Jill Chamberlain has helped thousands of writers find their stories. She has consulted on projects for major studios, for small independents, and for many, many spec screenwriters.
Jill’s Nutshell Technique for screenplay story structure has been praised throughout Hollywood. Producer Callum Greene (Star Wars Episode 9, Crimson Peak, and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) said “the Nutshell Technique is like the Rosetta Stone: it cracks the code behind why we love the movies that we love. It goes way beyond tired old beat sheet ‘formulas’ and instead guides you to organically write the story you want to tell.”
Jill’s screenplay story structure guide, The Nutshell Technique: Crack the Secret of Successful Screenwriting, was an instant classic upon its release in 2016. Of the over 3,000 books on screenwriting on Amazon, The Nutshell Technique: Crack the Secret of Successful Screenwriting is one of the highest rated ones. It’s on the syllabus for film schools across the world including the world renowned screenwriting program at Columbia University.
Jill Chamberlin 0:00
I really need to hear that point of no return what happens at 25%? What is the big event that makes this movie this movie? And what is the climax of the movie? And if we if you don't have those figured out, the other ones kind of don't matter until we figure if we don't have a nice satisfying climax for you. Let's stop. Let's talk about this. Let's find it interesting climax for you.
Alex Ferrari 0:21
This episode is brought to you by Bulletproof Script Coverage, where screenwriters go to get their scripts read by Top Hollywood Professionals. Learn more at covermyscreenplay.com. I'd like to welcome to the show returning champion Jill Chamberlain, How you doin Jill?
Jill Chamberlin 0:37
I'm doing great. It's a pleasure to be back.
Alex Ferrari 0:40
Yes, it's been a while I mean, you last time you were on the show. Bulletproof screenwriting hadn't been created. So you were on the indie film hustle show. And it's a lot of things have changed since then, you know, your book has blown up your your shirt, you're doing workshops, you know, your business has grown a lot, you're helping a lot of screenwriters and and your episode that was on indie film, hustle is easily one of the most downloaded episodes in the history of both indie film, hustle and have bulletproof screenwriting, which is really, I was like looking at the numbers, I gotta get you back on the show. And we have video this time videos. So that's how old we were. And your book and the way your book, which is called the nutshell technique, the way you approached screenwriting, and the craft is so unique. So we're gonna get into the weeds of that. And I could say that coming from a very educated space, because I've spoken to every single screenwriting instructor guru author that exists on the planet, honestly, over the years. So I've studied every kind of technique, and yours is one of the most interesting, and people love it. Writers love it. They rave about it. So that's why I wanted to have you back on the show to kind of reintroduce a lot of the techniques that you're talking about to this audience that stopped listening to both bulletproof and indie film hustle. So before we get into the weeds, how did you get into this insanity? That is the film business of screenwriting and all that?
Jill Chamberlin 2:18
Well, I was a frustrated screenwriter, I was a screenwriter in New York City. And I did, by the way, it did not stay in screenwriting that long, I sold a couple of things. And, and I've kind of completely gone into this direction. But But when this process began, I was a frustrated screenwriter. And I was getting a note back. That was kind of like, very often it was like, why I don't understand it, why it's this character on this journey. And I had a hard time interpreting that note. Another way I would put the note or the way I interpret it now in the language I use is that I was writing a situation, not a story, which I've discovered in my work as a consultant and teacher is a chronic problem. And the, what I did was I partially as a procrastination technique, and I personally, because I just couldn't move forward, I just, I could tell that I could understand intellectually the problem I was getting by had, but no one, no one had any idea how to fix it, or to explain how to fix it. And I had benefited very good training, I went to Columbia University, I also studied with a man named duck cats in New York City, and, but I needed something that put all the important principles together. And so I started analyzing a lot of movies based on some of the things I knew, to develop a universal technique. And, you know, I watched you know, maybe I'm not gonna say I watched 1000s of movies, but I watched a good 100 movies or, you know, in some cases, rewatched, I still take notes. As I watch movies, I'm still analyzing structure. And I was finally able to create this technique that I call the nutshell technique. And the only reason I call it that is because the first time all of these eight it's eight elements that are involved fell into place. I kind of scribbled on the page screenplay in a nutshell. And so the name is kind of stuck. But but that's the idea. It's the eight interconnected elements that are required to tell a story. And it's not I want to differentiate that it's not a strictly it's not a beat sheet method. Most of the books that you're going to find on structure, that deal structure in screenwriting are have a beat sheet approach, right? They tell you you're supposed to hit 15 or 22, or however many pre prescribed beats that appear in most Hollywood movies. And I have no I have no problem with those methods. A lot of A lot of my writers use those methods in conjunction with my method, it does not conflict with my method. But the issue is that a lot of people, writers, when they use strictly a beat sheet method, just looking at moments in time, they do end up with a situation instead of a story because they don't the the principles of what the connection between the beats is not explained. And so, you know, I would say, life is a situation. Life is this happens, then this happens, then this happened, then this happened. That is not a story. Boring, right? Yeah, a story is this happens, which leads to that happening, which makes it ironic when this third thing happens, right? There's a connection between they're not just moments in, you know, episodic moments in time, there's a connection between these methods. And I'm not aware, I was not aware, I'm still not aware of any in there, by the way over 3000 books on Amazon, on the topic of screenwriting?
Alex Ferrari 6:08
No, stop it!
Jill Chamberlin 6:12
Are you aware of the numbers?
Alex Ferrari 6:14
Yeah, I've been I've interviewed a few, probably about 2900 of them.
Jill Chamberlin 6:17
Yes, yes. Right there. You know, everybody's everybody's got a book on it, it seems. And I'm not aware of any book that comes out that explains comprehensively what the connection is. And that is exactly where my problem as a writer fell. And where I find 99% of first time screenwriters who come to me, that is where their problem Falls is that they are presenting a situation, there's proof, they might have a clever idea. They may have some great elements to wit, but it's ultimately not a satisfying story, because there isn't the cause and effect that we need. And so and in my method, I have, you know, I it's not a purely linear method, it's, it's a visual method we can fix we'll see in my book. And by the way, they can everyone can download free versions of my natural technique worksheet on my website, if they go to Jill chamberlain.com/worksheets, you can download the natural technique. And there's one form for comedy structure. And by the way, we're talking about Aristotelian comedy, the academic term, I'm not talking about a haha, comedy, and tragedy. And, and using this structure, it's way easier for me to help you fix your story, if we're looking at these eight elements on a page, than if we're trying to do with over the course of 120 Page screenplay. Because we can see visually you can see what's working and not right there. Because you can see the arrows point you and say, Oh, these things don't relate. And only four of those moments are really moments in time, you know, we have your first scene, your last scene, what happens at 25%? And what happens that 75% Other than that, there are no beats, and you know defined for you the other it's so there are eight elements that make up the technique. Four of them involve moments in time, the other four are about the glue that are what link these moments, how the you know, you know, what is the character's flaw that's behind it? And how does that relate to what happens at 25%? So it's the glue that it's looking at. And that is that is what is the difference between a situation and a story. Otherwise, your protagonist is, if you don't do this, or something like this, if you don't find a way to make the journey specific to the character, you're just making your protagonist a victim, essentially. And you know, even if your character is a victim in some senses of the word, and by victim I mean, basically just ringing them shits happening to them. It shouldn't be random shit, it is you are specifically picking this character and this thing to happen to this character for a reason. The character doesn't know that. But that is what's going to produce a story.
