point, you have to even if they might pass on it, you have to write something so good, that even though you know i don't get it, but man, this is really well written. And there's a lot of that, like, this is not going to be made into movie, but you're a good writer. And I think that's what writers should do as best they can try to make the best thing as Steve Martin says, be so good that they can't ignore you.

Jose Silerio 24:03
Yeah, and I completely agree with that. And and, you know, this is what I always tell writers, especially those who say, okay, what's the secret to sort of breaking in? And I think the release isn't the secret. The secret is you come up with a really great script.

Alex Ferrari 24:17
script, oddly enough.

Jose Silerio 24:19
Yeah. And because it's then I truly believe this because I've heard it from a lot of executives from producers themselves. And they say, you know, the industry really is, you know, they're one thing for the great, the next great script, right? So the moment you have a great script that goes out, you know, it's going to, it's going to catch fire. It's going to spread on its own. It's because of you know what, once somebody says, there's a great script out there, everybody starts looking for it. And I think that's really sort of the secret to this breaking in but you have to do again, your homework, you have to show them like you were saying earlier, right? But as a writer, you have to show this people the readers or producers, that they know how to write the story. Know what it takes to be able to be to be a good storyteller?

Alex Ferrari 25:03
Yeah, I know a lot of writers who put in a script and they said, this is not going to work for us. But I want to hire you for another job because you can write. Yeah, and that happens all the time. And I know a lot of screenwriters who make a living, never being produced. Yeah, they just keep optioning or they're working or their script doctoring. And they've never had a single credit to their name. Yeah, but they've made millions doing this and behind the scenes, there's many guys who do this in Hollywood

Jose Silerio 25:32
and there's even a lot of those who not just option out you know, their scripts even though the script the single made what they get hired to rewrite again, you know, other scripts, again without being credited for it. You know, that's, that's a great job to have

Alex Ferrari 25:48
it to certain I guess, after you've made your first two or 3 million doing that, at a certain point, you just want to go you know, I wouldn't mind getting something made. Yeah, you know, but I wish I had these problems. I don't know about you, but I wish I had that like you know, I've already made my 3 million this year. So I really would you know,

Jose Silerio 26:08
they're not gonna just play around they may just play around you know, let's just follow the passion project and

Alex Ferrari 26:13
finally violin make that passion project I've been watching about that one legged hooker. And in, in, in New York, the Puerto Rican hooker who really wants to dance, but she only has one leg. It's a Sunday. It's winter. I

Jose Silerio 26:24
can tell you she has a heart of gold

Alex Ferrari 26:27
as Yes, yes. I tell you every time I hear I always tell people that that story that like Echo, you want to get into Sundance, make a movie about a handicapped one legged Puerto Rican hooker with a heart of gold who really wants to dance but is beaten by her father, her drunken Father, you know, who also happens to be a transgender I'm just saying that alone would win Sundance every year guaranteed. And, but you have to follow the 15 beats If not, it doesn't work.

Jose Silerio 27:00
doesn't work at all.

Alex Ferrari 27:03
So um, a lot of also with screenwriters, a lot of emphasis is put on the logline. And I know you guys talk a lot about loglines. Can you give a little bit of advice on how to construct a really great logline and explain what a logline is to people who don't know?

Jose Silerio 27:17
Well I think there's a lot going to be I'll be honest, a lot of FM is always the trickiest thing to write through. And I and I always tell this the writer so I, you know, Blake talks about it in the book in the save the cat that his process was, you know, you write the logline, one of the first things he did was write the logline right before beating it out. And and that's great, because it gives you a good idea of what your story is. But that particular login that you write, the first log line you write is most probably also not going to be the same log line, the same story, you know, that eventually what the script will be, right? Because it as you start to write in writing, things will start changing, you start discovering more about you know, your characters and stores will change. So there is a log line that I think it's great to have early on to keep sort of on track as to what your story what do you think your story is, or what you envision it to be, and, but there is also the log line at the very end that really captures the real story. And you have to know the difference in US writers, but permit us of what what regardless of which particular logline you're writing on the early on or the one that you really want to stand out ready the things that they look for are always going to be which you know, in this basic screenwriting one to one but they call them the big three, which is you know, it has to be able to clearly convey historic belongs to which is the hero number one, you know what the hero wants, meaning the goal and what's stopping the hero from getting the wand you know, what, what's the problem. So the hero the goal, and the problem for me are the big three. And I think that has to be very, very clear in a logline to make it really compelling and this isn't, you know, if this is like a one or two out of three, you have to make sure it's a three out of three thing. If not you have no story. And if that's not there in the logline, then your logline won't have a story. So it's very important to able to make sure that all the three elements have it in in in your logline that you have it in your logline. Another thing that I that I like which Blakely pointed out in the book is having a sense of irony in in the logline. And you know in in that what that really means is that I think what you want to show is that why is this hero, right? The person to go on this journey. So you'll want to be able to build up even in your logline. Right? That why this particular hero is going to be the hero. Why is he going to why is this journey going to be the hardest thing that this year is going to be? So it's really building that up because what you're really telling us is that of all the people that I this is not the right person to do it right? This is not the right person to go on this journey but that's what makes it compelling diehard Dyer exactly right? Yeah. If you end up always having you know, Mr. Universe go up against you know, the big evil you know this right but you know

Alex Ferrari 30:20
that's good that's commando that's coming

Jose Silerio 30:24
Steven Seagal is gonna be the end of the day

Alex Ferrari 30:28
right? I just there's no real there's never a chance like you know maybe Stephen might not want no he's gonna

Jose Silerio 30:35
write me no no then but that's that that works for who he is right and the the characters that the theater plays but again for the rest of you who are not writing, you know action type movies or commando type movies, right you have to find a way to tell us to make sure that you know just by reading the logline, a one sentence, you know, line that we understand we make we understand what the story is. But more importantly is that it's a very compelling story. And again, by doing that it's again giving us a sense of irony in the sense that it's you know, you're you're introducing us to a character who is not supposed to be going on this journey. Right.

Alex Ferrari 31:15
Go ahead. Sorry, go ahead. No, no, you brought up a really good point I wanted to kind of focus on real quick that the irony of a character that he's not supposed to he she's not supposed to be the one on the journey. Ripley from aliens comes to mind, you know, Sarah Connor, Senator Sarah Connor from Terminator. diehard john McClane, the lethal weapon boys like there's no reason for them to, you know, work. And they do what? Star Wars right? And Star Wars The young farm boy who's going up against the Empire?

Jose Silerio 31:49
Exactly. That's that's what think speech robot? Yes. The Word became just starters. Right? Right.

Alex Ferrari 31:57
Exactly. Like he has no real like, and that's and it's something as simple as that. Like, it's not a big huge action thing. It's about a guy who stutters who cast the not stutter, and he has to inspire a nation. Like that's, that's a simple concept. It's not it's not brain surgery. But then I started when you brought that up, I started going I just went back through my mental Rolodex of movies. And I'm like, you know a lot of those 80s action movies like commando like every john Claude Van Damme movie like every Steven Seagal movie and bad action movies. There isn't that a bad action movie? And don't get me i'd love all those movies because you know, I was young when I saw them and I love them. And there's character and charismatic things about Arnold and about you know, Sylvester Stallone and all those things in those certain kind of movies. But the movies that really stand the test of time like you could I just watch Die Hard again, because it's my Christmas movie I always watched because I don't care what anyone says. It's the best Christmas movie of all time. I don't I don't care what anyone says. Oh, yes. has no if you don't see Hans Gruber falling out of a falling out of a window at the end of the day. It's not really Christmas for me. So that's just me. Whoa, whoa, whoa. So um, but I just literally saw it like a few weeks ago. And I was like, I can't believe how wonderful and how brilliantly it's done. And it literally that movie alone spawned hundreds of ripoffs like Die Hard in a boat, Die Hard in the train, Die Hard in the plane, that all this kind of stuff. It was such a brilliant and Pinnacle movie, but it's that what you were talking about. It's the ironic irony of that character who has no business doing that predator is another one. Like, even though Arnold and this entire team are big muscle bound, but they're up against something that's they have no business. They can't be. And that's what makes a good, really, really good compelling story. And I think that's where a lot of writers especially have bad action movies. Really could learn something from please, please

Jose Silerio 33:56
I think that's a die hard is a great example because, you know, in the 80s you know, we were used to seeing all the Schwarzenegger movie right? They know the Rambo Stallone movies. They're all like this muscle Bodley, you know, and suddenly we interview we'll get introduced to john McClane. It's not really the tone of it.

Alex Ferrari 34:16
No, he's a normal dude. He's dude, he's in his locker,

Jose Silerio 34:20
and he's about to get a divorce. Right? by the state together.

Alex Ferrari 34:25
He's a New Yorker in LA, which Trust me, I understand.

Jose Silerio 34:29
I think you know, it's significant. He's totally different guy who gets thrown into, you know, in a bigger than life scenario.

Alex Ferrari 34:40
Yeah, absolutely. And then the brilliance of the you know, the barefoot and the bleeding and I it's like, it's just so brilliantly crafted. I don't know I forgot the name of the screenwriter of that one. But it's so brilliantly crafted, so brilliantly directed, and it holds, even though it's 80s. And you can you know, It's so fun to watch because of you know, all the ad stuff in it. But it's so Britt Robocop another one of those absolutely brilliant, like, there's no reason for that hero to be able to do what he does, and go through what he's going through. So that's a great I've never heard anyone say that. But the irony of the character, or the hero is something that should be very important in your writing process.

Jose Silerio 35:24
I think so because again, it's, there's not that sense of irony, meaning that your hero is not the right person, or shouldn't be the person to be going against this problem or having this goal, right. So right there, you'll find out easily that you'll end the write up stop writing by page 30. Because you're unable to generate more conflict for your hero, right? You lose right with a sense of tension. Because your hero you haven't as we like to sing, save the cat, you haven't taken your hero as far back as possible. Right? So if they're already a great superhero in the first app, right, then again, whatever you throw out in front of them the second that is something that they can easily overcome. And once that happens, you know your story ends at page 30

Alex Ferrari 36:09
that's I think one of the main problems with most Superman movies or even telling the Superman story it's so difficult to create conflict for a god and it's except for the very first one that Richard Donner did and he did it so magically it's like every and we've all been everyone's been trying to get back to that but it's tough to create conflict like the Batman that's why Batman works better than Superman because Batman is a dude who Yeah, he's a billionaire and he has stuff but he can get hurt he can get blood he can get his back broken he can do all this stuff

Jose Silerio 36:43
and his backstory is so much more complex he was orphaned his parents were killed he saw them get killed

Alex Ferrari 36:50
you know it's so much so much Meteor.

Jose Silerio 36:53
Exactly you know it's not just a physical story but really more of the emotional story is what's what's pulls us in

Alex Ferrari 36:59
so I'm really curious to see how this Batman vs Superman yeah fiasco I think it's going to be a fiasco that's just me but I just my personal opinion I looked at the trailer the other day I'm now we're going off topic here. But I saw the trailer the other day and I was just like wow, I don't know if this is gonna work I hope it does. I'm a fan but you know, but then I saw Captain I saw that Captain America Civil War I'm like, this is brilliant. You've got to like look at the conflict in that it's like that. It's the ultimate conflict of friends that we've grown up with if your people seen through these movies, and now they're fighting for ideologies, it's just like, brilliant. Brilliant. I'm sorry, I've gone off on a tangent on superhero movies. I apologize. So um, so what are some of the biggest mistakes you see with screenwriter screenplays? When you read them from like first time writers or just screenplays in general?

Jose Silerio 37:56
I think especially especially you know for us and I would say that we get a lot of for the first time screenwriters even though when they say first time you know it's those within several months haven't really sold anything yet. And one thing I've noticed of play is that a lot of screenwriters tend to write off write a character that's based off another character that they saw in a movie

Alex Ferrari 38:22
really you see are you still seeing a lot of

Jose Silerio 38:24
that Yeah, it is. And it's like we're talking about Die Hard right right. Oh God I die hard in the plane I heard in the train here I didn't know she had sudden

Alex Ferrari 38:33
Sudden Impact Don't forget that one john climb on top of a die hard in a ice rink

Jose Silerio 38:38
so there's a lot of builders I think a lot of people kind of do that still you know I want to make the next taken I want to make

Alex Ferrari 38:45
no there's a there was a after taking came out there I must have been 1000 taken scripts make made

Jose Silerio 38:51
Yeah, right. Or after bridesmaids came up I want to make the next bridesmaid or the hangover right after having overcome I want to make the next time over. So the writing characters writing stories based off other characters have been seen already or that they simply know from watching right from from the film, it's not characters that they really know, in real life. Right? And I think that that's one miss the one big mistake. screenwriters new especially the newer ones do nowadays is that, you know, they start writing off, you know, characters at Oh, this is what john McClane would do. But again, you're not writing john McClane anymore and you have to find you know, in your own writing again, we mentioned this earlier, um, coming up with your own voice what we know what makes you unique as a writer, you have to be able to find you know, that the what makes your characters unique as well. And that's really by you know, right you writing characters based off people you know in real life. Right? You know, that crazy art but you have you know, or you know, absolutely the body, you have from high schools now Your mother is really successful, but in a bad marriage, but there are a lot of things that you can pull out for your people who surround this baby. Right? And I think, you know, that makes it more interesting because now we start seeing people who we know you know can be a little bit more complex who may not necessarily go left when we think everybody's going left you know, what, what makes them different. And I think that's something that newer writers need to learn more how to build better characters.

Alex Ferrari 40:30
I think also what you're saying is advice for every aspect of filmmaking in the sense of Be yourself and stop trying to be someone else whether that be a writer whether that be a director, like I'm gonna be the next Quinn Tarantino I'm like, No, you're not. You can't be because there's only one Quentin Tarantino there's only one Scorsese there's only one Shane Black. Yeah, no, there's don't I mean, I mean, how many people try to rip off Shane Black? After lethal weapon. And after, like, everyone tried to write like, Shane? Yeah, when he was making dough, in the olden days, when everyone was making $2 million, a spec script, you know, sales that don't happen nowadays. But if you just true Be true to them, because if you notice, all of those guys, all of those guys are original. They're all they're all being themselves. Yeah.

Jose Silerio 41:18
They were in their original voice came out 1020 years ago. Right? It worked for them. So now it's time for the newer writers who want to break into to find what is your original voice for today's time?

Alex Ferrari 41:32
Right? Because things that worked 20 years ago will not work today. Yeah. And that's that's a huge and that's when screenwriting and filmmaking is a general statement. A lot of people keep going at it from that point of view of like, I'm going to do what Chamberlain like no, don't know. It's a different place different world today.

Jose Silerio 41:49
So I think if I may, yes, please have time. But another, I think, common mistake that writers have, your writers have an artist is a simply over writing. Especially when it comes to the description and the action part of any we're not, it may not necessarily be an action movie. But you know, when they start describing the action of government that's going on, you know, they describe it to a, you know, the most minute

Alex Ferrari 42:15
or they write it like a novelist like, or even

Jose Silerio 42:17
write it to describe a character, they over describe it. And I think what this does is, especially for me, as I'm reading it, it takes away a sense of creativity on my end, because now you're making me think very specifically, of an action of a person. And that in a way kind of takes away from the read. Because now My mind is again, and this is something readers I mean, I'm sorry, writers have to realize is that your first audience is not the person who buys that movie ticket. Your first audience is the reader, right? And you have to know that you know, they don't have the benefit of music, they don't have the benefit of actual faces of actors, then they can follow. So reading a page is a little bit harder, they have to work a little bit harder in order to follow the story. So don't overdo it. Right? But But prove by putting in too much detail by making it too, you know, too specific, that you know that your own that the reader themselves that aren't losing that, that ability to build the world on their own and get more into it. I think if as readers, if we're given that opportunity to build the world, a little bit on our own as well, following reading the story, then it becomes more interesting and becomes more exciting.

Alex Ferrari 43:33
You know, I was the other day, I was reading a script that was sent to me by a professional writer, like a real, you know, with credits with everything for a project. And when I read it, I had been reading so many bad scripts, that when I read this one, I was like, Oh, this is what a writer is like, it was so the structure was was spot on. Every word was like and I was analyzing it was I was reading it because I was just so taken by like, oh, okay, so he condensed everything right? He didn't overwrite everything. He left it open for your interpretation. But yeah, gave you just enough. If there's that fine balance when you're writing like that, and it was just so wonderful to watch to read. It was a joy to read as opposed to reading, you know, 98% of scripts. Yeah. Which is, which is rough.

Jose Silerio 44:27
Yeah, no, I I've had those moments. Right. From a professional. Right, right. And it's like, before, you know what you read in page 90.

Alex Ferrari 44:37
Right? Exactly. And you're a slow reader.

Jose Silerio 44:42
Until I know, this is a good one.

Alex Ferrari 44:44
This is a good and I think that's also advice for readers like people who are trying to get readers to get coverage and stuff like that they will notice because they've read so much crap all the time that when something of quality walks through the door, whether they like the matter The subject matter or not, they'll recognize talent in the writing. And it's in a come in in a blares out it like that just it screams at you. Because, you know, it's not like you're in a bunch of William Goldman's scripts. And Shane Black scripts and Tarantino scripts are all tossed in, you're like, oh, who's really good? No, it's like a bunch of crap. And then you get that one piece of gold that comes in every once in a while. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. So, so I was fascinated when I was doing a little research for this interview, I found out that save the cat has some software. Yes. Can you talk a little bit about that? Because I was kind of exciting. Yeah, we

Jose Silerio 45:46
actually do have a software and the nice thing about the software, it really follows the save the cat method.

Alex Ferrari 45:51
Oddly enough,

Jose Silerio 45:52
I said, too late out, I guess what I should have said, laid out in the book in the first book today Blake kind of goes through it step by step, right? So So even in the software, it kind of forces you if they may use that word, it kind of forces you first to come up with, you know, what's the genre that you want to pick for this story, you know, then it tells you to do the logline. Right. And then but you're not able to jump right away into the beat sheet, or the board, you know, unless you go through it step by step first. And but the nice thing about it is that if you do follow the steps coming up with logline, then only with a logline, you'll be able to go into the beat sheet. Once you have your beat sheet, that's only when you're able to go into the board, you know. So it has all the elements of what makes the same the cap method. And what they said it kind of forces you to go through it step by step. I think that's the nice thing about it, because it really helps you think and not just, I know there's arthritis, we're always eager to jump the page one and fade in, right. But it but that can also always get us into trouble right away, there is you know, you take the time, the first thing about the idea first, the premise and the stories are fleeting thoughts that will be the outlines and building structure before you actually go to page one. And that's that that's that's what I think this software is good at. It helps you sort of focus little by little step by step, that when by the time you do get to page one fade in, you know you've done the hard work already, right? Like I said, it follows all the rules of save the cat, it takes you to the beat sheet, it takes you to the board, the 40 cards board and you can see it all laid out in front of you in your screen

Alex Ferrari 47:35
now Can you can you explain I was gonna ask Can you explain what the board is? Because a lot of people might not know what the board is. I love using the board when I when I write it's so helpful. So can you explain it because there's the software version, then you're obviously taking it from a real life version, like actual board and stuff. So can you explain what that is?

Jose Silerio 47:52
Yeah, and it's same thing, you know, when when, first my introduction to the board also came from Blake, and how we how we explain it is that, you know, he walked into a producer's room. And oddly enough, same thing happened to me a few years after he told me about it was the end he sees, you know, it's corkboard in front of him where your little index cards laid out. And what the test is, you know, it saved the cat, how we have it is that you have a big letters, cork board, or whiteboard, or whatever it is you're writing, you break that board into four rows, each row representing an app, well, but you're gonna say okay, but there's four rows. So why 4x? Well, it's x 1x, two, a x to be an x three. And in each row, you have, we have 10 cards, and each card really is a scene or a sequence. Not meaning that again, it's always you can start what's you're doing really here now with the board, surely, you are writing, right, and you're working on scenes already, you're doing scene structure work already here. And it allows you to sort of the follow your hero, in terms of its plot in terms of its emotional story. Throughout, you know, you're able to lay out scenes and see if it's working in Act One, or in Act Two, you know, if it's not, you can move them around. But the nice thing about it is that again, you're able just in a very visual, immediate sense. Just by looking at the board, you're able to look at it right away and see how the story is playing out. You can see where the characters are moving forward. You know, you can even I think one thing I always emphasize with writers, so when they do the boards, make sure you're also able to follow the emotional story in the board. You know, one thing we like talking about in save the cat is having the base story. And what the beast story is, is for those who are familiar with it, what it represents, it's really just the theme of the story. Right? So what what they don't do

Alex Ferrari 49:52
is that it's at that subplot or is that the B is that is a subplot or is that

Jose Silerio 49:56
a subplot? It's the emotional story got it. That the Yeah that you that you're stoked that you're here almost go so

Alex Ferrari 50:02
then tight. So what's the emotional story of Titanic just so people have a reference?

Jose Silerio 50:06
Well, let's say for rose, right? The physical story is, I'm going to get married to what's his name? Billy Zane. Right, Billy is the emotional story for her is that she has to be able to tell her mom, I'm not gonna do what you're telling me anymore. And she wants to be my own person. Right? Right. And that's what jack? What's his name? Leonardo. The capital teaches her

Alex Ferrari 50:27
because she's she's, she is the character she is the main character.

Jose Silerio 50:31
I agree with you. He is the main character. And that's what it likes it Leo does for he's the one who forces her to learn the lesson to learn the theme of the story in order to be her own person.

Alex Ferrari 50:42
So in other words, it's not a subplot. But like exactly like the outside the the obvious thing is like, I'm gonna marry this guy, and I'm going on this boat. Yeah, what the emotion about what the intention of her character is this, what she's going after, this is the the inner struggle or the inner journey, the inner journey,

Jose Silerio 51:02
it's the inner journey, it's the internal story, got it. with Luke Skywalker, the external was picked on the Death Star, right, the internal, so he needs to learn to be a Jedi to believe and to trust to trust, and even. So that's what you know. So going back now to the board when it does right there. So you can mark this cards, you know, whether you use color, or whatever it is, it's the market, you know, let's say blue is going to be external story. Red is going to be internal story. It's a simple that that you can put on each card, and then you can see where you're playing out the emotional story as well. So I think the board is, like I said, hopefully I'm explaining it well enough. Now, yeah, that you're able to see right away just by standing in front of it. You know, what you have, where the story's going, where your hero is going, you know, how you're playing out the physical and the emotional story throughout. But it's also you know, it's same see if you do it now, meaning, you know, if you do get the board right away before you start writing pages, if you see like a certain sequence is not working, like in the middle of second app, then you can either take it out, put it away for another day, or maybe you say after, you know, this sequence might work better in Act One. But you can do it right away. You're supposed to doing it later, or after six months or nine months of having written a first draft, but instead to say, wait a minute, page 50 to 55 wasn't working. But you know, I should have known that nine months ago. Right? Right, and save myself the time. Right? So that's the beauty of what the board

Alex Ferrari 52:34
is now this in the software, do you have that option for the dots? Yes, you do. Oh, great.

Jose Silerio 52:41
You know, again, get the all of that we won't have time, but there are little places where you can assign color to it. Perfect. Sounds wonderful. And it's just a simple thing, but even assigning color to characters. I think it's a wonderful little trick. You know, if, let's say green is going to be my villain. But if you're looking at your board, and your entire second row has no green in it, then you know you're in trouble. Because you don't have a villain in it. And the villain is the source of conflict.

