IFH 714: Zero Draft Thiry – Inside Writing for Hollywood with Scott Myers


Right-click here to download the MP3

Alex Ferrari 0:06
Enjoy today's episode with guest host Dave Bullis.

The founder of zero drift 30 is actually the guest on this week's podcast, who is a screenwriter and founder of one of the most popular screenwriting blogs go on his story, which is also the official blog of the blacklist. He also runs. He also runs a screenwriting masterclass, and he's also an instructor, which we're going to get into as well. And then without further ado, with guest, Scott Myers,

Scott Myers 2:05
You know, my guiding light through most of my life has been Joseph Campbell. And that simple little phrase, follow your bliss, find that thing that you are passionate about that you that energizes you that you feel you have a talent for. And creatively, I've just always done that. And one of the things along the way was I discovered teaching while I was writing, I go and do these presentations, be invited. And people say hey, man, you're really good at this, maybe you should teach. So that started with teaching online through UCLA Extension. And then when we moved to North Carolina, where I was a television producer for a production company there called Trailblazer studios for eight years, I started teaching one class a semester at UNC Chapel Hill, in the writing for screening stage program, which was great. And then the DePaul University School of Cinematic Arts here in Chicago, came to know me, one of my colleagues now here, Brad Rendell, who's a working screenwriter, and has had four movies made. He's now an associate professor here at the program and Chair of our program, screenwriting program, and he got in touch with me because he knew about my blog. He was a huge fan of the blog. So we started talking, and it's very, very exciting things going on at DePaul. It's a fast growing school with incredible facilities, the school has three soundstages that it rents for the students at the largest studio system studio facility outside of Los Angeles in North America. This is the same facility where all the Chicago Fire Chicago hope all those shows are filmed Empire was filmed there. Lots of movies are filmed there. So the students not only get a chance to actually get hands on experience making movies like right away, very dry spirit are at the school. They have incredible gear, and the soundstages and a three time grip truck. They are also segue into working for these productions for NBC and whatnot. So that combined with the fact that the faculty here is tremendous. The support from the administration is outstanding. The school is extremely diverse. A lot of schools talk about, well, we want to you know, we're going into inclusion we want to diverse student bodies. Well DePaul actually has that. I mean, my current MFA cohort, the group that's going to be graduating in 2019, that MFA group is 50% non white and over 50% women, and it's really exciting to work with people who have diverse backgrounds and to be able to help them find their voice that facilitate their writing process. So circling back to how I got here, it was just one of those things you put yourself out there you do something that you are passionate about and as Campbell says the universe will open doors where there used to be walls. And the Paul invited me to come here and apply for the position. And I got it. And I moved here two years ago, and I love it. It's just a tremendous place to be and very exciting working with these students.

Dave Bullis 5:17
You know, during the, the application process that the, you know, they ask any sort of like questions about production or anything like that, like how you would handle something? I mean, I imagine you, you were kind of, I mean, not just about screenwriting. So I imagine you you kind of have your hands. You were a lot of hats, as I'm trying to say,

Scott Myers 5:35
Oh, yeah, there were a lot of hats. And the great thing about the Paul School of Cinematic Arts is that we've got eight area of eight areas of concentration. So there's screenwriting, there's directing, there's creative producing, there's all sorts of post, there's an animation group, that's terrific. So we, we don't have a silo system, we work together students, again, the students are, I had a freshman last year, he was like, three, three weeks. And I mean, all my students, one on one of all my classes, just like that's important to do. And I was saying, Well, I hope you take advantage of your time here. Because it's, it's really amazing that you have all these facilities and resources to go out and make these short films. He said, I'm already making what three weeks said he's already making one. So there's a lot of communication between the directors and the writers. We have meetings every quarter, whereby students get together in this big group, and they pitch these projects to each other. And it's incredibly collaborative thing. So yes, I'm involved with helping them with the scripting thing, helping them with their edits, helping them with some of the directing choices they making as I oversee some of their thesis projects and whatnot. You know, I should note that just recently, the DePaul The Hollywood Reporter came out with their top 25 film schools and the Paul's 13 in that list, and rising, clearly the number one film school in the Midwest, we aspire to be more than that. Variety, we made that list of the top film schools, so it's a, it's a really exciting place to be and we're having students go to LA now and shoot some success. So yeah, I one of the reasons I enjoyed being here is that I get a chance to wear a lot of hats and work with students in a lot of different ways.

Dave Bullis 7:28
So, you know, Scott, you mentioned that the student that that, you know, three weeks, and he was already shooting something or planning to shoot something? Do you ever have the opposite? I mean, is there ever a student who shows up and, and just says, you know, you know, maybe they start dragging their feet, or they you have to kind of like say, how are you? Hey, are you gonna make something? Do you ever had that?

