Five Best Places to Find Screenplays (Week 1)

Like probably most  of you guys out there, I am a voracious googler and when I first started out formally learning to write screenplays, the first thing I was told to do if I really wanted to be a screenwriter was obvious enough and easy: read an actual screenplay. A bit harder back in 1997 (about three years after the internet officially exploded, and especially if you didn’t want to buy them from somewhere) but here below is one of the first websites I ever came across that suited this specific purpose. The look of the site hasn’t changed much since we got acquainted (the ‘jazzed’ version  didn’t exist when I first found it) but whoever this guy is, he certainly provided me, a college yuppy and other like-minded yuppies an early writing education.

To quote Author Katherine Paterson, ‘Reading makes me want to write, and writing makes me want to read. And both reading and writing make me joy to be part of the great human adventure we call life.’

So, without further ado, here’s Resource #1 – Drew’s Script-O-Rama

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First,  you can’t go wrong with the name. Second, this is a GREAT site – the granddaddy of screenplay libraries, online. Even though the look hasn’t evolved much after its initial inception (due to heavy loading speeds, bandwidths, all we had was the ‘boring version’, now it’s ‘stripclub’ ), the content certainly has.   Aside from ‘The Rama’s’ general commentary (acerbically entertaining), you will also find links to hundreds of film and tv scripts, transcripts, anime (gosh!) and even unproduced work from writers.  Even better, many of these scripts in its several stages. ‘Sixth Sense’ was the first screenplay I ever read, obtained here, along with several others – oscar winners, fan favorites, animated movies, fun ones, you name it.

Go check it out, and let me know your thoughts!

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Ideas – where do they come from and where to get them?

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It was the year 2009, and I had just barely managed to regain my confidence to write again. ‘Regained’, considering an incredibly long eight-year hiatus from film school – a hiatus mostly spent, trying to figure out what I wanted to do, now that I was free as a bird (any intelligent person reading this is probably thinking ‘Duh! Something in film obviously!’) To put things more in perspective, unlike all the Stephen Kings and David Koepps out there (you know who you are), I had always considered myself a ‘one great idea’ kind of schmuck. There were several interchangeable reasons I felt this at the time, good reasons:

A. I had no talent and no other good ideas whatsoever.
B. I had so many brilliant ideas that it was simply impossible to be decisive and weed anything decent out of the bunch.
C. I had better things to do…like bawl my eyes out and watch ‘The Bachelor’ romantically propose to the girl of his dreams on TV.

Case in point: writing, I have come to discover, is both an organic and technical process. And ultimately, the thing that ended up working best for me was perseverence – talent or no talent..and cheesy as it might sound to some, sometimes we just have to sit in the driving seat and try different things until the ignition of our brains roar to life. Here are some things that helps me brainstorm ideas and loglines (in no particular order):

• Writing down a list of things that interest, titillate, excite you the most (for example, if it’s movies, books…you can go deeper into specifically what sort – fantasy? Anime? romance novels?)

•  Newspapers.

•  longform.org – a great site featuring stories each day.

•  Stories from your grandmother and loved ones.  Ask around – everyone has a story, you will be surprised what you will find. One of the great things about discovering character, good dialogue is observing, daily people interactions.

• Everyday activities – things you see when you take a walk or drive, people, places, paying attention to them.

• Reading books, comics, magazines and screenplays. It has really helped me in my understanding of how to build my characters, also different ways to craft dialogue and story pace and rhythm.

• Movies/TV – all the emotional highs and lows, a good movie or tv show can put your imagination on overdrive. Read somewhere that ‘Hunger Games’ was inspired partially by reality shows, for example.

•  Using Word Clouds.  Here’s one I discovered recently, but basically you can use preexisting wordclouds or create your own and use some of the words to form your ideas/loglines. Wordle.net is a great one.

And one last thing…whether you are a screenwriter or any other writer, I encourage you to also write down an idea a day – just one! And see how far that takes you. The more ideas you generate, the better you get. Let me know how you do – and if anyone has any other tips they want to add, post it in comments!

The Art of Plastering your Derrière: Staying in your Seat…and actually Writing.

