A Gift – Two of My Favourite Screenwriting Blogs

So I feel like I left you guys out to dry with my last blog.  No warning or anyway to anticipate that I was slowing down on  the number of posts. I’m sorry! Here is a gift to give you something to read while I’m gone: two of my favourite screenwriting blogs.

1. Go Into The Story

Go Into The Story is the official blog of The Black List. This relationship is why this blog is so valuable.

Confused Justin Timberlake

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Confused? Context: The Black List is a list (shocking) of the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood. Many scripts for some great films started on The Black List, including The Social Network and The Intimidation Game. This list is complied by surveying about 500 development executives on the best scripts they have read in the previous year.

Having this extensive list (see what I did there?) of contacts gives The Black List some incredible insight into why certain scripts are made into films. Scott Myers shares those details in his blog posts. So if you are looking to sell your script and the business side of Hollywood this blog is for you.

2. Flying Wrestler

If the first blog was all about the business of screenwriting, Flying Wrestler specializes in helping you craft the perfect script. It’s written by a Emmy and Golden Globe award winner, so you can be assured that he knows his stuff. All his posts are easy reads, mostly consisting of lists (like this one).

That was easy shrug

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That’s it! I hope you enjoy reading those blogs until I return.

Until Next Time,

Mr. Struggle

 

 

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A Gift – Two of My Favourite Screenwriting Blogs

Saying Goodbye…For Now

I just realized that this is my 10th blog post. Starting this journey, I was unsure if I could keep to my schedule and get 10 posts up by the end of March. You read that right, it’s a:

#HumbleBrag

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Anyway, I’m proud of this accomplishment, but it has come with some sacrifices. I have been so busy writing blog posts that I stopped writing screenplays.

Picard face palm

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It’s true. There is only so many hours in the day, making it difficult to write both my blog posts and scripts. So I need to make a decision. Just like my decision to burn my hammer pants, this choice was easy: I need to spend more time writing screenplays. That means I need to slow down on the blog posts.

Don’t worry! Posts will still be posted, but they are just going to come less frequently. Hopefully, this change in pace will refresh my blog and make the content better than ever.

So this isn’t goodbye, but farewell for now. I’ll see you all later.

Happy writing, fellow writers!

Until next time,

Mr. Struggle

 

 

Saying Goodbye…For Now

Breaking Up is Always Hard

Today’s been a tough week. I thought I be able to write more, but something unexpected happened. Before I get into the gory details, let me set the mood with some context.

Whenever possible, I like working with another writer because we can bounce ideas off each other and come up with more creative solutions. I had a great relationship with one writing partner. Our skills complimented each other well, leading to some fantastic scripts that we even sold! This was us:

Two Otters Hold Hands

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As the title suggests, the dam got demolished. We decided to stop working together on Tuesday. We came to this decision for a couple of reasons. Most notably, our work just didn’t feel fresh anymore. At the start of our relationship, we would have new and creative ideas almost everyday. It was a real adventure writing together.

Then over time those ideas became less frequent. Our work became safe, predictable and I can’t believe I’m saying this, boring.

So I had to make a change. Like a Band-Aid, I just had to rip it off and end our working relationship. However, people don’t tell you that it’s going to be so hard, which I guess is also like ripping off a Band-Aid.


“So I had to make a change. Like a band-aid, I just had to rip it off and end our working relationship. However, people don’t tell you that it’s going to be so hard, which I guess is also like ripping off a band-aid. “


From Tuesday onward I haven’t been able to write anything. Writer’s block is beating me down like this:

Monkey Punches Man in Head

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So this is my current predicament. It’s holding me back at the moment, but hopefully I can come out ahead. Or I could find another writing partner, anyone interested?

Until next time,

Mr. Struggle

 

 

Breaking Up is Always Hard

Writing a Script for the International Audience

When convenient, I’m a man of my word. This is why I’m following-up from an earlier blog to share my experience using my new international approach to screenwriting. Here is how I failed.

I began by adapting my American politics script because the producer liked the overall concept. So instead of the protagonist being a U.S. Governor they are now the American Ambassador to the United Nations. It felt like the perfect change because the political beats of the story remain intact, but I can include Chinese characters.

After a few minutes of editing, my change felt more like I ate a month old sandwich – it seemed smart at first, but I soon realized I just made a terrible mistake. The problem was that I know nothing about the United Nations. This is my only exposure (shout out to Boutros Boutros Boutros Boutros Boutros Boutros Ghali):

So there is no way I could accurately capture the complexity of international affairs, especially if Disney Land finally gets statehood because Disney is an aggressive litigator and I can’t afford the lawsuit. All joking aside, not understanding the United Nations was a huge problem because it made my work feel disingenuous.

This was the entire problem with adapting my writing style. I have lived my entire life in North America. This has exposed me to limited life experiences, which makes it difficult for me to create relatable content for an international audience.


“I have lived my entire life in North America. This has exposed me to limited life experiences, which makes it difficult for me to create relatable content for an international audience.”


Most of my exposure to the outside world is from movies and TV. China to me is Jackie Chan movies. This is so terrible because Jackie Chan isn’t even Chinese! He is from Hong Kong. How I felt when I learned that:

Chan knocks down chaser on bike

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As you can see, I need more exposure to the outside world. Until I booked my next trip to Shanghai, I’m going to stick to writing what I know: divisive American Politics and well-timed slapstick falls.