Scott Myers 7:48
Yeah, there are students who, you know, and I don't, you know, I don't denigrate them at all. If they come here, and they just want to be writers, you know, or perhaps they just want to work in post, you know, in visual effects. They don't want to go out and, and do production. You know, having done some of that. I think I agree pretty much with what William Goldman said when he said, paraphrasing here, he said, the first day, the most exciting day of the screenwriters life as a first day on a set on a movie set, the most boring day in the screenwriters life as a second day in the movies. Because it's a lot of setup, but just waiting around for things, you know. So I found that when I was doing TV producing out in the field and whatnot, it was okay, I didn't really enjoy it that much. I really enjoy more working. So there are students who I respect that, but then there are other students who have to be encouraged who they have a creative idea and they've got a good visual sense of acuity and say, okay, come on. Yes, get out there. Try it. There's no There's no downside here. It's not like, if you make a short film, and it stinks, well, you've learned a lot. There's things that you can only learn but being out in the field and making movies you just can't learn it all by sitting in a room writing. And so I encourage people to, you know, all my writers that I work with, whether it's through DePaul, or through a screenwriting masterclass or interfacing with my blog, or going out to these conferences and festivals I've been going to more frequently now, I encourage them to go make stuff. This is a time right now. Where with everything going on the second golden age of TV or peak TV, digital filmmaking, where content is king, queen, Prince, Duke, whatever, and who is responsible for creating that content for coming up with that stuff. And at the inception stage, it's writers and so this is a fantastic opportunity for people who are creative and have a good way with words and know how to write and craft stories.

Alex Ferrari 9:58
We'll be right back at Throw a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show

Scott Myers 10:08
To do that, and then see if they have a directorial shops that way you can control your material a lot more. So, yeah, I have students who run the gamut. You know, I have students that come in and, you know, many of them have, they can name for you every single shot and a Martin Scorsese movie. And I mean, I've had those kinds of students and I have students who come in who, their parents, you know, have them majoring in economics or business or whatnot, but they're creative. And so they come in here and they can take a double major in screenwriting, a BFA or ba, or, or even a minor, you know, and to see them light up and see them really grow creatively. And it may be it's only an avocation for them moving forward and not a vocation. Well, that's great, at least they've discovered something that they're passionate about, and they have a talent for and they can do that and, and have a richer and fuller life.

Dave Bullis 11:03
You know, I thought you were gonna say the William Goldman, quote, Nobody knows anything. So yeah.

Scott Myers 11:09
Well, that's true. I mean, always we're seeing this right now, aren't we? Dave? Like, you know, up until about a year ago, it was like Oh, rom coms are dead. Nobody wants to see romantic comedies. Rich, Crazy Rich Asians comes out, boom. Three of them greenlit one week, you know, a spec scripts Singles Day, the sequel to Crazy Rich Asians and a kpop projects in Korea. So you know, now we're seeing articles about how Crazy Rich Asians is resurrected the rom com. So people when they say these things, you know, they don't understand the cyclical nature of the business. And and yeah, so I think that's probably true what Goldman says, nobody knows anything.

Dave Bullis 11:57
It's kind of like how zombies were always, you know, considered played out or what have you. And then the Walking Dead came around, and now suddenly, they're, you know, they're cool again, and then bed, then you know, now now it's all over again.

Scott Myers 12:09
Well, I'll tell you another thing, because you know, you know, me, I track the spec script mark. And I've been tracking it since, well, I broken in 1987 by selling a spec canine and then really started in earnest to track it and 8990. So my blog, going to the story, you can go and see they've got over 2000 spec script deals annotated there dating back to 1991. And up through 2014, not one time, in the entire period of tracking spec script mark, during the 20 some odd years of doing that was drama. In the top three, in terms of genre sales, it was always Comedy, Action or thriller, always. And then for the last three years, the number one genre in the spec script market is been dramas. Again, nobody knows anything. So we're in a new cycle here. And I tried to interpret that as quite interesting. I think part of it is that people have grown up with reality TV, a whole generation. And so they're used to and interested in, quote unquote, real people. And so in the case of historical dramas, they actually are like real people, I think part of it is nostalgia, we're a wash in the salsa right now. And so when they see a picture, you know, like a script that was on the top of the blacklist a few years back about Madonna, or the before that about Michael Jackson told from the perspective of his pet monkey bubbles, you know, those type of historical dramas, they hit their, they hit on, you know, the where the reader or the viewer knows them. It's like, nostalgic. And I think the final thing really going on there is just the studio's are way into pre branded content, you know, they want content that the people will know about. And so historical figures, you know, is a way of doing that, because people will know about a figure in the past, you know, so So yeah, it's a it's a fascinating time. We really is just an interesting time right now. And it's great to be a creator, in that type of environment.

Dave Bullis 14:23
So Scott, like what if you read any, like unpublished or? I'm sorry, unpublished. Have you read any unproduced screenplays recently that have just like floored you?

Scott Myers 14:35
Yes. I just got done. Doing my 12th blacklist feature writers lab in LA got back about two weeks ago. And there were six projects. And all of them were really good. And a couple of them were just would, you know, one of them was like, almost ready to go. I mean, there's some rewriting they could do on it, but But you could totally see it. It's a genre piece, elevated genre piece. And so yes, you know, there's there's great material out there. Now, the spec script market is down this year, and it's compared to last year and last year was down, compared to the previous year. And I think in large part that's to the studios. You know, again, you're just relying on pre branded content, franchise material and whatnot. But I still believe this to be true, that if you write a great script, it'll find its way. Someone's gonna respond to that. And so yeah, there's great material out there, you know, I've got students here, written written scripts that they'll need to rewrite them. But they got strong concepts, great character execution. So yeah, there's still some really good content being made. That's the key is just to write a great script.