Alex Ferrari 53:08
That would be that would be the first Twilight movie. The worst films I've ever seen. I don't care what anyone says. Who's horrendous. The villain shows up 20 minutes. I don't care spoiling it. 20 minutes at the end. I'm like, Are you kidding me? Are you kidding? The first hour and 20 minutes just have them pining for each other. It washorrendous. horrendous

Jose Silerio 53:32
There you go. See if they had the board.

Alex Ferrari 53:34
They had what? Like look, they made a couple bucks on that. So what do we know? But they but it's not definitely not being studied by screenwriters. For their for their structure, a story narrative character or directing. But I'm sorry again, I apologize. I just couldn't like when you said that. I'm like yes, no villain. I that's the first movie that came to them. Like, because look what happens in Star Wars first, like three, four minutes of the movie? Yeah, the best the best opening of a villain arguably ever and everybody and that was a wonderful thing about that film is that I've read I've listened to I've probably seen every interview with George Lucas ever about that movie about Star Wars and he said that no matter where you were in the world, even if you had no idea who Darth Vader was you knew and you didn't speak English Yeah, you knew that was the bad guy. Yeah that was that's the brilliance and universal appeal of of those movies is like you knew and it did that thing with Kylo Ren as well that and the way they've designed his mask and it was all very strategic to portray a villain instantly. Yeah, it's

Jose Silerio 54:47
another great example if I made is you know which which again was one of my favorites was whiplash which I mentioned. Cyber the way they introduced the first two minutes. For me, it just Just as good as introducing Darth Vader

Alex Ferrari 55:02
I mean I'll tell you what when I watched that movie it was it was hard to watch that's a movie that's hard to watch a little bit because he's so brilliant at being just just horrible human. Yeah, exactly he's so brilliant at it that it just I felt like I'm like just leave man just it's not worth it man just go don't play the damn drums anymore Just go

Jose Silerio 55:28
get rewatch but we know you're gonna want to walk away

Alex Ferrari 55:31
but you know what's brilliant is and he deserved the Oscar without question because he carries that movie does the whole movie is him as I may know he's not the main character but he is so overpowering as the actor and the character is so overpowering. That without him there's so much he's he's the Empire. He is here and this poor kid is Luke and it's like, but that's if Darth Vader was yelling at Luke throwing symbols at its

Jose Silerio 56:01
chair with the force

Alex Ferrari 56:02
yes just throwing the force like come on Luke three beats three beats with the lightsaber Come on. Now and you also have an app right to save the cat app is that different than the software?

Jose Silerio 56:18
No, it's it's it's it's it's the same but and again, like you said it's an app it's for your laptop, it's for your iPhone, or your iPad or Android. I'm have to be clear and I'm not sure about that. But I know you can work on your iPhone but it helps you go through the same thing it's sort of like a miniature version of what you can get on your laptop or your computer got it but it's the same thing it helps you go through again your logline and then the beats and then you can even do the cards here but each card will be like one because it is just an iPhone

Alex Ferrari 56:53
like wild card it doesn't give

Jose Silerio 56:54
you the slot you can play around it you can you can get what's the word play between the app and the software I think you can link it if I if I have that right okay so what you have in there in your app we can go from the cloud and you know write about in your in your in your computer

Alex Ferrari 57:11
and if you're at Starbucks writing your your script and you have an idea real quick and you don't have your laptop yeah pop it into your iPad or iPhone because I was I was talking to another Screenwriter The other day is like people here in LA if people outside of La don't understand that if you walk into a Starbucks there's at least two people writing a screenplay at Starbucks in Los Angeles at any time of the day Yeah,

Jose Silerio 57:33

Alex Ferrari 57:34
Exactly never fails never never fails so I'm I'm now comes to the part of the show that is the toughest questions I ask all my all my guests so are you are you ready

Jose Silerio 57:44
sir? All right, I hope so. Okay,

Alex Ferrari 57:47
and what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether that be in the film business or in life in general

Jose Silerio 57:53
Ah, you know what? This for me it's it's the discipline of writing this for me personally I think it's something also the you know a lot of writers struggle with it is especially those who want to make writing their career job

Alex Ferrari 58:11
it's time that white page that white page is a mountain

Jose Silerio 58:13
yeah and but it is really just simply finding the time day in and they are yeah to say I'm going to ride literatures for 10 minutes 30 minutes yep one are you are a page a day because it's so easy to get caught up with him especially except for those the newer ones especially those who have a day job it's it you can easily get caught up in other things and before you know it a week has passed you haven't written a single page before you know it's two months ready. Right? You haven't written 10 pages. So it is it's not necessarily a lesson right? But this being able to spring to discipline yourself and say that I will be writing today and again, for me it's you have to put a goal a daily goal that is that is attainable. for for for you. So you know, I know other writers who do like a page a day. I know who someone who does six pages a day we just stuff I tried doing six pages a day. It's it's sounds a lot easier than London. Yes. But once you do it, it's tough. But you have to find a system that works for you that makes it like I said, attainable each and every day. So whether you go by page count or by minute count, you have to do it and if it means having to wake up a little earlier or tell your kids at the end of the day you know story that is playing right now on its own Yes, exactly. Oh man that you have to you have to do it. And I think if anything, it's just that you have to keep writing if you want really be a good writer, and I tell this to all writers, you just have to write it's it's not just writing but also reading scripts. Not necessarily just watching movies, just watching movies is nice, but lead scripts Well, you know, and you have to find a way to put that into your schedule as well. Yeah, that's certainly the best lesson for for one, to become a not just a good writer but to be really a working writer.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:14
You know, the, if I if I may quote Woody Allen 90% of success is just showing up. Very true it's and it's true that consistency of showing up every day and doing the work even if it's five minutes, even if it's 10 minutes, but it's that everyday thing and that's what people get heart like if you can get into that routine of just doing it every day little by little and trust me I know that even even Academy Award winning writers have problems Yeah, writing it like they're just like, oh god, I gotta go and write you know, it's like it's it's writing is one of the most laborious processes on the planet and it's one of the most underappreciated parts of the industry without question because without a great script, there is no movies and it's it is rough so that's a great great piece of advice. Now what are your top three favorite films of all time?

Jose Silerio 1:01:07
Oh, man, that's I think this is even the tougher question Yes, yes, yes, this big three All right. One would be I think the safe answer, but I really loved it and it's one of those movies I keep watching over and over again. Is Shawshank Redemption of course.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:19
Of course it's one of my top three as well why Twilight obviously too but no no Shawshank knows second a close second was Twilight No. No Shawshank is it's it's amazing it's it's it's it's honestly To me it's as perfect of a movie as you can get it for me because it's my generations godfather

Jose Silerio 1:01:39
through Yeah, very very true. I think Same thing with me. You know, it's one of the reason why I love it so much is because it really it kind of breaks so many rules, but it all works. Yep. Right? It's all a cool story to read. Is it Andy's? Right? What? You're going to go there at the end of the movie, you're just like, Who cares?

Alex Ferrari 1:01:58
So I was gonna say like, whose story and like now you when he was asked me that my whose story is it? Is it it is? Is it rent? Yeah, I think it's, I think it's read maybe because he's the narrator.

Jose Silerio 1:02:10
Because he's the news. In terms of and again, for me, it's always like who had the biggest change? Right? And it's, and it's read. Yeah. You read his story, although you would think a lot of the action or out of the action being instigated was being instigated by by Andy.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:26
But Andy, but Andy didn't make that large of a change not not as big as he was just doing what he does. Yeah, exactly. But read from the moment you see and you actually see them in different temples of the movie when that whole interview with the with the board the parole board. Yeah, how he changes and you can literally I mean that he really lays it out for you Frank Darabont does, and it's absolutely brilliant. And another one of his movies Green Mile, I love Love, love, love green mo so go ahead sorry

Jose Silerio 1:02:57
about Shawshank again I think that's number one for me yeah um another one to I guess again there's no really order of course. One of the most perfect scripts I've read in the movie as well came out really really nicely. was a Little Miss Sunshine such a

Alex Ferrari 1:03:14
really good movie it's such a brilliant movie

Jose Silerio 1:03:16
I I tell you an evening I met Elvis oh right this when I read the script, I said it as as perfect as I could get reading a script. Yeah, it's, it's tight. It's a tight vibe. And you're following all these characters again, one of those that you know Michael Arndt did a great job is building all these characters. We get to know all the characters right there in the first 10 minutes. We're following all their stories in it's it's great. It's one of those again, it's my my way of engaging like it's a favorite of mine. If you know when you're just surfing the BVI. You happen to see it, then you stop. Yeah, absolutely. 50 pounds ready before, right? It's one of those Little Miss Sunshine. And then the other one, a smaller movie that I really, really, really loved as well. Was Billy Elliot.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:00
Oh, yeah, I love Billy Elliot. I remember Billy Elliot, that was a really sweet film.

Jose Silerio 1:04:04
Yeah. And I think that this I think maybe just happened to be fine with me when when I had my first child when they first came out. So the whole Father Son, thing was,

Alex Ferrari 1:04:12
you secretly want to dance I understand.

Jose Silerio 1:04:17
I love you know, how they played out in our kids journey of him simply wanting to dance played against the backdrop of what's happening in his dad's world, you know, with the coal miner striking and having a bigger theme out there, but yet their theme really was just the same. I think it just makes you laugh. It makes it cry. It's what the movie should be. That's a great that's a great list. Yeah, so that's kind of my top three I think. For now.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:46
For now. Yeah.

Jose Silerio 1:04:48
2016 Yes, Mr. Morrow, it may change. Of course, of course.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:52
Now, what's the most underrated film you've ever seen?

Jose Silerio 1:04:54
Ah, this is a tough one. I think a lot there. I always look for you know, good movies. Every year just like one small movie that comes out that for me to say I didn't even know that came out in the movie as in I watch it in DVD but I love that completely. Right and there's sort of like they have that in the field but although there are recognizable actors in nature, sure, right, I think, like, in 2013 there's like the way way back. We Oh, yeah, I like the way way back, which is great movie that Steve Carell Toni Collette, you know, great cast. There was, yes, in 2014. There's a smaller one. With the skeleton, the skeleton twins. This is Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig. I haven't seen that one. It's again, it's a small movie, right? It's very indie ish. I just love how they built the characters and the relationship that they have. So you know, so it goes from me every year, I have kind of the one that they love that they felt like was real. And so 2015 was 2015 2015. For me. I was gonna say, but it's also actually looked at not being too happy to for 2014. Again, this, this is where I leave you. Okay. But you know, I think one big one that I thought was underrated or just I didn't even hear about it until somebody told me was moon. Everything moon.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:12
Oh, yeah, that's the one with some rock. Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Jose Silerio 1:06:16
I in terms of like, thriller, movies. is one of those episodes. Wow, this really grabbed me. It was like, What the hell is going on here? Really? Just nicely. Why don't you just read the following one character? Yeah, some Rachael Rockwell character, right? And then it's like, you're caught in it.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:35
You're in, you're in the web,

Jose Silerio 1:06:36
you can't get up in you know, like I said, I found out about it simply because somebody told me about it. And I said, Look, I had to watch it, then to not tell everybody. Have you seen movies?

Alex Ferrari 1:06:47
That's a brilliant. That's the brilliant thing about when you find a little gem like that, like, why hasn't someone else seen this? What's going on? Yeah. So where can people find more about you and more about save the cat?

Jose Silerio 1:07:00
Well save the cat. So website, savethecat.com or Blakesnyder.com. But it's the same, I think the easy one to remember, save the cat.com. And in there, the website talks about you know, things that we do workshops that we have, consultations, we do but it also like we also bring up big sheets of movies that have come out, which is always a great resource for writers.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:23
You have some new ones now to fill up some of the most recent movies.

Jose Silerio 1:07:27
Yeah, yeah, yeah. And we have people who contribute into it. So So that's kind of the best way to keep up with with save the cat. And again, like I said, it's it's an ongoing thing. It's a way of keeping, you know, Blake's method in alive and updated all the time.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:47
Fantastic. Well, Jose, man, thank you so much. It's been a pleasure talking to you today. I hope you had fun.

Jose Silerio 1:07:52
All right. Thank you very much for having us, Alex.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:55
Appreciate it. Seriously, guys, if you've not read this book, you've got to go out and get it save the cat is an awesome, awesome book. It's just Blake wrote it so wonderfully. And it really opens up your eyes to a lot of different avenues of what it takes to be a screenwriter and how to tell a story. And his method is pretty amazing how it matches up in the in the world of movies today. And in the actual blog post or the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/071. I put a couple of videos of how Blake's method, mastery measures up to certain movies, and they actually go through scene by scene of these very famous Hollywood movies. And you can see where all of his points line up perfectly. It's quite remarkable to watch. So definitely check that out. Now, guys, again, if you want to be part of the indie film, hustle, tribe, and community, that's what we're really about. We're trying to connect not only you guys to me, but you guys to each other, and create a community where we can share knowledge, share information, and share resources to get our movies made. And I've kind of put together a hub for everybody to go to and talk and communicate and exchange information and so on. If you go to our Facebook group, our indie film, hustle, private group on Facebook, and all you got to do is go to indiefilmhustle.com/Facebook. And not only do you get like, first cracks at all of our new articles, and posts and videos and things like that, but you get to watch and listen to other filmmakers and see what they're doing, and see how they can help you and learn from them. And if you have any information about things you've read on the line somewhere that might help the community, please post it there as well. So definitely check that out. indiefilmhustle.com/Facebook. And as always, please go to filmmakingpodcast.com and leave us a honest review of the show. It really helps to show out a lot and it helps us get the word out and what we're trying to do with indie film hustle So, thank you guys so much for all the amazing emails and messages I get from you guys, I've really it really keeps me going and really helps me on those tough days where I don't want to get up and don't want to do a new pod guys, but I love doing this for you guys. And I love helping you guys out as much as I can. So thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the support and well wishes. And I will continue to do the good work that we're doing here at indie film hustle for you guys. We got some really cool stuff coming up in the next few weeks. Got some announcements coming up in the next few weeks. So stay tuned for all of that. And I wish you guys nothing but the best on your filmmaking journey. And it is a glorious one. If you know what you're doing. Thank you guys. I'll see you soon. Keep that hustle flowing. Keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.




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IFH 061: Chris Vogler – Screenwriting & The Writer’s Journey Blueprint

If you have seen Star Wars then you know Joseph Campbell‘s work. If you ever have seen The Lion King then you have seen one of Campbell’s best students, Chris Vogler, work.

Related: Michael Hauge: Writing a Screenplay That Sells

Chris Vogler wrote the game-changing book  The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for WritersI read this book over 20 years ago and it changed the way I look at storytelling. Chris studied the work and principles of the late master Joseph Campbell. His book The Hero with a Thousand Faces was the bases for Star Wars as well as almost every other Hollywood feature film in the past 60 years.


What Chris Vogler did so well is that he translated Campbell’s work and applied it to movies. The Writer’s Journey explores the powerful relationship between mythology and storytelling in a clear, concise style that’s made it required reading for movie executives, screenwriters, playwrights, scholars, and fans of pop culture all over the world. He has influenced the screenplays of movies from THE LION KING to FIGHT CLUB to BLACK SWAN to NOAH.

“I teach sometimes, and always say that Chris Vogler is the first book that everyone’s got to read.” — Darren Aronofsky , Oscar-nominated Screenwriter/Director, Noah, Black Swan, The Wrestler

Pretty high praise from one of the best filmmakers working today. In this episode, I ask Chris to break down a bunch of concepts of the Hero’s Journey, why it resonates with people around the world and what makes an amazing hero and villain.

Enjoy my conversation with Chris Vogler.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:01
So guys, I want to welcome you to a very special episode a special episode to me because today we have on the show Chris Vogler. Chris is the writer of the writers journey, an integral and amazing part of my development as a storyteller. This book kind of changed my life. I read it when I was in college 20 odd years ago. And basically, he takes the works of Joseph Campbell, the hero's journey and translates it for filmmakers. And he worked at Disney for about almost 10 years. He was there. While he was while they were making Beauty and the Beast and Lion King and all these kind of you know that the pinnacle of, of Disney's power now they're, they're going through another renaissance right now. But then he actually kind of changed the game when he wrote this amazing memo, telling everybody what every story had the hero's journey. And if you haven't heard about the hero's journey, or have not heard that concept before, definitely sit back and relax and take a listen to what Chris is going to talk about. And also take a look at that course, that he and Michael wrote, screenwriting and story blueprint, the heroes two journeys. So without further ado, I'm not going to Yap anymore. Just let's get into it with Chris Vogler. So Chris, thank you so much for being on the show. We really appreciate you taking the time. I'm very glad to be here. So So you know, just so everybody knows in the audience, I read Chris's book, the writers journey. I don't want to date anybody but over 20 years ago, and it definitely changed the way I look at story. So for that, I thank you very much, sir.

Chris Vogler 2:46
Hey, you're welcome. Yeah, I was a very hungry young, youthful author.

Alex Ferrari 2:51
Very youthful, you must be 30. Now, so you did it when you were 10. Fantastic. So how did you start in the film business?

Chris Vogler 3:01
Well, I had a path that led me through journalism school first, back in Missouri, where I'm from, and then I got into the Air Force, and they sent me out to Los Angeles, I was lucky, it was the middle of the Vietnam War. And instead of going to Vietnam, they sent me to LA and I worked for an outfit that made documentary films about this space program, and so forth. And after that, I got to go to film school on the GI Bill, and went to the USC School. And, and that's really where things came into focus for me, because I encounter the work of this man, Joseph Campbell, who wrote The Hero with 1000 faces and was a big influence on George Lucas and many others. And that kind of, you know, focus me on my quest to find out what stories were all about. So that and also, there was a class at school that was important called Story analysis for film and TV. And that was like a career pathway for me, because it showed me that, you know, thinking critically and writing about stories and reacting to things intelligently was, you know, a way I could make make a path for myself into the business.

Alex Ferrari 4:20
Now, what um, what about Joseph Campbell's work really kind of drew you drew you in and what was the revolutionary part of his work that kind of, you know, really sparked something in you?

Chris Vogler 4:31
Well as as a kid and just a pure consumer of movies and TV from the Midwest. I grew up on a farm. It was, you know, wonderful and mysterious to me, how they sort of hypnotize me with these great images and all that I I was on a quest I was trying to figure out. I was looking for the book, where's the where's the the, the rules of this? Where's the physics of it? where's the where's the color chart of the period? Got a table or the theory of how they do it. And you know, I got to film school and I found out well, there really isn't anything like that. And then just sort of by accident, I found the work of Campbell. And he wasn't thinking about movies. But he had thought long and hard about mythology and these patterns he kept seeing about heroes, and how that related to, you know, current findings in psychology, especially the work of Freud, but more Carl Jung In school, so he was combining the patterns have old mythology with modern psychology and kind of handing it back to us and saying, Okay, here's, here's what's hidden inside all these stories, advice for how to live. And that turned out, I thought, to be a great blueprint for telling stories and communicating with an audience. So that was my, my breakthrough about it.

Alex Ferrari 5:58
Now, can you talk a little bit about what the hero's journey is?

Chris Vogler 6:03
Yeah, you know, this is a pattern that Campbell found in the ancient myths, he kept seeing the same sort of signposts over and over again. And he had, you know, somewhere between 16 and 20, different events, psychological, mostly events, that would occur in almost every story, I worked with a little refined it down to 12 things, but the essence of it is, you know, everybody at some stage in their life has an ordinary world that they know, and then they're going to go into something new and different, and you know, a new relationship, new job, a war starts or a catastrophe happens, or health crisis, whatever it is, there, you're going to be in a new world. And so it's about exploring that world, and how the difficulties of it can almost kill you, that's sort of the essence of it, that this is danger, you know, change in life is dangerous. And it can be threatening, but that can also change you and make you stronger and more resilient, and, you know, more more alive and conscious in humans. So that's, that's the basic essence of it, people started an ordinary world, they go out, you know, either because they're itchy inside, or they are being forced to it by outside circumstances, and they explore something new, there's often a mentor who helps them. That's an important part of it, the presence or absence of somebody who can guide you and be a role model, kind of. But you know, that that's, that's the essence of it, that you were transformed by an intense experience of going through a change and entering a new stage of life. And you're not the same, you come out as a different person. So that's kind of the, the essence of the idea.

Alex Ferrari 8:00
So would you agree that for people who are not familiar with the hero's journey, a great movie to illustrate this would be Star Wars The original episode for the new hope?

Chris Vogler 8:12
Yeah, yeah, that that was, you know, it's always been the easiest way to show where the signpost star because George Lucas was very conscious of Campbell's work, he had read about it even before film school. He was aware of Campbell because he had, you know, studied anthropology and various other things. And found Campbell that way and have the same I think inside I did that, gee, this would be great for plotting stories and giving them a little bit of this mythological resonance in psycho psychological reality. So yeah, it's easy to see that signposts because he made them big, he made all the turning points. Very clear, and obvious, you know, the, the pattern calls for a call to adventure. And there's the Obi Wan Kenobi literal, your literal call for adventure. Yeah, there's literally this call to everything is literal like that. There's supposed to be the handing off of some kind of relic of the past that that's going to guide you and help you and so he gets his father's lightsaber from Obi Wan Kenobi. There's supposed to be a mentor, there's Obi Wan Kenobi, and so forth, you know, when they when they come to the, to the cantina. That's a typical situation in these stories that you go to a bar or a saloon or a watering hole or something, and you find out what the new world is like, and then boom, you take off. And that's an important part of the pattern to that that sense in the audience that we know there's some preparation that needs to be done to meet the hero and figure out what the problems are, but then we want the story to take off and that should happen, you know, ideally, maybe 20 minutes or so into the future. Half an hour in maybe.

Alex Ferrari 10:01
But when is going when he jumps on when he jumps on the Millennium Falcon basically.

Chris Vogler 10:06
Yeah, when they go off, it's it's very, very clear. And you know, there's there's other things too that I think check it easy to see the yearning of the hero, you know, when he looks out at the twin sons on the planet, you know, wants to get out there and you know, but he's stuck. He's a farm boy, but then boom, this rush of events takes over and then it meets all kinds of monsters and you know, almost dies a couple of times. And that's, that's par for the course on this, this hero's journey deal.

Alex Ferrari 10:38
Now, can you break down, at least just give a basic understanding for people who don't understand the basic three act structure? And how that might also translate into a trilogy as well like, cuz I know how many Star Wars again, you know, Star Wars, A New Hope, Empire and return, all that kind of stuff.

Chris Vogler 10:54
Yeah, you know, there's a beautiful thing going on with all of this current study that people are doing of story structures and narrative and so on, which is, at first, my competitors, and I were doing seminars, and workshops and writing books, all hated each other, and were jealous, then, you know, and said that other guys system is stupid. And mine is the only one that works, you know, that was right procedure. But we got over that. And we all mostly realized it, we're all talking about the same thing. And it's human. And it's kind of hardwired. So these things beautifully start to overlap. And, you know, sort of parallel to my 12 Stage pattern is something called the three act structure, which was really pioneered by a man named Syd field, who was a wonderful man, of course, last year, so and was a real pioneer, because he laid out this unwritten rules of storytelling that he sort of put together as what they call the paradigm of three act structure. And there's nothing all that Earth shakingly knew about it. But just like my idea with the hero's journey, this can be traced back easily to at least Aristotle, who taught not, you need a beginning, a middle and an end. And the energy I think of this is what's important to grasp about the strip the three act structure, it's to use a metaphor, it's like drawing a bow, you know, you're you're, you're pulling back in the first act, you're, you're loading that bow up with energy, and then you're taking aim and the second act and dealing with the wind and all the other challenges, and then you fire it. And in the third act and your intention, or the situation of the hero, you know, finally goes to some kind of target, and either hits or misses, you know, and if it misses, it's a tragedy. And if it's a hit, then you know, you've got a comrade happy. And so, you know, that's one way to, to look at it. And there's, you know, many metaphors that you could, you could use on this, but that, but but that's a good one, that you're, you're gathering energy, you're building tension, then you're, you know, really zeroing in on critical things, and then sort of launching the whole thing in the final act. And that overlaps with my pattern.

