IFH 205: How to Pitch Your Screenplay in 60 Seconds with Michael Hauge

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You walk into an elevator and just before the door closes Steven Spielberg gets on. You have 60 secs to pitch him your latest screenplay. What do you do? Your goal is to have your audience say yes, I understand, and I care” after reading or watching your brand story.

If your audience just says “now I know” then you have successfully informed them but not enough to make them care, to make them stay to whatever you have to say next. Your career can be made in 60 seconds – if you make the right pitch!

Today’s guest is returning champion Michael Hauge. He is the best-selling author of Writing Screenplays That Sell (now in its 20th Anniversary Edition) and Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read

According to Will Smith,

No one is better than Michael Hauge at finding what is most authentic in every moment of a story.” – Will Smith

We discuss pitching techniques, the pitch story arch, and much more. After partnering with Michael on the best-selling Udemy Screenwriting course Screenplay and Story Blueprint: The Hero’s Two Journeys I wanted to work with him again. We came up with the NEW online course Pitching Your Screenplay or Novel in 60 Secs (Click here for an EXCLUSIVE Discount)

Enjoy my conversation with Michael Hauge.

Alex Ferrari 0:30
Today on the show we have returning champion Michael Hague, Michael Hague, if you guys are not aware, is a string, screenwriting consultant and overall screenwriting guru that has been on the show before in Episode 55. And he has written many books but the must have on every screenwriter shelf is writing screenplays that sell, which is a mandatory reading for any screenwriter out there. And Michael and I partnered on a online course called the screenplay and story book blueprint, the heroes two journeys Where is with Michael and Chris Vogler, the author of the writers journey, and that is easily one of the best selling online courses we've ever done. And I wanted to have Michael back on the show because today we're going to talk about how to pitch your story in 60 seconds. And Michael wrote an entire book specifically called selling your story in 60 seconds. So whether you're a screenwriter, a filmmaker who's trying to sell their or not sell their story, but pitch their story to somebody who you want to be in the movie, or, or be part of your movie, an investor, an agent, an actor, a crew member, that you want to get to work on the film. This is very, very important and obviously very important for screenwriters trying to pitch their stories to producers, and studios. And we also have, of course, an online course that Michael and I worked on. And we'll have a special discount for you at the end of this episode. But in this conversation, I was able to weasel out as much information out of Michael as possible for you guys to really understand how to pitch your story in 60 seconds like a pro. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Michael Hauge. I'd like to welcome back to the show, Michael Hauge, Michael, thanks so much for coming back on the show.

Michael Hauge 3:18
Oh, my pleasure. It's great to be back.

Alex Ferrari 3:20
You know, your your your episode was probably one of the most downloaded episodes in the history of indie film hustle. Just because it was one of the early ones. I think I don't even remember what the number was. I think it was like 20 or 30. We're now getting we're closing in on 200 episodes. Soon. Yeah, I'm busy. And but that episode was very well received, and the course that that we partnered on the heroes two journeys, the story, storytellers blueprint has done extremely well. And a lot of listeners have taken that course. So thank you so much for coming back and just sharing your knowledge.

Michael Hauge 4:00
Oh, absolutely. And congratulations. I didn't realize the number have gotten that high. But it's an honor to be back. And and I'm looking forward to talking about this because this is this is a significantly different topic than the other one. This is in the selling arena rather than the creating arena.

Alex Ferrari 4:16
Exactly. Exactly. Because, you know, I brought you back because we're going to talk about pitching. And I think that's a mystery for a lot of filmmakers, screenwriters, people in general, they just don't understand how to pitch and it's such an important skill. So we kind of put together wanted to kind of dig into, you know, a lot of the stuff that you work on on your book, which is called selling your story in 60 seconds, and I wanted to get into it. So what is a 62nd pitch exactly?

Michael Hauge 4:45
Well, this is a pitch that one would give either a novelist or screenwriter would give or in this case screenwriter primarily when they have a very short amount of time number one And they have one goal and one goal only. And that is to get somebody to read their script. Or if you're a filmmaker in another arena to get somebody to look at your short film or your piece of work that you want to use as a sample, but as opposed to say, a pitch meeting in Hollywood, once you reach a certain Echelon, you might be invited to sit down in an agent's office, sit down in a production company's office, and discuss your screenplay or discuss your idea for a script. That's all well and good. But you're never going to get to that meeting, until someone has read your script. And they're not going to read your script unless you know a persuasive way to get them to take a look at it. So this is all about just that, will you take a look at this and read it? And then my script will stand on its own? If you'll only take a look?

Alex Ferrari 5:48
Right! So it's basically the elevator pitch, if you will.

Michael Hauge 5:51
Yeah, if you're going to a very high floor. elevator, 60 seconds to get up there. Yeah, I mean, the 60 seconds is not a precise shirt. But there's another context where it's not just elevator, but it's a phone call. But also, if you go to a pitch Fest, or a pitch Mart or if you're going to a writers conferences, screenwriting conference, and you're just have the opportunity to corner someone who has a degree of power in Hollywood, who's in the business, in the hallway or something. And and you can say, you know, I'd love to tell you about my script. Or sometimes if you're just schmoozing with someone in that context, they'll ask you, well, what am I working on, you can't take 10 minutes of their time to talk about all the nuances and details of your masterpiece, you've got to do it in a very short period of time. But in the 60 seconds, you can give someone enough information about the script that they can decide whether or not they want to read it. But you want them to decide yes or no based on an understanding of what the promise of it is. And not because they don't you, you told them, the start of it, and nothing more, because that's all you have the time for.

Alex Ferrari 7:06
Now, what are the top reasons why pitches go wrong?

Unknown Speaker 7:11
Well, to me without question, the number one mistake that screenwriters make when they're pitching their project is, no matter how short the time span, they try and tell their story. And you just simply can't do that I see sometimes, if you've got a screenplay for a movie, and that, that you can tell the story in 60 seconds, then you've got a story for a 62nd film, because that's, that's what you're trying to do. You're trying to squeeze them, this is how it opens. And this is who the characters are. And then this happens. And then all at once a body is found. And then now we're and if you're at a pitch mark, where they say you've got, say 10 minutes, and you go longer than that, they're just going to take you away and you won't even finish, sometimes you're only given five minutes. But the thing to remember is even five minutes is too long when you have a five minutes like because you've got to have some time left after you pitch it. So the the prospective buyer of that script can talk about it and ask you questions, and find out the details that they want to know not the details that you thought were so critical to put in the pitch.

Alex Ferrari 8:23
Now, how do you target buyers and target people who might be interested in either buying your script? or watching your film or even giving you money for your film? How do you target buyers?

Michael Hauge 8:35
Well, what you want to basically do is you want to follow in the footsteps of people who have been successful at marketing and selling or getting scripts option that are similar to yours. similar meaning not they have the same plot, but they're in the same genre. They have the same general budget. If yours is a period piece, you want to find out well, who who has produced period pieces in the past if it's a horror film, who are the companies pursue, you know, making horror films. So the way you can do that the number one resource I always recommend is the Internet Movie Database imdb.com except that for a very small amount of money, you can get a subscription to IMDb pro.com. And when you have the pro it means let's say let's say you've written a horror film, okay, and you want to find out well who is making or who has made horror films recently that have been successful. And you find out that this Friday jigsaw opens which is kind of a spin off on saw series. Okay, so you can go to imdb.com on your computer, and you can just put the search on jigsaw, and it will have pages or a lot of screens worth of information, the title, the name of every character and who plays that care. After the name of all the cast and crew, but here's the thing, it'll also list say, the producers and the production companies involved, not the studios. And we can explain that in a second. But you check out what are the who are the producers and the production companies, then if you have the pro version, which is, as I say, a minimal investment, then you can click on them, and they will give you contact information. So it will you will then find out Well, this is the address and this is the phone number of this production company. And so then what you do either in that entry, or by calling the office, you find out who is the development director, or the head of development, or the story editor, whatever the title is, who's in the business, who has the job at that company of getting scripts into the company, find out that person's name, and then you you call them cold or you send an email, you can send a letter, but letters aren't really, they're kind of passe.

Alex Ferrari 11:00
Right! It's like sending a fax.

Michael Hauge 11:02
Yeah, you can do a fax, that's still somewhat doable. But whatever it is, you want to try and track that person down, and get them on the phone. And guess what you're going to do if you can get through to them and have them on the phone in their busy schedule. And they're only going to give you 60 seconds, Guess how you're going to use it, you're going to give them your 62nd pitch.

Alex Ferrari 11:26
Now, can you discuss the seven steps of a great 67? Great 66/62? pitch? No, because there's a well then there you go. What are the eight?

Michael Hauge 11:40
Yes, I can. So here's here's how to look at it. A pitch is four steps of preparation, and four steps of presentation. So there are four things to do to get ready to give the pitch. And then four things you need to do to actually give the pitch when you're on the phone or across the table at the pitch fest or whatever the situation might be. So the first four steps of preparation. Number one, you need to you need to review all of these steps begin with I apologize in the background here a more my next door neighbor has to guard Yes, yes. I know where else coming to Los Angeles? Yes. No. worries, you know,

Alex Ferrari 12:39
If there was just one thing I could do in my lifetime is to find a way to get rid of those.

