Five best places to find screenplays – week 5

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Here is a quick recap of the last four weeks:

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3 

Week 4 

I have already highlighted in my previous posts, why reading scripts is probably the most awesome way to learn how to write scripts — not to mention the sheer amount you can learn reading one, compared to not reading one and just writing. This week, I decided to summarize all five posts on this subject with a list of additional places to find screenplays (so more than five! Ha, not good with numbers!), including where to purchase them as well as some great blogs with freebies. Most of these, by the way, are also the ones I personally use and have tested out. So, without further ado:

Some more freebie sites:

• Awesome film scripts

• Movie scripts and screenplays 

Sites you can purchase scripts $$$:

• ebay (yes! scripts you can’t find anywhere I have found here)

 theatrebooks (if you live in Canada, they have a location and a decent library. If not, I believe you can have things shipped)

• Amazon (though the pickings here are rare, you can still find certain published screenplay works.

• Scriptfly – I haven’t used this one, but they seem to have a good collection to check.

• Hollywood Book City – this is another one I recently discovered. The thing I like about this store is that they do have a request page if you are looking for a specific script where a representative is supposed to get back to you within 48 hours. I recently posted a request myself (let’s see if it happens).

• The Writer’s Store

Blogs:

LA screenwriter – being new to the blogging community, this is one I only discovered recently (perhaps most of you have) but there are great screenplay offers here that can be downloaded in PDF and they also have some interesting resources to offer.

gointothestory’s 30 days of screenplays – Scott Myer’s blog is an absolute must for anyone who is a writer. period. Because it’s an incredible resource. I am a follower of the blog as well and recently, he has been posting and analyzing some pretty great screenplays, so worth a visit.

John August’s Library – screenwriting pro’s personal script resource

So that’s it for this week. I am back to getting some first drafts and outlines going, hope everyone is enjoying their own individual writing journeys and hope some of this information has come in useful! Have a great weekend!

Before your first draft – Part One – Loglines!

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Growing up in the early 90’s in a desert, I was one of those kids, the lazy ones who would rather spend  time in my room tucked up in a good book than go and enjoy the sunshine and play sports like my peers. It was also something my mom said I was doing while we lay on the pebbly Iraqi beach as refugees escaping Kuwait during the first Gulf War. My attachment to books growing up was so great, infact, that even when we were leaving Kuwait, the country I called ‘home’  and I had to choose what items I wanted, I left all my toys and took my books. Thus, through my love of good stories, my first writing adventures were born. Books were my best friends and movies became an extension of that.

Which brings me to the next point: what is the first thing you do once you know what you want to write? In those days, when all I had was a typewriter (eventually succeeded by a DOS computer and rickety dot-matrix printer), I would just…start writing, and see where it took me. Then, once I started educating myself, I discovered there were some small tricks here and there to get me to my writing goals sooner – which brings us back to our main subject.

A logline, as many of you are aware, is a brief, two-sentence bite of your idea – essentially your story concept in a nutshell.  Recapping generally, a good logline contains three components:

1) THE HERO/PROTAGONIST – who is the story about?

2) GOAL – what is the protagonist’s goal?

3) THE OPPOSITION/ANTAGONIST – who is against the protagonist? Who is stopping him from reaching his goals?

Some movie examples:

• What if Peter Pan grew up? (Hook)

• When a Roman general is betrayed and his family murdered by an insane and corrupt prince, he comes to Rome as a gladiator to seek revenge. (Gladiator)

• An attorney, because of a birthday wish, can’t tell any lies for 24 hours. (Liar, Liar)

• After segueing from a life of espionage to raising a family, Gregorio and Ingrid Cortez are called back into action. But when they are kidnapped by their evil nemesis, there are only two people in the world who can rescue them… their kids!  (Spy Kids)

• A young man and woman from different social classes fall in love aboard an ill-fated voyage at sea. (Titanic)

Observing each of the above in detail, you may notice the first one bends the guidelines I just mentioned above, quite a bit. However (assuming everyone knows ‘Peter Pan’), it immediately introduces us to its intriguing concept (What happens if the one boy in the world who never grew up actually does?), and last but not least, gives us a tantalizing taste of the story… which is still the right way to go.

So, before you slog your way through that long journey to your finished 110-120 page script, why not start by distilling and boiling your concept into a sentence? (Note: I must mention that writing a logline before you start writing is not any kind of be-all, end-all rule! I have also found it a pain-in-the-butt because it forces you to simplify everything into something cohesive – a hard task when your inspired brain is boiling over with details!)

That being said, it is something you will need anyway after you have finished your screenplay – the ability to pitch your entire story in thirty seconds and entice agents, production companies, etc.

So my bottom-line: try it out and see how far you get.

For more background on this series, read my rant from last week. Next week: Brainstorming.

Weekly Recap: June 15 – June 22, 2013

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I will try my best to keep posting at least a few articles and resources every week.  Here is a summary of this week’s posts for anyone who missed it:

• Screenwriting Thoughts on Man of Steel

• What you should know before you write

• Five Best Places to Find Screenplays

Will return next week with more stuff on prep, loglines, some more thoughts on screenwriting, including the ‘where’ and the ‘how’- and more. Enjoy your weekend!