Alex Ferrari 13:29
So like a movie like Pulp Fiction, which does has a it's a very unique structure. Can you kind of break that because it's genius, because it follows the hero's journey in its own structural way. Am I wrong in that? Okay, break that down a little bit?

Chris Vogler 13:45
No, you know, that's a really interesting and challenging one to analyze. Because it's so ambitious, first of all, those guys the writers of that we're trying to Roger Avery and Tarantino we're trying to deconstruct things and tell multiple stories, and that's very challenging and they chose to do them out of sequence and, you know, play around with our expectations of what what will happen in order, you know, and that's refreshing but you can and deconstruct it, you can reconstruct it and sort of lay it out in a linear way and it's it's a very, in some ways, conventional storytelling that they're doing the hero's on all the different threads of the story have an ordinary world they all go through some kind of drastic challenge and change and enter into you know, some new situation. And, and again, they either hit or they miss I mean, that's the beautiful thing, especially about the main story with John Travolta and

Alex Ferrari 14:56
And Sam Jackson.

Chris Vogler 14:58
Samuel Jackson is Is that one of them Tarantino sees this they have this miracle happen where they're supposed to all be shot to pieces and in a drug shootout. And miraculously, Sam Jackson says they're missing. And he says that's, that's a clear sign from God, we were spared for a purpose. And so my life has changed now. And Travolta says, Hey, that was just a coincidence, it doesn't change anything. And, you know, the story sort of sits in judgment of those guys. And at the end, the writers give Samuel Jackson eternal life and say, You You're gonna go on and be like, the guy in cocaine travels around, who travels around righting wrongs and doing good in a nice, Zen kind of way, doing little harm and little bloodshed. And Travolta is killed getting off the job, you know, he jumps off the toilet, and Bruce Willis shoots to death. So

Alex Ferrari 15:57
Spoiler alert,

Chris Vogler 15:59
The story and a story. The writers, you know, sit in God's chair kind of and give their their judgment. So I'm, how do you react to this new thing? That's it, you know, in the second act, the challenge, and then how does it land and so to speak, the third act, although it's all messed up, you know, in the editing process, actually, it's you could still make that kind of clear moral sense out of it.

Alex Ferrari 16:30
Now, in your opinion, what makes a good hero and a good villain,

Chris Vogler 16:36
This is, this is great, they're sort of, you know, mirror images of each other, sort of reflections of each other. A good way to look at all the characters is that in some way, everybody else in the movie is like a another possibility of the hero that that even the love interest, male or female, is like your opposite side, or your opposite possibilities. The villain is the the dark possibility of you the clowns, and tricksters around you, those are the funny possible versions of you. So the villain is some kind of mirror image first. But what makes a good hero is somebody who is complex and they're broken somehow, that seems to be really deeply essential in all the way back to the mythology is that the hero will be strong and powerful, and you know, maybe, like Hercules stronger than everybody else, but he's got problems. And, and something broken or something wrong with him. In his case, it was dealing with women, and sometimes He misjudged situations and would go off on people or, you know, cause a lot of problems because he was so impulsive. So, you know, all the way back in the mythology, this idea is planted that the hero is more believable and more human because they're imperfect.

Alex Ferrari 18:07
With that said, I don't mean to interrupt you. I don't mean to interrupt you. But I just wanted to make a real point here. A good hero, like you said, all those flawed heroes, is that one of the reasons why it's so difficult to write for a character like Superman, who's essentially a God, with the movie coming out this weekend. Just curious on your take on that, like, that specific character, and how difficult sometimes it is to make those kind of characters work as a hero?

Chris Vogler 18:33
Yeah, yeah, that's certainly a very interesting franchise, to me, partly for those reasons. That it is he's a mythological character. And as you say, he's got some semi divine potential, I actually was called in at one point by one of the studios to, you know, sort of put Superman on the couch and shrink him and put him through my mythological process. And, you know, this is I think, at a point when they were trying to decide, are we going to do Batman versus Superman, this was many years ago that would consider it the this current film has a long, long history. They they asked me to sort of shrink Superman, and it was all about the flaws of the limitations. That that's what makes him interesting is that even though he's invulnerable, most of the time, there's still conditions like kryptonite and red and green, right, that have different effects on him and then he's emotionally kind of a train wreck in some ways. And that's, you know, charming that that when he puts those glasses on for some reason, he becomes shy and bumbling and can't say what he really thinks and is, you know, very, very easy to identify with. So you You know, you kind of get the best of both worlds, this superhuman set of possibilities, but with some realistic limitations. And then

Alex Ferrari 20:09
But that's why I think Batman. Well, that's why I like that, like Batman is such a relatable character because people, because people can identify with him he's in, he's more much more popular than Superman, in many ways,

Chris Vogler 20:22
Very, very interesting. How we use these characters as meditation devices or something. And we think through the stories about, you know, different developments, what does it mean to be a man, what does it mean to be a patriot, you know, even look at the colors of Superman's costume or Batman's costume. And it just, you know, is sort of a mirror reflection of what's going on in society at the moment, or what society thinks is important. So, you know, Batman, for some reason, that one seems to be a laboratory to experiment with all kinds of different kind of dark brooding thoughts. But there's such a range within Batman, that people can just turn the dial to comedy and, you know, gross, silly things and, and get a big kick out of it and even find meaning in it. But then turn the dial the other way to Batman is a complete lunatic and, you know, a reflection of the nuttiness of our own society. So it's, it's really fun to see how the writers do this, but also really how the consumers are, are using it to figure stuff out. It's it's just entertainment, you know, they say, it's just cotton candy for the mind. But there's much more going on in even the silliest things.

Alex Ferrari 21:56
And you're continuing with the villain, what makes a great villain.

Chris Vogler 21:59
Yeah, just, I think, you know, very much along the same lines in the kind of fundament, that there should be, you know, a lot of powers, but also limitations. And especially when you are dealing with magical figures, who have, you know, vast magic powers, one of the things that helps is to make a rule, it costs something that every time you do something bad, or something magical. It's not free, it costs you something you may lose, you know, you may come become partially partially paralyzed, you might become blinded, you know, every time you use your X ray vision, or whatever. And that just makes the game so much more interesting that he can do anything. And then for the kind of more everyday villains, I think it's useful to realize they don't think they're villains, they think the hero of your story is the villain, that they're, they're totally convinced they're right. They, they have built their whole life is built around their view of the world. And so, again, they're the mirror image of the hero. And when the hero is up there down, when the heroes happy, that doesn't make them happy. And vice versa, you know, they're when they're happiest, the hero is the most miserable. So they make diagrams, they make waveforms, and they're they're perfect mirrors of each other, sometimes. They balance the yin and the yang, they balance each other and, and then there's the whole idea of archetypes, which is something I got out of Campbell's work, you know, also from Carl Jung, who said inside everybody there is a cast of characters, basic characters, a mother, a father, a hero, a villain, an angel, a devil, you know, all these kind of basic human possibilities. And at first I thought, the villain is the villain, and, and should be, you know, really mean and tough all the time. And the hero should be heroic all the time. And that mentor should be mentoree all the time and so forth. But then I realized Life ain't like that. And people have different masks that they wear, you know, maybe you wear 20 different masks in the course of one day. That you're a tough guy one minute then you're a coward the next minute and you're a teacher one minute, you know and so forth. So villain. The villains are wearing a mask you know, most of the time of the villain but there's other masks in there. And again, they may they can show kindness they can they can be heroic, they can be a teacher to the hero. You know, they can feel sorry for the hero and in almost spare the hero all these things make them more interesting than just not I'm here to make your life hard. So, so these are the shadings are what make it realistic and more fun.

Alex Ferrari 25:09
Now, the hero's journey is become, and it hasn't become, but I guess it is so relatable to so many people around the world, regardless of religion, society language is that because it's just something that is hardwired into every human being, no matter where you come from.

Chris Vogler 25:27
Yeah, it's, it's, there are two things in operation here. And one of them is that I do make that assumption that, in the course of evolving into human beings, we created a whole bunch of structures, like families, for instance, and societies, we created these structures, and stories are one of those that, you know, I think we actually grew up part of the brain that handles that, that allows you to think in metaphors and imagine people, you know, when somebody's just talking to you, and saying, Once upon a time, there was a little girl, you somehow create the world and the little girl. And that's, that's all part of being human. But the other side of it is, then you have millions and millions of examples of these things in the form of stories. And people are, are swimming in an ocean of stories in their lives. And even if it wasn't hardwired, we'd all be taught by Hollywood movies and TV and the myths and legends of our culture's, we'd all be taught, what are the basic rules of these things? And, you know, what is the what is the shape, and the effect, but when I go back to the first one, that it's hard wired, because it seems that certain images and situations will very reliably trigger emotional and physical reactions in the audience. You know, things like people in trouble, people helping, you know, in sacrificing their own lives to help somebody else. Somebody sneaking up behind you to threaten you, all those things get physical reactions, and it's pretty reliable across cultures. So So there's

Alex Ferrari 27:19
So would you agree that and this is something I've always told people that asked me about story, I'm like, Well, if there was no story in the world, I don't think the human experience can move forward. Like just on a daily basis. How many times do you just tell what how was your day at work? That the story, you know, and all these kind of things? Do you agree with that, like, without story, we just couldn't move forward?

Chris Vogler 27:43
Yes, it would be a very different world. You know, I suppose there is an engineering version of the world where, you know, everything would be expressed only as, as mathematical formulas or diagrams or something. But even that's a metaphor. And the metaphor is telling some kind of a story, the world is made of numbers. You know, that's as much of a story as Peter Pan. So yeah, I think it's true because of the fact that it's, it's just so hard wired into us. You know, people say, I remember this. When Johnny Carson died, people, a lot of people said, What's it like to be Johnny Carson? In other words, you couldn't really tell me how it was to be Johnny Carson. But what's it like, you know, and give me a metaphor. It's like being the king, or it's like being on top of the world, or it's like being under a spider. All those are metaphors, and they tell little stories. So we think in poetry and metaphors, just automatically, and it's so embedded in the language, we don't even realize it. You know, like I just said, it's embedded in the language. And so I've created a metaphor that there's a, there's a mass and then inside that mass, like raisins inside a loaf of bread. There's embedded these, these ideas. So So these things are hard to escape, and you kind of can't see them, because they're so dominant. But, but now there's good things about it, because it does allow us to communicate, and to get ideas across and convince people of things by telling it in the form of a story has all politicians know very well. It's one it's one thing to say the the veterans are being mistreated, but it's much better to say here's a veteran and his what happened to him and look and he, you know, had all this sacrifice, and now he's suffering. And so now wow, that's a whole different level of relationship and identification. So

Alex Ferrari 29:57
Oh, I see it. I see with my mind My daughters who are four, how story impacts them and how I'm using story now just to kind of relay core, as George Lucas said, the meat and potatoes of our society, like, you know, the boy that cried wolf, don't lie, you know, things like that. It's so powerful and how these stories like the Grim Tales and things like that, they just go on from generation to generation now the Disney stories and, and the movies and stuff like that movies that I saw when I was growing up. Now I'm showing them to my girls and, and Star Wars is one of those, you know, kind of mythos those, those generate the new generations are catching up with that, you know, the stuff that we grew up with? Younger, it's just fascinating to watch. Now, are, are we all on our own hero's journey? Basically?

Chris Vogler 30:48
Yes, that's one of the biggest insights I had, by the way, your daughters are very lucky, because you're keeping up this ancient tradition, and you're not outsourcing it to the technological stuff. That's part of it, but introducing them to it and talking to them about it. Reading the stories to them, especially, is, is critical. But yeah, I mean, that was the big insight from the very beginning. I said, Wow, when I read Campbell's book, at film school, I kind of skim through it, I'm a good skimmer, and I skimmed through it on the bus on the way home. And by the time I got off the bus, my whole life had been changed. And one part of it was, yeah, this is great for making movies, this will make better, more entertaining more international movies. But at the same time, I was aware, this is a great guideline for living. It's, it's a template. And and it's a again, it's a metaphor, it's telling you a story, once there was a person who you know, lived somewhere, and they went someplace and changed it. But it's, it's just so clear to me that our ancestors thought it was important. And they preserved it in the form of stories, because it's your guidebook for life, for how to deal with the inevitable things, things are going to come along and wreck your plan, no matter what that plan is. And so how do you deal with that? And the stories are just an infinite Well, of options and solutions, and failures, you know, that two examples of tragic failures. So,

Alex Ferrari 32:34
Now What? What? No, no, I was gonna say, I was gonna ask you, what do you how do you know you're reading a good story when you're reading? Well, I'm sure you've read a few scripts in your day?

Chris Vogler 32:44
Yes, the number count, it's hard to say how many but it's well above 20,000. People like to believe but but I there's there's no question that, you know, I have file cabinets filled to prove it, of my reports that I've analyzed 20,000 stories at least. And, you know, the elements of the good one are, I'm a sucker for poetry and and for for just good writing. And I now I'm sort of ruined as a reader. Because I have low tolerance for bad writing. And I'm talking here about just the how do you compose a sentence. And there's, there's, there are people who, you know, they might be giving you good information. I'm reading a book about the city of Venice right now in Italy. And it's good information, but it's given in this very flat way. Venice was a big city in the 1400s. It was important, you know, and there's no music or poetry in that at all. But But I appreciate so much the beautiful writers. Now, screenplays are special, they're supposed to be very spare and simple and short sentences like that, for the most part. But there's, there's just a confidence that you feel when somebody knows how to how to build the nice, pretty sentences, not fancy but you know, elegant. So that's, I know, this is very subtle and hard to pin down when I'm saying, but beyond that, the simple thing for you know, like, what makes a good screenplay is, man, they grab you right away. And you know, right where you are and who it's about, for the most part. They're very clear about this is the hero spending a little time describing her? Maybe giving her some special behavior at the beginning that gets my attention. Why is she doing that? And that hooks me in so you know, there's their scripts, you read 20 pages, you don't know who it's about. You don't know what it's about. You don't know You know, even You know, is, is this the main location? Or is this a little prologue or, you know, there's a lack of clarity. So I just like it when, when things are simple and clear, and that's a sort of a motto of mine. From that the classic old romantic comedy. It Happened One Night. Clark Gale. Yeah. Yeah. Clark Gable is a reporter in that, and his motto is simple stories for simple people. And it's not condescending, it's it's a really good artistic rule. Just keep it simple. Tell me the story. And, you know, make it elegant in language and so forth, if you can, but, you know, be clear. Above above all, that's another thing I'd rather be clear than pretty in my, in my storytelling, and pretty historic, you know, sometimes, you know, overly flowery. He can also mean, look how cool I am. I'm not telling you who this guy is. And I'm going to make you wonder what's going on for a long time. Or I'm not going to tell you, you know, that sort of razzle dazzle is are using

Alex Ferrari 36:11
75 cent words when yes, that sent that letter?

Chris Vogler 36:14
Yeah, yeah, yeah, or another version of it is, and then the camera using a Zeiss iKON lens with a 35 diopter on it on the corridor at about 3.6 miles per hour. And then, you know, this kind of over directing is another another version of

Alex Ferrari 36:32
Have you read, have you read there? Have you read scripts to have that kind of? I mean, I've never heard that this Genki. But have you read something like that?

Chris Vogler 36:39
Yes, yeah, it does come up every once in a while. And I think it's generally from someone who isn't confident and hasn't done it very often before, and they're trying to prove, look, I know all this stuff, I took a class or I read a book or, you know, I went to film school. And, you know, I, myself, I think there was a little bit of that in some of my early scripts, because, you know, also people have a passion, they see it in their head so clear, they want to make sure it's down there on the page. But I learned better ways to do that, than to say, you know, you put please put the camera on a tripod, about four feet off the ground, you know, it's not that, but you know, you it, you indicate stuff like that by, he looks up from under his eyebrows, and she sees a flash of light in his eyes. And that gives you that makes the shots in your mind better than saying, with a tight close up, just up from his eyebrows down to his nose, you don't have to do that you just draw attention to the detail, you want to see the gun. That's a great note. So, and it is important, these things about the body, the hands, skin, eyes, you know, referring to those in the text. It kind of creates the close ups, you know, just just writing that in your slugline his hand near the gun? You know, is? That's that's better than saying a tight close up or that you see your mind immediately. So. So you you worked at Disney for a while, correct? Yeah, that was I guess that was the longest run I had at any of the studios. I had to sort of like military tours of duty at Fox on either side of that at Fox as a reader and then later as an executive. But in the middle was about 10 years at Disney. And that's a long run in the long run. Your normal gig is about two years. Honestly, people people say you were doing something right? Jobs. Well, I was doing something right. But also within those 10 years, I worked for about four or five companies within Disney. So I kept changing over. And as a new company was developed, like they created Touchstone type period pictures and various other and then there was Imad Hollywood pictures and Hollywood pictures and you know, all these different divisions. And as each one was created, I would come in and write some memos and read some scripts for them and, you know, get get involved and I was a little bit conscious of that trying to diversify and get as much stuff into my portfolio as I could. And that's a sidebar here, but very important. A lot of my thinking and work these days is about branding. And somehow intuitively, I was good at that. And before the internet, I created a kind of viral marketing for myself. through I mean of the Xerox machines and you know, fax machines and stuff like that. I spread a viral idea through the mind of Hollywood, which was this memo that I, when I was when I was at Disney, and the memo simply took Campbell's academic idea and translated it into Movie language. He talked about the Epic of Gilgamesh, or the fairy tale of the three shoes or something. And I would talk about, you know, here it is in ordinary people and Star Wars and various other classic films. So

Alex Ferrari 40:40
I even read that as a film student, I read that memo. That's how far that memo went, I was in Florida. And I heard about this memo that said, this is the this is the the guide book, the blueprint of all story. And of course, as a film student, you really like Oh, my God, I have to read this. And it would circulate around the school. And then I mean, so you did a good job. Without email. Without internet, you were able to create a viral piece of material that branded you completely Yeah, I when I bought your book,

Chris Vogler 41:15
It definitely did. And I have another thought about the branding, which is that branding is really a matter of association, you're associating yourself with different things like Coke, one of their mottos was coke adds life. So they say, Coke equals life, and whatever you know about life, whatever you like about life, there isn't coke. So

Alex Ferrari 41:39
Arguably, they take arguably, Coke takes away life, but we can talk about that.

Chris Vogler 41:43
Is that true? Yes. Yes, yes. It's certainly if you want to kill something, let it swim and coke Royale. But yeah, you know, if you want to take chrome off your bumper, that that's another little it'll eat the Chrome right off. But it's this matter of the where were we this is branding branding, on the branding thing is, is that somehow I was able to do that and brand myself with this thing, because it was almost like something that just popped into my head. When I was standing at the Xerox machine. I had written this memo. And I said, you can sort of load this up with intention. And I even left a copy of it on the Xerox machine on the class intentionally thinking the next person coming along may find this and who knows what they'll do with it? Well, let's see. Let's see where that goes. Wow. And, and, and, you know, I think what happened was an executive came in just copied something and found that and plagiarized it. He took my name off, he put his name on the cover, and sent it up to the company ranks because he thought it was good. And it got to the top guy in the company, Jeff Katzenberg. And he said, This is great. This is the this is the greatest thing that's happened since popcorn, and you know, there's all our movies and our animation should. Everybody should read this. And eventually you got credit, though. Yeah, I claimed credit, which is a little out of my character. I'm kind of shy and retiring. But I attach to that one. When I heard that this had happened. I wrote a letter to Katzenberg. And I claimed it and I said, The words gotten out that this memo is on your desk, and I wrote it and not this other guy. And I want something I asked for something, which is I wanted more involvement in the company. And he immediately responded to my amazement, and threw me together with the animation people. And that was kind of the the high point of my involvement with Disney. They were just starting Lion King. And I went over there to talk with the animators and writers. And I thought, okay, now I have to do a sales job and I have to explain who I am. And I have to tell them what the hero's journey is. But I walked in the door and the first thing I saw was a corkboard with the storyboard of The Lion King and it was all mapped out by the hero's journey. Step one, step two step three, really memo. The memo got there ahead of me. And with me doing nothing. It did a complete sales job for me and just rolled out the red carpet. So I walked in and they knew exactly who I was and what my idea

Alex Ferrari 44:50
Now arguably Lion King was from that for well over a decade, if not 20 years. It was the biggest animated movie Ever, financially? We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Chris Vogler 45:14
Yes, it was, I must, I must tell you a bit of a surprise to all of us. Not all of us, but many of us who worked on it, because Disney had been on this rocket ship in life. And then they'd had a couple of, you know, they made they made 20 live action films in a row that were hits, and nobody does that. Now, something bizarre going on. And then they had made Beauty and the Beast,

Alex Ferrari 45:41
The Little Mermaid. That being said, and

Chris Vogler 45:45
Those, those, those were so good, and so revolutionary, they completely revived things, we all kind of felt like, well, the Lion King will take a step back, and it'll just be another picture, and it's not gonna stand up, you know, you can't keep going like that hit after hit. So you almost hope that one of them will drop back a little and lower expectations. And then you'll come back and you know, try to top yourself.

Alex Ferrari 46:12
But that would that would have been probably Pocahontas not like

Chris Vogler 46:15
Maybe so one of those, one of those that followed in the chain. But you know, it surprised us all. I remember seeing the the screening the opening night, they had a big party, you know, and we enjoyed all that. But the applause when the movie was over, was kind of that was good, you know, which is true for almost all Hollywood screenings, you know,

Alex Ferrari 46:42
Every single one of them. Absolutely. You're correct.

Chris Vogler 46:45
Yeah, yeah. That wasn't too bad. But, but Well, we underestimated the way it would connect around the world. And I've heard that everywhere in every culture, that people say, that's a Japanese story, you know, or that's an obviously African but you know, every culture relate somehow. So they they did something, right. And I had my little part in it. Yeah, I just I had a little story about that opening sequence, the circle of life sequence, they had fully animated that by the time I got there. And they showed me that sequence. The first time I met with them, and then the rest of it was either in pencil sketch form, or actual post it notes on the cork board, storyboard style. But my reaction to it was, there's something missing. And the missing thing was when Rafiki, who's the kind of the mentor of the story, the kind of magical guy when he holds up the baby Simba, and he shows everybody. I said, Wouldn't it be cool, if those big clouds up there suddenly opened up and a chef, the light came down and lit up the baby. And everybody in the room, wrote that down and started drawing pictures of it, because the animators communicate. And instead of writing notes down, they draw pictures. So everybody drew that. And they, they stopped the production and put that piece in, which was a big, expensive deal, but they said it was worth it. And that makes the little button on the scene. It's this one little thing. And there's a exactly right place in the music where the music kind of explodes. As the baby lion is held up, and that shackle light just punches it.