Michael Hauge 12:46
Oh, I know. It's just they make they contribute to noise and philosophy. exactly same time. Okay. So back to the issue at hand. Step number one is review. That means you will look at the story of your screenplay through a particular AI. And what you're looking for are the key elements of that story that your potential buyer needs to know to make the decision of whether they want to see it. So this is instead of telling the entire story, you're going to present your pitch in such a way that you reveal these, these things. So I what I need to do now if it's okay, as I should go through the list of what those keys go for. Okay, so I'll make it very quick. And then taking the course, of course, I go into detail of all of them. But here's what a potential buyer wants to know. First of all, who is the hero of the story? Who is the protagonist? Who are we rooting for? Next of all, where is that character at the beginning of the story before anything extraordinary happens when we are first introduced to that character? What are they doing? What's their job? What's the setting? What's their life? Like? What has their life been like for some time? It's the introduction of that character. Number three, why do we care about this person? Do we feel sorry for her? Do we? Is she in some kind of Jeopardy? Is she a good hearted time person? So she's likable? Is she very skilled, any of those qualities could create empathy, but you have to create, you have to let us know why we will connect with this character as we watch her on the screen. The fourth thing is what's the opportunity, that's my turn for the first key event of the story that is going to start moving forward. It's something that happens to the hero about 10% of the way into the script that has never happened before and is going to get them moving forward moving towards into some new situation. So the next thing is what where is that new situation? So it may be they start out in their home and then they find out they're going to inherit some money. So now they're going to move to they have to go to England and collect the inheritance or if Luke Skywalker starts off on his planet, and then he sees the the holograph, from Princess Leia, and that's gonna take him into a new situation where he'll meet Obi Wan and so on. Next point that you want to establish is, what's the hero's goal. This isn't just a situation, this is the visible finish line that this character needs to cross at the end of the movie. So is this a movie about stopping a serial killer, is that a movie about stopping in invade is about when the love of another character is about winning a competition or escaping from danger. But whatever it is, it needs to be visible and specific and have a clearly defined endpoint. So what is that? Next? What is the conflict? What are the big obstacles the hero is going to have to overcome to accomplish that goal? If it's the King's speech, the goal is to give a speech, but the obstacles are what make it enjoy it, you know, emotional and enticing, and that is he's got a terrible stammer he's going to have to take over his king, he's got to lead his country into World War Two. That's that's the conflict. The next item is the plan. We need to know Well, okay, so how is the hero going to go about stopping the alien invasion or winning the love of the other character. And finally, and this is not within the story, but it's something important to think about, what are a couple antecedents to your script. So what you want to do is in the pitch you're going to convey, or you're going to mention a couple of movies that you could point to and say, Well, those two movies made money. So mine is likely to make money. It doesn't mean the plot is the same, it means they're in the same genre, they have about the same budget, they appeal to the same audience, they have a tone that's similar. Because there are romantic comedies that are dark, romantic comedies that are silly and romantic comedies that are fairly dramatic, you want to pick a couple antecedents that fit into the subcategory of yours. And that's it. I think that was nine qualities of the story that you're going to convey. Now, I haven't talked about how yet, because the class will reveal that. But whatever you're saying in the 60 seconds, you need to mention these things, because that's what's going to determine their decision. Oh, boy.

Alex Ferrari 17:30
Yeah, so another thing I think sometimes mistakes that I see too, as well, and I've done it in the past too, is when you pitch you when you when you compare it to another movie. They tell us a movie that was unsuccessful. Which was like, you know, my movies, just like Ishtar, like really? Suicide Squad all day like

Michael Hauge 17:54
Exactly. Yeah, you know, you don't really want to go there. You got to be careful. It needs to be somewhat recent needs to be with him correct with the lifetime of the person you're pitching.

Alex Ferrari 18:05
You start dating, you start dating.

Michael Hauge 18:09
And don't pitch Casablanca either. Even though you say it's a great movie, it's my favorite. It's not relevant. 10 years 10 years is a good time. But But the thing is that the mistake some people make in their pitches, they'll say, Well, this is this is like up Titanic and and King Kong.

Alex Ferrari 18:36
Oh, yeah, they combined.

Michael Hauge 18:38
Because well, like up, it has a talking dog. And like Titanic, it's a love story and whatever. And you can't do that they've got to be three, they've got to be two movies that that are in exactly the same genre. And and the more money those movies have made, the better it is. Because subconsciously, what you're doing to the buyer is you're you're saying without this is the subtext is, look, those movies made a lot of money. So obviously, you're going to be interested in my script, because it's going to make the same kind of money. Because you need to realize that in Hollywood, the people in power aren't necessarily story experts. But they do. They are good bean counters most of the time, and they know what box office success looks like. They don't know why it was a box office success, but they figured well, if this can be the next Titanic, I'm all for it. Right.

Alex Ferrari 19:33
Now, what are a few things that people should never do when pitching an idea?

Michael Hauge 19:40
Never Well, besides going on and on. Don't Don't tell the person hearing the pitch. how great the story is for it's going to be successful. Don't say this is going to appeal to the mass audience. Don't say this is this is going to be an earth shaking story. Don't make any comments or commentary or judgments about your own script, let the stories down on its own, let the pitch stand on its own. So if if this sounds like an emotionally involving commercially successful story or when that could be, they will conclude that for themselves, you don't need to say, and I mean, I've had people pitch me things that says, I swear this is going to be bigger than avatar. No, it's not going to be bigger than Avatar and our company probably isn't interested because that's not your job, it's my job to conclude that your job is to tell me just enough about your script that makes me want to read it.

Alex Ferrari 20:43
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Now, how do you gear up for a pitch? Like what are the good things that you should bring into battle, if you will, with you besides the pitch?

Michael Hauge 21:05
My suggestion is nothing. Okay, very pointedly, or a bet. See, here's the thing, when you go to a pitch Fest, this happens a lot. They'll say bring a leave behind. So you have a one pagers, people bring treatments or something like that? Well, if they say that my advice is okay, go ahead and write a one page synopsis of the story. But here's what you don't do, you definitely don't put it on the table. As the pitch began, don't ever set anything in front of the person hearing the pitch. Because if you do, if you give them something to read, they'll be reading instead of listening to you, and you want them to pay attention to you. You can have it in your briefcase or backpack or whatever. And then if they say, Well, I really my boss insists that we take back an outline, then you can whip it out and say, Okay, good. Well, we have this. And sometimes I'll even recommend that someone when they asked that question, the writer say, Okay, look, I know you want to see a synopsis, but one page just won't do my script justice. How about if I email it to you, and you just read the first 10 pages. And if you don't like it went by page 10. Just trash it. Just delete it no harm, no foul. But if it pulls you in, as I know, it will, then you'll get a much better sense of what the value is. They still might say no, that's against the rules that our company and then if they insist give him the leave behind, but don't show it or anything else. There are people who recommend taking to a pitch things like pictures of actors who could play the role. I'm not I'm not a fan, because for two reasons. One, I personally am not a multitasker. So I'm either looking at a picture of Matt Damon, which means I'm thinking about Matt Damon, and thinking to myself, Matt Damon costs a fortune, we're not going to get Matt Damon for this script. So I'm losing interest by looking at that. And, and instead, you want to create a movie inside my mind, that's what you want me looking at. So you want to tell this pitch. And as you mentioned, these elements, I'm picturing this character, I'm picturing this setup, I'm picturing the obstacles that your hero face. So you want me in my head not looking at something else.

Alex Ferrari 23:29
Now, is there a big difference or a different approaches for pitching when you're pitching at a pitch fest versus a executives office versus an elevator?

Michael Hauge 23:41
Well, in the office, it's different because in the office, they are expecting you to come in ready to have a 10 to 20 minute conversation. What I often recommend in those situations is you can start that meeting by giving the 62nd pitch and then letting that be the doorway into a longer conversation. Many times though, when you go into an office meeting for a pitch, it's more about something they've already been pitched, or a script they've already looked at. And the purpose of the meeting is to discuss it. And that's a different animal altogether. The one thing is in a pitch Fest, you have a finite amount of time, but you've paid money to do it. And so they're expecting you to be there on an elevator in those, you know, grab them when you can moments, or even on a cold call. You always want to kind of ask permission you want to say Geez, I I'd love to tell you about the script I'm working on would this be a good time to do that or I don't want to intrude? Or when you get somebody on a cold call, you can say Look, I know how busy you are. But but I I I've just completed a script. I'm sure you know, it's something I really think you'd be interested in because because it's innocent. Same arena as this movie, you just, you know, did, or you mentioned something you have in common? Like, I know you're a graduate of University of Oregon and so am I. And I thought you might be willing to let me take 60 seconds. But you need to ask if it's okay to give the pitch, if it's an unexpected confrontation or connection, something like that. The the the one other difference in a pitch Fest, that's to your advantage is if you paid money for 10 minutes, you get 10 minutes. And one of the other reasons to have a pitch that's, you know, 60 seconds, or at least under two minutes is, then if they say no, and you have another project that might also be of interest, then you can say, well, we still have, you know, seven minutes left, or even if it's a five minute slot, and you only took take 60 seconds, she's only got four minutes left. And I have another idea that's for a romantic comedy. could could, would you be willing to let me present that to you right now. And so if you truly have two pitches ready, that's the only occasion where you'd pitch twice as if they say no to the first.

Alex Ferrari 26:13
Now, do you kind of touched upon it earlier? But do you have any specific advice on how to establish rapport with the person that you're pitching with?

Michael Hauge 26:21
Yeah, I kind of got I know, you asked me about the eight steps that I took. So long was step one, we got sidetracked. But anyway, it's, it's after you beer, your story and figure those things out, then then you want to research the person you're going to pitch pitch to, you want to write out and script the pitch, and you want to rehearse it, rehearse, rehearse, that's the preparation, the presentation is that that first star is rapport or relationship. And there are two ways that are very effective at doing that. One is finding a common experience. If you've been recommended to someone on the phone, then you want to say, you know, Bob said, I should give you a call, he thought you might be interested in this project. And he also said you're in a lunch or something like that. So you mentioned the person who's given you the referral. If it's a pitch Fest, or if it's a cold call, you don't know the person, but you do know that they're a golf fan. And you you know, you were a caddy for Tiger Woods once or you went to the same school, or, or you have something in common? Great. Now, that's not going to happen very often. I mean, really? How many of us know people that are in power in Hollywood? or most of us? If we,

Alex Ferrari 27:37
You, you do know a few people, sir,

Michael Hauge 27:39
I know. I don't, okay, I could, I could use an abacus to count them. I don't need to count. Okay, so then what you do to establish rapport is you acknowledge them for something. And it might be because you've researched them, you know, that they, like I mentioned earlier, suppose someone has made horror films, you can, you can say, you know, I was a huge fan of this of the ring, if they were produced will be, let's say, but don't just say that. Just say why say because it scared the crap out of me or because what I loved about that horror film was that that actually, it developed the relationship between the mother and center, don't just say, I'm a huge fan and let it go with that, because anybody can say that, but tell why you were a fan of the movie, or the or a movie that they represented the writer for or something like that. Now, a warning is when you go to a pitch Fest, it's possible, you won't know anything about who you're pitching to, or it's going to be an underling at the company. But you can always acknowledge someone for this if they're listening to your pitch, and that is they're taking the time to do it. So you can say something like, Look, you know, I know that you probably rather be doing something other than this pitch fest. But it means a lot to somebody like me, who flew here all the way from jerk water USA, just have a chance to talk to you and I want to tell you how much I appreciate it. And, and that should be genuine, you should really be grateful and no one on the planet is immune to an acknowledgement. It just creates a connection when you say I sincerely say I want to thank you for something you did. So that is probably your strongest tool for rapport.