Dave Bullis 15:59
So let's talk about that, you know, when you're working with, with students, you know, what are some of the advice that you that you give to these college students?

Scott Myers 16:08
Well, the first thing is to remind them constantly that movies are primarily a visual medium, there are some who will tend to rely too much on dialogue to drive the action, not to say the dialogue is bad. It isn't. But for certain genres, Action, Comedy, depending upon the type of comedy, it is thriller, science, fiction, fantasy, those type of movies really lend themselves to visual storytelling. And that's the type of thing that Hollywood does better than anybody else in the world, you know, visual storytelling. And so I remind them that look, for the first three decades of movies existence, there was no dialogue. It was silent films. Yeah, we had those little intertitles. But largely, it was just visuals. And in some ways, we're circling back to that kind of paradigm, I think, because now with the box office receipts, revenues 70 to 75% of those generated by the international markets. Whereas a joke, a line of dialogue, the exchange of dialogue may not translate that well from, say, the United States to China or Brazil, or Germany or whatnot. Someone slipping on a banana peel and falling on their ass is universally funny. So that's the first thing I hammer with them. Like every quarter is, you know, it's a visual medium, you got to think visually, you know, whenever you start to construct a scene, that's your starting point, is have a visual storytelling. I'd also say this, because, you know, I stay on top of the business, it's weird that I'm in, you know, I'm more connected now and in Hollywood than I ever was, when I live two and a half miles east of 20th Century Fox, because of my blog, you know, is is there several things going on, relative to cultural trends and technological developments? The generation right now, the young Jenner, young people, you know, up through the millennials, but these 18 year olds up to that they have seen heard or read exponentially more stories than previous generations, if you consider stories to be Snapchat conversations, and text conversations, and YouTube videos, that sort of thing. And those are stories, you know, the beginning middle in many of them, and so they just intuitively know, story on a level that I think previous generations don't. So for example, they don't need as much exposition now, as he used to be, which is why I think you've seen this shift. Back in the 80s, when I broke in, what is now what used to be the end of Act One, then, is now the middle of Act One. You just don't need all that setup, get into the story and get going. And that's another thing, because young people nowadays are so used to getting their content when they want it how they want it. Now. Now, now, that another thing I try to teach my students is get into the story, drop them in, there's a Latin phrase in media res, drop them into the middle, just put them in there. They want that type of thing. They want to get into the story, they may not even need to know that much about the characters. You think about movies like x Makena, or Lucy, those couple of movies that come to mind, you know, barely anything about the protagonist within two to three minutes, boom, they're into the plot. And so I think young audiences kind of like that.

Alex Ferrari 20:00
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Scott Myers 20:08
Like, okay, as long as they're not confused, say, I'm here with this character, then we're into the action, I'm going to find out all that exposition along the way that sort of lay it out upfront like we would traditionally used to do. So there are definitely some things going on in terms of technology and cultural mindset, that, you know, we need to be cognizant of as screenwriters, and I try to pass that along to my students.

Dave Bullis 20:35
So when you mentioned that, you know, the the, it used to be in the 80s, the end of Act One is now the middle of Act One. Do you sort of? So let me ask you this. Let me kind of rephrase that. My question. Do you kind of think like, you know, usually in the hero's journey with Joseph Campbell, you know, there's, there's the call to action, and then there's the refusal of the call? Don't you think that the refusal of that call sometimes can be a little too, is is maybe not needed? And here's what I mean by that, you know, if you go to see like a road trip movie nowadays, you already know that going on the road trip? So is it really any need to have a refusal of the call? Because I mean, hell, then being on the road, is the whole reason that brought you into the theater. And you know what I mean?

Scott Myers 21:17
Well, that's you're raising an interesting point they have, which is that the awareness level of people going into movies is such based on trailers, and the inundation of marketing. And I think that does have an impact. So if you know that this is a road picture, do you really need to spend 25 pages, setting it up? No, you don't. You know, you're just you're just gonna bore the the younger generation, they just, they just want things, I think, in their storytelling to move much more quickly. So in terms of the refusal to call, well, this gets into a bigger area. And this is another thing that I hammer my students on, which is that you've got to ground your story crafting process in the characters. And so, in particular, the protagonist. And so if your question for you know, if you were like a student that came in and said, I don't know whether I should have a refusal of the call to adventure with this character or not, you know, I would say, Well, don't look at it from outside the story universe go inside the story universe and get to know that character? Are they the type of individual that would refuse? Or are they the type of individual who would leap at the opportunity, you really need to ground the storytelling, and what I call the protagonist, its journey. In fact, I'm working on a book proposal right now. I was approached by a publishing company to write a potential textbook, in which we invert the way we look at, I think, typically, or at least the way that kind of floats around in the screenplay universe, about how to approach story structure. So much of the emphasis is on plot, and on these page, counsel, whatnot, which I think is a rather wrongheaded way of approaching it. Much better to go at it. by immersing yourself and engaged in the story universe and engaging yourself with all the characters in particular, the protagonist. The protagonist's goal the protagonists want and need, all that stuff, basically, sets the spine of the story. And so how much better to come to the plot by working with the character and determine it's their story? You know, it's their fate. I call it the narrative imperative. That story that happens to the protagonist. If it happened two weeks ago in their life, or a month from now, it would be a different story. It's happening right now, there's a reason why you type fate in at this moment with that story. And there's a reason why that character intersects with other characters, the specific set of characters as they go along. There's a reason why those events happen. And x one, two, and three, because it's facilitating the protagonist, transformation, that journey. Again, this is inverting the, the the idea, as opposed to looking at the plot, first look at the plot as a way of facilitating servicing and supporting the protagonist transformation. Joseph Campbell said, the whole point of the hero's journey is transformation. And so that's another big area that I focus on with my students, we do a ton of work on character development. In fact, I created a class here called story development, and we spend an entire quarter working with characters and out of that working up an outline. So then you move into writing a first draft. So back to your question. I mean, the thing about whether there's a refusal, a call or any of that stuff, you have to be mindful of cultural trends and, you know, audiences in terms of their interests and predilections And, but everything needs to be grounded in working with the characters as far as I'm concerned. I mean, character equals plot. And so let's put some flesh on the bones there and actually make that come to fruition