Alex Ferrari 48:41
So it makes the theme it honestly without no question about it. I still remember when you were saying it, I see it so clearly in my head. It's like, how could you not have that?

Chris Vogler 48:49
Yeah, yeah. And it was like it was all invited and set up by what they had done already. But just that one little piece, kind of nailed it. And the I saw a physiological reaction in everyone in the room when I just said, what if the shaft the light comes down, and I paused a minute and I noticed everybody's there, like shivering and quivering and kind of moving around in their seats, and then started furiously drawing that that image. So it told me something, and that's very important to me is that the story or the good ideas actually reach into your body and they do something they cause organs in the body to react and secrete fluids, make you shiver, and make your hair stand on end and make a cry and do all these other physical things to you. So that's a big part of my thinking now is what I call the organic storytelling, that it's in the organs of the body, where the story is actually actually happening, that your brain is you know, processing and thinking and comparing but the The direct experience is right there in your heart and your lungs and you know, your guts.

Alex Ferrari 50:06
And also, like, we talk a lot about story structure and the hero's journey and everything like that for actual movies. But there is a part of that, that goes through the marketing of it to to create a storytelling process of the marketing and two movies recently that's done that amazingly well was obviously the Star Wars movie was probably one of the best marketing movies I've seen in a long time and Deadpool, another amazingly marketed film. Can you touch a little bit on that? And how story played a part in those two campaigns?

Chris Vogler 50:40
Yes, that's something I'm very interested in. I've done work with companies that do trailers for movies and done a lot of thinking about, about how they connect. And, you know, it's, it's something in the first case in the Star Wars case, they're dealing with what you know. And the objective here was to say, you knew this, but you didn't know this. And so there are little things like, there's the sort of iconic shot of the current villain with his lightsaber where the the side flames come out, we sort of flicks flicks it on. And that was like, Oh, this is telling you it's plussing. This, it's telling you this is going to be the Star Wars you love. But with some new twists and X ray, a simple thing. But something also a little controversial, got people talking about what does it mean, and if there's even look realistic and possible, and so that'll it worked very well for them. And with with Deadpool, that's just a brilliant job of projecting a voice. It was it was all about the voice and the kind of iconic look at the character in his reclining lazy position. Those those two things together, made a real strong campaign

Alex Ferrari 52:08
And opposed to the Batman vs Superman campaign, which told you from what I hear, I haven't seen the movie, but it told you the entire story. It shows you all the points, the big, the big moments already have been given away in the trailer, which is I think, would have had such a potential to do a Star Wars, if they had the confidence. I think that was the big difference. I think the studio behind it with Star Wars, there was a confidence with the marketing, they're like, look, we're just going to just give you just enough to get you excited. And that's what brought everybody out. And with a story like Batman versus Superman, which is obviously like, you know, the fight of the century, they could have done that. But they didn't they went the complete traditional old school. Let's show them all on the trail. And let's see if we can get some butts in seats on the first opening weekend. Do do and I don't want to get to know you I know these are some of your clients. So feel free to say no comment.

Chris Vogler 53:02
It's It's It's fine. I these are observations I've had anyway. You know, it's a matter of his choice about it. And this particular technique of telling you everything and giving you all the plot beats was really worked out at Disney and it was part of their success for a while that that they they were reassuring you this movie with you know Richard Dreyfus or bed Midler whoever it was, they were putting in movies in those days, back in the 80s talking now they would they would lay out okay, then he's in his ordinary world, and then he's going to go to the special world, it's going to be weird and funny things will happen but dangerous things and then at the end with the through the love of a good woman, he'll figure it out. And that worked for a while, but then people really rejected that. And as you say, it's a safety it's a, you know, a default way to do it. And it's so much better when you really know what you have to sell. I was impressed by one campaign in the last couple of years. For Maleficent the movie looks back at Sleeping Beauty and does it tells a story from more or less the villains point of view. They knew what they had to sell Angelina Jolie with the weird black horns in costume and they just sold that you know that was there kick and so, you know, I think that's the the ticket is you have to know what it is you have to sell and sometimes it is the story or, or it's a new voice of new character.

Alex Ferrari 54:47
Still, so I'm going to ask you right now is going to ask you the same question that I asked all of my guests. These are the toughest questions. So please what is the last thing that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life,

Chris Vogler 55:04
The longest to learn, I guess that would be something I'm still dealing with. And in in that department, I would say, honestly, it's getting out of my own way. I'm still learning that, that I tend to do things the hard way and make things hard for myself and make more of the difficulties than they need to be. So that's, that's a bit of a slow lesson for me that I kind of sum up by something I call it's not my idea, but the do easy method. If you're interested in this, it's it's something that was cooked up by the writer William Burroughs to deal with difficulties in his life. But you just sort of approach everything very gently. And you know, where computers maybe drive you crazy and you want to throw things, there's a way to Caressa them, so that it isn't so difficult and painful. And not a master of this by any means. But that has helped me. So that's when you're still going

Alex Ferrari 56:19
Through your hero's journey in regards to that.

Chris Vogler 56:21
Oh, most definitely. Yeah. Oh, yes.

Alex Ferrari 56:26
So what are your top three? Exactly? What are your top three favorite films of all time, no order or anything like that. Just three films that really touched you?

Chris Vogler 56:37
Well, sure, I always start with my desert island movie, if denied all other films would be the one. And for many years, this has been a movie from the 50s called the Vikings, which is really the source material or very close to the current Vikings TV series. That's on the history. There. They're really drawn from the same literary source, the same historical character. It's the same idea. A great adventure movie with Kirk Douglas and Tony Curtis and Ernest Borgnine. Exactly, and, you know, amazing effects and beautiful ships and all that. Number two, would be a movie called Gilda, which is, uh, oh, yeah, black, black. And it's just a special film to me. Because it's a film noir. It's about a triangle of evil guy and a woman who is associated with him and a young man who used to be her lover, and, you know, the the loyalties among all those three people. But it's much more profound than that. It's kind of an essay on good and evil and the devil and God and just profound kind of movie. And then our little more modern thing, is a film I'm working with right now. I'm getting ready for electric in Paris. And I had to do a French film. So I picked a film called a Moore, which won the Academy Award a few years ago for Best Foreign Film. And it's about old Parisian couple. And the wife has a stroke, and she eventually declines and they have to deal with her complete downfall as a person. very uplifting story. Got it? Yeah, it's a tough one. But just beautifully made. And a great example of simple stories for simple people in the best way. Very confident. You mentioned that before. That confidence in filmmakers and storytellers is really nice when you have it. And this guy's very confident. He does a lot of things where he'll just have a blank screen. And maybe you'll hear people say, are you okay? And the other one says Jamar, right now, there's no problem. And they're in bed asleep. And he'll just let that black Dean run for almost a minute. And you just kind of breathe and live with the boy that takes confidence. But he's got

Alex Ferrari 59:18
And what is the most underrated film you've ever seen? Let's see.

Chris Vogler 59:23
Oh, yeah, I go to a film that's actually kind of hard to find called They Might Be Giants with George C. Scott. And Anne Bancroft, I think is in it. And it's a play on Sherlock Holmes. It's about a crazy man in New York who thinks he's Sherlock Holmes, and they send a social worker to visit him and her name happens to be Dr. Watson. So it goes well there. I've been waiting for you, you know and she goes And eventually, they get she gets lured into it and realizes he is really the latest incarnation of Sherlock Holmes or he believes it's so much that, let's just accept that. And there really is like a Moriarty a bad guy who's doing things and they rally oddball all the oddball people in New York or rally behind them to stand up to this shadow of Moriarty. And it's a wonderful inspiring film. For some reason that one's not in a lot of packages, and it didn't get sold and it's hard to find. But it's a little treasure.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:41
Now, where can people find you?

Chris Vogler 1:00:44
The best thing would be my website, which is www the writers journey.com. And I also have a blog at WordPress and that is Chris bowlers writers journey blog. I don't

Alex Ferrari 1:01:07
Okay, and can you tell if people can you tell the can you tell that the tribe what books you've actually written besides the writers journey? Or the because I know you've written a few books, correct?

Chris Vogler 1:01:22
Well, I have Yeah, actually, I'm building a little library I wrote, you know, the first book, The Hero's Journey, 20 years ago. Then a few years back, I co wrote a book with a buddy of mine, who's a film director and teacher in New York, named David McKenna. And that book is called memo from the story department. And it's about climate, structure and character, memo from the story to print. And my original memo to Disney is in that about the hero's journey, but also all the other stuff that David and I have used in our work over the years other frames other other systems, like there's a fairy tale analysis technique. There's a way of looking at characters that goes all the way back to the days of Aristotle. There's a chapter on vaudeville, and how the traditions of the stage are still useful for filmmakers today. So it's good that way. And then the third thing, titled that I can claim is I wrote a Japanese manga, you know, their version of camo. And, sure, a buddy of mine, got into the business of publishing in, in America in Japan. And he invited me to contribute a story and so I got one out of the trunk. I took an old movie and novel called Ivanhoe about the time of King Richard in the Crusaders and Robin Hood. And I wrote kind of a sequel to it called Raven the skull so that's the title Raven skull. And it was supposed to be a four book series, we only did the first one so far, but it's, it was really fun to work with an artist in the Philippines, this guy. This and the editor never met him, I never met him. But we did everything by JPEGs back and forth. You know, I, I want the I want the stirrups to look like this. And I want the sword handled to look like this. And I'd send them the the images. And, and man, it would just come back the next day exactly like I wanted. And it was a great way to work. So

Alex Ferrari 1:03:46
There's my there's another book that you wrote the foreword for that actually was the reason I bought the book was because you wrote the foreword to it with myth and the movies.

Chris Vogler 1:03:55
Yes, that that's kind of a another relative of my books. It's in the family. Amanda Stewart void. Tila took on a an important job. I'm glad he did it because it was a lot of labor to do it. But what he did in myth in the movies is he said, Okay, here's Vogel's idea. How does that actually work? What does if you do the diagram, what does it look like? He was doing like pie charts of the of the different steps. And what does it look like in 50 different films and he chose really good classics in different genres. And he shows there that it changes depending on the genre, and that they spend more or less time in different stages and maybe omit stages or repeat them or something. He found all these neat patterns. Sort of subcategories within the general thing. He said it still works in all these films, but it's flexible and so you'll you'll find the the specifics in mainly by Onra adventure movies, romances, mysteries and so forth. He found these these shadings of it. And it's a great contribution. So,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:11
I have to say it's been an absolute joy. Talking to you today. Thank you so much for taking the time and dropping a lot of value bombs on on the audience in regards to structure.

Chris Vogler 1:05:24
Kaboom. Yeah. So I'm glad to do that. And you let me run free. And I appreciate that. And you had good questions. So I hope everybody just keeps in mind my model, which is trust the path trust the path that you're on. Keep going till you get there. And that has its own guidance system built in. So good luck.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:49
Thanks, Chris. And Alright, so now Chris, we're out. Thanks again so much. I really do appreciate you taking the time. I know it's been I know you're squeezing me in right before you Paris trips. Thank you.

Chris Vogler 1:05:58
Yeah, yeah, I have to keep an eye on that ball. But I'm going to be working on that, um, war film I talked about today. Oh, buttoning up my clips on that. But this is great. And I wish you luck with your in the film muscle, you got a pretty good list of people on this noun.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:19
Yeah, Linda, Linda says, hi. I thought I did Linda and of course, Michael. And we. And you know that Michael and I have been doing that, oh, the heroes two journeys course digital courses he sees. So hopefully this will help a little bit with sales with that and, and move forward. So of course, thank you again, so so much. I really appreciate it's been an absolute thrill talking to you, my friend.

Chris Vogler 1:06:42
All right. My pleasure. Thanks a lot, Alex.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:46
You know, I can't really tell you what a thrill it was to talk to Chris. I mean, after after reading his book, and how what an impact that book made on me. If you guys haven't read that book, you got to go out and get it. Writers journey. And you can get all that and you can get the links to his books, the course and all his direct websites and stuff like that at indiefilmhustle.com/061. So a lot of you guys in the tribe actually email me a lot of questions, and specifically, certain things about different parts of the business. And I do my best to answer them. But I had this idea of creating an episode a week, at least one episode a week, I'm going to try of just answering questions or just answering straight questions from the tribe. So I wanted to and I want to call it, ask Alex. I know it's extremely creative. But we're going to try to do this once a week. And we're going to create a YouTube show around it. So you can watch me answer the question. And then I'll also be releasing it on on the video podcast as well as the regular podcast as well. So I want to try to get more value to you guys. And this is a community so and this is our tribe. So everybody talking and asking me questions, might be a question that somebody else has that they haven't asked it to me, but this other person did. And if I can answer for everyone, maybe I can help more and more people. So that's the goal of what we do what I do here at Indie film hustles. I want to try to provide as much value to you guys as possible. So if you have any questions, email me at ask Alex at Indie film, hustle calm. That's ask Alex at Indie film hustle.com. And we're going to be we're going to create a website as well. That would be indie film hustle.com forward slash, ask Alex. So you can be able to go straight there. And hopefully we'll have episodes every week on me answering questions for you guys. So be launching that in the next probably within the next month or so. But please send in those questions and you know anything about the film industry? Film, business, film, marketing, post production? Whatever you want me to answer, I'll do the best I can to answer those questions for you guys. And provide good value to you guys. All right. So again, that's ask Alex at Indie film, hustle calm, and the website is going to be indie film hustle.com forward slash ask Alex. So thanks, as always for listening, guys. And don't forget to head over to filmmaking podcast calm and leave us a great hopefully a wonderful review for the show helps us get the word out on what we're doing with any film, hustle and help more filmmakers out there. Okay. By the way, I wanted to give you guys an update on something. A few weeks ago, I mentioned in launch basically announced that I was doing a feature film called Ania. Well, that has now changed, I have shifted into another project. That project didn't work out the way I wanted it to work out. So I decided to just shift and move to another project. So I'm working currently working on another feature film right now. And we'll be announcing what that feature film will be in the coming weeks and possibly the next month or two because I'm working hard on it right now and getting up bunch of stuff labeled out. But there will be a feature film made by me and the indie film hustle gang sometime this year, regardless of what that movie is. So I have a lot of exciting stuff coming up as well, guys, I mean a tremendous amount of exciting news, exciting things I'm going to be bringing to you guys. And exclusive courses, exclusive topics, exclusive projects, all sorts of different things that I'm going to be bringing to you guys to help you further along on your quest to be a working filmmaker and to survive and thrive in the film business. So as always, guys, thanks for all your support. I can't do this out. I can't do this without you guys. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Please share these episodes. Please share our links when you see them on Facebook and Twitter and in the blogosphere. Just help us and get the word out. All right. I really appreciate everything you guys do. So keep that hustle going. keep that dream alive. And I'll talk to you soon.


IFH 039: How to Write the Million Dollar Screenplay

We’ve all read in Variety or The Hollywood Reporter of some no-name screenwriter selling his or her screenplay for a million bucks. Ever wonder how they did it? What structure did they use? What “tricks of the trade” were employed?

May I introduce Paul Castro, the original writer of one of my favorite films August Rush. Paul Castro is a produced, award-winning screenwriter and world-renowned screenwriting professor.

Structure…is the canvas on which we paint with words.” – Paul Castro

His project, August Rush was produced by Warner Brothers and starred the late great Robin Williams, Keri Russell, Freddie Highmore and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. The film took Paul Castro into the belly of the Hollywood beast.

august rush, paul castro, the million dollar screenwriter, million dollar screenplay, screenwriting course, screenwriting courses, screenwriting Teacher,, film school, independent film, moviemaker, guerrilla filmmaking, tarantino, indie film, film crew, cinematography, short films, film festivals, screenwriter, screenwriting, filmmaking stuff, screenplay, UCLA School

The business of screenwriting can be tough, but while a student at the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television, he was a finalist for the Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmaker’s Award for directing and producing his original screenplay Healing, and landed a three-picture screenwriting deal worth $1 million.

The lessons he learned not only from selling August Rush but many other Hollywood screenwriting adventures were invaluable. He later went back and became a screenwriting professor at UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television, teaching thousands of students over his ten years of teaching.

Paul Castro teaches screenwriting from the inside out.” – Richard Walter, UCLA Screenwriting Chairperson.

After being a screenwriting professor, script doctoring and consulting Paul decided to create the ultimate screenwriting course. He calls it “The Million Dollar Screenplay.” –

I took the course myself and all I have to say is WOW! Paul teaches with an elegant style that’s extremely understandable and straight to the point. Success leaves clues and so do masterfully crafted screenplays that sell for millions of dollars.

Paul Castro shows you those secrets. Not trying to do a hard sell here but I just love this course.

What clearly resonates with me is Paul’s love for and dedication to his students and to storytelling. He is a composed and practical artist and teacher, yet highly imaginative in his approach.” – Michael Eisner, Former CEO of The Walt Disney Company.

Here’s some of what Paul covers in his course:

  • Professional screenwriting techniques
  • Plot development for the big screen
  • Creating compelling characters to attract movie stars
  • Winning dialogue
  • Structure to serve as the blueprint for your movie
  • Scene construction to evoke suspense
  • Sequence writing to manage an ensemble cast

After taking his course I reached out to him and asked him to be a guest on the podcast. What followed was not only a master class in screenwriting but also lessons on the film business and he also discussed how to discover your own voice as an artist. Pretty mind-blowing.

Enjoy this whopper of a podcast episode and if you haven’t seen August Rush do yourself a favor a watch it. It’s worth watching for Robin Williams alone!

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:05
Today guys, we have Paul Castro. He is the writer of one of my favorite movies of the last 15 years or so. 20 years Oh, August rush starring the late Robin Williams, Freddie Highmore career Russell and john Reese Myers is a wonderful, wonderful film. He's a master, lecturer, and teacher, screenwriting teacher, he's been teaching at UCLA, one of the considered arguably one of the best screenwriting courses you can take to become a screenwriter and the amount of the Academy Award winners and you know, sold screenplays have come out of that. A program is remarkable. So what Paul did was actually create his own course called a million dollar screenplay. And he basically took everything he taught at the UCLA film school, and put it in this course. And I have to tell you, it is remarkable what he's been able to put in that scores. It is really, really great. So when I took the course I had to get him on the show, had to talk to him. I want her to get deeper and deeper into what he's doing and how he's doing it. So sit back, relax. And and like I always say, prepare to take some notes because there's this one's a doozy. Get ready for our interview with Paul Castro. Well, man, thank you for taking the time out to come on the indie film hustle podcast. I really appreciate it, man.

Paul Castro 2:07
Sure, Alex. Absolutely. I'm happy to do it.

Alex Ferrari 2:10
So I want to jump right into it. So how did you get your foot in Hollywood's door which is a screenwriters. I think one of the ultimate questions for all screenwriters like, how do you break through there's so much noise? There's so many people trying to do it. How did you get your foot in the door?

Paul Castro 2:26
Yeah, it's a valid question and one that is asked perpetually throughout the years by up and coming screenwriters and even my friends who have also taken similar paths. I was on the east coast and I was in a suit and tie job out of college in the Washington DC area. And it wasn't terribly pleasant. And I made the decision to go to Hollywood in the attempt of trading daydreams for dollars as a professional screenwriter. And I thought UCLA film school would be the best path being that the majority of Oscar winners have come out of that program. So I thought that would be a good start. So I drove cross country in my truck, and I was excited to go to UCLA there was only one challenge Alex, which is he got rejected.

Alex Ferrari 3:24
You already packed up you bought the you bought the T shirt. You bought the hat, the mug?

Paul Castro 3:27
Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah, everything. And so I, you know, I contacted or attempted to contact the chair to the department to no avail. So I went to UCLA and I put in the mailboxes of every film professor, the top 10 reasons why they should reconsider my application. And I just, you know, printed it out and put it in their mailbox in hopes of some type of response. Fortunately, the chairperson of the department called me up and said, Oh, wait, got your top 10 list was very funny made us all laugh. Nice. Oh, well, great. Am I in Nisa? No, absolutely not.

Alex Ferrari 4:08
But thank you for the hustle.

Paul Castro 4:09
I appreciate it. Exactly. So a year later, I did apply again. And fortunately, I was one of the 18 to get in. And it was it was a good year, I was glad looking back on it that I didn't get in because it gave me a chance to really hone my craft and write and take seminars and read books and do everything I could humanly possible to inculcate my self into the system in an organic holistic way. So at UCLA, we had to write a full length feature, feature length screenplay, Alex every eight weeks, for three years, Jesus.

Alex Ferrari 4:51
Yeah, that's insane. Like I took me forever to write my first feature scripts.

Paul Castro 4:55
Yeah, right. Holy cow. So and those scripts couldn't keep up were invited to leave the program. So I felt Wow, I gotta get this done. So yeah with so I got really lucky because of that pressure because I had to come up with ideas. Of course, I have a nephew named Anthony and he at the time was five years old. He was like a redheaded Harry Potter type kid. And he was born on August 5, and he kept looking off into space and kind of pondering life a lot. And I say what's going on? What are you thinking about little guy? And he would say, Well, do you hear the train in the distance? Yeah. Do you hear the kids playing soccer? Yeah. Do you hear the birds chirping? I go, Yeah, he goes, put it all together. It's music. And I went, Whoa, okay, that's trippy, right. So it just kind of stayed with me. it resonated with me. And when it was time to come up with another idea for UCLA. I thought, Hmm, what if this kid had like this amazing musical ability simply because he could take sounds from everyday life. So I wrote a screenplay called noise and noise was about a young musical prodigy named August rush, who uses his gifts to reunite his estranged parents. And I came up with the name August rush because Anthony is born August 5, and Geoffrey Rush won the Oscar for a movie called Yeah, yeah, that movie. That's awesome movie. Yeah, it was a musical movie. So I thought, Okay, that makes sense. So, yeah, so it was just one of those things. Okay, here goes another screenplay. And the chairperson of the screenwriting department at UCLA, Richard Walter, who to this day is a dear friend and mentor and wonderful person. So Richard said, Hey, I really love this screenplay. May I give it to a producer friend of mine? And I said, Absolutely not. No.

Alex Ferrari 7:08
Nice, nice. No, no, no, please, please don't do that.

Paul Castro 7:12
Yeah, please, I want to I want to marinate in eggs and work at Starbucks for the rest of my life.

Alex Ferrari 7:18
Not that there's anything wrong with Starbucks.

Paul Castro 7:20
You know what? Starbucks is part of my daily ritual. And there are many days when I go man, I just wish I could just chill here and meet people all day and work.

Alex Ferrari 7:29
It's how much how many screenwriters are at Starbucks on a daily basis here in Los Angeles

Paul Castro 7:34
And the best ones are the ones that work there probably

Alex Ferrari 7:37
You know, the funniest things is that and this is hard for people outside of LA to understand is, when you walk into a Starbucks, any Starbucks in the Los Angeles area, you will see a laptop with final draft open and I've not yet found one that is always somebody working on a screenplay or if not you will hear someone talking about the story that the killer right now.

Paul Castro 8:01
You know, you're right. You You know, if you get pulled over by a cop for not wearing your seatbelt, you could always ask him. Hey, how's your screenplay gone? Oh, how did you know?

Alex Ferrari 8:12
Welcome to LA Hollyweird.