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Once upon a time, there was a writer who dreamed of writing stories. So he/she decided to come up with this great idea: it was a brilliant idea, one that was already blowing his genius socks off, that he knew would blow everyone’s minds,  make him beyond famous…that oscar statue with his monicker on it. The only problem was, every five minutes, his chair would toss him off.  It was quite a jerky and uncomfortable chair, reminding him of that phone call he had to make, grocery shopping, that funny kid on youtube, frozen yogurt, his growling stomach, that other funny kid on youtube….

But he was a writer…and writers NEVER give up! So everyday he sat in that chair…and finally, one day the chair stopped moving. Suddenly, his story had become…interesting and taken a life of its own.

And so it is, with every scribe in the world.

‘Plastering your butt’ aka. butt-in-chair is more than an art. It’s the universe telling your overactive brain to not just look up at that gigantic mountain, but to grab those rocks and climb and keep climbing until you are at the very top…or atleast halfway (so you can stop and eat a sandwich).

The chair is our monkey mind, our distractions. And boy, is our world full of distractions.  We all have different writing styles – some of us need a coffee shop, some like to watch TV, others like to sit in their rooms with doors shut and challenge our roaming fingers to make sense, type one word, one sentence, one paragraph…

Me? I sit and work in a room all day. Well, ok, maybe not all day – I take breaks, get the occasional yogurt, workout, stretch and pretend to be athletic, gain a few pounds, lose a few pounds..but hey, I do what works for me. Here are 10 things to try:

  1. Writing with music. (it doesn’t work for everyone and can also be a distraction, but used wisely, it can get you in the mood)
  2. Writing what interests you, excites you. I know there’s also the ‘writing what you know’ adage but ultimately the point is: it should excite you.
  3. Telling yourself that it’s all in your mind until it’s on paper (till then, it’s an imaginary pipe dream)
  4. Finding characters that excite you. Characters you love, even if they are nasty villainous cockroaches that everyone else wants to crush.
  5. Reading great stories and great screenplays ( a future post on where to find them)
  6. Telling yourself: ‘it’s a job!’ Because if you are here reading this blog, some tiny molecule in your body is saying, ‘I want to write..or atleast try’ Even if that job comprises of 72 hours a week, an hour or even five minutes a day.
  7. Imagining your movie as a trailer! Your movie!!
  8. Watching trailers – who says TV can’t make you productive?
  9. Watching movies – proceed with caution with this one, but movies ultimately are every screenwriter’s inspiration – so, if you are struggling but still have this innate writing desire that you want to express, I encourage you to go watch a movie…and put your own name up there..and imagine the future glories that could unfold…

So, how do you keep your keester down? Speaking of distractions: benefits (yes!) and pitfalls and how to avoid them (ongoing struggle!) that’s the topic of my next set of posts.

The Novice Screenwriter – who am I?

Hello writers and dreamers,

If you are anything like me (an aspiring spec script screenwriter  who has just completed one spec – and grappling two more), a lifelong scholar who LOVES movies, and who has spent ages and ages trying to master the ins and outs, the yin-yang, the nitty-gritty) of spec writing, follow this blog each week (hopefully) to find and hopefully gain some insight with me – tips gained from years of trying to write, slaving, doodling and also tips on-the-fly taken from writing scripts, reading scripts and everything else I can dig my claws into on a daily basis.  I know there are a lot of fantastic blogs out there that every writer can learn from on a daily basis (gointothestory, johnaugust to name a few) – so why add my own thoughts to that burgeoning conundrum of screenwriting wisdom? Not sure really, except I love writers and writing and the idea of possibly benefiting and developing insights about the craft, sharing as well as learning from others is intriguing enough to well..shoot the gun..and go for it!

NOTE: I DO NOT claim to be an expert, hence I AM…the novice writer, the everyman writer who shares every writer’s dream, the novel dream, the Hollywood dream, YOUR dream to succeed  and something more, so more than anything, my goal is to provide a resource portal/community for all writers, new and old, to learn and share our experiences.

The free caveats you can hopefully gain through this, things I am gaining and have already gained:

Writing tips, tricks, fun stuff, where to find screenplays, writing resources, motivation, butt-kicking (write the damn script!), tropical weather and other ongoing excitement! Check back tomorrow for more. Oh..and stop by in comments and say ‘hello!’