Alex Ferrari 9:13
So that's really interesting, because I love that originally, when you start this whole thing about the note of like, why is this character going through this story? It's really an interesting way of looking at story because you're right, sometimes you look at movies and you just like, I don't I don't there's no reason that why what's going on, but when you when you have a main character who has different stakes, different things that they're trying to overcome, and the story is allowing them to evolve as a as a character as a human being. That's what you connect to. So I mean, I always go back to Josh, I always go back to Shawshank. I mean, you know, Tim Robbins ended the frame from the moment he walked in. To the moment he left are two very different people even read is different. Morgan Freeman's characters is very different. I The End took him a lot longer to get there than it took Andy. But you see this shift and it's those specific things or happened to those specific characters in that story. It wasn't just kind of like, Indiana Jones got thrown into Shawshank. Which would be an interesting would be an interesting movie.
Jill Chamberlin 10:18
But a very different one. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And I could speak to get specifically Angie's flaw. And that's really what the journey is right is we're trying to find the right event to bring out something in the character they've never had to face before. Right. And the thing in him that he realizes in the end is that he is he has a bit of a victim mentality. And by the end he is taking, you know, he is taking charge of his own destiny that he has to and this all of this awfulness happened to him. Yes, that's awful. And I'm sure he would prefer it hadn't happened to him. But in the end, it is a comedy and meaning a happy ending, at what because he has learned and has become out come out a stronger person, despite the less suffering that he went through, and a more fully realized person, right than the person who had been cold and not present in his marriage, and was the whole reason why his wife had strayed in the first place, as you know, coming to accept that about himself and his how he will he didn't cause her murder. He, you know, taking some responsibility there actually has made him a better person in the end. And that's really what the journey is about, right? That's not the plot description at all, you probably won't see any mention of his flaw. If you look at IMDb of the I don't think it would mention that I haven't looked. But that's what makes it work. Because otherwise you could just be a victim. Right? If he was an unflawed Angel, who, you know, he admitted nothing in the end and you just broke out. It's like, yeah, that's kind of a cool thing. But I don't really care that much. You know, I don't really care versus having someone realized, oh, I need to change. It's Yes, yes, I'm a victim of the system. But the story isn't about me being a victim, it's about me realizing I actually did stuff that I need to be a better person. And and this is getting me to face and getting a deep hit rock bottom. So you finally face it.
Alex Ferrari 12:27
But that's but a good story connects with us because it's a mirror of life. Because we all go through our own trials and tribulations, whether that be in relationships, whether that be jobs, a boss, you know, an accident, a tragedy, a trauma, all of these things that happened to us are what test our mettle and help us evolve. I am not the guy I was when I was 25. Thank God. And I'm sure you're not the same person you were when you were 25. We've evolved because of the challenges and life situations that have tested us and pushed us to a place where now we can we are who we are. And I think I can I think I can speak for you is like I wish possibly I wouldn't have gone through a lot of that stuff. But at the end, when you start looking back, you're like I am who I am. Because it's literally so I wouldn't say I really wouldn't change it. Would you? Would you rather not sure, but that's a vacation. But that's not what we're here to do. We're not here on vacation.
Jill Chamberlin 13:25
So yeah, no, absolutely. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 13:28
Do you think that and I've asked this question a ton on the show. And I always love asking, you know, story experts like yourself. Shawshank is one of those stories that connect at such deep levels with so many people and, and always loved it. I've analyzed that film every which way. And I haven't had Frank Darabont on the show yet and I've been trying to so long because I want to talk to him about Shawshank for like, an hour's on how he like broke it all up in stinks. But the there's a connection there because I remember when I saw it I saw in 94 when it came out. And I was in the theater. I was in my early 20s And I had a bunch of knucklehead highschool friends still. And we were all knuckleheads. And we went to go see this, and we walked out and it touched all of us even through the knuckle headedness. You know that it penetrated something so deep. You know, at the time when you know, John Claude Van Damme was the best actor of all time in our eyes, you know, so we weren't very sophisticated, but it connected at a primal level. What is it about this story that connects with almost everybody who watches it? I always love why I always love looking at bad reviews. If I get a bad review on anything. I just type in Shawshank bad review and I feel better about my own work. Because if someone hated Shawshank someone's gonna hate anything.
Jill Chamberlin 14:51
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I'm not an expert in the movie, but a couple of things. I mean, that I can say one is the thing that I said that right that ultimately, it? And you'd have to I could, you know, especially if you're dealing with prison people wrongfully convicted, you know, we're dealing with rape, we're dealing with some very ugly, traumatic things that you're putting a character through. But again, we're putting them through it for a reason, right? It's not you know, he's a, he's a pretty nice guy, I have to say he doesn't have the most flawed flaw in my book. But ultimately, the story works because of that, if he hadn't had those if he had just been a nice guy, if he had, if he had no, then I think we wouldn't be, I don't think would have had such a visceral reaction, because you're watching someone be victimized so much, right, that we need to see that? Well, there's a reason why there's something that they learned from it. I think that's one part of it. I think it's also great because they are really following three characters. And there are three different ways that they deal with it, right, that similar journey, but three different characters and three different results. As far as read, and as far as the older gentleman whose name I forget, the senior citizen. I look, I use this character, and I use it as character intro in my class all the time, slipping or not right?
Alex Ferrari 16:23
Before the interview is over,
Jill Chamberlin 16:24
Yeah, but there are three really good journeys, right, that that complement each other to, you know, and that they mirror each other, we see, we've see how the, you know, both read and the fellow has named we can't remember, actually are in that exact same room, right and read, you know, was able to handle it on the outside. And the other guy, Brooks, thank you see, I remember the rest of his character, and Joe Brooks, the one senior citizen of the group, and the oldest resident, I remember the rest of it, right. And so, so it's dealing with all three journeys, and three different voices. And it does interesting things with the concept of the protagonist, right, that we, that red is the narrator. And they will that's typically who we think of as the protagonist. He's also I would say, arguably the one who does change the most. Because you know, from being cynical to having hope and faith, you know, from an ad it is, but it's a product of meeting Andy and the both of them change because of each other. But structurally, Andy actually is the one who makes the story. It I call it, the issue of the protagonist is a whole we could have a whole episode on that. And people, people love to question quiz me on the internet and things about, well, who is the protagonist of what, you know, this movie, because sometimes it is hard to tell. And you know, but one of the I'll tell you the easiest in there, there are a couple of criteria. But the biggest criteria is typically, who makes the climatic choice that's involved at the climax, that's generally going to be the protagonist, right? So it's Andy, who makes that what's the climax of movie is his breaking out of prison? Who makes the choice and Bob with that him, he makes that choice to make this risky move? Right. So that's usually going to point to who the protagonist is. And then there are some other factors we do look at as well. And so yeah, it's got a lot of interesting things going on it I learned I use I use say for the script. I use the character intros to this day when I teach character intros in my classes, because I, you know, the I can I can actually recite to you, the character intro for the warden. Warden Samuel Norton strolls fourth, fourth, a colorless man, in a maybe get a few words on a colorless man in a in a gray suit, with a church pin in his lapel. He looks like he could piss icewater. He, he praises the newcomers with plenty eyes. Perfect, perfect. Isn't that? Yes, it's perfect. And it's exactly right. And it is, you know, Fugo I love that you have a choice detail of the church pin that says, but that while Liam's
Alex Ferrari 19:28
Three words, three or four words, just load you up with so much information. And that's what a lot of screenwriters don't understand when they're writing is that every word they use has to have that kind of impact. I mean, Shane Black's intros or descriptions are legendary How beautifully he he's a wordsmith, the way he writes his, his, his descriptions of things I was reading was like, It's my god. It's so vivid with a sentence, a sentence. So that opening I mean you everything you You need to know about that man is going to set as opposed to four paragraphs, which a lot of first time screenwriters do.