Paul Castro 8:14
Yeah, so anyway, so that was the situation and it was, you know, serendipity, cosmic choreography, a plethora of luck. And so I met with this producer, and he really liked the screenplay. He also liked something else I wrote called a gift for mom. And I was fortunate he gave me a three picture deal. Wow. And it was pretty substantial. But you know, I mean, just one of those things is just very lucky. There are screenwriters, I meet on a daily basis that are enormously talented that have still not, you know, I hesitate to say aided because what is that really, as long as you're being creative and contributing to the world in some way, shape, or form with your creativity? I think that's success. But

Alex Ferrari 9:03
But being able to make a living doing what you love to do is the dream in one way, and that dream is very true. You don't have to be a billionaire. You can you know, you can and that's something we preach it in the film also is like, you know, what, what is success to you guys? Like is 100 grand a year doing what you love? Is that enough? Is 50 grand a year? You know, living in Kansas? Is that enough? You know, like, yeah, that's the question you have to ask yourself, but anyway, sorry, I digress. Yeah.

Paul Castro 9:29
Right. That is a wonderful way to approach it. You know, what is your definition of success? First of all, what is that, you know? So that's, that's how I got started. I got very lucky.

Alex Ferrari 9:45
You were at the right place at the right time with the right project.

Paul Castro 9:47
Yeah, exactly. And I guess, you know, I mean, I definitely don't want to project false humility, but there's a lot of luck to it. But I also do have to say I wrote a lot by that time. When I sold August rush, I had written probably 11 feature films is maybe 12.

Alex Ferrari 10:07
That's a number. So I've interviewed a bunch of different screenwriters and the number is 10 1112, before something gets sold, is that's a, that's a good number. I mean, there are the the oddballs that sell it, like their first script or second script or something like that. But generally, you have to kind of, like, get all the bad scripts out that say, say, Yeah, get all the bad writing done early.

Paul Castro 10:28
Right. And I think you already know my philosophy. It's not right about what you know, it's right about what you know, hurts. You know, everyone has their little owies from life, something that's happened to them. Usually it's from childhood that has stayed with them, and the writers who are brave enough to go into the belly of the beast of that situation early on. You don't have to write the 910 1112 scripts, they can actually nail it on the first or second or third time. Right. And, and you don't have to write about that situation. Alex, as you know, it's writing about that emotion. So what is an emotion that is okay, so when the wave retracts of something that was horrifying or embarrassing or shameful to you, when that wave retracts, what are the seashell gems left behind? What is that emotion

Alex Ferrari 11:27
And that's the that's where some of the best writing has come from, in a lot of ways, especially when you're starting out I'd imagine. I mean, I've heard from many different I mean, I've read every screenwriting book and everything and, and and a lot of a lot of the Guru's and a lot of successful screenwriters as well always say, you know, at the beginning, you write what you know, or that pain that you're saying about then later on, as you become better with your craft, you can start creating the Harry Potter's of the world and things that aren't based in reality. Is that something Do you agree with? Or what's your point of view on that?

Paul Castro 12:00
No. Again, I would suggest never second guessing the market and what the market wants and what could sell or should sell. You look at something like Erin Brockovich, okay, right that ever sold now, but Julia Roberts said, Hey, this rocks, and then you have a movie.

Alex Ferrari 12:20
And Steven Soderbergh was like, yeah, I'll do it.

Paul Castro 12:24
It's like that everything came together. So I'm a big believer, Alex, in, you know, give yourself to the world and come from the spirit of contribution. Yeah. And yeah, the universe will conspire on your behalf.

Alex Ferrari 12:42
And that's a great, that's excellent. That's really is excellent. That's a great, that's great advice. Now with August rush, I've always wanted to ask a screenwriter this story. How was the process of getting a story you've got you've got it sold Now, what is the process of the journey that it went through to get it onto the screen? So like, how did the development process go? I mean, you don't have to I mean, I know this is a very long question. But just you know, as you know, just give us a Reader's Digest version of it. Like how, what was the journey, like for August rush to get it out to the big screen, because it was released by obviously a major studio with major stars in it. So it's not a slight little indie film. It was a it was a big studio movie at the time. So how was that process?

Paul Castro 13:24
Yeah. Well, it was it was an involved process. So I'll walk you through it. And actually, now it's another process because August rush is going to Broadway.

Alex Ferrari 13:34
Oh, how awesome is that? Congratulations.

Paul Castro 13:36
Yeah, it's fantastic. I'm excited because I think it will translate well to the stage. So yeah, so the Writers Guild only requires, you know, two rewrites and a Polish at the time when I sold it. But I was a young new writer eager to please. So I was in Writer rewrite. And some people would say hell, but I don't think it was I think it was a wonderful training ground for me. So over a two year period, I did I don't know 1617 drafts of that script. How many years? Yeah, tune it to two and a half years.

Alex Ferrari 14:16
So you're basically in development, as they call it, development help

Paul Castro 14:19
Right. I never want to I never want to use negative connotative. Fair enough. Fair enough. Yeah. It was challenging and it trained me well for my feature in Hollywood. Okay. And I often joke you know, something really tragic happened in that process. They got better.

Alex Ferrari 14:44
Amazingly enough, right? Yeah, cuz

Paul Castro 14:45
sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it doesn't but but it did and and then after about two, two and a half years, my agent, manager, lawyer, business manager, they had an intervention and said if you keep rewriting for This project we're going to resign because it's ludicrous. And an intervention that's brilliant. Yeah. Well that's how I looked at it because they sat me down. Is it enough is enough? Yeah. So I went on, you know, and I was doing other projects at the time. I did. You know, I had the good fortune of working with Stanley, you know, founder of Marvel Entertainment on two projects, and you know, I had other things going on, but I really loved dog construction, I of course, hoped it would get made someday. So a couple of years went by and came really close to getting made different directors attached and reading it and liking it. And then the producer did a movie with Robin Williams, and said, Hey, can you take a look at this script? and Robin read it and said, Yeah, but my part has to be more substantial. I believe that's how it went down friends. So the producer wisely hired two writers and they gave it another polish and pass and rewrite. And then about a year and a half later, I believe Robin officially became attached to the project and when Robin Williams is attached to a project you know, that's good news for everybody. So yeah, so fortunately then things were off to the races and then Freddie Highmore and Keri Russell and Johnny Meyers and yeah, it became a real thing.

Alex Ferrari 16:31
So the second that Robin got attached everything kind of opened the doors the floodgates kind of opened up everything got speech, the gut got hyped up a bit as far as speed is concerned.

Paul Castro 16:40
Exactly. Everything was coalesced and off to the races.

Alex Ferrari 16:45
The funny thing is I had an opportunity to meet Robin once and I tell you I've never met a human being and he was so calm and very you know he was not the the person that persona he portrays You know, he was that kind of energy energetic guy, but he that day he was very calm with his wife. And but you could feel the energy coming off of him. It was something that was tangible in the air like you could sense and I don't want to get into all the kind of like, you know, vibey stuff, but it literally you can sense the vibe of the man it was I never met a human being like that before. But I got it. I got it.

Paul Castro 17:22
You're you're onto something and I don't mind you getting it the vibey stuff. I mean, by the stuff it is everyone has energy and and and what is your energy? And are you are you comfortable with it? Do you like if you like what you're projecting to the world? Is it enhancing your life? Are you empowering people or depleting people are then powering you or depleting you? It all starts with energy. And that's what resonates from a great script. It just is vibrating the same way you just described. Yeah. And that's great. What Robin Williams?

Alex Ferrari 17:54
Yeah, he was he was amazing. And one one quick note, I actually was like, watching I think a documentary something on the matrix, the matrix boys, or boy and girl. And they, they that was in development hell forever, because it was forever and it took him they rewrote it, you were saying you rewrote it rewrote it. they rewrote that for five years. Five years. And that's why that script is that movie is so good. That's amazing. Yeah. But to your point, like, you know, sometimes that rewriting process is helpful.

Paul Castro 18:29
Yeah, you know, something takes over if you surrender to it, and you're not kicking and screaming. Right? Yeah. Right. We're all very precious with our work sometimes. And, you know, I would encourage the opposite, you know, when you just allow it to flow naturally organically and take input and you know, take in, you don't have to always use you can go Hmm, that's interesting. Maybe for my next trip. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 18:56
It's it's a lot of a lot of working with or collaborating with people a lot of times in Hollywood, from my understanding is that that, that that kind of mentality works really well, kind of going with the flow, kind of like, you know, just kind of riding the waves, because if you try to go against the flow is when you have problems.

Paul Castro 19:12
Yeah, that's a really good point. On the same note, we all as creatives need to have a strong clear vision for what we want to communicate creatively. And, you know, we're not typists, we get paid for our point of view of the world. And I really believe that's why new writers and old writers, veteran writers, can all be successful because everyone has a different point of view of the world. Alex, right. Yeah, you and I are born and raised in New York, and now we're different places. But, you know, your point of view of the world is very different than mine. And I celebrate that and that's why we go to the movies.

Alex Ferrari 19:50
And that was the that's the thing I always try to preach here as well is that filmmakers a lot of times they just like I'm going to be the next Tarantino. I'm going to be the next David Fincher. I'm gonna try to copy this or that and I'm like, you'll never be the next Tarantino because there's only one Tarantino and there's only one voice. I think only all the successful writers and filmmakers all have a very loud and distinctive style and voice. And that's what people don't get coming into the business. They all want to try to emulate the next. Oh, that's a big, so I'm going to do that. I'm like, well, that might that might work once, but it won't sustain a career. You know?

Paul Castro 20:29
Yeah, that's a good point. And you know, when you say they all have a loud voice, sometimes the loudest voices are the subtle, slight voices that just have a big impact because of their subtlety and their nuances.

Alex Ferrari 20:43
Well, like Wes Anderson, I mean, he's not a very loud personality by any stretch, but his movies are they scream is

Paul Castro 20:49
his style. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 20:53
And Buster and Buster Keaton, for that matter, as well. I mean, he was obviously silent. But his style, his style of humor, and his style of storytelling is something that was very distinctive. So So let me ask you, when does a writer need an agent or manager is another big question a lot of screenwriters ask?

Paul Castro 21:13
You know? It's a great question. And I think it goes back to the approach of contribution. Okay, most writers and I was there to where you use, I need an agent, I want an agent, I need to sell something, I want an agent or manager. And you first have to ask yourself, what do I have in my vault? to contribute to this agent? Or manager? Yes. Yeah. What a value. Yeah. Instead of

Alex Ferrari 21:41
instead of looking at an agent, or a manager is like, what can you do for me? You should flip the script a bit. And that's awesome advice.

Paul Castro 21:48
Yeah, absolutely. So you know, when I when I was in LA, you know, you know, Joe manganiello. When he was an actor running around LA, he was also the type of guy who, Hey, Joe, what are you doing this weekend, I'm driving two hours to San Diego for a little play, then I'm not getting paid for and driving two hours back, which I've Oh, by the way I've been doing for the last month and a half. You know, it was a person who is on purpose, not paycheck, looking to contribute at a high level. And the rest of it just, you know, came like an avalanche of abundance for that guy. And it happens for most successful people if they're coming from a place of contribution, circling back for agents, first of all, new writers and all writers and anyone in the creative arts, especially media and entertainment, first needs to realize that agents are not scumbags. Now, are there scumbags in every single profession? on the planet? Yes, yes. Well, it's politics,

Alex Ferrari 22:51
obviously, obviously, not politics. They're on the up and up, of course,

Paul Castro 22:57
but but there's going to be that in any profession. So if you're coming to Hollywood, and saying, oh, all agents are bastards, then yeah, that's gonna be your experience. But I think they're great. If you're contributing to them, they're going to be wonderful, and they're going to contribute to you and they're going to enhance your career. So I would suggest having a body of work besides just one screenplay. I would, you know, 2345, maybe some pilot episodes for TV. If you have some non scripted reality show ideas, you know, sculpt that as well. Let them know that you're you're just not a one trick pony you have, you're in this for the long haul, and you have an arsenal to contribute to them. And they're stable.

Alex Ferrari 23:43
Right? That's a great, that's amazing advice, actually. Now what and this is, I

Paul Castro 23:48
love that you say that's amazing advice, actually, as if the actually part means usually your advice is terrible, but

Alex Ferrari 23:54
not you, not you. But as a general answer to these kind of questions. I know I'm sure. A lot of times people will just like oh, well you know, you got to do this and that and it's like, okay, that's an answer, but it's not like so what I try to do with my guests is I really try to dig for questions that I want to know answers to. So like, that's like, I've always asked him like, what, what do I need to do to create get an agent or manager? Should I even need one as a director at this point in Mike in my life in my career, and like, well, you have to and that's all about what we were talking about earlier about marketing is like you as a creator are marketing yourself to an agent and manager and selling yourself to them to go look, this is what I can do for you. Because it's already assumed that they can do something for for the writer if they're choosing the proper agent or manager. So exactly,

Paul Castro 24:44
it's a good point and Okay, so if I said to a writer, would you like Aaron Sorkin's agent, they would probably say What? Oh, of course, of course, but what if you don't write character Driven talky type movies that are very deep and insightful and poignant. What if you are the popcorn summer blockbuster action adventure guy or horror film guy is Aaron Sorkin's agent, the right guy for you probably not maybe down the hall, his colleague, maybe she's the right agent for you. Maybe she is the one that has sold a bunch of horror films. So I think targeting the right representation is just as important as if you should have representation or not.

Alex Ferrari 25:38
Now, this is a big question. As I as I'm digging deep here. What is the difference between a screenplay that actually sells and one that doesn't sell? And I know that's a real broad term, so do the best you can?

Paul Castro 25:52
It's an easy question to answer. Oh, good. You know, in Hollywood, they don't buy screenplays, they buy emotion. So if you can make a reader feel something on a very visceral level, then they cannot be ignored. Haley Fox, I always mentioned Haley by name, because she was the development executive at the production company that bought my first screenplay. And she was so passionate about it that she says if you don't buy this screenplay, I am going to quit and I've been here seven years, but there's no need for me to be here. Wow, she felt that deeply about the material. Now, when writers are coming from a place of truth facing that hurt that we talked about those little alleys from childhood that they say little obviously I'm not making light of it, they're very substantial. And they they can take that that hurt or that rage and put it on the page and then eventually makes to the big stage of of, you know, cinema, or television. It's because somebody felt something if they felt deeply about it, and it can't be ignored. And those are the screenplays teleplays pilot episodes that sell because people all have that response. You look at Eric Ross, Forrest Gump.

Alex Ferrari 27:24
It's amazing.

Paul Castro 27:24
Robert Zemeckis gave it to Tom Hanks when he was going on vacation to Europe. And Tom said, Yeah, I really don't want to read anything. I'm on vacation. And he's and Zemeckis said well just read like the first 10 pages on the flight and by the time the flight landed, Tom Hanks was attached to Forrest Gump. And the rest as they say is history. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 27:45
they're talking talking about emotion like there's a show I watch now one that I'm loyal to on on TV It's called The Goldbergs and and Adam Goldberg is the writer and creator of that and that's literally he's taking his hour weeks every week and putting them out on the screen and but that authenticity it's not like another 80s show. Oh, it's another Oh, we're all making fun of the 80s which I'm a huge 80s fan that's probably one of the reasons I like it so much but the characters the family the and then every week at the end he shows a video when he was shot when he was a kid Are you like oh this is just brilliant. That's that kind of stuff that you're talking about that's so emotional in his genre

Paul Castro 28:27
yeah and and Adams been doing this a while right yeah, so he's so he's finally come to the point where is he now i'm going to give myself this is this is the real hurt. Hmm. And in real estate, the three most important things are location, location, location, and in writing, especially screenwriting. It's conflict, conflict conflict.

Alex Ferrari 28:48
Yeah. And there's a lot of conflict than that.

Paul Castro 28:53
Now I get if I rewrote myself, it would just be one conflict. Exactly. Exactly. In economics.

Alex Ferrari 28:59
Real quick. Now I know loglines is a big, big question. A lot of times for starting up screen starting screenwriters like how important is it? How important is it in the selling process? Is it something what's your experience with that?

Paul Castro 29:12
Yeah, I think it's really important and it's overlooked and it's underrated. In the process. If you can not sculpt, have vibrant, lean logline that's going to fully communicate your screenplay, or your television show idea, then you're not ready to go any further. It's one of the most most difficult parts of the process Alex, it really is.

Alex Ferrari 29:40
I know I've had to write a couple of their pain.

Paul Castro 29:44
And you're gonna have to try it out with friends and families and rewrite it and see when they glaze over and when they get excited, and you're gonna have to keep working on it until it's really just nailed, right?

Alex Ferrari 29:54
And it's like every word means something like literally every single syllable mean something because the real estate So sure, it's almost like a Twitter tweet. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Yeah, you have to make it really concise.

Paul Castro 30:20
Yeah, I like that the real estate real estate is short. That's a good way of putting it. It is and people don't have time to really, you know, before I was even represented, I would, you know, try to get agents on the phone. and at what time I got more diviner, he was an old Hollywood agent, very famous at the time, and more, sadly has since passed, but it was after hours, and I called you know, one of the big three I think more it was with ICM at the time, and his assistants are gone. So guess who answered the darn phone more diviner and Mr. Vaughn All right, when a film's doing okay, what do you got? What do you got kid? Yeah. And I literally had to pitch that thing and Title Genre and the pitch and that was it. Yeah. And off of that he wanted to read the screenplay. And it wasn't because I just took it off the top of my head. Fortunately, I had heard this before, copious times at UCLA where they hammered into us. This is very important, so I was prepared. And there's been times when I've read new writers and I've I read their screenplay. Oh my god, this is fantastic. And they go, Well, you didn't seem very enthused when I first pitched it to you. Well, that's because your pitch was well it's kind of like you know,

Alex Ferrari 31:42
it's kind of like Forrest Gump meets hostal you know, it's kind of

Paul Castro 31:48
Yeah, and it's challenging when you're using other material to pitch your your your materials such as saying it's like this and like that, because what if the person hasn't seen one of those or both of those? right?

Alex Ferrari 32:02
Exactly. Yeah. And and anytime i've i've actually asked this question before on the shows like if you you know, it's kind of like the matrix meets you know, Cinderella I actually would watch that movie. But one key thing if you are gonna do that, and it is kind of like a lot of times unnecessary evil to have that in your back pocket because someone's going to ask that question sometimes. At least that's what I've been told. Make sure that you use movies that have been hits so it's like Ishtar meets the fantastic for the new one. So it's like not really going to help you sell your product

Paul Castro 32:39
although there have been movies that were not hits that just you know people loved or great reviews were correct yeah I'm came later on so my whole life you know the holidays are coming up and on TV we're gonna see it's a wonderful life as we do every year but when that first came out it wasn't well received at all.

Alex Ferrari 32:58
Yeah, well seemed like Shawshank Redemption picked up its steam much later on after its initial release.

Paul Castro 33:03
Yeah, and I it's funny at titles I know we're not on the title subject. Yeah, like I need to bring it up. Anyway, those titles are so important. That was the worst title. Yeah, I mean, but but it was from a Stephen King novella, Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption, right? So being that it was the great Steve, Steven King, are they going to say no, we hate your title. But that was a situation I think if the title was a little different, it probably would have had a bigger audience. But that being said, it's a masterpiece and Frank Darabont and Stephen King I mean, wow,

Alex Ferrari 33:38
I know it's absolutely but yeah, you're right. Like that's the one of the worst titles in history, there was a new movie that that just came out with the worst title is The Sandra Bullock movie, and Billy Bob Thornton. Our brand is crisis. I saw the poster for that. I'm like, wow, who came up with that? title? It's like, I'm sure it's a fun movie. And I love Sandra Bullock I love everybody in the in the movie, but I'm like, and it died. It died a miserable horrible death at the box office. Yeah. And I imagine that the title did not help the situation.

Paul Castro 34:10
Yeah. That's a really important aspect of the whole process. I mean, let's talk about Okay, if you're a parent and you have a newborn on the way, let's decide, you know, I don't know should we eat? Let's not even think about it. It doesn't really matter. Okay. Now, this is your child, you're going to put a lot of thought into what that person's name is. You know, a dear friend of mine, Luke fantino, who's at Warner Brothers marketing. Such a smart guy and he really I really think he has the crystal ball and if a movie is going to do well or not simply because he can look at it from a helicopter point of view and a micro point of view and all these nuances we're talking about

Alex Ferrari 34:57
titles are titles are extremely empowering. And and I think and again, it's goes back to marketing and branding and and, and a lot of screenwriters and artists in general filmmakers don't look at their art as product. But if you look at it as product and market it and sell it as product, even though it's art, you have so much better chance of selling it to whatever aspect you're trying to sell it to in the business. So if you're trying to sell it to an agent, sell it to a production company, sell it to an audience, sell it to the person you're just pitching it to. There's it's always about selling it and promoting it and packaging it in a right way to get the attention or the the end result that you're looking for.

Paul Castro 35:40
Yeah, you're absolutely right. It's an interesting craft, because it's not only a craft, it's a profession. And it's where art and commerce meet. And a lot of these production houses, many majors, the big studios, the marketing department has the final word on if the screenplay is going to be greenlit or sold or bought. It will go through all the proper channels. But if the marketing department goes, Oh my God, we love it. But we don't know how to market it. And guess what?

Alex Ferrari 36:11
It's done. It's done. Yeah, it's done. Unless you're doing it independently, and you've got your own money. And you're going to do it that route. It's It's rough. Absolutely. Now talking about production companies. How do how does a screenwriter should a screenwriter submit their work to a producer or a company?

Paul Castro 36:30
Well, it's challenging because a lot of them don't accept unsolicited material for various legalities. That being said, some will have open processes where you have to sign certain forms, and then they'll accept it. Again, I would target a production company that does your type of material. I would find a person in that production company, not just blindly send it there. I would get on the phone, build a relationship with them, meet them on social media. And, you know, I think the best approach is to ask advice if you're a new writer in this industry, you know, you don't have all the answers. And oh, by the way, I don't have all the answers. I'm constantly asking advice from people. You know, I had the good fortune of sitting down for a couple of ours with Michael Eisner. And I've known Michael for five, six years now. It's probably been like seven years now. And I'm always looking for advice from him. But I'm also looking, how can I add value to him? Right, but I'm always trying to, you know, what, what are your needs? And how can I say she ate those as a production company? What do they want to do? Do they want to make art? Do they want to win an Oscar? Do they want to make money of course they want to make money. And there's nothing wrong with making money. This is an industry where, you know, great make money, you know, right? If Alex's screenplay gets made, it's going to employ 1000s of people and there's going to be all these other ancillary business entities that are going to benefit from Alex's screenplay it could be on HBO and Showtime it could be on an aeroplane going to you know, Europe, it can be in a hotel room while I'm there with my you know, whatever. So so it's a really interesting world in the fact that once the property is add there to the world, many people can benefit from it. And of course, when I say property, that screenplay

Alex Ferrari 38:38
Exactly, exactly. Now, I'm going to get more personal into your process. What is your process of writing a screenplay? If you don't mind? This is just a basic you know, as NPCs What do you What's your process of books, I always find it fascinating. Everyone approaches the craft differently. So I'd love to hear what how you do it.

Paul Castro 38:56
Yeah, so the idea is obviously paramount. So does the idea really rock your world? Is it something that you're thinking about a lot is almost haunting you. And if you can package it into that logline package is not a good word for this. But if you can create a logline where you've captured what you initially responded favorably towards your idea, then you're on to something. So I do the logline. And I work a lot on that as far as just sculpting re sculpting it, you know, like you said, wisely, every word counts right? And even if it's the right word isn't the right word for the lyrical nature of your logline. So you have to see how it fits into the overall scheme of things as

Alex Ferrari 39:49
well. loglines are generally it's an it's an art form in itself.