Alex Ferrari 29:29
And can you continue with the rest of the steps after the report was the other ones of the eight or the eight steps?

Michael Hauge 29:35
Yeah, so the next one is I in the in our in my goal to make everything our sound like our which is the word right. The next is revealed this is when you actually give the pitch part of the pitch you reveal those nine elements of the story. And and I have a tip for that too. And that Is or a contrary and suggestion. A lot of people recommend the way to start a pitch is give the title and the logline and I strongly recommend against that, because titles until you know what a movie is about hearing the title is usually meaningless. I mean, it sounds ludicrous now because it's become part of the culture. But if you heard in 1974, that there was a or 72, before the book came out that there was a movie coming up called Jaws, you would have no idea what it was about. Right? Okay. But if you said it was about, it's about a great white shark, terrorizing the community, and now, three guys have to go out in a little boat and try and destroy it. And then you end that pitch by saying so my. So my screenplay and titled jaws is the story of three men trying to defeat a great white shark. So you put the title and the logline at the end of your presentation of those elements instead of at the beginning. And otherwise, it's pretty much going through them in the order I mentioned, a good way to begin might say it might be to tell them how you came up with the idea. So instead of just jumping in and saying, well, Susan Smith is a nuclear physicist, he say, I've always been a huge fan of, of thrillers that have strong love stories underneath. And here's where you can add movies like Three Days of the Condor, or trying to think of another or body, let's say, I'm dating myself with Yes. Because notice how now you're slipping in those antecedents without using the word Annecy, you're saying, I've always been a fan of movies like this, but in and so my thriller, The difference is that the the the man in the hair hero falls for is really a hitman who's been assigned to kill it. Okay, so you start with how you came up with the idea, it grew out of kind of movies you loved or grew out of a true story or something that happened to you in the past? And then you say, so I started thinking, What if, and then you get into the hero, and the setup and those other elements, and then you're sort of off to the races.

Alex Ferrari 32:18
It's so it's, it's when you're when you're doing that, it's because a lot of people I've seen pitch a pitch fest and and just pitch in general, they just kind of go right to it, they just jump right in. And just like, you know, it's like a machine and there's no warmth to it, there's no connection. They're just like, they're literally a robot because they've been trained to be that way. And they've rehearsed so much that it's literally just a machine where you're sitting down and making a connection with another human being. And by doing, what you're suggesting makes a lot more sense to me to like, how you came up with the idea and what movies you like, because that's another way to connect with the person you're pitching with. Like if they like the movie of three, you know, three days in a condor, like, Oh, yeah, I love that movie. Is it kind of like that? And it starts connecting different synapses in their mind and emotions already, before you even start pitching. Is that a fair statement?

Michael Hauge 33:08
Absolutely. Absolutely. I think the way to think about a pitch is it's not a speech. And it's not an ad, it's a conversation. Actually, it's a conversation that you and everyone listening to this has had before because all of us, and all of you have recommended movies to people. You said, Oh, I just saw the big sick. And what's that? Well, it's about this guy. And he's from Pakistan and got it done. You tell the high points and you say, I just loved it. And it was hilarious. But I love the relationship. You have just given a pitch for a movie you saw you've done it 100 times. We've had that conversation. All you're doing in a pitch meeting, or on the phone here is you're having a conversation about a movie you love. It's just a movie that hasn't been made yet.

Alex Ferrari 33:59
Now can you please impress upon people how important a logline is not in the pitch because you actually do it at the end. But just in general. People kind of forget the logline. They just write a sentence it's very it's it's an art in itself, isn't it?

Michael Hauge 34:15
Yeah, I guess I don't want to make it sound too lofty because it sounds something difficult. Sure What but but I think of loglines. This way, a logline is a sentence that's going to come to convey the three foundation elements of any story. And that is character, desire and conflict when I said and so jaws is a it's about a great it's about three guys and a small boat who have to stop a great white shark. That is that is terrorizing their the beach town. I didn't say it exactly that way because I don't remember exactly but that's it all. I was saying character, three guys in a boat goal destroy a great white shark conflict, it's a great way to jerk and it's terrorizing their their village and wants to kill them. Right? That's it, I it's not so much about honing some magic with words. It's nice if you can do that. But it's much more important that you say, character design or conflict. Because without knowing or saying those three things, anything else included is not going to give me an idea of what I'm going to go see. Now you can pick, you want to think about the exact words to create a vivid image of it or be very clear about it, you can add a phrase or two to make it distinct from other horror movies or about also stopping demons or creatures or whatever. But But the main thing and the reason a logline is valuable for you to formulate is it forces you to think about those three basic things in your script. And I swear I've read scripts and talk to people and heard pitches by people who don't really have never really thought about what's the goal, they just have this is about a person in a situation and then they do this, then they do that. And then this happens. And that happens. It's like but what do we want? What are we rooting for? So a logline forces you to identify those three elements.

Alex Ferrari 36:21
Now, in today's world, it's not only just about the feature film anymore, it's also about series, there's I think 450 series being produced this year alone. So what's the big difference between pitching a feature film versus pitching a series?

Michael Hauge 36:38
Well, on one level, it's not all that different. Because it's it's kind of the way I think of it is this you're pitching a series, but you're pitching it by detailing a lot of what would be in the pilot or the first episode of the series. Because that's when we meet the hero, that so that's when the hero is set up. That's when we first have to empathize. That's when whatever the opportunity is, that is going to drive that that whole series, if it's an ongoing story, like say, Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones, that opportunity has to occur to some extent in the first episode, because otherwise, nothing's happening, then it's just a one hour setup. If it's let's say you're pitching a more traditional series, you know, under the NCIS, or something like castle, okay, then you're just pitching a pilot, because you introduce the characters, and they have a goal that they have to accomplish at the end of that episode. So what you do is you think about that episode, and then you kind of expand say, so this is, so imagine these two people, a mystery writer and a woman cop. And when a body is discovered, and they're thrown together, now they have to solve the murder, and each week, and so you then connect it by saying, and each week or if it's an ongoing thing you say. So the overarching story is about a cop who has to stop a hitman from committing a series of murders in her town. That's, that's the series of Fargo. So if you take the first season of Fargo, the overarching goal is the cop has to stop the Hitman. And then, but then what you do is then the one thing you want to add is in so in one episode, this might be by hat might happen. But as but by the end of the first season, this will have happened. So you clearly convey that you've not just thought about three episodes, well, you've not just thought about the opening, but what the ongoing story is going to be and what some of the other characters are going to be woven through it. So I guess the answer would be there's some more detail to add. But you still want to make sure you hit those elements. And you still want to have seeds you still accept now you're going to get to pick feature films you're going to pick successful series that are similar.

Alex Ferrari 39:10
Now, is there? Do you have an example of a pitch that was that blew you away? Or do you remember one at all? I mean, I don't know. Probably not.

Michael Hauge 39:20
But I'm just asking. I didn't know there would be a test. Because to convey why it blew me away, I would have to really remember it and presented to you so I could find out this is this is all the the reasoning. In the class, I construct an example of a pitch that illustrates all of these things. But that's that's when I made up for a movie that's never been written just as an example. Got it. Um, but if I guess I guess I can't keep stumbling along and try and pretend I have any answer. You can say no, you can say that. Oh, it's great. I've heard great pitches, but I don't remember what they Exactly. So

Alex Ferrari 40:04
Now, do you have any final words of wisdom as far as pitching your story?

Michael Hauge 40:10
Yeah. We don't have time for okay. When people do sign up for the course, of course, I read the book, because there was all that. Let Oh, yes, I do. I do have one last thing I want to add. And that is, some is about a couple of things in terms of the presentation. And that is notes, and nervousness. Okay. When it comes to notes, I strongly recommend that you take note cards, and on those note cards in big letters with a, what do they What do they call that a, you know, Greenspan, they used to call it a sharpie, with a sharpie, you just write down keywords that will remind you of that step in your pitch. So it might be if how you got the idea is you're going to refer to two antecedents just write down the antecedents. And then card number two, is your so what if, in other words, it's not something you have to look at steadily, but you want to have that as a backup, even though you've rehearsed your, your pitch. By the way, what you absolutely never want to do is read somebody a pitch. When I coach people on their pitch, I won't let them read their pitch to me even when I'm coaching them, unless there's no other choice, because it is so hard to concentrate when someone's reading to you. You have to be ready to say it as a conversation. You have to be like an actor, after rehearse it so much that you can just make it natural, you can make it into a conversation. But notecards are good idea. Because if you have that backup, then you probably won't need to use it. The other thing is when it comes to nervousness, stop worrying about it or trying to think of a magic way that you won't be nervous, because you will be just accepting. Save yourself. Of course, I'm nervous. I'm not used to doing this. I'm meeting somebody, this is important to me, I they're in power, and I haven't met them before, etc. So of course, I'm going to be nervous. And here's what I would tell you I have worked in Hollywood now for more than 35 years. I've talked to a lot of executives, a lot of agents, I've heard them speak and I've had conversations. Never in my entire career Have I ever heard somebody say, God, I heard this great pitch this movie would make millions it's one of the best I've ever heard. Unfortunately, we're not going to option it because the writer was so nervous. Because they're right. To put it bluntly, they don't give a shit. Right? They are, they are there. Their job is find me a good story. They want your story to be good. They don't care one whit if you're nervous, if you stumble, if anything, they're looking for a story they can take back to their boss, put a feather in their cap if they if you if they can say you got to look at this because this is a terrific idea. This is the terrific story or the or they'll go back read the script, and then they'll say that. So take note cards, and don't worry about being nervous because it's not an issue.

Alex Ferrari 43:24
Michael, thank you so much for sharing a lot about pitching today. And I know again, it's such a mysterious art form and hopefully, the course that we're putting out called How to pitch your story in 60 seconds. And your book story. Please name your book again.

Michael Hauge 43:43
Okay, so it's tricky because there's, they sound the same. The story is selling your story in 60 seconds, right because the book is designed for screenwriters and novelists because they're both in the situation. I'm trying to get their material read. Our course is called pitching your screenplay in 60 seconds because the course is zeroing in specifically on screenwriters.

Alex Ferrari 44:06
Michael, thank you again, so much for being on the show. Again. It's an absolute pleasure as always talking to you my friend.

Michael Hauge 44:11
Yeah. And it went so fast. We probably we probably been talking for three hours that we're done. There's so much more to say I love hearing myself talk. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to listen to myself. My greatest joy.

Alex Ferrari 44:27
Thank you, Michael.