Jill Chamberlin 20:06
Yeah, it's picking very specific details, right? It's just, you know, the church. And then then it's a little bit of the writers voice breaking the fourth wall a little bit. And to get to do that with a character, intro, and giving us a GPS. Don't be fooled by that church pin. This man is the opposite of the arc idea of Christian charity, this man is so cold, he could piss ice water, you know. So you pick one or two physical details that then you can bet are emblematic of the character. And it's a nice way to give us a heads up about the character. And it's a great way to establish your voice as a writer on the page as well.
Alex Ferrari 20:48
So So we've talked about the nutshell technique, what are those eight elements?
Jill Chamberlin 20:53
Yeah, so the, it's a schematic, I'm not going to go into the flash, a flash, this is what it looks like. That's on the camera. So there are the the obstructed moments in time is that we're we're looking at first of what I call the setup want or it's an initial want. It's not necessarily the characters biggest one. This is actually the elements that's, that confuses people the most is the want. So I wrote two chapters on that, because a lot of people get, we want lots of things in life. And there's only one want that is actually the one that comes into play, specifically, what happens at 25%. And what happens at 75%. And so it might not be their biggest want, it might not be the thing that they say they want. It's something they want. And the key is that it's connected. Remember, everything's connected, it's connected to what happens at 25%, which I call the point of no return, meaning it's an external event. And I'm sure anybody who's studied screenwriting they've dealt with, they know something happens at 25%, right, any book that you're talking about, we'll talk about that something happens at 25%. And I refer to it as the point of no return, meaning that it is a external event that happens to the protagonist. So it's not, the point of never no return is never somebody decides to do something, never, it's something happens to character, then they might decide to do something. And in that point of no return, they're going to get that want. So that's the tricky part. So it's not necessarily so a lot of times in a movie, it looks like they don't get what they want. I'm telling you, they're getting something they want it, it may not be the biggest one may not be the thing that they said that they wanted, but they're getting something they want. If you don't do that you're making your character, a victim, that the idea is what we're doing is setting up be careful what you wish for. The character asked for this, on some level, even if even if they what they asked for it in. They're gonna get it in a way that's highly ironic. So you know, they're, they get their want. But they get the third element is attached, the point of no return is the catch. The catch is an upfront problem, right? You got the thing that you wanted, but you're getting something you didn't want. And, and then I'll go through the linear and then I'll talk about to that arch. And then the next elements happen at the 75% mark. So we have other comedies or tragedies. And so it's going to be different for comedy and tragedy. But so comedy means again, I'm not talking about a haha, comedy. This, these are Aristotle's definitions. If you don't like them, blame him, look it up with him, pick it up with him. His his definition is a comedy is about a character who a hero who faces a flaw, and in the end changes and gets a happy ending. And that's the definition I'm using. And then a tragedy is going to be the opposite. It's a character who has a flaw, but they failed to change and that's going to bring their sad ending, right. So in my comedy form the we're actually going to hit a low point at the 75% Before we go back up to in the third act to the happy ending. So they're going to hit rock bottom at 75%. You know what I think Blake Schneider refers to is that all is lost moment I think and I think it's an apt way to describe it. But I would also describe it as being the opposite of where they were in the in the setup want. So that's the tricky part. Again, not every one is going to work we need a want that they get in the point of no return. It is also The opposite of what they wanted in the beginning. And then in a tragedy is going to be high point called the triumph, which is the highest moment of success. And is the also related to the one it is the ultimate manifestation of the thing that they wanted. And then the, we're gonna be followed by the chromatic choice. So the climax is the beginning of Act Three, but central to the climax is the protagonist is making a difficult choice. In a comedy, they have two kind of bad choices in the way I like to describe. So people say that a great ending is inevitable, yet unexpected.
That's a pretty tall order, by the way. That is our goal is to have an inevitable yet unexpected ending. And
Alex Ferrari 25:56
So with that said, I'll use Titanic. Okay, inevitable. But yes, some surprises in it.
Jill Chamberlin 26:03
Yes, yes. Yeah. Yeah, it happened. But yes, that, you know, that, you know, in Titanic, and I will use Titanic as my example here. Right? That is that she begins by wanting to go overboard, because she's suicidal. She's on the, on the rail there. And the I think I'm getting this, right, because, by the way, it's very hard to not show movies on command, I'm kind of I want to cheat and look at my book, because I have to watch these movies several times. It's very difficult to identify. But I believe it's in the moment when Leo rescues her, you know, she gets her want, or she wanted to go over the boat, she wants to get back on the boat, I have to cheat and look at my
Alex Ferrari 26:03
She did, she did want to get back onto the boat. And then he convinces her to get back on the boat. And then when she's about to die, because she's see trips, or stumbles, then it's like, I want to get back on the boat. So yeah, Leo does bring her back on the boat.
Jill Chamberlin 27:01
Yeah, but the one has to go overboard. The point of no return is when she actually falls over overboard. But Jack saves her. And the catch never catches attached. She got her want to go overboard, but the catch is Jack. That's the catch. Right? And by the way, the deal with Jack now Yeah, well, and that's what the story is really about is about what happens when these two people meet whatever the catch is, sets up all of act two, which is twice as long as act one or act three. Right? So it's all about what happens when this society girl who is in this arranged marriage is falling for someone who's not in her class who shouldn't be with and who, you know, can't be together. And the you know, the they actually don't hit the iceberg until the midpoint of the film. So that's actually not the primary story. And that was kind of a smart thing to do. Because we only are you. Yeah, we know the chips gonna sink that, you know, we already know that. Right? What we don't know is what's gonna happen to Rose and Jack. And so that's,
Alex Ferrari 28:07
That's the brilliance of that story. It's so like, even to this day, you go when I remember. I mean, you and I are both have similar vintage. So we both remember when Titanic came out. And everybody was like, Oh, God, Twitter. We all know it's a boat, it's gonna sink. Why are we this is a catastrophe who's gonna watch this. And then you go to see it for the first time, among many times, I went to go see it in theater. And you just look at it. And he's like, it's about Jack and Rose is so brilliant. And then the class system, there's so many layers to what James did. And that is, it's, it's truly remarkable. And you're talking about a tragic ending. If you look at Jack character, Jack changes a little bit but doesn't change a whole Jack's pretty much Jack. At the end as he was at the beginning, generally speaking, generally, rows completely different human being.