Until Next Time,

Mr. Struggle

 

 

 

Writing a Script for the International Audience

WTF Is International Appeal

I just met with a producer! A small fry, but at least he’s on the menu. Our meeting was going well. He bought me lunch, which makes me happy because I didn’t have to suffer through a leftover stew. Then we got to my scripts.

He rejected most of my pitches, but he’s ears perked up about one of my House of Cards inspired stories. I gave him an beat sheet (free tip: I like to keep them on hand to help seal a deal). He looked through it quickly and said it was really good!

Happy Christ Pratt

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He then paused and muttered these painful words: “hold on a second.”

Chris Pratt saying Noooo

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He gave the script one more read and passed on it. Shocked, I asked why his opinion changed. He told me the script lacked “international appeal” because it was set in America, had American characters and was about American politics.

Chris Pratt yelling I am not crying, okay!

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I’ve been rejected enough times, but that’s a new excuse. It goes against my entire writing philosophy of putting story-first and trying to make the best movie. Now my execution of this philosophy may be as flawed as a wrestler (not nicknamed “The Rock”) trying to transition into movies, but my intentions are always pure.

After our meeting, I Googled “Hollywood and international appeal.” To my surprise, he was right – Hollywood is now a global game.  If you want to maximize your box office returns, you need to make money overseas. So far in 2017, the top five grossing movies have made 65% or more of their box office revenues overseas.

The forefront of the global movement is China. The rise of the middle class has turned the country into a box office powerhouse. China now has more movie theaters than the U.S.A and its box office revenue is predicated to surpass the United States in 2017. One word: holy crap! I know that’s two words, but now you see how surprised I am.

So Hollywood has to release movies in China. Simple enough, right? Come on, you already know the answer. It’s not simple at all because the Chinese government restricts the number of foreign films allowed in the country. You better please the Chinese government if you want access to their market. Vox has a good explanation of how to do exactly that:

Not knowing this information burned me before, but now it is an opportunity to make my scripts more enticing to buyers. Moving forward, I’m going to include international and Chinese elements in all my scripts.

Need a location in my next action film? Shanghai it is! Need a foreign power as an enemy? The Netherlands haven’t done much for America lately. Hopefully these changes can help give me a leg up to sell my art in the business known as Hollywood.

Until next time,

Mr. Struggle

WTF Is International Appeal

Can’t Stop That Tone-Deaf Feeling

I was out with some friends over the weekend. After a few drinks, we decided to make our way to a karaoke bar.

Inebriated enough to be confident in my singing skills, I proudly snatched the mic right away. As any budding American Idol would do, I picked the song of the summer: Can’t Stop that Feeling by Justin “ramen hair” Timberlake. As I belted out the lyrics, I thought I sounded pretty good –  almost at the same level of JT. In reality, I sounded more like him:

I can’t sing. I’m tone-deaf. My career as a pop singer turned movie star will probably never happen. I made this realization after my friends banned me from singing.

Luckily, I have writing, I thought as I stumbled home from karaoke. Inspired, I wrote a terrifying scene where the recently revealed antagonist hunts the protagonist.

I awoke the next morning eager to read my work. I wish I didn’t because the scene was awful. The tone was completely off. My dialogue, for instance, did not match the feel of the scene. One line was: “Here’s Pedro!” You read that right. I just included a goofy parody of the Shining in my tense, nail-biting scene.

Frustrated Jack from the Shining

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Tone or “feeling of the scene” is like the present you get your in-laws – it is almost impossible to get right, but brilliant when you do. I struggle with the tone every time I write.

I try not to keep my script monotone because that’s boring. At the same time, extreme shifts in tone cause unexpected hilarious “here’s Pedro” moments. It’s a balancing act and I am not graceful. I have so much respect (and jealously) for writers who can execute proper tone. They are the masters and I am this guy:

Falls in the garbage

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I’ve found that the only way to get tone right is to have someone else read your work. I then ask how the scene made them feel and hope it matches my desired tone. Spoiler: it often doesn’t. In those moments, I feel tone-deaf…again.

Until next time,

Mr. Struggle

Can’t Stop That Tone-Deaf Feeling

When Technology Fails

I woke up this morning inspired to write. I love those days. It’s when I write the real gold that holds my script together. On days like today, I feel like this:

Basketball player dancing

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Feeling inspired, I booted up my almost decade old MacBook Pro and opened my screenplay software of choice, Final Draft. I was then off to the races. One scene, two scenes, three scenes done in an hour and a half! I was in the zone and flying through my script.

Then boop. My laptop shut off. I quickly pushed the on-button and my computer slowly rebooted. I felt as nervous as those people in the audience during the original Paranormal Activity trailer:

Scared audience in a theatre.

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After what felt like a decade of waiting, my computer was running again. I opened Final Draft and my three new scenes weren’t there. They disappeared like the box office returns for the later Paranormal Activity films. This moment I felt like him again:

GIF: Camera pans closer to Ben Affleck with a sad face. There is a caption on the bottom:

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Clearly, I was too busy writing that I forgot to hit save. I guess this is the risk we take with technology. It can always fail us.

However, I’m not going to stop using a computer or Final Draft to write my scripts. Screenwriting is more than what you write, it’s how your write it. There is specific formatting that you must follow if you want your work to be sold.


“Screenwriting is more than what you write, it’s how your write it. There is specific formatting that you must follow if you want your work to be sold.”


In all honesty,  it would difficult to create this formatting without specific software. So I need Final Draft, Celtx or some other screenwriting program. The computer though, maybe it’s time for a new one.

Until Next Time,

Mr. Struggle

When Technology Fails