Michael Hauge 44:28
Okay, take care Alex

Alex Ferrari 44:30
Well, I hope you have a better idea on how to pitch your story or screenplay in less than 60 seconds after listening to Michael and his knowledge bombs he jobs. So thanks again, Michael, for sharing your knowledge as always. And as promised guys, I have a special discount for you guys. Normally we are selling the course at 175 bucks but because you're listening to this episode and you're part of the tribe, you get it for 12 dollars and it is well worth it guys. So all you got to do is go to indiefilmhustle.com/pitch60 that's indiefilmhustle.com/pitch60. And the number six, zero or 60. And that will give you a coupon code will take you directly to the course on Udemy. And if you guys have not taken the other course the story blueprint, the heroes two journeys by Michael and Chris, then I will have in the show notes, a link to that course with a special discount as well. The show notes are at indiefilmhustle.com/205. Now guys, I hope you are enjoying your holiday month in December, I have been a very busy be working on all this stuff that I'm putting together for you guys in January. And January is going to be epic. I can't even tell you starting off with the Ask Alex show, which will be 31 days. I don't know how I'm doing it. But 31 days on our YouTube channel where we'll be answering questions from the tribe. And it's it's pretty insane. That alone Not to mention all the craziness that we're going to be doing at Sundance, we're gonna be releasing a epic new course as well. Which I'll talk to you about in a little bit, but not yet. I'm just trying to give you guys as many tools as you can get for the new year and to get that new year 2018 start off right and following your dreams, getting that film made writing that screenplay and whatever I could do to help you. That's why I'm here so, so guys, thank you for listening. And as always keep that also going. Keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.


IFH 114: The Six Stages of Character Development with Michael Hauge

This week we have a returning guest, screenwriting guru Michael Hauge. In this episode, he discussed The Six Stages of Character Development. A very eye-opening episode.

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 2:00
So today guys, I've got a special treat for you. We're going to discuss what it takes to get really good characters and I've got a friend of the show Michael Hauge, he is going to be discussing the six stages of character development. And a lot of people are confused about characters, and how to develop each character making really amazing characters like a Walter White from breaking bad. Or Hannibal Lecter from Silence of the Lambs, or whatever any any great character you can think of in history. They all started with some development. And of course actors bring a lot of panache to the character. But it all starts with what's on the page. So he's going to go over those six stages for you. And this is part of this is a kind of a sneak preview of the course that Michael and I released called screenwriting and story blueprint, the heroes two journeys, which also includes another mega star in the screenwriting world, Chris volger, the writer of a writer's journey, based on Joseph Campbell's work, and the course is pretty pretty amazing. If you guys want to get about 25% off, head over to indie film hustle.com forward slash story blueprint, that's indie film hustle.com Ford slash story blueprint and it'll take you right there, you'll have 25% off the the course and it's awesome. It's a really good course about three hours on really understanding character, story, structure and everything. And it goes from two different perspectives Michael Hague's perspective, and Chris Volkers perspective, and how they meet in the middle and have different ideas about story, and it's really wonderful to watch. And they were really awesome. And as you know, both of them have been guests on the show, and I will leave links to their podcast episodes, to show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/114. So without any further ado, enjoy Michael Hauge.

Michael Hauge 4:27
And that brings us back to this six stage structure. Now I used to think that character arc just occurred in its own sweet time, wherever it was. And I think if you read my book, I sort of refer to it that way. I say there's a structure to the plot, but not to the character arc and I was wrong. I think there's a very clear structure to the arc for the character. Because each of the six stages I gave you before correspond to a stage of the hero's inner journey.

Even though through the movie, there is a constant tug of war between identity and essence, there is also an That's why they call it an arc. It's a gradual transition or transformation. So in the setup, remember that first 10% this is where your hero exists completely and totally within her identity. Shrek is just an ogre, who keeps people away. Rows is just a woman who exists in all of this protective wealth. Mitch mcdeere is just a guy who is going after money. He says, Daddy, did you ever believe that I'd be able to make this kind of money. And she says sure, because of course, she sees his so we're going to get back to her in a second, then an opportunity at 10% is presented to the hero. And for the next 15% of the film, in that new situation, not only are they getting used to the new situation, your hero is going to get a glimpse, a peek at what life would be like living in his essence. So not only does rose start getting acclimated to the Titanic, starts to get a sense of what the other thing might be cuz she sees jack making these passionate drawings. And she looks in any catches are looking and she looks away. And she has this beautiful art that nobody else understands. But she it touches her. And in Shrek, it's it's there's this very pointed moment. Which also is, to me a very subtle form of it, it'd be interesting to see if Chris agrees, because I haven't talked to him about this. But it seems like there's a very subtle but obvious sense in which trek is refusing the call. Because he steps out. And he says, All I want is privacy living in his identity. And then what's the opportunity, all these fairy tale creatures, and he says, Oh, no. And he says, I want you, I want to get you off my land are going to do whatever it takes to get you back. And he thinks they're going to just run away. And instead they all applaud. And somebody comes up and drapes a robot over him, there must be some name for a royal robe. It's like he's been crowned you're our hero. And he, he like shakes his head and immediately shrugs it off. He's getting a glimpse of what it would be like to be accepted. But he wants nothing to do with it. He just wants to be in his identity. But he's still getting a picture of it. Then what happens? stage three goes into in, or that leads him into the new situation. Same thing happens when he goes to Lord for quad. It's preceded by him fighting off the soldiers who come after him. And it's like a mock wrestling match like a WWE f match. And when it's done, there's this scene just for a joke where he's going like this, he says thank you, thank you. I'll be here till Thursday. And it's just sort of a but it's also look at this. Now he's starting to accept the possibility of being a hero, getting more of a glimpse. And then of course, at the one quarter mark, Lord farquaad says, okay, you want your land back, here's your goal, rescue the princess, bring her back to me. That's the outer motivation. That's the visible goal. And it happens precisely at the 25%. So now what happens for the next stage, the hero is straddling the fence or straddling something, one foot into essence, one foot back, not fully committed. He's still talking about onions and layers, and he just wants to go in and get the princess take her back and be done with it. But he is starting to pursue something that is going to make him more of a leader more popular, more accepted. That's good. And he's starting to get closer to donkey, which takes risk because he's never really had a friend before. And then at the midpoint, he gets the princess they come down the hill precisely at the midpoint, what happens he takes off his helmet and tries there's that wonderful moment when he smiles that sort of toothless smile, trying to look his best. Okay, and now he realizes Wait a minute, I'm starting to fall for it. And that's the point of no return. Especially because the scene that follows it this also runs parallel for the princess but the princess has been talking in this artificial language. Now aren't my prince and Duff thou want to save me and you thou must carry me and give me a kiss and all this malarkey. And that's her living in her identity.

She is the opening shot of the princess is her in a tower a perfect image. Have identity, because towers are both protective. And their prisons. Exactly the same opening in Shakespeare in Love opens in a castle. So she's perfectly protected. She's, you know, there and safe and apparently well fed and stuff, but she can't leave. She's stuck. And of course her identity is she is defined by others because she's defined by fairytales. She knows all the rules, you know, you've got to carry me away, and then you got to give me a kiss. And he says, You've had a lot of time to think about this, haven't you? Because he's saying, this is your identity, but he sees her as something more. And then later when they have the Robin Hood encounter, and she shows that Charlie's Angels parody kick, he starts to respect her as something more than this hothouse flower that he's rescuing. And they start to fall in love. So that's the point of no return, he starts pursuing her until he overhears her. He gets too frightened when he hears her talking about ogres as too ugly, and you can't have a relationship with an ogre. He doesn't know she's talking about herself, because she's also retreating at that point to her identity. But that's when major setback typical for a romantic comedy, which is what this is, the two people will separate at that point. In Sleepless in Seattle, right at the three quarter mark, Annie, the Meg Ryan character declares, I'm back I'm going back to Walter Sleepless in Seattle is history. And of course, then the audience thinks that all is lost. Because what's happened is on the inner level, once the character passes the point of no return, they fully commit to living in their essence, trek is going to open up and risk doing that. And now the outside world starts coming in the conflict in the first half of Act Two, and someone was asking about that, that first half the conflict comes from obstacles inherent in the goal, the moat and the dragon and all the things we knew he was going to encounter. But now what happens is the other worlds coming in, he doesn't think she can love him. Lord farquaad comes in and takes her away. And so the hero retreats, the hero gets finally so frightened of risking this new thing that they make one last try retreating to their identity. And that really is the major setback at the end of Act Two. So they run away. And they go back, it's when she remember, she jumps on the lifeboat. Go, it's the the lifeboat for the rich. She's gonna make one last stab at being rescued in Titanic by her identity. And then she says what all heroes must then say, in stage five. And that is, wait a minute. This sucks. This may have worked for me at the beginning. But I've had a glimpse, I've had a taste of who I truly am. This doesn't work for me anymore. I can't do this, I have to go after who I truly am. I have to be myself. And I certainly have to find my destiny, which in a love story is the other person. And so that's the final push. It's saying I don't care what it takes, I will risk death. Because I already I already experienced it. My identity is already dead. I can I can do this. And they take every last ounce of courage they have until they reach the climax. And the climax is the moment not only of achieving that visible goal, it's the moment of fully realizing the character's essence. And that takes us into the aftermath. The aftermath is the part of the story where we say, Okay,