Jill Chamberlin 28:57
Yeah, so she's the actual protagonists that and that's why it's actually a comedy in my book, because her endings happy, right, we find out she's had this incredibly exciting life. She didn't end up in that arranged marriage. You know, yes, it's sad, you know, the love of her life, you know, died, but she went on to marry other people and have these exciting things happen, all because she met him, right. And he gave her the strength to learn courage to stand up to society, to not do what people are told her had she not met Jack, you know, she would have either sunk, you know, with this ship, or ended up in that arranged marriage and had this unhappy life, that would have been a tragedy. So what's unexpected and what was really smart to do with Titanic is to use this tragic event actually portray a story that's an Aristotelian comedy. And, you know, while it's sad that Jack dies, he's not the protagonist, and so But he because he is if he is a victim, you know, we can have characters who aren't the protagonists who are the victim, he is a victim. It's not his fault, the ship sank there was nothing and nothing to do with a flaw of his. That's fine. But we need a we need a protagonist who is there's a reason why they're being tested on the story, right? And she's being tested about this, which she unbeknownst to her, you know, this is going to completely change her life not so much because she's on Titanic because she meets Jack.
Alex Ferrari 30:29
Right, which is so was just so brilliant. But so continue, we continue with.
Jill Chamberlin 30:33
Yeah, so when Yeah, in that case, so the climatic choice in that one. So the crisis, for example, in that one, because it's a comedy would be actually that she wants to go back on the ship after she kind of goes off and on a couple times and goes back to get jack or something. And so she actually wants it ironically wants the opposite. She wants to go back on the ship. And then the choice the climax, right is where, you know, to to be a survivor and to save herself. Right. You know, that's so emotionally what we feel is the climax is oh, you know, Poor Leo dies. And that the the climax and chromatic choice, by the way, are are two different concepts that happen at the same time. So the most surprising moment, I think is, you know, when you know, that he's drowning, but the choice that is involved is that she chooses to save herself. So that's climatic choice. And the final step is that she, you know, throws away the the diamond, whatever that was called, because that's not you know, that's not what matters. And then the other two elements are the Florida Strength. So she started as a coward, basically, right, she's unable to stand up to her mother. And in the end, she has shown courage, right to be your own person. And, yeah, and that's what this journey got her to face. And that's what makes it a story, right, and not just a sequential events about the sinking of a famous tragedy. But that's not that interesting, right? We needed the right character, to put in that for you put could have used a different character. But this character, you know, was the choice of how to make this story. Because real life it's not a story like that, to remind people all the time because they come to come to my classes, they come to my consultancy with their own stories. And I'm not saying you can't use it, but inherently life is a situation not a story. So we're going to have to find ways to we're gonna have to find the story in there by which elements you know, we are highlighting and which elements maybe we're leaving out and some stories, some life true life stories that can't be adapted easily.
Alex Ferrari 32:54
So yeah, that was gonna ask you about that. Because that's a problem with a lot of true life stories. Sometimes you just like, it's, it might be interesting might be fascinating, but it can't it's hard to adapt those kinds of those kinds of stories. That's why I mean, I'm trying to think of I mean, there's a ton of really great life stories they've been adapted. Gandhi just for whatever reason keeps coming into my head but but there's but there are but but a lot of them are really tough.
Jill Chamberlin 33:22
Yeah. A lot of them fail a lot of biopics. Right a bore you to death.
Alex Ferrari 33:25
Right, right. Like the new the Desi the Desi and the Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, one that aren't working did. It wasn't a bio on them. It kind of was but the way he interacted, he wrote that script, about a week in their life. And use that as the backstory to tell their story of how they came up in the background. So because it's too difficult to like, how can you tell the story? Yeah. Of Desi and Lucy. Balding in its entirety in 90 minutes. But yeah, so that's the way he did, um, Steve Jobs. He, me, he just basically took four keynotes at four different times of his life, and did scenes around it. I mean, it's pretty, pretty fascinating, but it is, yeah. What advice do you have for people who are adopting true lives?
Jill Chamberlin 34:14
Yes, yes. So to be just to be aware of the fact you are inherently dealing with a situation, not a story, that's what you're starting with? Right? Life is not a story. It's a situation so to know that going in there, that means you're gonna have to figure out, strike. That's why structure is going to be really important, you know, structure really all structure means is the events you choose to show in the order you choose to show them. That's all it means. Right? And so, you know, I was I was at a party where someone introduced me, I ran into a student who was with a famous documentary filmmaker who I will not name and she introduced me as her teacher. screenwriting teacher who wrote a book on structure. And His attitude was, to me was a little bit like, structure structure. And so I asked him, I said, you know, your documentary films, just so we understand, are they 90 minutes with the camera like on one person with no cuts at all? And he was like, No, that's not a documentary filmmaking is at all we cut to different things. I'm like, that structure. If you're cutting to different things, that structure if you're not, if you're not showing me 90 minutes of real time, you're structuring things. So that's all we're talking about with structure, right. So a documentary, if you're trying to make tell a story, and you can, by the way, use the natural technique for documentaries, I know documentaries, if you used it. Or if you're telling a real life story, as you're trying to do a biopic, you're going to need to choose the moments that are going to be involved, you're one of the other key moments is Remember, I talked about a flaw was one of the eight elements. And this is hard, a lot of people are doing stories based on themselves, you may have to make your character more flawed than you feel you were because it's not going to be that interesting to see how Koroneiki work throughout it when these incredible things happen. Because that's not a story. A story again, is that, you know, someone faces something, something happens to them, which gets them to face something in themselves. So I would advise being very willing to that you better be willing to look at yourself or whoever the subject is, in the most negative possible light, because you may have to do that. And then ultimately, some stories don't completely work with that character as the protagonist. And I have a technique I talked about in the book in the last chapter called The Secret protagonist that comes in handy for a lot of things. But it can happen with biopics because you look at someone's life, and maybe they were just a nice guy the whole time. And there's no end they there wasn't a change in, in, they didn't have a tragic ending, but they had a happy ending, that's not going to fit what we need for a satisfying story. Well, maybe there's somebody else in their life, who we can hear their story through that characters framework. And so that, and that that character can follow this pattern, because this is what we need. Ultimately, we need one character to follow either this pattern, or this pattern. Right, you know, Leo's pattern was this, that's doesn't work. That's why he's not the protagonist, right?
Alex Ferrari 37:44
And for everyone listening, you're pointing down.
Jill Chamberlin 37:47
Yeah. And the end. So sometimes you have to look to you know, if you had somebody who started happy and ended up sad, and that's the biographical figure you wanted, it's going to you're gonna have to look at other events there and and see if you can find a way to make them follow the tragic pattern perhaps, or maybe that's not going to work. And maybe you're going to have to tell it through their partner or somebody else in their life who actually was affected. That's the technique, you'll see sometimes, that the actual, you know, central figure is not actually the protagonist from a structural point of view. And let me just add protagonist is a structuring device, it really is, it doesn't mean the most important character, it doesn't mean the character who has the most lines. It's the character that fits the pattern of this, or this, either, they're either they went up, up, up, and then came down, down, down and failed to learn. Or they went down, down, down, down, and then they learned something and went up. Not everybody has to follow that pattern. But we need one character to follow that pattern, or you need to find the moments in that character story that, you know, are their life that follow that pattern to make it work. Because otherwise it's not gonna be satisfying. It's right.