Dave Bullis 25:12
Is it when you see the students come in, or even when you're working online with with different people, do you see a tendency to do that formulaic sort of plot points?

Scott Myers 25:22
Well, there are some books and you know them, I won't name them that are the, you know, that that have very specific paradigms. And, you know, I just I have, I have concerns about that I have concerns about that multiple levels. If you reduce screenplays to you know, the specific sort of page count, this needs to happen here, and this needs to happen there. You're, it's problematic on several fronts, one, it demeans the craft. It makes it look like we're dealing with widgets, as opposed to the creative effort, and the creative skill and talent that's required to write a rich story with multi dimensional characters, surprising twists and turns. And all the rest, you know, that requires creativity. If you're out there espousing something, then you have a software system that you can plug things into, and come out with a you know, paradigm or whatever, then that demeans the craft. And that extends to the experience of professional screenwriters working in Hollywood right now. If your studio executive who maybe got an MBA from Stanford or Harvard, you meet with them. And you know, they're giving you script notes. And they say, Well, I'm sorry, but your act one is too late. You know, it needs to break into Act Two and 25. Well, if that's all they know, about story, is that sort of formulaic approach to screenwriting, then why do we end up with so many formulaic script movies? It's because of that type of thinking. So I think that any attempt to codify some sort of so called rules, or these kind of formulas, is really working at counter purposes to what it should be, which is a true creative effort. And that, again, leaning into the characters see where they take you. You know, it's exciting to see scripts like a quiet place. Did you read the script a quiet place? Are you seeing the movie? Right? Probably David.

Dave Bullis 27:43
Yeah, I've seen the movie. I didn't read the screenplay.

Scott Myers 27:46
Well, you know, it breaks like, so many of the so called rules, I think it's like 68 pages long. They include photographs and images. They mess around with fonts. I've actually interviewed those guys, and they're actually coming to Chicago and the end of September for our career, 12 conference, and gonna be panelists here, Scott, and Brian. And so you read these scripts, and see that there are these creative choices being made. And the stories work. You know, they don't fit the they don't fit the sort of formulaic paradigm. So yeah, I'm fortunately for me, most of the students I deal with, except for the graduate students who may have had more experience in, you know, immersing themselves in screenwriting, the world of screenwriting and whatnot. Most of my students are undergraduate, and they haven't been tainted by that, you know, which is great, because then I can just deal with them, like, you've seen them, you know, 1000s of movies and TV series and whatnot. Great. You've got an innate understanding of this. And so let's build on that. But let's start with characters. Okay, let's start with your characters and see where they take you.

Dave Bullis 29:08
Yeah, so it's, it's kind of like you're letting the characters kind of lead the plot, rather than having, you know, this sort of template that comes in, I always say those templates like, like training wheels, you know, it's fine to use it if you're doing like your, your first, you know, screenplay or whatever. But if you sort of keep doing that, you kind of end up with those formulaic movies that we that, you know, you and I always talk about,

Scott Myers 29:28
Well, some of those formulas were created back in the 90s. You know, are they relevant 20 years later? You know, apart from 3x structure, and perhaps the idea of sequences, you know, is there anything really that is kind of sacrosanct in terms of the craft visa vie this screenplay structure?