this is now the new life, the hero is going to live having fully realized who they truly are. And so at the end of Shrek, we see him leaving the swamp that was his protection and leaving behind the fairytale creatures. Because the fairy tale creatures were her identity. This is a this is really a movie about getting rid of the fairy tale definition of the way you should be or the way life is and defining themselves. So they ride off into the sunset. And they're fully living their essence or when he says at the end of the firm. Okay, we're we're going back to Boston. It was interesting when Chris was talking about the elixir because sometimes it's very subtle, but I think the elixir in that movie is the law. He's saying we're going right back where we started, which is I mean, there's a circular pattern if you ever saw one. But now he's going back to the law because he says when he's talking to Ed Harris, in that movie, the FBI guy, and he says, here's the tape of our conversation where you tried to bribe me really forced me to do this. He says, You know, I could you I could get a lot for this or something like that. He says, Why are you giving it back? Just because it's against the law. And then he says, You know what you did. He says, You made me remember the lies that four years of law school didn't do that. But you made me remember the law, meaning you put me in touch with who I truly am, which is someone who stands up for what's right. And then when Abby comes back, there's that wonderful line, where he says, Did I lose you? And she says, How could you lose me, I have loved you, since the moment I knew you. And before I loved you, I loved the promise of you. And you have now fulfilled that promise. That's what brings two people together, she says, I see, I have always known who you truly are, you just had to step up into it. And you've done that. So now you cannot lose me. Because that's who I was always in love with. Not the guy who was scared of the trailer park, who had forgotten the law, the guy who lived his essence. And so the elixir that they take back is he has found his ideals. And now he's going to go back and be a lawyer that stands up for what's right, and go serve the law, our society, whatever, in a different way at the end of the story. And one last thing before I open it for questions, which you may or may not want to hear, but as I said, at the top, this is very much about real life. Everyone in this room has a visible goal might be slightly different. But you either want to finish a script. Or you want to get an agent, where you want to finish your novel or you want to get it published, you want to get your movie produced, you want to finish your film, or you have some brass ring you're after. Because you long at a deeper level to be a part of making movies. And you are pursuing that goal, because it's part of your learning. That's the good news. But here's what I got to tell you. We all pay lip service to what we long for. There's a part of all of us that we frequently we always have to go back and revisit that you can say, Yeah, I want to make it in Hollywood. But what you also have to ask is how would you fill in the blank, I'll do whatever it takes to sell my script. Just don't ask me to blank. I did this as an exercise in a classroom in Switzer with one of my students. And I said, Would you be willing to go through this process? So she got up in front of the room? And she said, The thing is, I can't figure out why I can't sell my script. She says I've written a number of scripts. And I said, Well, have you read books on screenwriting? Yeah, I've read, you know, books I've taken classes will do have a regular regimen. Now I write every day. And I said, God, it sounds like you're doing everything you can do. And she said, Oh, yeah, because when I grew up, I was taught, if you want something done, you do it yourself. So I turned into the sort of shrink slash asshole that I sometimes am prone to be. And I say, let me ask because she was making an identity statement. Oh, this is who I am. This is how I was raised. And so I said, let me ask you some, when was the last time you phoned somebody and ask them to help you sell your script? And you could practically see or melt? It was like the Wicked Witch of the West? No, no, no. Because when you touch somebody whose identity it is, you've like, slapped him upside the head.

And she said, because that's what her wound was, she was raised to believe you can't ask for help. And I said, let me ask you something. And I said, why not? And she just got very frightened at the prospect. But I said, let me ask you some Why do you want to be a screenwriter? She said, Oh, because I love it. I just love movies. And I love taking that story and turn into that. And I said, If I could promise you, you would have that experience every day of your life. Would you be willing to risk calling people and asking for help? And she said, Sure. Because that's the solution. You've got to get in touch with what your inner conflict, you've got to get in touch with your identity. But the answer is find your lung and live in that space risk going into that space, because that's what heroes do. They want so badly to get that the finally it's worth the danger and worth the risk of of die of letting who they thought they were die and resurrecting something much more.

Alex Ferrari 19:25
So I hope you got a lot out of that. That little snippet of the course by Michael Hauge and Chris volger. I mean, I've been a big fan of Michael and Chris's, since I was in college actually. And I was I jumped to the chance of working with them on this project and really excited to share this information with you but it's a lot of great valuable stuff that you just heard. And the course is also a lot of cool stuff as well. So again, if you want to get access to the course head over to indie film hustle.com forward slash, story blueprint. And guys, that's it for this Episode man I really hope you got something out of that one I got a lot of cool stuff coming up in the coming weeks as you've noticed on the on the blog I've been posting a ton of content and I'm going to be hopefully doing one a day. five five pieces of content a week is my new goal. So to podcast possibly three and as well as cool articles and since this is a screenwriting episode I want to let you guys know if you haven't already known, I created a post that has all of the 2017 oskin contending screenplays available for download. I've got screenplays by MAC Max Landis, Victor Frankenstein, Zootopia, Secret Life of Pets, the Coen Brothers Hail Caesar, the amazing film Captain fantastic Bridget Jones baby, and a ton of other amazing screenplays that you can download. And it is for a limited time the studio's put these up, only for a while. So up until basically the Oscars and after that they get pulled down most of them will get pulled down. So if I were you I would go there and you can legally download them for educational purposes only. At indie film hustle.com forward slash 2017 screenplays, that's indie film hustle comm forward slash 2017 screenplays, it is absolutely free. You can download as much as you like. And as a bonus I also added about 70 other screenplays from the best of 2016 2015 2014 and 2013. So we've got American Hustle there. Dallas Buyers Club, kill your darlings Nebraska Hitchcock, beasts of the Southern wild Desa time ton of different Brooklyn Bridge of Spies, The Big Short Beasts of No Nation. Straight out of Compton, a ton of great articles I mean, she's got a ton of great screenplays that you can download and learn from it's an I would always advise you to read as many screenplays as you can see, you can see how other screenwriters craft their stories. So it's a little bit of a bonus a little bit of a fun thing for you guys, but I think it'll be very, very helpful in your screenwriting endeavors. And guys, if you can't please have an filmmaking podcast.com and leave me a good review on iTunes. It really helps to show out a lot and gets the message of what we're doing here at indie film hustle out to the world. So thank you guys. And as always keep that hustle going, keep that dream alive and I'll talk to you soon.



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IFH 055: Michael Hauge – Writing a Screenplay That Sells

You are in for a treat. This week’s guest, MICHAEL HAUGE has been one of Hollywood’s top script consultants, story experts, and authors for more than 30 years.

He coaches screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers, professional speakers, internet marketers, and corporate leaders, helping transform their stories and their audiences using the principles and methods of Hollywood’s most successful movies.

Michael has consulted on films starring – among many others – Will Smith, Tom Cruise, Reese Witherspoon, Julia Roberts, and Morgan Freeman, and has presented lectures and workshops to more than 70,000 participants worldwide.

He is the best-selling author of Writing Screenplays That Sell (now in its 20th Anniversary Edition) and Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel ReadAccording to Will Smith,

No one is better than Michael Hauge at finding what is most authentic in every moment of a story.” – Will Smith

After our interview with Michael Hauge and I decide to bring one of his best courses to the IFH Tribe. We called is Screenplay and Story Blueprint: The Hero’s Two Journeys

Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 1:20
So today guys, we have a awesome guest Michael Hague the legendary Michael Hague, Michael Hague has been around as a screenwriting analysts, and screenwriting guru for God the better part of a few decades now. And he wrote the book that's on pretty much every screenwriter shelves, writing screenplays that sell the Complete Guide to turning story concepts into movie and television deals. Michael's list of clients is pretty impressive. He's worked with every single major studio and television network around he has clients like Will Smith, who he helped work on I Am Legend, Hancock, The Karate Kid. And recently he's worked with a Columbia Pictures on the Masters of the Universe reboot, among many other projects he's been working on with the studio. So he is an amazing teacher, and story analysts, story script consultant, and I was I was trying to get him on the show for months. And we finally got him on and we asked him all the tough, tough, tough questions. I discovered Michael through a course that he put out years ago called the heroes two journeys, which he actually co authored with Chris volger, the author of writers journey, who is an another amazing guru, in the screenwriting field. And what we decided to do is Michael and I, and Chris wanted to bring the heroes two journeys to the indie film, hustle, audience, the tribe. So what we've decided to do is put it all together and package it into a new course called screenwriting and story blueprint, the heroes two journeys. This course is a must for any screenwriter, it is a wonderful course that really breaks down the story structure of the hero's journey, which Chris folder is famous for, and Michael's six stage plot structure, and they both go in it back to back kind of really breaking down these amazing story structures for filmmakers for screenplay screenwriters. And when I saw it, it just blew me away. And I've been a fan of Michael and Chris's ever since. So if you want to get a special deal on this new course, at the end of this podcast, I will be giving you guys a link to go to so you can get it for a lot cheaper than it's going to be retailing for. So without further ado, here is my interview with Michael Hague. Michael man, thank you so much for being on the indie film hustle podcast. I really appreciate you taking the time.

Michael Hague 3:59
Oh, my pleasure. I'm looking forward to it.

Alex Ferrari 4:01
So um, tell me, how did you get started in the crazy film business?

Michael Hague 4:07
Crazy business? Um, well, basically, I grew up in Oregon, and I had moved back there after getting a master's in education. And I taught school for three years, but I'd always dreamed of working in the film business, having no idea what that would involve or anything about it. But I just always loved movies. And I figured it's time if I'm going to give this a try. I better get a gun. So I sort of jumped on the turnip truck and went down to Hollywood and move there, discovered a small film school that I started going to and took a variety of classes. And one of those was in what was formerly known as story analysis, which is just the term for being a reader in Hollywood, meaning you read scripts for agents or producers or studios. And you write a synopsis of each script and then you give your comment where you tell them this is terrible. You don't want anything to do. This, so then you give it to them. So they don't have to take the time to read a lot of bad scripts mostly. But it's an entry level job. And after I learned how to do that I, I sort of cold called about 100 different agencies and finally found one that gave me a shot and I became their reader, and then moved over to being the reader for one of their clients who is a producer, he made me his head of development, that's just the next run up, which means I'm now working full time reading scripts for him and working with writers and finding story ideas and so on. And it sort of went from there. Then I worked for a couple other producers. And that led to me on the side teaching at UCLA extension, teaching screenwriting, out of that grew a weekend seminar that I ended up taking over around the world. And out of that grew my book and my consultation business. And that's pretty much where I am now I still consult with writers and filmmakers and storytellers and lecture about screenwriting.

Alex Ferrari 6:01
Very cool, very cool in your book, your book, writing, writing the screenplay that sells writing screenplays that sell Yes, that one's now the 20th anniversary. Yeah, it's it's

Michael Hague 6:11
past that now we get a new edition, the 2020 year mark. And I think that was a couple years ago. So it's gone to 22 years since the first edition came out. And since then, I wrote another book on pitching called selling your story in 60 seconds, and other products and so on. But those two books are the mainstay.

Alex Ferrari 6:33
I took I took your course the the heroes, two journeys, the the DVD course, I guess it was right. That's how I got familiar with your work. And I took that years ago, and it was wonderful. And now we're all we're all familiar with the hero's journey, but you talk extensively about the heroes two journeys. What do you mean by that?