Alex Ferrari 39:09
Right, so so so looking at, let's say, a person's life, and there's a meet queue of the two people like the protagonist and the their wife, let's say, in a life, there are those interesting moments where like, oh, it was, you know, there was a very adorable meet cute that happened. And it was ironic because of this. And this. Those are a couple of moments you can pull out of a real life story, and included in the story, but if you actually laid it out how long it actually took all the different things, it's boring as hell. But if you take the highlights of those things, and incorporate them in a structure that makes sense for a movie, then it works. I think that's where I feel that's where screenwriters make mistakes, is that they try to like well, it didn't happen that way. I'm like, well A Beautiful Mind did not happen to wait. Ron Howard made it that that the brilliance of that movie is they changed it for for something they say for dramatic purposes. That was because real life is even the most interesting life is if you take it, you know, an hour of a very interesting life. A lot of times is still boring. Yeah, yep. Even of course of a year of of someone's life, you're like, Oh, my God, it did so much to 1000s of hours that went through is boy, you got to cut through all of that stuff to eyeline. And that's editing that's editing a movie. You're taking our documentary, you taking 80 hours of footage, and whittling down to 90 minutes of the most interesting things that tell a story. And that's how screenwriter should approach Yeah.
Jill Chamberlin 40:50
Yeah, I also like to work backwards too, sometimes. Because it's, you know, we also need not just the meet cute, right? But the other really key moment is that climactic moment, it to me. And so, you know, a lot of times people come in, and my clients or students and they, they're proud, they filled up their nutshell form. And we kind of go through it. And by the way, I put calls, put calls, cold calls, and then and then we try to build it up the strongest. But I'll tell them, I'm not too attached to what you're saying, frankly, about the want with flaw even until I hear your climax. Because I really need to hear I really need to hear that point of no return what happens at 25%? What is the big event that makes this movie this movie? And what is the climax of the movie. And if we if you don't have those figured out, the other ones kind of don't matter until we figure if we don't have a nice satisfying climax for you. Let's stop. Let's talk about this, let's find it interesting climax for you. Because that's what everybody paid their money to see. That's, you know, so those are two incredibly important moments that the whole story rests on that if they're not, you can fill out my form correctly. But if those moments aren't, you know, powerful, then it's, it's, you know, unsatisfying and surprising, then it's no, it doesn't matter that you filled it out correctly. That, you know, we need to find, let's find you more, you know, I saw that ending coming a mile away, let's find you a third choice that we find some way to set it up so that we didn't see it, and work backwards. From there. I do that a lot of the times.
Alex Ferrari 42:28
So you need those kinds of, you know, signposts, um, two pillars, if you have those two pillars, you can connect a bunch I can
Jill Chamberlin 42:37
I can get I can make anything work if I get those two. But I know what those are. I don't really know your story.
Alex Ferrari 42:45
Right! That's, that's really interesting way of looking about it. Because, because a lot of times you like when I write I'm like, Oh, I got the beginning. And I got the ending. And then once you have those two things in your in their good satisfying enough, then you can you connect them is really intuitive. Yeah, exactly. You're just this happens. And this happens. And then he falls into a pit with snakes in it. And he's afraid of snakes. Why is he afraid of snakes? We won't find that out until the third Indiana Jones and things like that. But but we just know the two ending. So if you start looking at movies we love you know, the 25% mark, I mean, the climax and yeah,
Jill Chamberlin 43:24
I like to point out like to people, you know, who like my students, they know my book, they like my method, and I sign up a movie every week for them to watch. And nutshell, and I tell them, Don't get distracted with trying to figure out what was trying to figure out this. You want to find and it's the same thing with your stories. Let's figure out what is the big event? And what is the climax? If you were to turn to your spouse while you watch any movie and ask them what was the big event that made this movie this movie? And what was the climax? They don't know anything about structure? They haven't read my book, or, you know, watch screenwriting podcast, they would be able to answer that. We should feel those two moments in our gut. They're not intellectual. Really. I mean, ultimately, there is emotional stuff going on. Right? But it is it is a gut answer that we should feel this is the thing that changes everything, and that this movie is going to be about and this is the climax. Right? So I like to start with those first really.
Alex Ferrari 44:23
So if we can analyze some of the most popular films of all time or action currently right now
Jill Chamberlin 44:29
I'm really bad with that selling on that we'll try we'll try.
Alex Ferrari 44:32
Not necessarily but just ideas, just general ideas of why things are working. Something like endgame, the Avengers endgame the last Marvel the big the big Avengers movie.
Jill Chamberlin 44:43
Okay, is that the one with Thanos? Yeah, well, yeah, the big battle, the big battle and where he sat at the end or he stood at the end.
Alex Ferrari 44:50
That's the note when he sat well, he's dead at the end. So he dies this is the the last the last Avengers
Jill Chamberlin 44:57
That I didn't see it. Okay, so I'm the one before I can come that was done before
Alex Ferrari 45:01
The one before is sad. But the last one was I can't talk to you about because I'm gonna ruin it for you. But anyway.
Jill Chamberlin 45:09
But the one before it can take no Thanasis the protagonists. That's the interesting structure there.
Alex Ferrari 45:14
Really! Yeah, it is. Yeah. The Infinity War, the Infinity War. What Yes. Thanos is.
Jill Chamberlin 45:20
So again, not not necessarily the most important character, not necessarily the character who's on screen the most, or says the most lines. It's the one whose structure whose change or lack of change holds everything together without Thanos. There's no story. That's the story, right?
Alex Ferrari 45:38
Yeah. Because there's so many heroes, that it's almost impossible to follow. Like, you could pull out a couple of heroes from the Avengers. And the story will continue. It will change a bit.
Jill Chamberlin 45:51
Yeah, but it will continue. Yeah, you can easily Exactly. The story. Yeah. Without him and it would be it's just not even that movie.
Alex Ferrari 45:58
Right. It's, it's, it's, it's really fascinating. There was one interview I saw of you that you you talked about fat Tootsie, can you talk about can I talk about fat Tootsie? Because I love that?