Alex Ferrari 29:55
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Scott Myers 30:04
I don't think so, you know, I think that, again, yes, have follow the characters, it's their story they exist, they know it better than you do, they're inviting you to tell the story, they want you to tell the story. So it's much better to have, you know, we go through these brainstorming exercises like I, I take my students through, we do six sets of brainstorming exercises, we spend an entire couple of weeks just doing brainstorming, you know, forget any of the construct construction of the story of the first we're just get to know the characters. And so they'll do the traditional indirect engagement exercises like questionnaires and biographies. And I'll have them, you know, read a scene just to kind of with the characters and just get them loosened up. But then we move into these direct engagement exercises, which are great. It's like, all right, imagine you're a psychiatrist, and you're going to have this patient is one of your characters. And they've been court appointed, they have to see you, and they have to answer questions. They cannot get out of this unless they answer your questions. And so now you move from dealing with the characters and I it relationship, like they're over there, you're dealing with them directly as an IU. And so I'll have them do these exercises where they interview the characters, then, then they'll even get a little bit more into that kind of California New Age thing, which is a lot of fun when I'm dealing with some students who are a little bit more left brain oriented. Okay, so we're gonna have you go into a room, close the door, turn off the phone, get a piece of paper, and a pad of paper and a pen, or get in your computer. And I want you to do some deep breathing. It's like meditation, I want you to deep breathe in and up for about a minute or so. And I want you to thinking of that character and get into their headspace. And for the next 10 or 15 minutes, set a timer. I want you to blind type, what are they thinking? What are they feeling? And yes, your mind will go, Well, I have to do this. And I've got to go wash the dog and whatever. That's just chatter, let it go. Come back to that character and keep reaching out to them, and try and get into their headspace. You can do that as like stream of consciousness. You can also do that as like monologues like, what are they going to say? And so you just blind type. You do that for 10 to 15 minutes. Now, what you end up with, maybe 80% of it is nonsensical, but 20% of it, whatever percentage 1020 1520 25 40% can be gold, you've like access that character. Moreover, if it is like a monologue, or even just articulating what they're thinking or feeling, you're starting to get a sense of their voice. And so it is that weird thing I call writing wrangling magic. You know where you're, you're, you're believing this magical thing where the characters exist in this weird way. And so if you really believe that, then you'll start to see and hear them. It's like the inverse of that Seeing is believing what believing is seeing and hearing you reach out to them, they wouldn't have appeared to you. And they wouldn't want you to write their story if they hadn't shown up. But they did show up somehow in your conscious subconscious or conscious life. So reach out to them. And so we do all this brainstorming. It's great. It's really great. And I have to say, I've done it and I teach it to Paul in screenwriting masterclass, I have that prep class I started eight years ago, I've done that, like 30 times. That's the thing that I mean, apart from everything else they enjoy, the writers enjoy about that process. We get through that brainstorming, they create this master brainstorming list and they got all this content that they've surface 1020 pages of stuff, before they even move toward plotting. I get I get compliments about that all the time. Like oh my god, that was such a mind blowing experience. I can't believe how great that was much more in touch I am with the story, you know, an added benefit when you're in touch with the characters and they're alive. And they're speaking to you and you're seeing them and you're hearing them and you can't get them out of your mind. How much more motivated are you to write the story? Because you connected with them. So yeah, you know, I preach character a lot. I'm sorry, I get off on my soapbox on that. But I just it's a counteractive to formulaic writing, it's just working with characters and moreover, it's just, I think the the right handed way to do it.

Dave Bullis 34:32
I think it's kind of like it gives you like that North Star, that North Star that's kind of like this is where you're going with your story. Rather than kind of making the writing of itself as a stream of consciousness, you know what I mean? So it kind of it allows them to have a lot more or even just you know, anyone doing this in general and as you'd have a lot more of not where to go but also you kind of know okay, well these are some different scenarios or situations or what have you that I've covered that I've already kind of thought of out. But before I get to the outlining phase,

Scott Myers 35:02
Oh, yeah. And the brainstorming, I tell them don't pre edit. I mean, you may be sitting there typing right here, this stream of consciousness, and all of a sudden chocolate milkshake pops to mind. You may think, Oh, well, that's just dumb. No, put it down. Imagine what Orson Welles if he'd been brainstorming and said, snowglobe What's that? Throw it away? You know, no, became an essential part of Citizen Kane. So you'll have scenes appear, you'll have lines of dialogue appear, you'll have moments appear, you'll have characters pop up, you may be working on the protagonist character, and all of a sudden, the Nemesis pops up. Okay, go off and work with the Nemesis. They evidently want to talk to you right now. Now, that said, you can if you're working with the protagonist, I think he's talking about a North Star, the protagonist is your North Star. In most stories. The protagonist journey is what dictates like, virtually everything. It's why those care of the characters exist. If you think about, for example, Ron, Ron bass, Robert Towne had that great question. He said, one of the best ways to understand a character is to ask, what are they most afraid of? Okay. Well, let's run with that. So what if you work with a protagonist? And you come up with an answer to that? What are they most afraid of? Right. Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, most afraid of confessing that horrible experience she had in the Montana farm, where she saw that witnessed the spring slaughter of the Lambs, she grabbed a lamb and ran off with it. She was trying to save that lamb, but it was so heavy, it was so heavy. She says, Well, if you really drill down into the psychology of that story, she is that lamb represents her father, she's trying to save her father father was slain when she was like 10 years old. And so what she's most afraid of is the boogey man who killed her dad, the random chance he opens a door, these guys are stealing a TV boom, boom, they shoot him, and he dies. So, so if she's afraid of facing those, the the associations that she has with her father's death, and those bad guys, you know, with that experience in the Montana farm, well, so what better way to create drama than to have her face a boogeyman at the end? Who was Buffalo Bill? So now all of a sudden, you've got a specific psychological connection between your protagonist and your nemesis? It's not just generic, that that Nemesis is a projection or physical realization of the of the protagonist shadow using your own language. And so Okay, that's cool. Well, then you think all right, well, so what about allies along the way? Well, you'll meet like a mentor figure or to, you know, well, in case of Clarice Starling, that's just a great you know, it's just that that movie is like the perfect thing for me to teach because it's like, fits everything that hits everything that I kind of believe about storytelling, mentor characters, Hannibal Lecter, perfect guy for her, not only because he's tied to the Buffalo Bill case, but also because he's a strength. And so he's II can absolutely guide her into herself, which is what she needs to do. If you look at the story of The Silence of the Lambs from a meta standpoint, you know, what is the narrative imperative? Why does Clarice get called into the story? It's yeah, it's the solve the case of the safe Catherine Martin, but on a personal level, and it's like her psychological journey. It's the intersect with Hannibal Lecter, and they do that quid pro quo. You tell me, I'll tell you things. You tell me things Clarice, but not the personal things, right? So you know, she preferences, don't let him inside your head, boom, she lets her head. And so the mentor helps her go all the way down and tell that thing that she doesn't want to confess, which is the story of the Montana farm. So the if you work with the protagonist, and you start thinking in terms of their journey, you can even by asking the question, my language system, what's their opening state of disunity? What what are they disconnected from? in their, in their psyche? Their stuff their repressing their, their core of being? Their, their need? There's when we talked about need not need to obtain something but need to emerge? What needs to emerge from inside? Right. Glinda the Good Witch says to Dorothy, Dorothy, you've had the power to go home all along. It's already there. Ovid says the seeds of change lie within. And so the character of the protagonist has that stuff inside and it needs to emerge. So they're in a state of disunity. They're disconnected from that, but if you can identify what it is that needs to come out, that suggests the endpoint unity.