Paul Castro 39:53
Yeah, absolutely. And then for your audience members after that may not know what a logline is. It's a one liner, I often say is a one liner. Is that a logline? Because I'm not even sure where that etymology

Alex Ferrari 40:03
Where's? Where's the login? Where's the line? Exactly.

Paul Castro 40:07
So once I have the log line, I do a two page movie, which is basically two pages double spaced of, if Alex and I were walking to the bus stop, and Alex says, Hey, man, I gotta go. What did you see last night and I tell you what my movie is, as we're both going in different directions. It's that fast. It just really broad strokes, but it's more involved than the log line. And then I do a 30 to 60 beat outline. And but I hit some did that my phone off? I saw

Alex Ferrari 40:47
I can't, I cannot I cannot work like this

Paul Castro 40:49
now. Yeah. Good to say. Yeah. So so the outline hits, various speeds. And as you know, Alex, you know, the opening pages are very important, especially page one, the opening images, the inciting incident, the end of Act One, which I say is page 17 page, then page 30, then page 45. Then page 60, which is the tentpole of your movie, page 75, page 90. And then what is your finale? Those are the main beats that you need to get first, before you fill in the rest of your beats. And you know, when people go, Well, how do I know what beat goes next? Well, I always say the best movies are good news, followed by bad news. Good news, followed by bad news. And, but they are increasing in intensity as the screenplay or movie progresses. So if there's a good news moment, there's going to be an equally powerful bad news moment. And then the next good news moment is going to be even more substantial. And the next bad news moments can be more substantial. And it has to adhere to the law of rising action. Okay, because of the best movies, it grows in intensity, that's what keeps us riveted, right? Yeah. So then once you have the, the outline established, you know, character breakdowns. Now, with my character breakdowns, I like to do the protagonist and the antagonist. And it's in first person, and they're just kind of ranting, okay, they're just kind of talking. And you're getting their personality, you're getting their vibe, and you're getting who this person is. I know a lot of writers and a lot of actors, you know, what was their favorite color? What ice cream did they have when they were three years old? That's cool. If it works for your process. For me, that's not my process. I just kind of like to capture the voice of the character and the energy of the character. And then it's off to the races.

Alex Ferrari 42:59
And then you just start start filling in those gaps. Yeah, yeah. So the outline. And similarly, when I write the outline is everything to me, like I have to have, it's this, it's basically the foundation of the entire story. So without these points of like a guide, you're just lost in my opinion. I mean, everyone's process is different. But for me, it makes it much easier because you're like, Okay, I need to get to this point here. Okay, just got a boom, boom, boom, that's point here, boom, boom, boom, here point. So having those key points, is there just kind of like mile markers on the journey?

Paul Castro 43:31
structure is paramount. I mean, you're a professional. And this is not a nother thing. new writers go, Well, I want to be a writer, I hope to be a writer. No, you are a writer. And you are a professional writer. When you start acting like a professional writer, and professed professional writers, they outline, they sculpt, they make this the blueprint on which they're going to create and that's what structure is, it's it's the canvas on which we paint with words.

Alex Ferrari 43:59
That's, that was actually quite beautiful.

Paul Castro 44:05
So when the studio is going to hire you for an original piece of spec script that you've written or for a rewrite, they're hiring you for your expertise in this craft as much as they are hiring you for your abundance of creativity and execution.

Alex Ferrari 44:26
That's Yeah, absolutely. Now, let me ask you, the age old question, what is more important plot or character?

Paul Castro 44:35
You know, you know, I mean, that's a tough one to answer, because I think it's a symbiotic relationship. It's the balance. It's the Yang, the yin and the yang. It's the space between the notes makes the music, right, it's this. I mean, this is this is what we're all talking about. So I would never put more weight on one or the other. That being said, the best stories are about one thing. Okay, so you look at a commercial success like the movie taken in recent years. Yeah. Okay. That entire movie is about Liam Neeson Doing what?

Alex Ferrari 45:21
just killing and kicking everyone's that's the way to go going, going to save his daughter.

Paul Castro 45:27
Right? His daughter has been

Alex Ferrari 45:29
kidnapped, taken sorry. kidnapped, horrible, horrible they've taken much better. So he just

Paul Castro 45:35
wants to get her back. So that is what the whole movie is about. In jaws they need to kill the shark. Exactly. So, you know, the best movies, I believe, are about one pending question that needs to be answered by the end of the movie.

Alex Ferrari 45:55
So how what would be the question for Star Wars? You tell me, I would imagine it's the boy's journey to God. I've seen that movie a million times. And I'm a huge fan of it. But like how can you and it's probably the most, the best example of the hero's journey ever done to film I can't say I don't know. Like Isn't it about Luke's journey to find himself and become a man eventually his his his journey from being a boy to being a Jedi along the way and a path and you know, God you see it's getting very convoluted here.

Paul Castro 46:34
Where Where does he find his power

Alex Ferrari 46:38
within himself? There you go. That's it. That's the story.

Paul Castro 46:42
Andy in Shrek Shawshank Redemption, you know, the Tim Robbins character. This is a man who felt imprisoned and only experienced freedom by going to jail for a crime he didn't commit. Right? So he could have been a you know, a son's in car car, Sir, it is a free of being incarcerated his whole life and continued to do his accounting or banking. But he would have never felt free unless he had that experience.

Alex Ferrari 47:20
That's very true.

Paul Castro 47:21

Alex Ferrari 47:22
So it's always finding that one thing it's about

Paul Castro 47:27
Yeah, it is. And there's a great line get busy living or get busy dying.

Alex Ferrari 47:33
That pretty much covers it, doesn't it?

Paul Castro 47:38
I mean, that's the that's a great line in the movie. And it basically is the movie, isn't it? Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 47:43
the whole movie is basically in that line, get busy living or get busy dying. And that explains that movie. So well. I talked about that movie constantly on the show. Because it's, it's it's one of my top five. You know, it's it's amazing. Now, you have been you've done. You've been busy not only as a screenwriter, but as also as a teacher, and instructor and you've created this awesome course called called the million dollar screenplay. How did you come up with the course? And what was the purpose behind it?

Paul Castro 48:14
Yeah, so I taught at UCLA for over a decade. And I've spoken around the country at various events when they've invited me on the craft of screenwriting. And I thought, Okay, well, a lot of people are always asking about the million dollar screenwriter or the million dollar screenplay. What is that all about? And it's not about selling the million dollar screenplay and becoming a million dollar screenwriter. It's about having a body of material that's going to influence the masses positively through your art. So I thought, well, how can I communicate that in a course. And I thought, well, I'm going to teach the same thing I taught at UCLA and the undergraduate program, and then the master's program. And structure is going to be a big part of it. And I'm going to hopefully put it in a form that's digestible to whoever wants to take the course. And it's not going to be, you know, 25 or 50 hours long, it's going to be two hours long. And they're going to get as much from it as if they were in a master's program in screenwriting. So it's a

Alex Ferrari 49:26
really condensed version of everything. So like, it's basically the logline of your course. very condensed and right to the point. Well, that's

Paul Castro 49:36
right to the point, you know, I am super blessed Alex, I have a daughter and she's amazing, right? And someday she may want to become a screenwriter. So I thought to myself, well, if I were going to sit down with her and walk her through this craft and put her in the best possible position to succeed as a screenwriter, what would I do? Teacher and that's what the course is.

Alex Ferrari 50:04
That well I've already started taking the course I haven't gone through the whole course just yet I've started taking the course and I was so blown away just by the beginning of the course that I reached out to you. I was like, Oh no, I gotta get Paul on the show. I gotta get Paul on the show. I gotta, I gotta spread the word. I got to spread the word I drank I drank I drank the Kool Aid, sir. Thanks.

Paul Castro 50:21
You know you to me is a nice platform for education and I'm proud to be on their site.

Alex Ferrari 50:26
Yeah, it's an awesome it's an awesome awesome course. And that's great. It's I just discovered it myself. Udemy and they are amazing and and I'll make sure to everyone to have links in the show notes where you can get the the course and stuff. Now on a psych aside question. Um, I have, just because I know you've been, we're probably around the same vintage. So we there was a time where there was the rock and roll screenwriter, arguably to say that Tarantino is probably the last rock and roll screenwriter today but there was that moment that moment in time when there was the Shane blanks, Shane blacks of the world, and the Joe Astor houses and they were making 2 million a pop 3 million a pop sometimes 5 million, depending with back end or bonuses on screenplays. What are those days completely gone? And how different is the landscape? The screenwriting landscape today?

Paul Castro 51:24
Yeah, well, deals are structured in all sorts of creative ways. And when you're dealing with agents, and you know, so you look at someone like an Aaron Sorkin okay. And I'm not going to the I certainly like the Steve Jobs movie, but I think social network was, was a great movie. So if Aaron Sorkin got his quote, so what I don't know what he's getting these days, probably two or $3 million a screenplay. But there's a chance maybe they said, Hey, Aaron, can you take a million on this and get some back end points? I don't know if they did that deal. I have no idea. But that could be super lucrative for a screenwriter. So when you look at just what's in, you know, the trades of what a screenwriter made on a script sale, I wouldn't look at that I would look at, you know, the deal behind the deal. Right. And that is, yeah, I'm sorry. No, go ahead. Go ahead. No, you go ahead. I want to hear you

Alex Ferrari 52:26
know, I was due to your point to your point, I was actually watching a documentary on Arnold Schwarzenegger, where he's, uh, you know, I've studied Arnold's career for many, many years, child of the 80s and stuff. But he was talking the business side of things. And he said, he asked that they asked him the question, which was the most lucrative film you've ever made? They made the most money on do what do you think the answer is to that? I'm sure, you know, his whole filmography? What what's movie do you think he made the most money on?

Paul Castro 52:57
That's a good question. I would imagine Terminator he had back end points. When we got to the sequels today,

Alex Ferrari 53:03
to this date. The most profitable film he ever did was twins.

Paul Castro 53:08
Really? Did he get back end points?

Alex Ferrari 53:11
They structured a deal that was it's kind of almost like the George Lucas. Oh, don't worry about the merchandising rights deal. Because him and Danny DeVito and Reitman, Ivan Reitman, the director, they all walked in to you. I think it was universal. If a mistake was universal, or Fox, I forgot who it was. I think it was universal who did it and they walked in and he talked to the President and like look, we're all gonna do it we're all gonna do it for like no money. We just want to we just want like, and it was an insane amount of back end points, something that no one had ever done before. But the studio was like Oh great. If it's a Hey, we'll make some money if it's not a hit, we don't take you know, because Arnold was asking for 20 million at the time and you know, all this kind of stuff. And he didn't say the number but he says it's the most lucrative things. So back end points and especially depending on the kind of deal you can make is it's very lucrative, I mean, look at look at I mean, Keanu Reeves in the matrix movies jack nicholson on the Batman movie he pulled like 60 million off of that because he got a piece of the merchandising I mean it's insane

Paul Castro 54:11
yeah is the the gift that keeps giving and you know, that's where good representation comes into play because as a creative I would encourage you to try to negotiate those deals yourself and even if you have the ability to negotiate those from your you know, upbringing or past life experiences you know, it's better to keep you clean as the creative I think

Alex Ferrari 54:37
it shelters you a little bit from the the messiness that is the business.

Paul Castro 54:41
Yes, it could be you know, involved. So then you look at the guild's right, like so you have the Directors Guild, the DGA, and then sag Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America, W GA, and Producers Guild of America. Those guilds are set up to protect the creative person. So you You know you can look up you know, the August rush deal I think it was in March of 2000 and go Wow, that was a big number but it's really about you know the life of the movie afterwards and there's no better time to be a creative person as screenwriter especially because just go to your local cable operator and see how many channels are on there.

Alex Ferrari 55:24
And not even let's not even talk about streaming

Paul Castro 55:26
streaming and Netflix and now Amazon's in the game and Hulu and YouTube. Absolutely. And it's going to keep going and growing as it should. And new forms that are no longer new forms webisodes are fantastic so

Alex Ferrari 55:42
I'm not do suggest film it detects screenwriters kind of also put their dip their toe like I mean that screenplays are for feature films is, you know, that's the golden trophy, if you will, that's that's the thing that everybody's like, Oh, I want to see my movie in the big screen. But it's, you might take a different route, like now like, oh, maybe you could get something done on Hulu or an Amazon or Yahoo or things like that, that might have been very much more difficult time trying to get done more mainstream, but get your foot in the door. And now you have something to show do you suggest them stuff like that?

Paul Castro 56:15
Yeah, absolutely. I don't think any Avenue has a monopoly on how a writer should be produced and out to the world. And, you know, again, don't be so precious with your work. I don't want to have an Oscar. So unless I get a studio deal, it's not going to accept anything now. Get yourself out there. You know, this is all about, you know, sharing your gift with others. This is a short journey. I mean, I hate to say it, but 100 years from now, most of us are not going to be here. Right, right. So you know, I just read Nikola Tesla's books, actually, there's a few books on him. And after I read the first one, I kind of became addicted to his story.

Alex Ferrari 57:01
He's amazing. Yeah, amazing, amazing man. And this

Paul Castro 57:05
was a person who was like, yeah, let the Edison's of the world make crazy cash. I'm just gonna keep creating, and I'll be okay. And he was right. It doesn't mean you should be frivolous and irresponsible with you know, well, he

Alex Ferrari 57:18
could have been he could have made a couple of choices. Just a couple of, you know, patents, just a couple could have been doing a little bit better. He didn't have to have such a tough time. But there's a better balance. It's all about balance to Edison's on one end. Tesla was on the other. You should be somewhere in the middle.

Paul Castro 57:37
Yeah. And Tesla had a few few patents as well that he did sell. But yeah, you're right. You're absolutely right. And then you know, it's funny that that his name is Tesla. And then they the new car company, Tesla, you know, followed that it was named after him, right? And look at the amazing, innovative things Tesla Motors is doing. It's unbelievable.

Alex Ferrari 57:57
It's crazy. And I can't wait for you know, the price to come down so I could afford. So and one thing I wanted to say I wanted to cover real quick because you mentioned this earlier in the podcast that with managers and agents and this is something I want to kind of stress the people like let's say you have less you're starting out screenwriter, you have one screenplay. And you have the opportunity to pitch Aaron Sorkin and let's say it's aligned with Aaron Sorkin. You might not be Aaron Sorkin's agent, you might not be ready to be thrown into that kind of world yet you might not have the arsenal yet the experience you had to like be thrown into a writers room because you haven't done it yet. Or you haven't had the experience. You haven't written those, you know, 20 screenplays or 10 screenplays? You haven't gotten? You haven't worked out your craft enough? Is that a fair statement to say? Oh, to be wary of that? Sometimes. I mean, obviously when an opportunity knocks, you know, take it, but you should be should be cautious, cautious about that kind of stuff. Right?

Paul Castro 58:59
Well, let me let me understand your question. So you're saying just so I understand that, if you are given the opportunity to jump into the big leagues waters of the big leagues, you know, but

Alex Ferrari 59:13
you haven't, but you haven't, but you haven't done right, but you haven't done miners leagues yet. And they're like, all of a sudden, I'm in the I'm in the, you know, starting lineup of the Yankees, but I've swung the bat 15 times in my life. So is it smart to jump in there? Because you'll never get that shot again? Or is it? Do you see what I'm saying? Cuz I'll give you a real quick story. I was I was brought in after I did one of my movies. I was brought into some major agencies and major, you know, talent agencies and, you know, agents and managers and I had a lot of meetings. And there was this one agent that I had a meeting with, and he was smelling me out, you know, he was trying to kind of figure out what I could do, and I didn't come from the place of what I could do for him. I came from the place of what you can do for me, and, and I was also realizing that I was just not ready yet. Like I was not ready. Yeah, yeah, sure I could direct the movie and I could do things. But if thrown into this into the into the deep end of the pool, would I have survived, I would, I would have survived but would have thrived in that environment. So that's the kind of, you know, maybe I'm coming from a fearful place. I don't know, I would love to hear your point of view of like, what you should do if something like that happens. And obviously, we've all heard stories of people, like Robert Rodriguez who got the shot, and he flourished and doing what he does. Yeah, what do you feel? We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Paul Castro 1:00:42
What's your Well, you know, my belief system is jumping, the net will appear. And you look at somebody like Robert Rodriguez, who you just mentioned. So El Mariachi, he financed by becoming a personal lab rat, we're doing pharmaceutical experiments on him. I mean, this was a person who was he's gonna get made no matter what was driven, is driven, but he was driven not for fame or fortune, he would just wanted to express his creativity to the world. So I would say, Okay, if you were going to give advice to Alex of yesteryear, how would you have approached those precious coveted meetings that you had differently?

Alex Ferrari 1:01:29
Well, the thing is, I've gone through the path, I've gone through the game a few times, you know, with my first film, got a lot of attention, I got studio calls, I got that stuff. And then I wasn't ready. I didn't have a script, a screenplay ready. I didn't have any other projects ready. And the heat was on me. But I didn't have anything else to show. So basically, everyone's like, that's nice. You did this really great short film. But there was nothing left, like I and I couldn't make it fast enough. And then by that time, the spotlight was gone on to the next guy, and the rest is history. And then it happened again, when I released my met a few other projects of mine, and I've gone through this Gambit a few times, never making it to the beat, but I've had, you know, serious meetings with serious guys and people. What I would say to the old out, and it's just like now turned into a session, I appreciate it. What I would say to the Alex of yesteryear is to not be so would not not be so eager to impress people with what you can do and your prowess. Be, but be more coming from a place of expression as an artist, on this is an artistic, artistic point of view, it's become, show, share your voice, and share your voice share who you are more than trying to be the next this or the next that. And that's a mistake a lot of filmmakers make on the business side, I would have done more research, I would have prepared myself better to go into these meetings that go into the Battle of these meetings. In that sense. It was kind of like going in, you know, it's like going to a knife fight or go into a gunfight with a knife. You know, it's like you brought a knife to a gunfight. It's similar, similar mentality, I was not ready yet. And also mentally, I wasn't there yet, as well. So I think more homework would have been my advice on the business side, and more expression of who you are as an artist, for better or worse if they people like you or not, and also not trying to please, everybody, because you will never please anybody, everybody. And that's something I've learned doing indie film hustle. And being online is you can't please everybody, you know, my point of view is not going to be everyone's point of view. And that's okay. I mean, there's certain people who look at Howard Stern, who's made hundreds of millions of dollars on his point of view, whether you agree with him or not, you know, it's it's, you know, some people think he's a pig, some people think he's awesome, but it's just the point of view. And that's all you can really do as an artist is express yourself as who you are. And that's the people who I think become successful in whatever Avenue, they go down.

Paul Castro 1:04:07
Yeah, excellent point. And, yeah, and that's a very honest assessment of where you were at the time and what you would have done differently because he had to be, you know, a little bit brave to really take a hard look at yourself and who you are and who you are, and who you want to be. And, of course, all want to be the best version of ourselves. Right? Yeah. But that being said, I think you could have made that relationship successful. Yes, with the right approach and spirit, which you identified. And, you know, you mentioned a couple of key things you've said during this chat, which I think is interesting. You said in one of your stories, you said you're never going to get this opportunity again. Right. That's how a lot of people think, of course you are no one is one shot or nothing? I mean you know you'll never work in this town again over if you wrote you know Schindler's List and is an agent going to go oh no you pissed me off two years ago I'm not going to now it's a masterpiece so they're going to get it made. Yeah. So I think let your material do the talking for you and don't talk yourself out of a deal which a lot of writers do they get very excited and they don't know when to go Okay, I'm just gonna shut up and let the experts talk and do my job right and I'm talking to myself as well by the way

Alex Ferrari 1:05:42
Yeah, I feel I feel you on that one no question about it Alex

Paul Castro 1:05:46
one thing you said also which before I forget I'm gonna mention is going into battle Well, I would change your your, your inner voice, what battle there's no battle This is beautiful. This is going to be a lovely waltz. And it's going to be an under the moonlight Waltz with Mr. or Mrs. Agent. And by the end of it, you know, we're going to part ways and they're going to be feeling great and a little bit wealthier than before. And I'm going to feel great and get to do my craft at a high level, how beautiful and now

Alex Ferrari 1:06:23
I'm, I'm going to tell I'm gonna say something here because I love what we're doing here. It's It's wonderful. And I'm actually getting a lot out of it personally. So I really appreciate it. But what I think is that a lot of filmmakers, screenwriters, artists in general, and you know, I've been around this business for a long time, and I've been in the trenches. Most of that career. I've, I've dabbled in, you know, I've gotten worked on projects, I've got Sundance, I've worked with Oscar winners, I've worked with people, you know, a different project, my project, I've never gotten to that level, yet. But what I've noticed is is something I'm working on as an artist, as well. And this one indie film hustle is kind of teaching me is that I have a lot of armor on. And I have a lot of like, like you said that battle terminology. When my inner my inner voice, my inner spirit is not that kind of guy. But being beaten up by the business for so many years in different avenues of the business, whether it be in post production, where I come from, or screenwriting or filmmaking, or anywhere, artists generally will just throw this armor on and then it's the guard that armor starts getting heavier and heavier and heavier to the point where you can't move and you can't even do anything. where someone like you just said, you know it's a it's a waltz, it's a float. When you think of a waltz, what do you think you don't think of anything heavy, you think of something very flowing very smooth, very just, you know, it just kind of going with the flow. And I think a lot of artists, as the years go by become more and more disgruntled. In a lot of ways I'm that person as well, I have been and I've been kind of trying to get myself out of it. And just hearing you analyze my terminology has shined a light on like, man, he's absolutely right. It's not a battle. And if you walk into a meeting like that as a battle, then it's gonna be a battle. But if you walk into a meeting like that with a much more open energy and just like, Hey, this is the way it's gonna go. And if it's for you, great if it's not, there's another opportunity down the street. And that's the that's something I wanted to kind of say to everybody listening that, you know, this business does beat you up a lot. And I'm sure, Paul, you you can attest to this. I mean, it is a brutal business in many ways. But it doesn't have to be and you can kind of make things flow for you. And I think a lot of people who are working at the highest levels. Aren't these kind of Bulldogs, sometimes they are. But a lot of times they're not.

Paul Castro 1:08:55
And it depends who you're dealing with. And surely what you're what circles Have you created, okay, yeah, they have and, and getting, getting beaten up, but who wants to be in that industry going to battle trenches, these are all war terminology. So who wants that? So as a new writer, I would encourage you to do this exercise. Write list of adjectives of what you think the entertainment industry is. And if your adjectives include brutal, pretentious, fake, and then the list goes on and on and on, then I would encourage you to re think and revamp that entire list. the entertainment industry, my list is they're creative. They're generous. We influence the masses positively. There's this wonderful thing we do, which we get people out of their daily routine and we put them in the moment to where they don't Don't have to think about yesterday or tomorrow. They're right there in the moment. And there's residual value for people who read our screenplays and watch our movies, they can go back to their life and be if their life is beautiful or chaotic, tumultuous, or joyous, they're going to come back with something of value to contribute to the loved ones in their life. So you know, the holidays right Thanksgiving. What is Thanksgiving? It's giving thanks right? What is collaboration it's co laboring. So start appreciating because when you appreciate things increase in value when a house depreciates it loses value when it appreciates it increases in value. So if you get into the habit of appreciating things in your life even the little you know kicks in the shin every now and again and just appreciate it Wow What did that teach me? I mean I look at the entertainment industry and you know have I had my challenges along the way sure you're in you know, a career for a decade or two decades you're going to have those times when you go wow, that really hurt that was painful that hurt my feelings This is emotionally trying and you have to look at it and go Okay, well that's true. And then you have to ask yourself What did I do to invite that into my life? And then once you own bad Okay, what have I gotten from this it wasn't the last experience how can I use this for future endeavors? You know, if I meet an unsavory person in the entertainment industry even at a high level meeting, I instantly recognize and I think to myself Haha, how can I help this person? How can I contribute to them? How can today be the day when this person will no longer be unsavory because of the energy I'm bringing to this dynamic and how can we create something of value

Alex Ferrari 1:12:05
and that is that is the key I think with everything we do in life is to be able to create value for people and I think one of the reasons why this podcast and and indie film hustle has been so well received is I wholeheartedly am trying to create value and I I'm kind of experiment for that I'm an experiment for that because at the at the core of what I'm trying to do with with this is to help people because I was just tired of seeing so many filmmakers walk through my doors in post production and just you know, and I don't want to use this that negative terminology but but eaten alive by the business in a lot of ways with their beautiful films and they don't know how to market themselves they don't promote themselves they don't think about the long term that all this kind of stuff. I was like, You know what, let me see if I can shine some light and help some people along the way so they don't have to go through the pains that I went through or that I've seen.