Jill Chamberlin 46:08
Yes, yes, this is the ease. This is kind of the best way I know to to explain what my method is addressing when I'm talking about story versus situation is that it does require that you've seen Tootsie and sometimes people are like, Why you bring up a 40 year old movie, you know, and I'm like, Why haven't you seen Tootsie? One of the greatest movies that every screenwriter should watch. So it's such a tight screenplay to Yeah, you need you need to watch Tootsie people if you have not seen Tootsie for some reason, but I'm going to talk as if people have seen it because they should have right. So the you know, the plot. So the real Tootsie the movie Tootsie is about Michael Dorsey out of work actor gets a job on a soap opera, but he has to pretend to be a woman. And at the climax, he reveals, you know, spoiler, he pulls off his wig and reveals you know that he is a man. And the and then we get into comedy he gets in the end, he gets the girl because he's learned and he's changed. So what if I have the exact same movie to see Michael Dorsey out of work actors, our protagonist gets a part on a soap. But I'm gonna make two changes. First changes is that the part he gets is not a woman it's a part is a male character. But it's it's an obese man. It's a fictional they, you know, in this fictional soap opera world, they have an obese man who's going to be a central character. And Michael really wants this part. So he's going to get his costume or friend to make them a fat suit, and a makeup artist to make him prostheses and he's going to go in and audition and pretend he's actually fat. And he's going to get the part. And then the other changes, I'll have him tell Julie, the love interest that he's gay. And so Julie can be just as comfortable with him, as in proceeds no sexual tension, because she thinks he's a gay man. Just the same way. She felt comfortable with the Dorothy persona in the real Tootsie, right. And we have a very similar movie when you think about it. You know, it's we tend to find it funny in movies. When men are dressing up as women. We find it you know, it can be funny having a little guy like Dustin Hoffman pretending to be a big you know, a big guy. You know, when he grows to hate it. He's getting in and out of its fat suit as quick as he can before people discover him. It grows to hate it so much that live on the air, he pulls off his prostheses and his fat suit, and He reveals his little Dustin Hoffman. But that Tootsie is a situation not a story. What and what is the difference? Do you think so?
Alex Ferrari 48:54
I mean, in initially, my thoughts are you're right, the basic story blocks of the story are very similar. You know, could it be as funny? I argue that him dressing up as a woman in 1980 I think it was 82 or something like that is funnier than him being in a fat suit. So there's those but that's we're talking about really nitpicking stuff here. But the difference why is this a situation versus a story? I think it's a bigger leap. A bigger transformation for a man to dress as a woman as as opposed to dressing as up as a gay Batman. That's my initial thoughts. But I know you have the answer, Jill, so please.
Jill Chamberlin 49:42
Well, you you're in the ballpark. That the the critical difference between the two, the most important and I should set of my eight elements really the most important of the eight elements is the flaw. What is the character Central flaw because remember, that's the story. That's the story not really the external becoming, pretending to be a woman or pretending to be a fat man. That's an event that sets the story into motion. The real story is a particular person being flawed in a particular way having that event happened to them. So what in the real Tutsi is his flaw? Do you think
Alex Ferrari 50:26
I think wasn't was he a womanizer? I think? Yeah. Yeah. I think it was that right.
Jill Chamberlin 50:31
Yeah. He has a lack of respect for women. You know, he's not as egregious example as the Dabney Coleman character, in fact, that cater to that comparison, is part of how he starts to realize he's not such a great guy. You know, I think he described himself as a feminist he thinks he is. But we see right from the beginning him hit on every single woman at this party with the same stupid line, right? He's friends with the Tergar character, and works with her. But the moment he sleeps with her, he treats her terribly, right. So his central flaw of lack of respect of of women, is being tested perfectly. By putting him having him have a point of no return where he actually has to pretend to be a woman. That's the perfect test. With fat Tootsie. It is a arbitrary, it may or may not be a funny situation we're putting it in, but it has, you know, unless we give him a specific character flaw that has to do with and we could do that, right, we could give him a specific character flaw, change the character and he has a problem with, you know, he is shallow about people's appearances or maybe fat people specifically, right, we could do then you could then you could do that. But the character is I presented, you know, we're using the same Michael Dorsey as in the movie. It has nothing to do with it. Here's the thing. Yeah, 99% of writers are writing fat Tootsie. Right, they may have a clever setup, but it's got nothing to do with the protagonist. Right? That's not a story. You have to find the right journey, for the end the right character to go on that journey. That's what we're doing. And that's what I think the nutshell technique breaks down in a very clear way. And that's, you know, I like it's a visual form where you can see right there, oh, yeah, that flaw doesn't work with that catch. They have nothing to do with each other. And so you can make those adjustments to so you can find the most satisfying story
Alex Ferrari 52:34
That says it's that's that's a profound statement your most, most most most Reno's writing fantasy, because you're absolutely right. The Writing Situations, not story. And I'd argue, so wanted to go back to one of the biggest franchises in movie history, James Bond. And I always love bringing him up. Because up until Daniel Craig, James Bond never changed. never changed every movie, he was the same due to the beginning as he was at the end. It was just adventures, and it was just plot and stuff. But if you it was just basically pieces of action back of it. It was at that time in history. It made sense, but things had to change. So I'd argue that Casino Royale, which was the first time you're correct film, arguably one of the best, if not the best, maybe Skyfall. You know, is it was so so amazingly good. Because of the character that I completely agreed. Just changed slightly agree. The depth of the onions you like, Oh, this is why he womanizers Oh, this is one because he was hurt. And this in you just like for the first time you're like, Oh, this is who James Bond is. But But you go back and they're fun. You know, you go back to the Sean Connery's or the Pierce Brosnan or Roger Moore once they're fun little, but they're they're almost serialized. They're almost like, like flash forward a sonic Yeah. Yeah, they're not really deep. Yeah. And that is but but but we learned so there is no flaw in the character of James Bond. Prior to Casino Royale once Daniel Dennett all flaws, and then just did he's had these fight and every movie, he's fighting something within himself, who says it's all fair statement? Yes, absolutely.
Jill Chamberlin 54:25
I completely agree with you. Right? It completely changed with Daniel Craig, as far as going for being a situation might be entertaining, right? A lot of a lot of people, you know, we'd like to see things blow up. And we liked the clever things. And we liked the bad guys, but gadgets and the gadgets and the martini and all that and it's charming. And it can be entertaining, but I think absolutely their situations, not stories. I think it's a great example to that. One of my frustration with franchises is that I think you can do what Casino Royale did and have Both will have a story and it's you know, it's fun and spectacle right in there seems to feel like there's an either or I get frustrated. I'm not a big fan of this. Why was when you through super happy hero movies and I get so bored in superhero movies because for the most part, there's not much story to me. And I don't think you'd lose your audience. If you had a deeper story, right? The the most of the people go there to see the spectacle to see the special effects to see the climax. And that's all great. But you get gain a little bit more. And I think the James B, the Daniel Craig movies did very well, I don't think they hurt. They didn't do worse. I'm not that I'm not an expert on the box office. But I don't think they they certainly didn't decline. They were there were some of the highest grossing Yeah, right. So you get both, you're gonna get both you're not going to and there seems I feel like there's some sort of idea of like, No, we've always done it this way. And this is what people want. It's like, yeah, yeah, they're more people would want it if you actually had story and not just spectacle, and you can do both. Yes.
Alex Ferrari 56:06
Well, yeah. I mean, Dark Knight. Nolan's Dark Knight is, I mean, the whole trilogy, nearly from Batman Begins to dark night, but you look at Dark Knight and you're like, oh my god, it's a crime. It's crime movie. It's it's heat. It's basically he with a psychopath and a joker. You pull out the superhero aspect of it. It's still a fascinating crime, crime, you know, crime thriller. And then you look at something like Logan, which is the last Wolverine movie, and oh, my god, the depth in that. And then they took that to a whole other place. But again, its flaws. It's what that character what Logan is fighting is so much greater than his physical issues that he has, or that he's taking around Professor X. Who's got dementia, the most powerful person in the world with mind powers as dementia. Holy cow, what kinds? You know, I'm I love James Mangold. I think he's brilliant, and what he does as well, but it's but you're right, you can't have both. And when you do, that's when things will go which whole other level?