Michael Hague 6:52
Well, to me the way the best way to break down a story or look at story is that there are actually two goals or two journeys, if you will, that the hero of the story takes what is a journey of accomplishment, the hero wants to cross some finish line wants to achieve some visible goal. And then they pursue that through the course of the story. It's a very visible thing that drives the action, it's what we see on the screen. So it might be stopping a serial killer, or an alien invasion or finding a buried treasure or winning the love of the girl or the guy or, or whatever, escaping from some bad situation. It's always something that when we hear that goal, we can envision what achieving it would look like. But underneath that, on most movies, not all some big action movies don't have this. But in most movies, there's a second journey that's under that it's an invisible journey. It's what I call a journey of transformation. And that second journey is one where the hero's conflict comes from within where they are battling or must overcome some long and deep seated fear. Usually that grows out of something in the past, and Intel, they can overcome that fear and find the courage to change, they're not going to achieve the visible goal. And so what I talk about is the way those two things intertwine that visible journey and then that inner journey of transformation.

Alex Ferrari 8:27
So it's kind of like the subtext of the characters development itself, kind of like the hidden the hidden part of of what he's trying to do. It's the characters arc. Got you and the thing and sometimes a character doesn't even know he has that arc until later in the story kind of develops it, I guess, kind of like us in life. We all have our, our inner journeys and our inner issues. And then we don't know that we even have them until later on in life, or things come to us to kind of expose these problems or these issues like oh, that's why you're so angry because you didn't go to that party when you were in third grade, or something along those lines.

Michael Hague 9:01
Yeah, it's usually it's usually not something you didn't do but something that was done or happened to you, that causes what I call the wound, it's that painful or traumatic event, or sometimes it's an ongoing situation, usually from adolescence doesn't have to be but a good example I like to use is goodwill hunting where he was abused by his father got a belt taken to him throughout his whole adolescence, apparently. So now that he's a grown up, he and he's falling in love. He wants to win the love of Skylar, and he does what he thinks he needs to do to do that, but he's never really going to achieve that goal unless he can overcome his fear of letting people see who he truly is of letting her in because he's afraid that he deserved that beating and he's a worthless person. Now he's not aware of that, as you said, this is this is hidden from ourselves. This is we develop this Emotional armor and it's such strong armor that we think that's who we really are. So it takes the course of the movie for the hero to recognize of this is what I'm really dealing with. And this is what I'm going to have to change about myself to accomplish that goal. And in that movie, that transformation is facilitated by Sean the Robin Williams character who helps him see that inner conflict, that identity that he's taken on and help him overcome it.

Alex Ferrari 10:27
And that's why at the end, well, spoiler alert, I got to go see about a girl.

Michael Hague 10:32
That's exactly

Alex Ferrari 10:33
he finally he finally figures it out and says, Hey, I'm gonna go. And I guess you know, as I've I keep reading screenplays and watching movies, and the best ones are those deep seated that when the character actually not not, doesn't beat the bad guy, but beats the bad guy within himself almost, you know, and kind of like, just like, that's why Good Will Hunting is such a wonderful film. And we Everyone's so, you know, what's the word identifies with? Well, because it's, you know, that the inner struggle, I think, is makes characters much more powerful than just the big strong guy that goes around, you know, beating up the bad guys in so many ways.

Michael Hague 11:13
I mean, precisely because, yeah, we may not have been beaten has not fallen in love. But we always believe that there's a part of us we can show to the world, we always believe there's a part of us that isn't worthy, or, or that shouldn't be revealed, or that we're terrified of connecting of someone else, and really being that vulnerable. So that's the universal experience. And then it's just particularized in the story, or in any good story that any screenplay that any of your listeners are writing, it's one of the key questions I always want a writer to ask about their script is what terrifies my hero. And I'm not talking about fear of heights or snow

Alex Ferrari 11:54
Or aliens. That's right right,

Michael Hague 11:57
What what is the emotional fear? What is the what is the wall that I refuse to cross over or break down, no matter how much I want this goal, because it's just too scary. And when a writer can figure out, this is what terrifies my hero, then they're going to get in touch with that inner conflict in that inner journey that the hero takes. And I just think it makes the story much richer, and as you say, much more universal.

Alex Ferrari 12:25
Now, besides goodwill hunting, can you throw one more example out of another one? That that kind of grasp that?

Michael Hague 12:31
Yeah, if you give me too, I could throw out 100. Let me go through a few in Rain Man, his wound was his brother died his No, his brother was taken away, his mother died, his father abandoned him. So now his belief is that anybody I get close to is going to disappear. Now again, I want to emphasize it's not conscious. It's not like if you said to Charlie Babbitt, well, you know, what are you afraid of, and he'd say that he's completely oblivious to it because it's become so much a part of who he is or how he sees himself. But his belief is anybody I get close to will disappear. So his terror is of getting close to anybody. And then he meets this brother, and his reaction to his brother is not to embrace him and say, Oh, well, I've got a brother, it's to just exploit the guy and terrify this brother, because all he really wants at the beginning is his inheritance. But in the course of the journey, what he does is he finds the courage step by step, and gradually to connect with the brother, and comes to realize, even if I get close to this guy, he's not going to disappear. I don't need to be afraid of that consciously or subconsciously. And that's his art. That's his growth. And when he does that, in that case, it's not that he achieves the goal it's he becomes mature enough to let go of that goal and give up on that inheritance and find a better goal, which is to help his brother

Alex Ferrari 13:58
And the brilliance about that specific movie is that Dustin Hoffman's character? He can't be hurt by what Tom Cruise's character is doing to him because he has autistic so he like all these things that like kind of the braiding that he does I guess he doesn't get affected by it so even more so it's kind of like looking in the mirror almost with with Tom Cruise's character like he can't. Can't can't hurt him.

Michael Hague 14:25
Well, yeah, I don't know. I wouldn't agree with that. Because here's the thing is he can hurt Raymond by frightening him so badly. You're right. You're right. You're equipped to deal with the world. Right? here's, here's the parallel I see. It's a care it's a story about a character who has to learn to feel by being with someone who is incapable of expressing emotion up incapable of connecting with another person physiologically, and so but through that character, the the Tom Cruise character, Charlie Babbitt learns to it express his feelings and connect with another person in a way the brother who taught him that is incapable of doing.

Alex Ferrari 15:07
Excellent point. Excellent. But now what are what are the elements of a great scene scene?

Michael Hague 15:15
A great scene? Well, I think, first of all, it has to have the the key foundation elements that any overall story has. And that is it has to be built on character, desire and conflict. In other words, in a good scene, not just the hero of the story are the main character in the scene, but everyone in that scene must want something. And then the, let's say the scene is involves the hero of the story, and he's the one that's driving this movie or driving this goal that moves us along with the story, then whatever it is he wants, or whatever it is, the other characters want. By and large, there must be something standing in their way, there has to be some conflict to be overcome. Primarily because your goal is a screenwriter, your number one goal is a storyteller of any kind. Because I work with internet marketers, and I work with public speakers, and I work with novelists and so on, the goal of any storyteller has to be to elicit emotion and emotion grows out of conflict, not desire. Desire doesn't really isn't really emotionally involving that just is the engine that drives the story. It's the obstacles the character has to overcome, that make the story involving and actually make a story sound commercial as far as that goes. So within each scene, you want to say, okay, who what, how does this scene relate to my hero and that hero's outer journey? How does this move the hero closer to his goal, or create more obstacles to it? And then what does every character in this scene want? And then, if possible, what you want to do is take some of those characters if and put them in opposition. So they want opposing things, that's what's going to create greater conflict in the scene. Sometimes the scene is not about characters in conflict with each other, but teaming together to face some other obstacles, some force of nature, some villain that's on the way, or some, some opponent that has to be overcome, but it's always about what is that conflict? What is that conflict going to be? And then the last thing I would say that's absolutely essential to every scene is you must create anticipation. You want to end every scene with the reader anticipating, okay, what's going to happen next? You want to create a question, okay, now I see where this particular sequence ended, I see where the hero is. Now there's somewhere that they weren't at the beginning. But now what are they going to do about x? Now? What's the next step they're going to take? Or Now how are they going to face this villain that I just saw a scene where the villains planning to kill them, or whatever it might be. So you always want to force your reader to turn the page or to move to the next scene, and try and guess what's going to happen.

Alex Ferrari 18:08
Now, Michael, when you're saying conflict, and obviously conflict is an integral part of every great movie and every great scene. I've heard from a lot of different gurus, teachers, instructors, analysts on story that the one story that really never had the main character didn't have conflict was Forrest Gump. Now, I'm not sure if that's true or not, there's conflict all around him, but he personally never had it. It. Can you explain to me whether that's true or not? Or what your take on that is?

Michael Hague 18:36
I must confess My take is that just sounds bizarre to me. I could not see that he has conflict. Let's take the name through what what is his main desire in that entire movie?

Alex Ferrari 18:50
I would, that would be it getting Jenny getting Jenny.

Michael Hague 18:54
And Jenny keeps getting separated from him and he tries to get her and then she gets involved with others. And and it's, it seems like, always, always, it's let's get back to her. And whenever he encounters her, there's something standing between them. It's It's It's like a love story. But she gets involved with the protesters and the hippies in the late 60s, or whatever else it might be. So there's that. And then there's the fact that when he goes to Vietnam, the bombs are blasting all around him, and he's got to save, save the life of Captain Dave is in the movie, and more than a decade.

Alex Ferrari 19:40
I know, I know. Lieutenant Lieutenant, ohh god!

Michael Hague 19:44
Woody. I think maybe it's hard to recognize what his overall goal is, because it's a very, very episodic story very and because what happens is he seems to overcome the obstacles he faces fairly easily and then go on and have a big effect on other characters. But I would not definitely not say there's not conflict that there are obstacles for him to overcome, or that the audience is wondering how is he going to do this? or How is he going to be able to make money? Get You know, on for Bubba shrimp or whatever? Right? Right? He's trying to do so either either the answer, the short answer would be I don't know. I don't understand the question. Sir, answer would be there wrong. There's lots of obstacles for him to overcome in that movie.

Alex Ferrari 20:40
And now that you've explained it in that way, I completely, totally agree with you.

Michael Hague 20:46
And so on, Louis said, I'm thinking what about his mother and in fact, his mother's dying. I mean, he is able to overcome those obstacles, but so is the hero of any movie, they just go into something bigger. And I think the key is look at the relationship with Jenny.

Alex Ferrari 21:02
Yeah, exactly. And Jenny is his main goal. And it's that's it that's, and I think maybe it's because there's so much other stuff going on around him. And he's in every historical, you know, area, you know, he does so many different things, that you kind of lose track. Sometimes at the end of the day, of course, he just wants to be with Jenny, period.