Paul Castro 1:12:58
You're doing a great job Alex and it's really beautiful and altruistic what you're doing for writers and creatives, not just screenwriters, but anyone could get value from what you're doing. And I think it's awesome. And you look at someone like it's a right now I'm going to deal with Shirley MacLaine Oscar winner. I've done copious projects with surely and surely is a person if you look at her career, she's been working for what over 55 years or something

Alex Ferrari 1:13:23
she worked on, on among other movies, but what I love is the Alfred Hitchcock movie, Family Plot, if I'm not mistaken, she was in that one, right. So no, no, that was the one that was the one. Yes, that

Paul Castro 1:13:35
was her first. Yeah, that was the first movie. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Alex Ferrari 1:13:39
What a first movie that was. Right, exactly.

Paul Castro 1:13:41
She got you know, she was on Broadway and take. I think Hitchcock was in the in the audience and saw her. But so Shirley's had this career now because Oh, what a lovely, beautiful career she's had. It's just like sculpted out of magic, right? But you look at her career. There were times when she gave her belief systems about metaphysics, quantum physics, past lives, aliens, that were her beliefs were not in alignment with mainstream media and the mainstream thought processes correct. People would even allow that type of thinking in their realm. And you know, people really responded harshly towards her and what she was doing and she could care less. She traveled she did more movies she did Broadway she did Vegas, she sang she danced. She wrote books. I think she has seven times New York Times bestsellers. And Shirley MacLaine was and is a purpose who's a person who's on purpose, not paycheck, and as a result, those situations never even heard her. Right? She just kept going. She went, Hmm, interesting. Bam, kept going. Okay, so you Alex are now at a point where from your experiences you can look back on that malt that you experienced and go, Hmm, now I have a different perspective, I can look at it through a different lens. your listeners who have not yet jumped into the deep waters of the entertainment industry can look at their life now and ask themselves, what journey do I want to have in the entertainment industry. And I would encourage all of us to not write our Oscar speech just yet. But to write our lifetime achievement speech.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:35
Oh, that's great. That's really great.

Paul Castro 1:15:38
At age 90, when you're up on stage, and your friends and family and kids and grandkids and everyone's up there, what body of work? Did you contribute to this world?

Alex Ferrari 1:15:50
And that's a question you should ask yourself, what do you want to contribute to this world? Not what you can take from this world or from this business for that matter of factly? Well, I will ask just a couple questions. I asked all of my guests Well, first of all, Paul, this has been an eye opening and enlightening interview, I have taken as much as as you're giving I've taken as much as hopefully the audience will take out of this too. So it's, it's been eye opening for me. So I really appreciate your amazing energy, man, I really do.

Paul Castro 1:16:21
It's been very beneficial for me as well and really big fan of what you're doing.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:26
Alright, so to the last two questions, I always ask my, my all my, my guests. What is the most underrated film you've ever watched?

Paul Castro 1:16:35
Okay, are you asking a two part question or

Alex Ferrari 1:16:37
I should and the second part is what are your top three films of all time? So go ahead.

Paul Castro 1:16:43
Yeah. Okay. So, you know, there's a movie called kolia it was a foreign film. I believe it's KOLY a, okay. And I believe it was checklist avakian. And it was amazing. It was amazing. just brought me to my knees. So that would be one that I think most people don't know about. Okay. And the next question was my top three

Alex Ferrari 1:17:14
Yeah, and that could be the top three that you can come up with today. Because that always fluctuates depending on the room and the time period.

Paul Castro 1:17:21
Yeah, you know, there's so many great movies not only in our wonderful country, but other countries as well. So there's a Chinese movie called farewell to my concubine ever saw Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:17:34
yeah, yeah, that was Oh yeah. while ago yeah, that was during my video store days.

Paul Castro 1:17:40
Brazilian movie called central station for that one now is a good friend. Yeah, the same producer who did City of God Donald Rambo did central station you see that? God is amazing, too. Yeah, fantastic. And then, you know, look at look at the young filmmakers of today that are just coming out with such interesting material and just you know, breaking all rules and boundaries. Paul, I'm a big fan of Paul Thomas Anderson. I think he's really great. You know, Wes Anderson is great. You know, then you have you know, the females. Audrey Welles is one of the great female writer directors that I think is underrated and has not shown us her best work yet although most of her work has been extraordinary. Allison Anders, and so I look at the person even Francis Ford Coppola had the good fortune of sitting down with Francis in class at UCLA Oh

Alex Ferrari 1:18:42
yeah. Oh my god that must have been a heck of a day

Paul Castro 1:18:44
oh he's like three hours with Francis Ford Coppola it's like what

Alex Ferrari 1:18:48
just he's just talking talking shop

Paul Castro 1:18:51
yeah just talking shop and this is you know a long time ago but he he was such a creative young he came in very stalwart and you know, the legendary director, but then once we asked him about, Hey, what are you working on? He turned into a little kid. And that's those are the best creative people right? I mean, we're all just splashing in the baby pool and playing in the sandbox and finger painting Really?

Alex Ferrari 1:19:21
That's a good Yeah, I have twin daughters so I end there in that era and that age now so I I feel you I feel it's fascinating watching them grow well,

Paul Castro 1:19:31
how old are they?

Alex Ferrari 1:19:32
They're going to be four and a couple that in a few weeks Oh

Paul Castro 1:19:34
my God, what a full age right? Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 1:19:37
they just it's every day is something new and and I'm introducing them to like, you know, different like they know who the Hulk is. They know who Yoda is like, it's so so like when anywhere we're in anywhere in the world. They'll like they'll point at Yoda or the Hulk icons on the advertised like that eats your hall gets it. So it's and that's starting to introduce the you know, introduce them to story but I'm seeing what Stories kind of resonate with them. Obviously, frozen is the greatest movie of all time. Oh my God, if I hear that song One more time.

Paul Castro 1:20:11
Let's just let it go.

Alex Ferrari 1:20:13
Ah, oh, it was rough. That was a rough one. But yeah,

Paul Castro 1:20:18
it's great man. And you know, your daughters, you have a responsibility to them, you know, what is responsibility responding with ability? And, you know, Walt Disney, you know, Bambi, you know, he saw how kids reacted and realized from that point on, this is a real responsibility I must take seriously

Alex Ferrari 1:20:39
Right because yeah, Bambi was in a lot of I don't know about you, but you have a daughter, too. How would your daughter know?

Paul Castro 1:20:45

Alex Ferrari 1:20:45
Six. She says she's a little bit ahead of us. The the Disney movies, the old stuff. I can't I can't show them Pinocchio. I know. There's like there's, I mean, they're turning into donkeys. They're drinking. They're smoking. There's, there's abduction. There's like it's like craziness. It's like, it makes the grim movie the grim stories, like seem tame. Yeah. Yeah, it's some of the Snow White's way too harsh. Like, I can't like even the book. Like I got them the book and they get scared by the imagery of the book. I'm like, Oh, I'm like I can't I get so I'm stuffing more with the Pixar stuff. And even then some stuff like, you know, hesitant about but yeah, it is a responsibility. No question. isn't a great man.

Paul Castro 1:21:33
Don't you love being a father?

Alex Ferrari 1:21:34
It's a wonderful man. It really is. I know this. This whole interview is just all of a sudden just turned it to dad's talking. About I really meant I can't wait let me get one last quick. One last piece of advice. If you have one thing to one piece of advice you can give screenwriters just starting out what would it be?

Paul Castro 1:21:53
Right. Right, right, right. And just just enjoy the process. Don't be so hard on yourself. as artists we feel so deeply so we get hurt and our feelings hurt and we beat ourselves up and you know, give yourself a break. Okay? The way that you handled things in the past does not have to be the future. Start reacting differently and be kinder and gentler with yourself create and continue to write on.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:24
On that note, Paul thank you again so much It's been an amazing amazing interview amazing podcast so thank you so much for your time sir.

Paul Castro 1:22:32
Thanks Alex. Thanks a lot and To be continued.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:36
I love I love that interview man he Paul gave us so much good information and I'm just such a big fan of August rush I do love that movie a lot. So and I again I can't stress enough how amazing that course that he that he has put out million dollar screenplay is I've taken a lot of screenwriting courses over the years and it really encompasses a lot of great great, great information and it's very very affordable for what you're getting. And in the show notes which are going to be at indiefilmhustle.com/039 there will be a coupon code that we'll be putting on the show notes so you can download the course at a discount a huge discount for for the amount of stuff that you get on it. It is amazing, amazing course. Thank you guys again for listening. Please don't forget to head over to filmmakingpodcast.com to leave us an honest review of this show. It helps the show out dramatically. It is growing so so fast. I can't even explain it. So thank you again, so much for all your support guys. I really really appreciate it. Keep that hustle going keep that dream alive and I will talk to you guys real soon.




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IFH 008: Karl Iglesias – How to Create an Emotional Impact

This week we were lucky enough to have as our guest screenwriting guru Karl Iglesias. He has written award-winning books including The 101 Habits of Highly Successful ScreenwritersWriting 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.

It was a major treat 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!

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:00
Scheduled today, we have Karl Iglesias. Yes, he's a amazing screenwriting teacher, and instructor I actually discovered him reading a book writing for emotional impact when I was doing a screenplay work on my films. And it blew my mind I really really blew my mind. Karl's approach to screenwriting is unique in the sense that he only focuses on emotion on the like, literally the emotional impact of what you're writing, which nobody else was really doing when he came out, and I don't think many people are today either. So the book reading, writing for emotional impact really impacted my life on how I write, but he's really well known for the 101 habits of highly successful screenwriters, insider secrets from Hollywood, of the top of from Hollywood's top writers. That's the book that kind of put them on the map. He just finished up a 10 year anniversary of that book. And he also has a bunch of different courses and things like that, as well. So he lectures around the world and I was really lucky to get him on the show. I really, you know, dug in hard and some really tough questions. When we were done with the interview, Karl told me that he basically was like, my guy we just gave a masterclass in screenwriting, I'm like, I know that's why you won. So sit back and relax and enjoy the show guys. Welcome Karl. Thank you so much for being on the show.

Karl Iglesias 0:00
Thank you My pleasure.

Alex Ferrari 0:00
So we'll jump right into it so um what is your teachings are focused on the emotional impacts of stories and screenplays? Can you explain this a little bit to the audience?

Karl Iglesias 0:56
Sure. So I was I was a writer I'm still a writer and and I tend to be kind of very left brain my wife likes to say that I have two left brains very very mostly logical and and and the thing that drives me more is is the trying to understand how things work so I've always wanted to tell stories I was wanting to be in filmmaking and and I wanted to know why you know you read all the books and tells you Okay, you need to do this you need to do that we extract your character development character arcs and everything that's 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 at the end into like, you know, comedies or thrillers and I realize well a comedy doesn't make you laugh is not is not never going to be your favorite movie or a horror film that doesn't scare you it's not gonna be your favorite horror film so it's really all about the emotions and response of the movies and so I tend to 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, you know, it's the kind of you know, people say is the kind of book that you always wanted to read but couldn't find out there so you wrote it that's that's what it is they also I wrote down and 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 you know, if you know when people read your script if they don't if they're not engaged by your script and you lost that's it doesn't even go past the pastor reader to the executives let alone to actors and directors and you know, the studio betting you know, 100 million dollars to make your film if it doesn't engage them so so the rule number one, and the only rule in 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 1000s and 1000s of rules and principles from all the books but you can break 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 so I focus more on the actual specific techniques that generate those emotional responses.

So with that said, I'm going to I'm going to 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,

Alex Ferrari 4:23
Okay, yeah, great film.

Karl Iglesias 4:25
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 right the whole package 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 it did get nominated for Best Picture but it didn't win. But but it's one of those movies that kind of grew later and 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 that right? But Shawshank didn't and I'm curious on your take of why that story hits so beautifully with everybody

Alex Ferrari 5:35
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's unique that drives people to the theaters not a great concept not at all right it actually kept people away it's like okay a movie about people in prison Okay, you know who cares? I mean, I will admit I was one of them you know, I was like that that movie does not interest me right? And it was only through word of mouth and reviews and and then you finally go Okay, I'll go see it and then you wild by it. So when you're in the theater so you know when you're trying to make a when you're trying to write a story I always recommend you know since since you're not you know you're obviously you're you're a nobody and you want to interest people you got to do with the concept first so at least people open your script and read it but 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 films, this film, what is it that that allows you so the very first thing is always characters that the first thing is 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 you know, my techniques for, for connecting emotionally with a character you know, the 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 it. You know, he's accused of something. And he's accused for, I guess his life right? For something that he didn't do so this are an undeserved misfortune is one of the biggest, biggest techniques you can use to connect with a character. And so you're automatically connected. So you're already on board? And then you realize, okay, well, you know, what do 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 themes and messages in stories. It's true, you know, because all of us in our life so life's our struggle. And and especially in the movie business,

Karl Iglesias 8:46
Yeah, exactly. But if you look at you look at you know, great stories and certainly the foundation of most religions is hope. You know, it's one of the most powerful things so you got a character we care about you know, combined with this message of hope, you know, you know, get busy living or get busy dying, which is such a powerful line right? Amazing. And there you go, and then of course, you know, you got it you got to tell a good story. So there's elements of suspense deserve attention, anticipation, surprise, humor, other characters you care about your read, you know, certainly fear. You know, once you're, once you're connected with a character, what you what you do as a storyteller is 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 whatever they do whatever they want. The interesting about this, this this movie, though, is that we didn't know what Andy you know, is that, you know, His goal was secret for 19 years. And so, we didn't really know what the what his main goal was other than surviving. But if you create Jeopardy for that character, Throughout and they certainly do in this in this film. You're worried all the time. And so you're constantly engaged in this film so you have you have the character you care about you have to struggle. And then of course the big a, you know, epiphany and the way everything is resolved, which is very clever, surprising, you know, poetic justice at the end. I mean, it's just an friendship. I mean, it's got you know, everything is there you got all the the great ingredients and and of course, you got to, you know, give kudos to Stephen King for the story and for for Darabont 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, great characters and performances, and, you know, a great script. I mean, yeah, it's definitely one of the one of the greatest movies out there.

Alex Ferrari 10:50
And then Darabont I heard he literally gave the the script the way to get the opportunity to direct it. Yeah, yes, he was he was offered a few million because people who read it in the business understood that that this was like, Oh, this is serious. This is a good script. Yeah. But he he they offered him like seven figures and like heist, like mid to high seven figures for it. And he's like, nope, he finally, Director He wants to write and he started his career. And I think it was a good idea for him.

Karl Iglesias 11:15
Absolutely. Yeah. It's kind of like Sylvester Stallone and raw.

Alex Ferrari 11:19
Yeah. Do you actually believe that rocky was written in three days? He says he wrote it in three days. it possible

Karl Iglesias 11:28
That you wrote it in three days, but he probably developed it over a longer period of time.

Alex Ferrari 11:32
Right? Because that's another great I mean, geez, yeah. Oh, absolutely. That script is the ultimate Underdog Story. Yeah. So let me ask you a question. Why is Hollywood's Why is Hollywood lacking such emotion true emotion and its 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 heavily 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 do you what what do you think of the well in the business today in general

Karl Iglesias 12:09
It's i well i you know, the business is always a sign of the times it's always a you know, a reflection of the culture and and you know, our culture in the 60s and 70s was a lot different than it is today. And you know, you got to understand that the film studios are a business they're corporations they're in they're in the business of making money so they're not in the business of making art it's one of those really interesting paradoxes where you know, I think in Europe they're more interested in making art because their their films are subsidized by the by the government you know, but but in in in the United States it's all you know, it's it's capitalism so you basically go okay well what who buys our films who are films for who is our audience what do they want you know, and when you have a huge population of you know, 1415 year old boys who who goes to the movies that's why you have so many you know, superhero movies and kind of like you know, Video game type movies and horror films and comedies and you know, but that's the sign of the times and you know once in a while you get you know, a great movie that goes across all all demographics you know, the four q movies and then you know, then they try to make the same kind of movie and then 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 as an audience's 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 and we grab on to this new thing so you'll always get those in in movies you always get that one film that just just just you know the slit the sleeper hit basically right and then everybody wants to make it you know and then they they beat it to death and I beat it to death and he's tried something new The thing that really really surprises me still is this you know as the superhero movies keep going on and on and but I've been you know slated for release until you know 2020 which is unbelievable it just is such a you know high confidence in movies and I'm kind of surprised that it has you know, there's so much saturation I'm so I'm surprised that the the audience hasn't heard of it but and now

And now Warner Brothers is getting into it and now they're bringing all their slates out so yeah, I'm wondering about how much longer I'm a comic book geek so I'm yeah I'm happy about it but right at a certain point I you know, and now they're gonna be doing Star Wars every year


Alex Ferrari 14:37
Right until foreseeable future you know it's so it's well the thing is,

Karl Iglesias 14:41
I mean, as long as you tell a good story that's what can i mean that's what counts so so if you guys long as you can maintain great storytelling within that count within that concept and genre then I think you're okay. I think so far they're doing okay. You know, I mean, I mean, comic books have been, you know, I've been in business for you know, Over 80 years, I think and so it's like, yeah, and they're still in business. So, you know, as long as you're writing good storytelling and characters Yeah, absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 15:10
So um, what are the biggest mistakes you see in first time screenwriters. Oh, I know it's a short it's a short show but you try to condense it a little bit I was gonna say I loaned

Karl Iglesias 15:21
You probably the biggest mistake D of what the biggest mistake is is I think over relying on plot over character that's one and so you can't have flat characters another big mistake I see. You know, dialogue usually is pretty crappy. And that's usually the one thing that we kind of read most of in a script of you we're trying to get the story from the characters you know and good dialogue usually reflects the characters personality so you know and and the fact that the script the scripts don't really amount to anything, they don't really go anywhere to 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 you know, which is usually reflected in the character arcs. So you know, there's always a reason for everything and only say like a you know, structure is another thing too We already talked about structure but I don't think anybody understands what that means. You know, they think well three have structure beginning middle and end but they don't understand that the turning points that create that structure are are more about character than actually plot points you know, they call they you know, sit for years to come plot points but so people think, well, it's got to 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 you know, the epiphany of the character and what that means to the overall story. That's what that's what we can so we're talking about I think mostly a 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 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 focus is at this stage of my career is really kind of going deeper into story and understanding well what what it means and why we why we like stories or 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 it kind of teaches you that how to do what teaches you why you should do it and to you know kind of makes you see when you don't have it in a script to kind of refocus on it you know

Alex Ferrari 17:57
Now did you have you happen to see straight out of Compton yet? I haven't seen it yet. No. And I saw it I saw it this last weekend and it's it's I heard 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 about a good storyteller a good story about you know, gangster rap is like the best story out there right now, which Wow, that's what fascinates me. But it was good. Even my wife who had no idea about gangster rap, she sat there said that was a really good movie, because of the character and the story, which leads me to my next. My next question. There has been great debate about this question for many years, and I'd love to hear your thoughts about it. What in your opinion is more important plot or character?

Karl Iglesias 18:45
Well, that is a very good question. Um, well, you probably heard I mean, you heard this before. 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 you know, the more since since we need to connect with character and since we tend to appreciate more three dimensional characters. You know, you can't really kind of have just a plot that's already ready made and trying to fit characters in it because the end result will be flat characters. So characters tend to have the edge but here's my point on it. My 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 prone to 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 or a character that needs to change. So you know you could have unique tension at the story level to keep us it's the only thing that keeps us engaged basically, when when I talk about all the emotions of story and talk about the audience emotion is not the character emotion. So you have for example, you have character emotions, like you know, you know, sadness and joy and fear. When I'm talking about the audience emotions, the emotions you pay money to go see in the theaters. We're talking 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 can 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

Alex Ferrari 18:47
That tension and tension and what's it like tension any kind of tension or comedic tension or

Karl Iglesias 18:47
Tension it's all tension and tension basically me it's basically to me it's the opposite of boredom, basically, okay, you know, you like if you're bored, passively sitting back in your seat, and you're going to, you know, you think about something else. When you're feeling for example, if if somebody creates a question on this, you see a character enter a room, the very first thing that goes in your mind is who is this character? Right? So why are they in the room? What are they doing? Where are we? So all these questions when you first start a movie, that creates curiosity, right? So curiosity, that sense of curiosity in your brain is tension. Right? Because 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're 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 you know, when you're hungry, that's tension you eat, you know, you have to you feel satisfied, right? You're tired, that's tension, you go to sleep, you feel relief. So it's all about tension relief, excuse me for so. 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 going to go and, you know, to vanish or go to Europe to catch a killer, right? So when I'm going to Europe, so you anticipate the arrival to or, you know, meet me meet me in the parking lot, so I'm going to beat you up later after school. That's anticipation. So that's tension. anticipation is tension. Curiosity is tension. You know, and

Alex Ferrari 18:47
If you're gonna kiss me or not, exactly, yeah. And I've seen so

Karl Iglesias 18:47
Even so when you go deeper, right? Y'all know that, you know, storytelling, or filmmaking is all scenes, right? So at the scene level, that's another thing too, that when you're talking about what's really doesn't work in scripts is mostly seen. So I tend to teach a lot of classes on scene writing, because I think it's at the scene level, you know, that that counts. And scenes are really mini stories. So you have a character who wants something in the scene, and is having difficulty getting it. And that's what creates tension in the scene, because your well, 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, and really old when you think about old stories, or just tension until they are relief until you have a resolution, right? Yeah, but you know, the three extraction people create structure, people have to say that it's, you know, beginning, middle and end. But I like to say it's mostly, you know, set up struggle, and resolution, right. And the struggle is that middle pack to which is the struggle to get what they want. And in a lot of scripts, you see characters Firstly, that you don't know what they want. That hasn't been thought of. So that's already broken right there. And if we know what they want, usually it's it's not that difficult. So yeah, so it's not that interesting. So there's no struggle. And so there you go. That's, that's my answer. So it's all about attention.

Alex Ferrari 18:47
There it is that Yeah, we've put that we put the end to the debate right now.

Karl Iglesias 18:47
Yes. This is just according to me. Oh, of course. Yeah. So

Alex Ferrari 18:47
Umm, in your opinion, what is the functions of dialogue?