Alex Ferrari 39:58
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Scott Myers 40:07
Positive transformation. Obviously, there are stories where the protagonist doesn't have a positive transformation. So just by working with the protagonist character and looking at their, their psychological state to depth, you can surface all sorts of things. And of course, brainstorming will help surface the subconscious stuff that, you know, can really enrich a story again, getting off on a soapbox that day, but I'm passionate about this stuff. You know, I want people to write stories that are vibrant and alive in, you know, not formulaic. The plot emerges from working with the characters. You know, that's my true passion.

Dave Bullis 40:46
Yeah, and it's just like this interview. Like, I'm Chris, Clarice and you're, you're kind of like Hannibal Lecter. I've come to ask you for help. And

Scott Myers 40:55
I, yeah, well, I I thought I did the London screenwriting Festival last year, screenwriters Festival, and they invited me back. I'm going again in a week. And I'll be doing a masterclass and four presentations. But I talked about one of the presentations I did last year, and they asked me to reprise it this year, is writing a worthy nemesis. And my, my thesis there is that the best way to come up with a worthy Nemesis is to start with the protagonist. Again, what? What is inside them? If you ask the question, what do they fear the most, and then put the protagonist in the situation where they have to confront that fear. That's just great drama. So, but yeah, I think the point is that I do a little Hannibal Lecter impersonation, but I do that. And some people really liked that last year. So I guess I'll try and try and do that again this year. So

Dave Bullis 41:49
It's something that somebody was pointed out to me and I can't unhear it. It was I ate his liver with Farber Farber beans. Key Yeah. Yeah. And somebody said it's actually KI KI aunty or something like apparently he mispronounced it in the movie, and I didn't even notice it. And I'm like, now now whenever I hear I'm like, oh, you know,

Scott Myers 42:09
He says it but I think he's being ironic. I mean, I think he purposefully Miss mispronounced that because he will listen to the tang there he goes. With some fava beans and a nice Canty, like he's from New York. Yeah, I think he does kind of mispronounce it or whatever.

Dave Bullis 42:27
But, but you know, I'm gonna have to watch we watch the movie and and pay attention to that part again. But but, you know, I wanted to know, Scott, I know, we're kind of pushed on time. But I wanted to talk about zero drift. 30. i It's, you know, it's, you know, I wanted to interview you again, before it started. And it's actually starting in what two days prefers? Yeah, yeah. So two days. So, you know, could you just, you know, take us through, you know, the the impetus for you to start zero draft 30 And what it is for those who don't know,