Jill Chamberlin 57:12
Yeah, it's whole other level. And like you said, I mean, you know, we're talking about, you know, Wolverine, it's the flaw is the story. Really, I mean, it's yes, you have some sort of external event to put it in motion. But it's really the flaw in how you know, the character's flock gets in their way. That is creating what is the story, right, otherwise, it's a situation.
Alex Ferrari 57:36
So right now the biggest movie as we as of this recording of this year's top gun, Maverick, and I was watching Top Gun, I, when I went to go see it, I was just going, Oh, my God, I mean, as perfectly as you can execute a SQL for that for Top Gun for the original Top Gun, which is spectacle, it was spectacle. But the flaw and the challenges that they threw at Maverick, having to go back and teach gooses son, and, and go through the emotional trauma and there was flaws that he was dealing with, in order to and that's what makes that work was yes, it's a spectacle. Yes, the action is amazing. But I saw grown men cry. I was one of them. Because every dad went to go see. But there was but there was something else there besides just spectacle. And that's what yeah, a lot of screenwriters don't understand.
Jill Chamberlin 58:30
Yeah. And that's what hooks us, right. That's what makes us feel that is what why we care. You know, we may be entertained by the spectacle, but you could have spectacle and emotionally engaged us and pull us in. Right. And that's going to come down to that flaw. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 58:45
Now, I'd love to ask you this question. What do you think is the main difference between a professional screenwriter and an amateur screenwriter? Besides being sold?
Jill Chamberlin 58:55
Circumstances is it right is so
Alex Ferrari 59:00
Just the work how they're actually approaching the craft?
Jill Chamberlin 59:04
I mean, I don't know. There's so much that's outside that control as far as the business goes, right. So I'm not sure that I can say there's one thing that is different, you know, I know, I know, writers who, you know, who I've worked with, who are incredibly talented, whose scripts, I think are amazing, I can't believe aren't being produced and they're not being produced. And I work with some professional writers sometimes whose work does not impress me, I'll just say, and I treat all my clients equally, I'm here to help and I'm here to make everybody's script better. But it's not like there's something inherently better necessarily in the professional writer. I do feel a lot of it is circumstance. I think I can just describe better what's between the difference between the amateur writer who is serious or how as potential and the amateur writer who's not that I could maybe answer that, if I may answer a different question than the one you asked, you know, and I think that is the difference there, to me is somebody who's got one script, basically, they've got one script idea, it's one baby, they think that it will make, you know, 200 million at the box office, if only they can get it in the right hands. And they are, you know, they obviously don't know how the business really works. But they've got just that one baby. And that's it. Versus the writers who I think who are on the right track, are one, two, no, you can't just have one script that they're writing all the time. They're constantly writing, and that they're trying different things. And they're not just writing there they are taking, you know, Hollywood's not looking to discover people. I know, people want to think that they're not on there.
Alex Ferrari 1:00:57
They don't want they don't want unknown quantities.
Jill Chamberlin 1:00:59
They don't want exactly. There are plenty of of writers who are in the you know, in the WGA, who've had stuff done who are out of work and in, but are already known. And those are the people who are who are they're looking to for the next job, not somebody who's yet another unknown out of there. So you need to make your own opportunities is what you know. So that's, that's a big part of it is just you're not going to wait, you can't just wait to be discovered, because it's not going to happen.
Alex Ferrari 1:01:28
Right. And so everyone listening understands why that is, why don't they want this new untapped talent, because before Hollywood was about on tap talent. Now, as you know, it would be I bet I'm talking two years ago, like they were looking for new ideas to 70s. That's how Yeah, that's how the film Brad's got in if we had no idea what now, the whole town is run by fear. And I take a chance on you Jill, as an unknown writer, or me as an unknown writer. If it fails, I lose my job. And then I get and I have that on my permanent record, quote, unquote, that like, oh, yeah, they, they gave this schmuck you know, 5 million for that script, and it bombed. There, they rather be able to hire someone who has done a few things might not be as good. But if everything goes to hell, they're like, Hey, what are you talking about? He, she, she she wrote a script that, you know, won an Oscar. Yeah, it's just wasn't my fault. Basically, the way it is,
Jill Chamberlin 1:02:28
That's, that is a big part of it, you know, it is, you know, if you are not already in Hollywood insider, in, you're trying to get in, you know, you're trying to crash a party that people don't really want you in. And, and you need to be aware of that. I'm not saying don't try to crash it, but you need to be aware of that there are plenty of out of work, right. WGA writers with who have agents and managers already who can't get work. And so, and I'm not saying I'm not let me just say I'm not saying give up. I'm saying, you know, I wish more writers were just aware of how the business works, that the spec market script market is dead, you know, the spec script market is dead, you know, 30 some about 30 spec scripts get bought a year. 30 You know, how many scripts or 30 scripts are registered with the WGA every year?
Alex Ferrari 1:03:19
30 40,000 more?
Jill Chamberlin 1:03:21
Yeah. 50,000 Yeah. 50,000 So, and I'm not saying that bums people out when they hear it and but you need to be aware of the statistics and how the business works. And so stop trying to think if only I get discovered in and, you know, whine about the way the business works? Well, you know, what, that's the way the business works. And, and it's, well, some of it is about fear it also, just to give it a little bit more nuance. I mean, if you wanted to design cars, you wouldn't send to Ford Motor Company, a cocktail napkin where you have designed a, your thoughts on what the next best car design is and expect to get anywhere. Right, right. Right, right. There's uh, there are things you know, there are people who've worked very hard to get there to where they are, and they're not really probably looking for new ones. And so you have to realize you're crashing an industry and you need to try to take you know, most of the writers who I've worked with who've done well, didn't wait. They did not wait to be discovered. They tried lots of different things. I'm going to mention a couple of TV shows and I want you to tell I'm sure you can be able to tell me what they have in common. Letter Kenny Smith, Broad City, insecure. workaholics crazy ex girlfriend. They all have something very poor. in common, I know two of those shows. Okay, what are those two shows? What are those two shows have in common that you can think of
Alex Ferrari 1:05:06
I think crazy ex girlfriend, and I haven't seen them but I'm aware of them workaholics, I can't speak, I can't speak intelligently about it, because I don't know, I've never watched an episode just know of them.