Karl Iglesias 18:51
The function is dialogue. Boy, you had like really big, big questions here. to answer those,

Alex Ferrari 18:56
I'm sorry, I'll start throwing somewhere softer.

Karl Iglesias 18:59
Well, the functions of dialogue I mean, there's only two ways you can tell a story really you can you can you know, you can describe something right. So and then you could you can have characters talking about it right. So, 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 speak in 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's usually more interesting than just reading. You know, if I told you, you know, Bob entered the room and said to Susie, 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 Susie says, Well, sorry, I don't love you back I'm seeing your your best friend or whatever. Right? So you know, by by actually having the characters speak, you're you're a lot more immersive to lead it's more of an active experience than just description. And usually readers, you know, when they read scripts, and tons of scripts, they usually tend to just read dialogue only they try to grasp the story because they have to read a script so fast. So they like to say that they read the burden, they read vertically, most most readers at least, you know, the ones that I know of from experience, because they have to read scripts very fast. And so they usually get the story from the dialog. So you know, when you see scripts with a lot of description, they usually don't tend to like that they it takes them longer to read it takes them longer to understand the story. 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 get to get to really get to learn the characters. And also dialogue tends to be the joy of the you know, the the weight and cleverness and sarcasm and have a story you know of characters.

Alex Ferrari 20:48
Now, with dialogue, I would argue to say one of the greatest dialogue writers alive today is Quentin Tarantino. What, what is your take on his style, love, which is so unique that I mean, I've tell I tell people all the time, like, there are 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 it's such a unique person, I always 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

Karl Iglesias 21:24
Write right, but Well, there's well the thing about Tarantino, I mean, first of all, he he is a extremely knowledgeable about film, you know, he used to work as a in a video store. And he used to like pretty much immerse himself in movies, and even really obscure movies, you know, in foreign films, and Hong Kong films and crime films. So he's very knowledgeable. So he's able to ask, actually, you know, my belief in art or creativity is really creativity is really a way of combining all things into something new. And this is what he does. So the more old things you know, the more you the more resources you have, which is this knowledge of film, the more you can combine them into something unique. And that's what he does very well. So that's that, too, is that he's not afraid to break the rules. Oh, yeah. And like I said, like, I use Turnitin all the time. And examples of when I say that you can break every rule except one. And be interesting. And that's that's the one. He 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 astronomy, because they know they're not going to be bored.

Alex Ferrari 22:19
Right and so if you watch this, if you watch Pulp Fiction, which the structure of that film was, is non obviously not standard, right? But if you look at the plot points, they actually hit Yeah. Wow. You know, which is kind of weird. Absolute world. Yeah. Well, it's

Karl Iglesias 22:32
Like, you know, the French filmmaker, genre, Ecuador is known, it's known for to have said, you know, every every film that has a beginning, middle and end, not necessarily in that order, right. So you want to if you can put Pulp Fiction in the order of the story is just what he decided to tell it in a in a just nonlinear way. You know, you just played with time a little bit you know,

Alex Ferrari 29:03
And, and it just, yeah, obviously, yeah,

Karl Iglesias 29:12
It was very unique. Absolutely. And then chaining, which is the most important thing. I mean, you know, you know, I've seen films where people tried experimenting with things but they're just boring as hell, you know, right. In this case, he experimented and, and it turned out okay, because it was interesting. You know, he still told the story with interesting characters. surprises

Alex Ferrari 30:03
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. So, um, you wrote a book called 101 habits of highly successful screenwriters. Can you share a few of those habits with the audience, some of that some of the top ones that you think are really important?

Karl Iglesias 30:24
Well, the very, very top one is the one that started that's that led to the right for emotional impact, which was habit number 69, which was evoking emotion on the page. And so one of those habits was, you know, it, successful writers are set at six 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. They're always entertaining. So they're masters of their craft. And and when I started teaching, because of that book, I, at the time, I was just a writer, and I was no interest in teaching, I was just a writer, I just wanted to be alone in my room, right? So it's not completely terrified. But I was invited to the very first screenwriting Expo and because of that, those habits book, the book, and the thing that most people wanted to know was, was, of course, this particular habit, which is the craft, they'll want to know about the craft. So I started teaching about the, that part of it. And then people eventually wanted to want to, to have a book. And that's the reason why 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 giving. So, but in terms of how is there so that that's the number one, by far, I mean, you could, you could, like I said, you could ignore any other habit, if you if you consistently are able to create an emotional response in the reader, from your words, you're guaranteed success. Because, you know, you can just, you know, you can drop your script in the middle of a Beverly Hills Park, and, you know, an agent will pick that up and read it. And if they're totally wowed by that script, there's no way he's not gonna pick up the phone and call you. But that's the key, they have to be wowed 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. But the other thing too, and this is more about the business aspect of it is that one of the habits is that you're You, you, you have to have, you have to develop a really thick skin in Hollywood, because most of the businesses rejection, so 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,

Alex Ferrari 32:53
I'll turn here and it took forever. For Yeah, do you think

Karl Iglesias 32:57
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 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 usually give up because because of the realities of life, and don't have that persistence and that passion, to to keep writing.

Alex Ferrari 33:37
You know, I think writers are one of the most undervalued parts of the filmmaking process. Oh, absolutely. Yeah. It is all part that I mean, it starts on the page. Mm hmm. Yeah, yeah, it started there. They're

Karl Iglesias 33:49
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 bit 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 talking about, you know, the business Oh, yeah. Agents and producers and and accountants and lawyers. I mean, if without a script, nobody has a job.

Alex Ferrari 34:15
As as, as Hollywood realizes, every time there's a Writers Guild strike, exactly. All of a sudden, everyone goes, Oh, wait a minute, we need these guys arrived. Maybe we should pay them a little bit here.

Karl Iglesias 34:25
But that's the 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.

Alex Ferrari 34:38
Well, that's the thing. And if I've seen a movie, so I could write one. It's kind of like everyone says that and then I'm like, Well, you could also listen to a symphony. Doesn't mean you can write one. Right? It's exactly yeah, it's a lot more than just that.

Karl Iglesias 34:53
So this is all joke that I like to say about this guy who's who goes to a candle store and he goes inside the candle stores is all man he sits down and starts playing the piano and he's awful. And and the sounds because what's going on? What? What are you thinking? I can't understand this. I've been listening to music My whole life.

Alex Ferrari 35:15
Why does it work? I don't know.

Karl Iglesias 35:16
Exactly right. So that's the thing people think that you know, because they because we immerse in films because we see movies all the time. We know how they work and everything. It's like telling a joke to so people, you know, some people, everybody understands jokes and appreciate jokes, but nobody can be a comedian. You know, it's,

Alex Ferrari 35:33
It's rough to be up on that stage. No question about it. Yeah. 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 movies. So yes, indie films, I find a lot of times when they hit, they're wonderful. But the majority of them are, you know, a little rough sometimes. Yeah. What's your experience with that?

Karl Iglesias 35:57
Well, my experience with them is that it as it's not gonna be surprising, for me to say it's, it's again the emotional response so you know, when you say an indie film doesn't hit, that's basically what it means it means it just didn't grab the audience. The audience was mostly bored by it. So you know, there's always good elements in an indie film that that meets the people on on board to commit to it and make it and usually it's about characters. The thing about indie hits is that most of them as far from my experience don't really have a concept you know, it's mostly a very soft concept and it's really kind of relies on character in the drama of characters. 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 or you know, something unique about it, you know, they just don't to grab the audience you know, or maybe it's the maybe it's the statement that the, you know, the filmmaker wants to make maybe it's a statement that we just don't care about, right? Yeah. There's a lot of things you know,

Alex Ferrari 37:13
So can you give an example of a few indie films that blew you away and why they blew you away?

Karl Iglesias 37:18
Oh, it's been

Alex Ferrari 37:21
It's been a while it's been a while you can go back and go back to the early 90s go back to the early 90s if

Karl Iglesias 37:27
Yeah, yeah, for me, I mean, the type of movies that I tend to like more I like you know, more thought provoking films so I tend to gravitate towards the you know, sci fi and futuristic not not necessarily fantasy but but so the movies like you know, a stranger than fiction for example. Yeah. So anything that has a really kind of like a really very unique concept to it, but definitely an indie film you know, 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 would have been different and I tend to like trying to think of the last the last one as my mentor was a pretty old memento. Absolutely Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 38:17
That was one of those ones obviously Reservoir Dogs and write all fiction fiction was kind of an indie but yeah,

Karl Iglesias 38:24
Yeah, yeah. You know very very old film but a mariachi with Robert Rodriguez, you know that he made the very end right only made it only $7,000. 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 that really keeps you engaged from start to finish

Alex Ferrari 38:50
One, one film, I think that I don't know if you'd liked it, and I think you might have adaptation.

Karl Iglesias 38:56
Ah, yeah, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 38:57
Um, that was a very interesting,

Karl Iglesias 39:00
I liked it. Yeah. It wasn't interesting. And of course, we all enjoyed it. Because we're writers and we could, we could identify Oh, 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 this is a good example from the very, very same filmmaker,

Alex Ferrari 39:19
A very unique filmmaker.

Karl Iglesias 39:20
Exactly. Yeah. Charlie Kaufman.

Alex Ferrari 39:22

Karl Iglesias 39:23
Yeah. Although if you're talking about the spike Jones as the director Yeah. Speaking of spike Jones, her to was it was a good indie film.

Alex Ferrari 39:31
Yeah,very, very nice film. I like that one a lot as well, right. Is there any 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 that maybe that could help them to kind of get off the ground.

Karl Iglesias 39:47
Just just learn more about story. And we're not talking about just the you know, the usual, the usual suspects, books and McKeon felt we're talking about. Just go deeper into into story and how to tell a really good one. I think there's there's still a lot of people that don't know how to tell a good story and 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 and learn that it's really about the emotions and that you can break every single rule as long as people feel those emotions. So learning, learning how to write scenes, that would be another aspect of it, learn how to write a good scene. I always tell writers to take acting classes, because even if they're not used to being an actor, because you get to learn how to write good scenes from from actors, because that's, you know, they're all they're all, you know, their main thing is, is what do I want in the scene and the different beats in the scene and that's really how you write a good scene.

Alex Ferrari 40:49
That's interesting. That's a really good job. That's a really good tip.

Karl Iglesias 40:51
Yeah. And yeah, but learn how to how to create that field in London, really knowing what an audience wants out of a story. You know, so we definitely want something new so we want something so it's probably a thought provoking concept we want characters we can connect with emotionally so that there's actually techniques for that to talk in the book. And then once once we connect with a character you know, give us give us a you know, a a goal that that is worthy you know a lot a lot of the times you know, a character moves after something that we you know, it's it's tends to be more of a selfish goal and we don't really connect without 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 all try to make money and survive. But you never see that in films. You never see that as a goal in film.

Alex Ferrari 41:54
So say that again say that again? This isn't your So okay, so there's this paradox okay.

Karl Iglesias 41:57
If you if you think about if you ask people in real life what their What do they aspire to? Right That's usually aspire to have a good job to be rich to be happy to have things to have material things a big house a good car, Scarface? Exactly. Right. Yeah, exactly. So tough power. Right? Well, power you see, that depends but usually it's the in the in the cautionary tales where the hero but but in films, when you think about what is it that people aspire to in films, like whether their goals are, it's usually about love, or 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 a there's a connection between stories and the meaning of stories and why we like stories, and what is the power of stories in our life?

Alex Ferrari 42:51
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,

Karl Iglesias 43:03
Right, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 43:04
Do you think a story like that? Or do you have an example of a story?

Karl Iglesias 43:07
Well, no, we don't I mean, other than I mean, somebody brings the the example of how to succeed in business and never trying, which is a famous play. But But you never see that or, 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 solution. So yeah, so it and there's a reason for that is because it doesn't work, you know, you know, it doesn't, you know, and and to go back to your question about the common errors I see in film is that usually the goals that characters have in a story are usually not what I call worthy goals, right? So there's worthy goals and, you know, flat goals or whatever, unworthy goals. They're mostly unworthy like, they're, I just don't care, or I just, I can't really connect with a character who goes after that, you know, I just don't care. And so that's important. One of the things that I teach about connecting with character is that not only you have to use this, these techniques to make us, you know, feel sorry for him, show their humanity and show their admirable traits to just so you care about them, right? But the second part of that equation is what do they go after and why? And so in the movie, what do they go after, is very important, because if we don't care what they go after, we're just not going to care. We're gonna just, you know, go through the motions, and struggle, but we're not going to care. And that's why one of the things that I teach a lot about is Pixar because Pixar knows how to tell great stories. And, and so and I go through this whole list of the entire movies that 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, our sense of being social with, you know, we're part of this group as opposed to being a selfish single a person that goes after what they want us to be happy. And you never see that, you know, if talk about Shawshank Redemption, you know, His goal was to not to not to die. But not to be yet 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 fell in love with that movie is is the last you know, 30 seconds? No, not not the choice of him escaping. decided right about it. Remember, it's not only story, it's read story, that's that it's very true. So if you think about the way the movie ends, the movie doesn't end with Andy escaping it ends with red connecting as a friend with Andy on that beach.

Alex Ferrari 46:02
And right, and did you know that is the

Karl Iglesias 46:05
Moment that that makes us go? All right,

Alex Ferrari 46:08
It's done.

Karl Iglesias 46:09
It's done. Exactly. Exactly. There's actually a very, you know, Lindsey Duran is the producer. Yes, yes. So she, she's, she's known for talking about story too, is there's a, I think there's a couple of videos online, some TED talks that she did, about the ending of films and how the thing that people really, really care about about a film is not the achievement of the of the character's 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 but they remember that thing when he goes like yeah, you know, Adrian Adrian, but that, you know, they think it ends on the fight, but it does end up 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 it doesn't end with with the with the girl Lee being in the arms of Patrick Swayze. It ends with her reconciling with their father. 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, they kind of like they're teaching us how to live there the like to say that stories are kind of like the How to manual for life. And, and they're kind of like, they're quoted in this in this entertainment form, because, you know, I mean, people's stories. Yeah, exactly. People can actually tell you how to live but that's usually what you know, like documentaries, or nonfiction, or it's of documentaries. But stories are a lot more powerful. Because they're there they're entertaining, but the messages in there the message that you know, they're kind of like suddenly telling you how to live by entertaining you. It's like a sugar coated pill,

Alex Ferrari 47:59
Like, 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,

Karl Iglesias 48:15
The scene about the

Alex Ferrari 48:17
With red, yeah, from what? I studied the movie a lot, right? I've watched every documentary ever made. And originally, the original script did not have that scene. And how does the original script and you remember it ends with him driving in the bus going towards Andy.

Karl Iglesias 48:33
Oh, okay. Okay, but it still, it was fun. It was still as 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 Andy's story

Alex Ferrari 48:45
That was read on this on the on the bus and he just drove off. And then if you notice that it the the helicopter, I think there was a helicopter shot that kind of goes off into the ocean, right? And then it dissolves into that, because that was the that was the last shot. And then they put in that dissolve on Andy and the beach afterwards, which I think with studios notes go I think that's probably one of the best ones if

Karl Iglesias 49:10
That's true. I think that was very powerful.

Alex Ferrari 49:12
So I have a couple more questions where if you have time, one 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? Oh, I'm sorry. Cough I'm asking.

Karl Iglesias 49:33
Because you're you're you're hitting on the on the questions that I have a whole course of, you know, I mean, like I teach a whole course on the subject. So right, so this is the I'll give you the 32nd

Alex Ferrari 49:42
Exam. Yeah, that's all we ask.

Karl Iglesias 49:45
Okay, so, so subjects, okay, so I'll give you an example. Um, so if I if I said to you, three plus two equals five. And you Your mind will go Okay, yeah. I got that it's pretty obvious, right? But if I said to you, or showed you a piece of paper, and I showed on the board said, three plus x equals five, okay? Your brain would automatically start solving x. Sure, because you're challenged by it, where you go, oh, there's a challenge. Oh, ah, x equals two. I got it. I solved 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 subtext because so subtext makes you an active participant in the scene by making your brain work a little bit. So when somebody says, like in the famous scene in When Harry Met Sally, when at the end of 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 feels. Right? Right. We know she loves him. So the line I hate you is really subtext for I love you, but she really feels right. So I hate you plus the case, equal subjects. 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. And there's tends to be a lack of subtext throughout, it's mostly on the nose throughout an obvious, it tends to be a passive experience, you kind of mostly bored by it, because you're not challenged, you're not challenged by it. Whereas when you subtext you go, you're like, 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.

Alex Ferrari 51:51
You're ahead of your head of the audience a bit. Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. As a writer, as a writer, as

Karl Iglesias 51:55
As a writer, 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 get higher all the time, especially in dialogue, you know, you get the writers who are hired for two weeks to to, to rewrite the dialogue, it's usually to take the dialogue or just flat and obviously on the nose, and give it some life. And the life is usually give it some time. subtext.

Alex Ferrari 52:21
Got it Got it. Alright, so one last one last big question that this is just a geek question. This is just something that I want the answer to. Because I know you're, you know, you're you who you are, and you've studied so many stories. I'm a huge fan of Breaking Bad. Okay. And it is one of those stories that it's obviously not a screenplay, but in the scope of the story and the arc of that character and of the arc of the show. There's never been a television show ever to do what he did. What's your thoughts on how gillean of Vince Gilligan, a galleon Vince Gilligan, Vince Gilligan actually was able to create like, what are the key moments or points that maze that makes that story so good? Because unlike like, very much like Shawshank Redemption in the film world, breaking Bad's one of those shows that I can't say universally everyone loves, but it is pretty well respected and prior, right,

Karl Iglesias 53:19
Well, Breaking Bad is not the only one. I mean, the sopranos did that too. And the wire also did that, too. I mean, we've talked about in madman. I mean, we talked about shows that just that took 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, I, you know, and I'm a big fan of Breaking Bad too. It was just a big novel. It was just this novel that took five seasons, and I don't know how many episodes 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. It was just arc and it 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. good stories I think always make you think and make you wonder what's gonna 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. Just Yeah. of constantly making the audience want to know what's gonna happen next. They're constantly tuned they're gonna keep watching scene after scene after scene. In the case of Breaking Bad they're just watching episode after episode after episode except that

Alex Ferrari 54:39
One episode with the fly. Yeah, except that one episode with the ride.

Karl Iglesias 54:45
That was entertaining you know, everybody says like, what

Alex Ferrari 54:48
the hell with the writers just take the day off. They could do it the

Karl Iglesias 54:54
right way. I bet you still kept you engaged, though. Right? It's to a certain

Alex Ferrari 54:57
extent. Yeah.

Karl Iglesias 55:00
Um so yeah as long as it makes you wonder you know what the hell's going on what what is what is the meaning of this you're just wondering like keeps you engaged but that was a you know and 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 mentioned Breaking Bad because you know, here's here's a character you really connect with who you don't really agree with in terms of his moral that moral part of it, you know, I mean, he's doing something as illegal

Alex Ferrari 55:31
But the thing that's brilliant about him is at the beginning you did he was just as was the beginning you did right. And that's the brilliant stuff you send to him. Yeah, and then he turns into Scarface right

Karl Iglesias 55:41
But the thing is is why do we keep Why do we keep loving yeah because I mean if you if you it's almost like you know if you had a friend and then your and then your friends started killing people and enjoying it You certainly wouldn't become his friend anymore You don't 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, is this the lesson in there but making sure you care about that character? And you worry about them? Yeah, about what's going to happen then you then you could tell a good story that's really the basis of telling a good story and creating a character you care about and it doesn't have to be the it doesn't have to be likable but you have to care

Alex Ferrari 56:19
And I was I was lucky enough to binge watch most of it up into the last eight episodes and it was I everyday my wife and I would just sit and watch three or four episodes

Karl Iglesias 56:28
Wow I know thank God for binge watching I know right right i think it's a better way to enjoy story because it's a lot more immediate and you don't have to wait a week you know it's all fresh in your mind

Alex Ferrari 56:41
Thank you Netflix Yeah, yeah, so where can people find more about you and more about your work

Karl Iglesias 56:47
Very simple they just saw all you have to do is Google my name or just put colleague laces calm and takes you to my website and you just get to see all my work there Yeah, I you know, when anytime somebody asked me for a business card, I don't have business cards I always tell them just just go to my website you know, that's my that's my business card right there. Just my name.com

Alex Ferrari 57:07
And you have you have a bunch of books you've written you have a DVD course as well that you sell.

Karl Iglesias 57:12
Yeah, well I don't really sell it it's mostly the writer store and creative screenwriting magazine they they have the DVDs I just basically you know, they asked me to do something I don't like to say no, so I do something and then they sell it. Same with the teaching I teach at screenwriters University and at UCLA extensions writers program are both online so people can take courses with me. I also consult so if anybody wants consultation there's the details on my website and then I appear on you know, writers conferences sometimes, you know this. This year I'm going to be actually in a few weeks I'll be at the at a writers conference in San Luis Obispo. I'll be delivering a keynote address there and next year I've been invited to a script conference in Poland and then an animation festival in South Africa so becoming kind of international now that's awesome.

Alex Ferrari 58:05
So one last question I asked this question for my guests and it's it's a tough question what are your top three films of all time? Wow and every and everybody says the same thing.

Karl Iglesias 58:19
Oh really?

Alex Ferrari 58:21
Wow Wow.

Karl Iglesias 58:22
Oh wow. Yeah, well that's that's a very big question.

Alex Ferrari 58:25
It doesn't have to be an order just three films. Yeah. And the moment that you can remember

Karl Iglesias 58:28
well, you know it as a blade runner is is right up there. Silence of the Lambs, Shawshank Redemption The Godfather anything by Pixar except maybe cars and cars 2 those are the the two weakest films by the but in terms of story 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 they just know what to tell great stories also anything by Pixar. And and if one movie too It's a combination well I want to obscure because it's a it's a classic messed up but a lot of people don't know because it's it tends to be an old film. And so Charlie Chaplin's city lights for city lights, where he falls in love with a blind girl. And that's one of the you know, it's probably one of the earliest romantic comedies but but very, very moving, especially the last

Alex Ferrari 59:26
If I remember right, it's silent. Yeah.

Karl Iglesias 59:29
But it's known for the very last scene in the movie which is one of the most powerfully emotional filters you know, scenes in the world in the history of cinema. And they always show that they always show 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 my top favorite movies.

Alex Ferrari 59:56
Very good, good list.

Karl Iglesias 59:57
A good Thank you. Okay,

Alex Ferrari 59:59
Karl, thank you. So much for being on the show. We really appreciate you gave us a lot of great gems. So hopefully,

Karl Iglesias 1:00:05
Glad to do it was my pleasure.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:06
Hey guys, I hope you like that Carl was amazing. It gave a lot of great information, a lot of little nuggets in there that hopefully will help you guys tell better stories. I'm gonna put all of his information in the show notes, links to his courses, his books, I actually took his screenwriting expos cinema seminar series, as well. And it's just just so much information that he gives. And he really does focus on the emotional aspect of screenwriting and storytelling. And the one rule that you can break like he says is be interesting no matter what you do. Always be interesting as a filmmaker, and as a storyteller. So if you want to learn how I got into over 500 Film Festivals for cheap or free, head over to film festival tips.com that's Film Festival tips.com where you can download a free ebook that I put together on my six top six tips on how I got into all those festivals for free most of them for free, some for very, very cheap. So thanks again for listening guys. More great episodes coming I'm so excited about the guests that I have coming up and, and more stuff coming. So thanks again for all your support guys. Talk to you soon.




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