Scott Myers 42:54
Sure, well, back in October of 2015, I've been working on a script project and developing it, and it started writing it when something happened in the news that basically blew up the story. And so you know, I've had situations where projects gotten kind of pulled out from underneath me, but this was particularly vaccine because I put a lot of time into it. And so I was very frustrated while I had this comedy that I'd been sitting in my back burner for some time. So I just said on my blog, alright. I haven't even worked the story out. I don't know the characters. I know kind of where I want to go. But starting November 1 through November 30. I'm just gonna write the script. And it's like, NaNoWriMo. I mean, it's not like an original idea. They used to do a thing called script frenzy, but they stopped doing it, I think in 2013. So I just invited people to do it with me. Well, it got picked up by indie wire, it was translated into like Spanish and other languages. And I think we had over 1000 As far as I could tell, sort of guesstimate people doing that. And we had dozens and dozens and dozens of people who finished the script, somebody came up with this idea of, I call it zero draft. So then they came up with the idea of zero draft 30, like Zero Dark 30, only zero draft 30. And so that became the the moniker for it. The basic idea of zero draft is it's like a pre first draft. So if you have problems with perfectionism, and you have problems with procrastination, and procrastination, largely is about, well, I'm afraid that what I'm going to produce is not going to be any good. So that's perfectionism. Well, this is a great way. It's like a blast at that. Because it's all about productivity, rather than, you know, the crunch quality. It's about quantity pages, not quality pages, obviously, right as best you can. But the point is to get from fade into fade out with the belief that by having done that, you will have learned a lot more about your story than when you began, even if you've outlined your story. And you will have crossed that psychological barrier which you've gotten to the first draft. And so now you can have something to work with As opposed to just staring at a blank page. So what happened was, we did that. And then my theory is, and I always tell people that if you're outside the business and you want to break in, you need to be, obviously, watching movies and reading scripts, but also writing pages. And so write two specs a year, even if you did one page a day, you spent a month prepping a story, you wrote for four months, a page a day, that's 120 pages, and then you spent a month rewriting it? Well, you could do two spec scripts a year just by writing one page a day. So I what I did was on the blog, we decided to do two zero draft 30 challenges a year, one in September, and one in March, March is actually 31 day, so you get a bonus bonus day. And so they're basically, you know, spaced six months apart. And there's a Facebook group zero draft 30 Facebook group, which is a public group, but it's private in the sense that you have to join it, we now have 3100 members, that's an ongoing thing. You know, it's a terrific group, it's very much like going into the story. It's everybody in there, you know, understands that it's a real hard road to hoe the competition is fierce success is hard to come by. But we're also optimistic, or also we lift each other up. You know, I kind of wish this point to myself that look, I was completely outside of the business. I knew one person and I wrote my third spec script and sold. So you know, I can't deny that reality. It does happen even though the odds are one. So the zero draft 30 Challenge starts in September 1. And so on September 30, I do a blog post every day with some inspirational stuff. We I look, you know, there's the hashtags, Ed 30 script. I look there, I look at the Facebook group, I look at my blog, I see what people are posting every day, I'll select somebody and give them an award. It'll vary. Sometimes it's the Anita loose award, who was one of the first great screenwriters in Hollywood a woman and sometimes it's adult and Trumbo award and so they just get a little picture with their name, you know, on it, and just a little something to motivate people, but it's great. And we also this year, have Harmonic Convergence. I for reasons which I can't get into, it's just too long, but the spirit animal for the zero draft 30 Group is a hamster, called scamper. We don't go riding sprints we do writing scampers against like have some fun with this, right? So we do this thing, we now have done it, I think like 30 times every first Friday night or Saturday, you know, 12:01am, Sunday 24 hour period, we do what we call a writing scamper a THON. So there are 24 hosts around the world each hour of the day. So that you know, you just pick a day, pick up, pick a time slot, you're going to know that somebody is going to be there to usher you into your hour and congratulate you on spending that hour writing. The point of it is to get people to write on weekends. And the point of that is to get people to write every day. If you get writing every day, that becomes a habit and you're more productive. So it just so happens that this September challenge starting September 1, at 12:01am. I'm going to launch the next 24 hour scamper a THON. So people are interested, they can go to the zero draft 30 Facebook group, just look that up against tremendous group of people there, we got some wonderful moderators who oversee things and there's no we don't allow anybody to promote any consulting services or any contests or any of that stuff. That's like a completely ad free pressure free zone. It's just people who, you know, want to support each other and help each other and, and, you know, writers groups form off that, you know, private writers groups, or people will say, I have some pages and I will read pages in exchange for you reading pages, you can do that offline. So But now, let's see what draft 30 It's the zero draft approach. There are there are professional writers who do this. There's a Scott Fraser five or six years ago, got on Twitter one day and said I'm gonna write a draft in 24 hours. And he he commented along the way in, in on Twitter. And he did he wrote that draft in 24 hours, it was a real rough draft like 60 pages. But that became a movie. He wrote the script and sold it and it became a movie. So there's real value in the zero draft approach. And particularly if you're a perfectionist, and you tend to procrastinate.

Dave Bullis 49:34
Do you know what that movie was called? That he

Scott Myers 49:39
I could look it up. He's been off Twitter for quite some time, but I'll have to look it up. I can email it to you.

Alex Ferrari 49:49
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Dave Bullis 49:58
Okay, yeah. I just did it. That's actually pretty interesting, Scott. But why, you know, I'm actually going to compete in will compete. I'm actually gonna participate. Yeah, and zero draft 30 Because you really don't compete against yourself. But but but, you know, yeah, I want to participate this year, I tried to do it last year and I just kind of fell off the wagon. I guess I don't, I just gotta it kind of fell off the rails. And so I'm gonna participate this year, I got that handy dandy calendar out, right? And I was like, oh, yeah, that thing's awesome. So whoever made that the, you know, great ads. Great work.