Jill Chamberlin 1:05:18
Okay! What I love all these shows, by the way, what all of these shows have in common is that the Creator started by funding their own prototype. They were either web series, or they were short film that went somewhere, or they had YouTube videos,
Alex Ferrari 1:05:37
Like the like the Philadelphia was the one with Danny DeVito, that show within some Yeah,
Jill Chamberlin 1:05:42
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a little bit different, a little bit different, because that was kind of an internal thing. These were actually they, you know, that was something that was internally distributed, I don't think that they ever distributed to the public. These were all things people put on YouTube, they said, they did not wait to be discovered, had any of these people waited for someone to discover them and fund them. I don't think a single one of the odds are incredibly slim than any, any of these things would have been made it made. And like I said, I think these are all great, great shows, and creators with great talent. And so talent alone is not people, they're not going to find you. You need to be your own protagonist and find ways to put it out in the world that you are an interesting, you have an interesting voice. That's what's unique about you. There are a gazillion writers already in Hollywood. But what what they don't have is you and your specific voice or your specific kind of humor or your specific angle. And whether that's to do a, you know, a web series or to have a Twitter presence or to have a podcast. And by the way, I don't think you should just do one thing. Most of my writers who've been successful have done many things. They did a web series, it didn't do well. They did a short film, maybe it did a little bit they did this they did that they did lots of things, if that's what you're interested in, don't just hide in your room and write scripts and enter competitions and network, you know, in LA, if that's all you're doing, the odds are really, really going to be slim. It's not impossible, it's really slim. Instead, find a way there all these you know, with internet, they're all these ways that cost virtually nothing. Where you can show the world I'm creating great content, you know, you would be very well advised to come find me, you know, versus putting ourselves as writers in the positions of please please, please hire me. What a turn off right?
Alex Ferrari 1:07:43
You're so you're so on the on the money on this because so many of us screenwriters and filmmakers are still looking at the business as if it was the 90s, the 80s and 90s, early 2000s. And the world that we live in now you actually have to take the bull by the horns and go out there. There's a movie coming out as of this recording this week, but and the interview I did is coming out next week. Marcel, the shell with the hotshoe. Hassan, I don't know if you're familiar. I am. I saw it. It's amazing. Yes. It's amazing. A 24 is releasing it. It's this thing. And I didn't know that it started off with a short film. Well, years ago.
Jill Chamberlin 1:08:24
Yeah, I didn't know they were making feature of it. But it was great. It makes sense. Yeah.
Alex Ferrari 1:08:28
Right. So they made that so that and then they did like a few years later, they did another one then Hollywood came calling and they wanted to team up with like Ryan Reynolds. And they're like, that's not what this is. So they just they released a couple of books. So they created an IP to the point where they went out and finally got the money to make the feature on their own terms, complete creative control and Final Cut. But they had this base. I mean, the first short was watched 40 million times 50 million times. So and then the second one was watch 36 million times 40 minutes. I'm like that. So they had this massive audience that they could tap into. But it was just a shell. That's a little talking of three minutes short, and it turned into this beautifully wonderful film. But there you go is and it was just to creators to just like, I got it. I'm just gonna put this out there. No masterplan, but they at least created something and they can go in and go, that is the future. That's that's the way you have to do it. And it's, it could be podcasts, it could be literally changing your screenplay into a story based podcast where an audience you could do this so many. Affordable!
Jill Chamberlin 1:09:39
Very affordable, very affordable. Yeah, but yeah, you're gonna you may have to invest a little bit, right. So people have ideas like I can't spend $1 Like one of us already had to spend $1 But like, you have to buy the mic. Yeah, you're gonna have to get the mic, you know, and put some pillows in the room and you know, and it's not that expensive, but you if you're just gonna wait to be discovered you're gonna just keep waiting until Get all the great stuff we wouldn't have today. If you know these other creators I mentioned it just been just been waiting. And you know, you're gonna have to try lots of things.
Alex Ferrari 1:10:08
Yeah, absolutely. July could talk to you for at least five hours. I know that. I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?
Jill Chamberlin 1:10:25
You know, perfectionist, perfectionism is, is not your friend. Yeah, that's why deadlines are great. You just sometimes you just got got to get it done. And it's, it's never, nothing's ever gonna be perfect. Deadlines are great for that they actually force us like, you gotta, you know, good or bad. You got to turn it in. And you need that sometimes, because otherwise, it's a lot of people won't get anything done.
Alex Ferrari 1:10:51
What are? What are three screenplays that every screenwriter should read?
Jill Chamberlin 1:10:56
Well, the first one, I'm gonna guess many of your guests have said before because everybody knows. I think that everyone should read it. But I'll go ahead and bring it up because it's everyone should read it. The Breaking Bad pilot, I'm sure people have brought that up. Right. That's if you have perfect breaking pilot, what is wrong with you, you need to go find the Breaking Bad pilot. It is it is a must read just an excellent example of of establishing voice of the way he's able to lead our eye. And in story just is a is a masterpiece. I believe the pilot script is another pilot, it's another pilot that I really recommend my writers read is is the pilot for the leftovers, Damon Lindelof. And it's because by the way, these are the things I'm going to run back recommend I liked the scripts better than the final product. So Breaking Bad, it's a great pilot scripts even better. The Leftovers was kind of a little too dark for my taste on the screen. But on the page, it's one of the it is probably the strongest example I've seen a voice of just out there voice of the end. And I think it's helpful for writers to see how far you can go and you know, there are a lot of moments where he stops and says You described something and then says what the fuck it like literally says that in the in the scene description. You know, this happens What the fuck? Right? He's commenting on us and keep in keeping us engaged in that story. And I think that's a really good example for writers, especially ones who are been taught you only write what's seen and heard and to understand what that really means. And the last one is is another one I'd like the it's for voice is big fish. John August. Again, it's the script I like better than the movie I think the script he just is great with vapes in the way he delights us that's what that's the word I like to use a good good voice is kind of Oh, I I didn't have to have that described that way but it delights I'm readers are human we want to be pulled along. And you know voice is one of the hardest things to teach. That's something you really have to practice to to learn. So that's why like, the primary reason I like those scripts are I think are just excellent examples of writers with really strong voice.
Alex Ferrari 1:13:25
And where can people find out more about you your work your workshops, where they can get the book and so much more?
Jill Chamberlin 1:13:30
Yeah, so my book is The Nutshell Technique: Crack the secret of successful screenwriting is on Amazon and all you know, basically all the places you buy the books. It is I don't know if anyone is able to do it, but it is available also in Italian, Korean, Mandarin Chinese is coming out soon. And there's an audiobook version. I'd recommend getting the paper back because the paperback has, has nice big diagrams. It's a larger format book, it's easier to see that. So I teach classes on Zoom, and my screenwriting school is the website is thescreenplayworkshop.org. And I have 10 week classes where you write a feature film or a TV, TV pilot. I have a special class going right on right now. That's actually only for alumni that I just want to mention because it's really unique where we are a TV writers room. It's called TV writers room. People pitch ideas for new series and one idea is chosen and the whole class. Everybody writes an episode of a season the new show, it's really one of the only classes like that. You have to be an alumni though. That's the one class you can't just sign up for my other classes all levels take them beginners to me winning screenwriters take my classes. And then to find out more about my script consultation, you can go to Jillchamberlain.com. And that's also where you can find the free worksheets that I mentioned.
Alex Ferrari 1:15:03
That's awesome. And I advise everyone listening to go check your stuff out you, you have a really unique way of looking at story. And again, again, I've become an expert on looking at stories from so many different angles over the years. And years is really one of the best. So Jill, thank you so much for coming on the show. You're welcome back anytime to talk shop. But I appreciate you. Thanks again for coming back.
Jill Chamberlin 1:15:25
Thank you. It's my pleasure. It was great fun to see you again.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.
- Jill Chamberlain – Official Site
- Jill Chamberlain – IMDb
- The Nutshell Technique: Crack the Secret of Successful Screenwriting