Michael Hague 21:18
That's it. There's another there's another thing we should point out, too. That is the movies of biography. It's and biographies do not follow the same kind of structure that other films do. I usually say that the, I don't know if it's the most difficult to write, but the least commercial genre is a biography. And what I mean by a biography is the birth to death story of someone's life, or at least birth to, you know, as far along as Forrest Gump gets in that story, because let's take a movie, like the King's speech. The King's Speech is a true story about George the Third, the end, but it's not a biography, because we don't see him being born and his childhood and son, we learn of those things as backstory through dialogue. But it's basically a story about a guy who has a single goal, and that is he wants to give a speech without stuttering. Right? Okay. And his, the whole movie is about how is he going to be able to do that with the help lighten the load, until the speech becomes not just important to him, but important to the whole country because he's got to lead England into World War Two. So that's not my definition of biography. But if you take a movie, like Chaplin, Amelia Earhart, I guess that was called Emilia, I forget what the title was, or, or other movies like that. And notice Malcolm X. So generally speaking, are not do not do well at the box office, then what they do is they'll have an obstacle and then they'll overcome it and then obstacle and overcome it. And it's sort of like, Well, here are pieces strung together into this person's life. And the reason those are generally not commercial, I believe, is because audiences want a singular finish line that they're rooting for that hero to cross. And so that's why Forrest Gump adds the thread of Jenny that runs through that otherwise biography that is about one incident, or one goal after another. And if you take a movie like Braveheart, it's the same thing. The whole story of his life is toward one goal and that is freedom for Scotland. Or Gandhi is about freedom for from England for India. And those biographies are those true stories about real characters who have a singular goal that you can follow creates a much more familiar and stronger spine I believe, than just what you'd call life stories. And so I always recommend you find the one particular incident in the person's life where they had the biggest goal or the most compelling goal and make the story about that. And perhaps because of that, people are not recognizing this the conflict in in Forrest Gump the same way because they're forgetting it's a biography that's going to be segmented into one goal after another.

Alex Ferrari 24:21
Right and generally Our lives are not about one singular goal it's about multiple little goals. That's why

Michael Hague 24:27
that's why movies are better than real. Life is not properly structured.

Alex Ferrari 24:33
It's like my goal is to get to the supermarket and get what

Michael Hague 24:37
I like to say real life is shit happens and then you die and

Alex Ferrari 24:43
Not yet not generally not generally, like our goals now or like I need to go to the supermarket and get this. The crackers are out shoot.

Michael Hague 24:51
Like there's an obstacle,

Alex Ferrari 24:52
But not not not very exciting, though. Very exciting, but freedom from from England. That's that's a much more grandiose goal in life.

Michael Hague 25:01
And then also, that's another good thing to point out that movies are not successful either artistically or commercially, because of the size of the goal. It's only the size of the conflict for the hero that makes a difference. So there's nothing inherently bigger or more important about freedom for England than there is surviving on Mars or goodwill hunting, falling in love with someone who's an inflatable sex doll, I'm giving away an answer to a later question. But it's, it's always what makes it seem impossible for the hero to accomplish this goal. So what that goal is, is only important in that it gives the story its forward thrust and gives the opportunity for those obstacles.

Alex Ferrari 25:54
Very well put very well put now. You know, I'm sure you've read a few scripts in your day. A couple, three, a couple, two or three? What are some of the common problems you see with first time screenwriters and like kind of first time scripts? Well,

Michael Hague 26:10
The number one problem, I think, overall is the writer has not given nearly enough thought to is this commercial. Yeah, it's the writer is assuming apparently, that because this story sounds intriguing to him or to her, or because it's something that happened to them that was fascinating, or because, you know, it makes for a good story around the dinner table. This is something that a million people are going to be willing to pay to see. And that just most of the time is not the case. And while I agree on an emotional level, or a psychological level, you want to write about what you know, what I think is more important is when you come up with a story idea, ask yourself, Is there any movie I can point to, that's made money in the last year or anything that is advertised in today's paper that's playing at the Regal cinema or the art glider whatever, that this is similar to that this is in the same genre that this is going to appeal to the mass audience in the same way. And I think that a lot more respect or attention needs to be paid to is this really something that's going to make money, because I'm assuming that anyone listening who's a screenwriter wants to be a writer, because you want to be heard your what your stories to be seen as films, and for a movie to get made is going to cost a lot of money, and somebody's got to put up that money, and they can't invest that money unless they think it's going to turn a profit. And because movies are expensive, unlike books, which you can publish for pretty cheaply. movies have to have a lot of people buying tickets or tuning in, if it's a TV show, or subscribing to Netflix, if it's that in order for that movie to turn a profit. And so you have to be able to build into that story or build that story on us. One that has a good possibility of making money. And I just feel like lots of writers are not thinking about that. They just it's like for their own edification. Right? Let's say that hurdle is passed. Let's say they found a high concept store or let's say they found a movie that is within a genre that's generally commercial, let's say then the key problems are more within the way the story is told one difficulty I see frequently and this is not limited to new writers. I encounter this with million dollar screenwriters, the story is just simply too complicated. Yeah. Another thing to remember about movies especially if you're pursuing a Hollywood career, if you're talking about pursuing a Hollywood financing a mainstream movie for this country, they're very simple. I mean, hollywood stories are built on very simple ideas. There is I would guess not a single movie playing in theaters right now that came out of Hollywood that I could not with three minutes of thought express the storyline in a single sentence, log lines and basically you know, it's it's simple. Now it doesn't mean the characters aren't layered. It doesn't mean the characters can't be complex. It doesn't mean that there are lots of obstacles to overcome. It's just at the level of story concept. You know what it isn't a group of reporters wants to find out the truth or report the truth about the sex scandal in the Catholic Church. A guy stranded on Mars wants to stay alive until he can be rescued in a year and a half. It's you name it

Alex Ferrari 29:59
Well be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Michael Hague 30:10
Whatever movie is out there, whatever is, is doing well or even getting made, it's based on a simple story. And then it's not about going off on a lot of tangents, or making that complicated. It's about keeping that straight through line, and then creating interesting and different and increasingly difficult obstacles for those characters to overcome. Now, the final thing, the last thing, and this is, in a way, the simplest, but it's just too many scripts I read are not professionally presented. It's like they're not properly formatted, which astonishes me because I've been around long enough that when I started, there were no, there was no such thing. There was barely computers, there were certainly no such thing as final draft or movie magic screenwriter, and you had to sort of set the margins on your typewriter and things like that. But now, all you got to do is invest in a formatting program, and you're pretty much home free, as far as that's concerned. And all you have to do is use spell checkers or get somebody who knows English to check it for spelling and grammar. And I see a lot of those errors in new scripts. And it's like, come on, spend 24 hours doing a little research or spend a buck to get the program. And you can make this look as good as any other script floating around Hollywood. So those three things, I think its simplicity, professionally presented, and most of all commercial.

Alex Ferrari 31:38
So Michael, you mentioned the term high concept. Can you explain to the audience what a high concept and low concept are?

Michael Hague 31:46
Yeah, well, I haven't really heard the term a low concept before but high concept gets bandied about a lot. And people have different definitions of it. But here's mine, a high concept idea is one that an audience will line up, or tune in to see the movie or the TV series, just based on what the logline is just based on what that movie is about. On a plot level. And high concept stories promise big conflict. And so a good example recently of a high concept movie that did very, very well was the Martian, because it's about a guy who's gets stranded on Mars, and now somehow has to survive, and face all of the elements on his foreign planet and stay alive long enough that the people on earth can send a spaceship to rescue him, let's say. So it sounds like the obstacles are going to be big. It's a genre kind of film, not just science fiction, but it's about someone needing to escape from a bad situation. Now, it comes with a stellar cast, and it got great reviews, and it's good to get nominated for Oscars, and so on. But a high concept does not depend on those things, high concepts or ideas that it doesn't matter who directed it, who's starring in it, what kind of reviews what kind of word of mouth or what kind of awards it gets. It's just the story idea. So jaws speed, those would be typical high concept kind of ideas. If a movie is much smaller, let's take another movie that's going to get a number of Oscar nominations. That was also one of my favorite movies this year called room. Okay, that's a story about a mother who's raised a child from birth in a nine foot by nine foot room, and the child's never seen the outside. So it's how would they what would happen in that situation? And then what would happen if they had the opportunity to go into the outside world? wonderful movie, but I don't think when you hear that story idea, you say yeah, I've got to see that. That sounds exciting. That sounds like an edgier seat suspense. So that movie was released slowly, you can usually tell when a movie is not as high a concept because the release powder will be just a few theaters, and then a little more a little more, because they want the word of mouth to build. Because movies that aren't high concept, low concept, as you, as you say, are dependent on criticism on reviews on word of mouth, on promotion and publicity on the stars that might be in that story. Now one last thing I want to say about high concept, it has absolutely nothing to do with artistic quality. You can have a high concept movie that's great. Martian is an example of that, in my opinion, you can have a high concept movie that is absolutely dreadful, and you can have a look low budget rd not high concept story. That's great. And you can have another one that's dreadful that we're not we're only talking about a commercial issue here.

Alex Ferrari 35:09
Got that makes perfect sense. Now do you have any tips on to screenwriters on how they can get their screen? screenplays actually read?

Michael Hague 35:21
Well, yeah, I wrote a whole book about it actually. So it's it's a tough question, because it's so big. There's so many different things that one can do and you consider, and in those two books we talked about, the book on pitching is all about how do you describe your story in 60 seconds, so that somebody want to read it. And writing screenplays that sell has a whole marketing section. But be that as it may, what I'd say most succinctly is, the smartest thing you can do. to market your script is to follow in the footsteps of those who've done it before. Okay. And the way you do that is you first of all, besides reading as much as you can interviews with screenwriters, especially newer ones, I mean, it's fine to hear the story of how William Goldman became a screenwriter, but it's got nothing to do with you. I mean, that was decades ago, and he's now hugely successful. Those are the, those are the screenwriters that usually get interviewed. But anytime you can see in a film magazine or on your podcast, if you interview someone who's new, but has managed to cross over and broken in, those are the people who have the stories about how they did it that are going to be most valuable. And you want to follow in their footsteps, meaning they might have entered contests, they might have gone to pitch March, they might have composed great cover letters or emails, what they have all done know there are two things they would all have in common one is they write, they write and they write and they write, I've never seen a successful screenwriter that didn't write regularly. That's not a marketing tool. It's just you got to keep writing, even while you're marketing one script to keep working on the other. And the other thing they did is network. And by that I mean they found situations where they could meet other people that could provide them with either more net more contacts or information on how to reach those people. And then beyond that, what you want to do is you want to target the people, you're going after some screenwriters who are trying to break in, they get that writer's guild list of all the agencies and they either limit themselves to the ones with asterisks. who say, well, we will look at unsolicited material, which is a mistake, because those are usually not very powerful agencies, or they send a mass email to everybody or they buy email lists and send it to everybody. And that just doesn't make sense, because 90% of the production companies in Hollywood are probably not going to be interested or be able to mount your particular script, what you want to do is look at movies that are similar, go to a website called the Internet Movie Database, find out who the producers of those movies are, and then contact the heads of development for those companies. Because if if whatever company produced the Martian, I mean, there's certainly scot free because that's really Scott directed it. But there are other companies involved, they obviously have been able to and are interested in bigger budget exciting action kinds of films, you probably wouldn't pursue those companies with room, that movie, I was just describing this very low budget, independent, small movie, and so on, you may if they've done other things like that, but figure out what movies yours is similar to and then go after the people who've made those movies before. And a couple of rules to as you're doing this. One is, as I said, you want to keep writing, you never want to stop writing just so you can market and the other is never wait for somebody else to keep moving forward. Don't send your script to somebody and even to say I'll get right back to you. Don't wait until they get right back to you before you start pursuing other people. Just always keep going after as many appropriate producers, agents, managers, or production companies as you can until you find the one that really is willing to make a deal with you.