Scott Myers 50:32
Stephen Dudley did that he's one of the zero draft 30 members. And so if you go to my blog, I have blog posts all this week, prepping people for the challenge. And you can see, there's a doubt you can download this, this wonderful calendar, where you can just fill in every day. There's a little motivational things in there and whatnot. So

Dave Bullis 50:51
Yeah, and I'm gonna link to all that in the show notes. Scott, just, you know, all the things that we've talked about. So, you know, just to sort of, you know, put a period at the end of this whole conversation. Scott, is there anything you wanted to sort of add in conclusion?

Scott Myers 51:04
Well, just that, again, reinforcing the point that the odds are long, you know, astronomically long to be able to make a living as a writer. And yet people do. You know, there, there's nice to see that the the number of people in the feature film side of things, in Hollywood in 2017, there was an uptick in the number of people, pretty substantial one, so that you know, that it is possible to work as a writer in the business. But beyond that, just if you pursue your passion, you know, if you're creative, and you don't give voice to that, and you don't pursue that, that's such a loss for you, and perhaps the universe. But if you do pursue it, you know, then you're putting yourself in alignment with some authentic part of yourself. And, you know, again, follow your bliss. It's just, it's more than just three words, it's like a fundamental thing. Can you imagine this world with 8 billion people who are each of them, able to pursue the thing about which they were the most passionate, the thing that enliven them, you know, what a place this would be. So I just encourage people to, don't think about the odds. Don't think about anything other than just what it is that excites you, if you're a creative person and pursue it, whether it's an avocation, whatever it is, you know, woodworking, painting, poetry, kite flying, do that, because it's just going to have an incredible benefit for you. And you'll know, at the end of your life, you know, you will say, I regret not doing that, you will have done it. And so follow your bliss, as I always, always say, that's, it's profoundly important insight into life.

Dave Bullis 53:08
Yeah, it's, you don't want to live life with regret, or, you know, we kind of look back and say, Why didn't I do that? Or what went wrong? You know, why didn't I Why wasn't I able to do that? Then, you know, and, you know, I agree completely Scott. And I think that's a great way to sort of put history at the end of all this. We're going to find out on line, Scott.

Scott Myers 53:28
Well, there's my blog, go into the story. You know, that's based on a little anecdote I have with my youngest son, he was about three at the time, and I was joking with him while I was overseeing his bath. I said, Well, you know, my dad, your dad's going to write us store tomorrow new script, and you have any advice for me. And he looked up at me without hesitation said go into the story, and find the animals, which I just thought was great. And so that's my blog, go into the story. It's not 10 years old, launched in May 16 2008. It's the official screenwriting blog of the blacklist, there are 24,000 posts there. It's covers basically, everything you could possibly imagine. You can follow me on Twitter, go into the story and go into the story. I think I've 51,000 followers at this point, but the very active feed, they're all screenwriting and writing and creative, you know, oriented. Also, there's the zero draft 30 Facebook group, which I started back in November of 2015. And terrific community of people there. And then the DePaul University School of Cinematic Arts if you know anybody. Oh, I should I have to say this day. I got to tell you this. We just recently starting classes there in September 6 will be the first BFA and MFA a set of students for comedy, writing and film writing in conjunction with this Second City, we partnered with the second city, which is the premier improv group. You know, it's been around for 50 years. And so DePaul University has partnered with the Second City and we're now offering the world's only to my knowledge, BFA and MFA programs in comedy writing and filmmaking. So the students get to actually go to the second city site there and work with those incredible faculty that they have, who are just phenomenal teachers when it comes to comedy and an improv. They actually work with them at the Linkin Park facility over there. I live five blocks from there. And then they also work here at our DePaul University taking classes. So they're getting they're getting an education, but they're getting an education in which they're going to end up with a portfolio of content and an incredible experience. developing their comedy chops from just like top to your faculty in both worlds, the improv and sketch world and then the screenwriting and writing world so so DePaul University School of Cinematic Arts is where I am. And I think that's probably pretty much about it in terms of how you get in touch with me. Oh, I can I want to mention one other thing. If you're in the UK, and you're listening to this, I'm going to be at the London screenwriters festival from September 7 through the 10th I believe it is, or seventh through the ninth, sixth to the ninth, then I'm going to be in Cologne, the first week of October Cologne, Germany for a two day masterclass. And then I'm doing a keynote address for their film festival. And then I'll be at the Austin Film Festival at the end of October. And then if you're in France, I'm going to be in Paris in March of 2019 for a three day workshop there too, so do a lot more of this type of thing.

Dave Bullis 56:49
So I will definitely link to in the show notes. And because Scott, I think I think the UK is like the third biggest listener base this podcast, so Alright, so Whoa, I think that's a good sign. So, but I was gonna link to everything you said in the show notes,

Scott Myers 57:06
Great to have a conversation with you again, Dave.



  1. Bulletproof Script Coverage – Get Your Screenplay Read by Hollywood Professionals
  2. AudibleGet a Free Filmmaking or Screenwriting Audiobook

Free Training of The Week


How to Produce a Profitable Low Budget Feature Film

By Suzanne Lyons

Join veteran producer Suzanne Lyons as she shows you the three key secrets to produce a successful and profitable independent film.