Alex Ferrari 39:28
So Michael, what was the lesson that took you the longest to learn in the film business?

Michael Hague 39:32
I don't know if this is what you're going for, because it's not really a lesson about screenwriting or even necessarily the business it's a little bigger than that. But the lesson that I wish I had learned sooner is that the best way the best path to take is to concentrate on the things that I loved and Repeatedly eliminate the parts of what I'm doing that I wasn't enjoying. In other words, focus on what I wanted, or what I loved and not what I thought other people thought I should be doing. Because for a long time, when I came to Hollywood, I was trying to sort of break in or move up the ladder, doing existing jobs or doing them the way other people did. I felt for a while I, I know I can teach this. But I should be a screenwriter, even though I didn't really have a desire to write scripts myself, I like working with other writers, or I should be getting a development job at a studio or I should be doing this or then when I became a consultant, there were things about it, I didn't like I didn't like writing synopses. And I didn't like actually writing much of anything. And so over the years, what I realized is I can just eliminate the things I didn't like. And it wouldn't, it would actually enhance my career. Because the more I limited that I didn't like doing, the more successful I became as a consultant and as a speaker, and so on. Until now, when I do consultations, it's what I love to do. Because I like interacting with writers, I like to feel like a collaborator, I like long sessions, not quick wins. I hate doing notes. I like sitting down with people in the industry and hashing through the projects. I like speaking to groups that have invited me to come but I don't like advertising my own seminars, and I don't do that anymore. And I think if there's a broader lesson from that for anyone, it's make sure that whatever path you're on to keep checking and say, Is this still bringing me joy? And if the answer is at all, no, or if part of it is not say, is there a way to adjust what I'm doing so I get more of the joy and less of the seemingly necessary pain to get there. Now it doesn't mean in the early stages of your career as a screenwriter, anything else there aren't dues to be paid and there isn't some grunt work you got to go through. But at a certain point, you're going to find that there are things you're doing that make it worthwhile and other things that you feel like you got to put up with and the more you can let go the put up with stuff and the more you can stay with the worthwhile stuff. I think in the long run, you'll certainly be happier and probably more successful.

Alex Ferrari 42:30
That entire answer should be on a T shirt.

Michael Hague 42:35
For fat people,

Alex Ferrari 42:36
I was about to say you're gonna have to have a very large base bumper sticker. So Michael, this is a question I always ask all of my my guests. What was the most underrated film you've ever seen?

Michael Hague 42:50
I we should tell people I was queued for this. You sent me this one in advance. Yes, think about it. And I probably wouldn't have been hard to come up with because I use this movie as an example all the time. It's a movie called Lars and the real girl. love that movie. And it may be wrong to say it was underrated because Nancy Oliver who wrote the script actually was nominated for an Oscar. So that's not underrated. And it got good reviews. But it didn't do business. I mean, very few people went to see it. And I consider it one of the great romantic comedies ever. I just love talking about this movie. And I think the reason very few people saw it is because the logline is it's about a guy who falls in love with a sex doll. So it sounds either simi or kind of distasteful or broad R rated comedy, none of which it is. I mean, it's one of the sweetest actually most spiritual kind of movies. It has just a great love story at its core. It's one I love to talk about. I've actually done lectures just about that movie. And this is a chance for me to recommend everyone who's listening find it and see it. It's called Lars and the real girl.

Alex Ferrari 44:05
Yeah, with Ryan Gosling. It's Yeah, he was awesome in that movie. It was a great, great film. I love that movie. So Michael, what are your top three films of all time?

Michael Hague 44:13
Okay, well, I want to tell your listeners just by way of excuse just like the last one, you warned me that this was going to be a question. Yes. And so I emailed you back and said, I don't want that.

Alex Ferrari 44:26
And I begged you to answer it.

Michael Hague 44:28
We do this in every broadcast. And I said okay, what's what's my favorite movie? What was what was the question? my three favorite? Yeah, no, no specific order. So here's my answer. I was incapable of doing that. So here's what the answer I came up with the way the only way I could get even close was if I segmented them. Okay. Okay, so you're gonna have to put up with like nine titles here. Now. The first thing I thought is in terms of favorite movies, what are the three classic movies that I consider just absolutely great films that were very formative for me that maintain after all these years, they're still great movies. And the three I came up with were Casablanca. Still probably the greatest love story Hollywood has ever done. Psycho. Now, perhaps the scariest movie Hollywood has ever done. And Hitchcock's best, I think, unlike vertigo that most people regard and finally the Godfather, which if I had to pick the great hollywood movie, I would probably pick that one. So those are the three favorites in terms of these are great, great movies by any measure. I don't know how they could be improved. Then I thought, okay, the second set is what are three movies that are my favorites, because they meant a lot to me personally, as I was growing up, or as I was falling in love with movies. And the three I picked for that were number one. Bye bye, birdie. Because not not a great movie, although some great numbers but because it was a movie the first movie I remember having a crush on the star cuz Margo got on that treadmill, I was lost forever, that I saw repeatedly that I just loved and, and was just and that I remember going back to see multiple times. So I it's sort of beyond guilty pleasure to say apologetically say to me, the second one was Miracle on 34th Street. My favorite, I think, still probably the best Christmas movie much better than It's a Wonderful Life in my opinion. And that meant a lot to me, because I always love Christmas, but because at one point in my life, I was a department store Santa myself and I tried to model myself after Edmund gwenn in Miracle on 34th Street, so I'm cool. It's it's probably more information. Yeah, that's very, that's a very cool story. Okay, and the third one is A Fistful of Dollars. It's a movie, my favorite Western ever, although if you take that whole man with no name trilogy, it'd be hard to pick sir. But that was an important movie. To me, maybe this is more career as well as personal because it's, I saw it when I was just starting to take some film classes, they didn't have filmmaking at the University of Oregon when I went there, but they had like a film appreciation or a film studies class. And I was learning about all these big name directors, and I happen to see it. And I started noticing a lot going on in the movie underneath the plot, and I actually took notes and sort of compose this whole analysis of what was going on underneath. And that's what I think I really internalize the idea that there's the plot of a movie, and then there's all the layers underneath that can be added that are not, instead of an exciting, in this case, action filled Western or plot or superficial story, if you want to say that, but grow out of that, and are intertwined with that, to make it terrific. So that was the second group. And then the last group that was impossible was really probably what you're asking, and that is, what are my desert island movies, what are the movies that I could see again, and again and again. And the three I came up with, although with if you gave me another day, I'd probably come up with six different ones. One is Sleepless in Seattle, because it's probably still my favorite romantic comedy. It also meant a lot to my career, because it was the first movie I ever lectured about, in its totality at a at a seminar at a conference once. And as I was in the middle of the lecture, I noticed in the back of the room was Jeff arch who wrote it. And I thought, oh my god, I'm talking about his script. And afterwards, he came up and said, everything you said about that movie, it was what I wanted people to get. And we've been friends ever since. So that was cool. So I picked that the Bourne trilogy for action movies, the all three of the Bourne Identity born, you know, supremacy and so on. And, finally, Love Actually, we're talking about Christmas and romantic comedy. And one of my all time favorite writers, Richard Curtis, and I just think is a movie that I could see once a year and often do and still like it. So that's the best I could do with three.

Alex Ferrari 49:34
That was actually one of the best answers to that question we've had on the show,

Michael Hague 49:38
Because I cheated. I drew outside the love.

Alex Ferrari 49:43
Alright, so last question, Where can people find you?

Michael Hague 49:48
Actually, there's only one place people need to go to find out about my coaching about the products I've created, including my books and the heroes two journeys that you mentioned. And also read a lot of articles and Question and Answers I've done and that's to my website it's story mastery.com str y and then mastery with a Y on the end story mastery.com and if you go there there's a lot of things that you can link to and see that I think will sort of expand on some of the questions you asked me and other things about everything to do with the storytelling actually not just screenwriting.

Alex Ferrari 50:29
I will definitely put links to all put I'll put a link to that in the show notes Michael thank you so much for for being on the show we've thrown out a lot of great great nuggets so thank you.

Michael Hague 50:39
Oh good well thank you for having me it was an honor and great fun I enjoyed this a lot and if we do it again I'll come up with three different movies or nine different movies for you how's that

Alex Ferrari 50:49
Thank you so much. I really love talking to Michael it was it was it was a treat to really get to know Michael and now work with him a little bit putting this new course together the story and screenplay blueprint so as promised I'm going to give you guys the link to get the course which we retailing for $67 but you're going to get it for 25 bucks and it'll be 25 bucks for a little while so you have to hurry and get it quick before we before the sale runs out. But it is a launch so all you have to do is go to any film hustle.com Ford slash story blueprint that's indiefilmhustle.com/storyblueprint and that will give you guys directly a link to the course and 25 bucks so definitely check it out guys, I think you really will get a lot out of it. And all the links and things that we talked about in this episode are at the show notes at indiefilmhustle.com/053. As always, please head over to filmmakingpodcast.com that's filmmakingpodcast.com and leave us a honest review of the show. It really, really helps us out a lot and getting the word out and getting all this amazing, great information to other filmmakers who need to hear it. So as always, keep that hustle going. Keep that dream alive. I'll talk to you guys soon.




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