FIVE BEST PLACES TO FIND SCREENPLAYS (WEEK 4)

Here’s what we have so far:

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

This week’s pick: Dailyscript

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One thing I should mention is that the places I am highlighting are places currently off the internet, where you can get (mostly free) screenplays and where I have found a lot of my own resources. When I write my screenplays, for example and if I am writing particular scenes, particular characters, I find a great way to learn and get some sort of nuanced direction is to read/refer to a screenplay, a good one in that particular genre. There are other potential sources, internet or otherwise (including some blogs), which I will highlight in next week’s final article on this series, but here are the ones I know that are popular/not so popular. By the way, if anyone out there has any others they would like me to mention, please post it in comments so I can add it next week.

Now, getting back to topic: ‘Daily script’ is a great site and the reason I like it, first of all, is its clean layout and you can immediately search for a specific script you have in mind using the google search. It has movie scripts as well as TV scripts and though it might not have as many as the previous three, it still had enough to motivate me to have a look. It also has some useful links that are worth checking out.

Next week: the final installment in this series. Stay tuned!

What you should know before you write

Man Reading Book and Sitting on Bookshelf in Library

So, considering I recently completed another screenplay, brainstorming and first-drafting a few others,  I thought that it would be interesting to discuss some details particularly pertinent to my current situation, starting with the most important one in my opinion: preparing to write your story.

The reason ? First of all, in the early days when I was still learning how to write, I never used to spend much time on this – I loved the organic feel of stories, typing and letting my imagination and mind guide me to the next scene or the next character.

Ok, fine. I am lying – not about how I never used to bother spending time prepping (that’s true). You know how as a writer when you first come up with an idea and you think, ‘Oh my gosh! That’s cool! I should write it!’ The biggest reason I never bothered with prep was: I was just DYING to write. Why spend all that time in prep, writing about characters and planning things when you could just write it in one go? Why not? Another script! And another after that! One step closer to my goals as a screenwriter!

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The only problem was that ultimately whether it was page 25 or 60, I would still find myself stuck. Like an ant looking for a hole, I would try..and try again. Get blocked – like writer’s block (yes I absolutely believe in it! It’s NOT a myth! Another post, another time!). A weariness that almost made me just quit at one point (I can’t believe I am saying that now by the way, because of how much ‘not writing’ now equates to ‘not breathing’)

But then again, over the years and after writing all sorts of things, I have come to the decision – and it’s not a rule for everyone because I am sure there are people out there who are better than me, that to move forward sooner, you have to spend the initial time sorting out what your story is about. It’s that important!

Case-in-point, the screenplay I just completed, a historic fantasy, went through umpteen drafts – like 15 full drafts, about a hundred other partial drafts if you could call it drafts. And then I have other stories that I have written in one or two go’s that didn’t have as much, but which have also ultimately ended up in dusty shelves and hard drives so I can look at them 10 years later and go: ‘haha!! look at how silly my writing was, back then!’

The reason why the first screenplay, in question, went through all that is because that’s how long it took for me to discover exactly what my story was and who my characters were, especially my protagonist.  Sure, I had some parts figured out – like this great opening and that great ending but the infamous difficulties lie in the second Act, the long one (which, honestly, I find is still a pain-in-the-ass!).  This is where I had problems then and still have problems now (speaking of problems, I am prepping a sci-fi right now and running into the same issue) – but what that really means is – digging your story – until you find it. Even if it takes all day, which it did for me yesterday or all week…

The point is, though, you WILL find your story, but you have to put in the work to get there.

There are individuals who would disagree and say you could get it right away by just writing (which is true if you know your story and characters back-to-back) – but ultimately, my own experience is: if you are looking at writing a hollywood project that you want millions to see, that’s going to cost millions to make, that you want producers to believe 100% in… you just have to go through the process. Whatever it takes to get there.

There are several ways to do this, what I like to call stages that I will post details on, starting next week. These are mine:

• Logline

• Brainstorming (beg-mid-end)

• Research

• Biographies

• Treatments.

• Index cards/beatsheets

You could do a few or all of the above.

Also, at the risk of being repetitious, I will say this again: writing is hard work. That being said, I guarantee, it will get much less a pain-in-the-ass when you know atleast a little bit about what’s coming next. Some might argue, ‘Well, what fun can you have, if you are planning everything?’

To clarify: I can only say that planning for me has enriched, not degraded the experience of actually writing. Planning for me has helped my  actual writing process, made it better, and  I will guarantee this: ultimately when you get into the actual writing, you will be amazed how much richer each subsequent draft gets and how much easier the revisions are. When, even if you don’t know your entire story through-and-through, you know enough to get inspired, write better and avoid as many blocks as you can until you are finished.  The frustration of writing something good is just…less. Period.

Plus, then you will be spending less time overall writing your screenplay and have it finished and you can do other things in-between like go to the movies, reread a good book…or eat chocolate (which you can do anyway).

More posts coming this week. Next week: loglines!

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Screenwriting thoughts on ‘Man of Steel’

MAN OF STEEL

So, I finally had a chance to unstick my fingers from my laptop and go and see ‘Man of Steel’ yesterday – a movie I have been waiting for months to see, ever since that amazing third trailer with the Hans Zimmer score. I am not generally a huge superhero movie fan, mind you – but this is one I was dying to watch, simply because – at least in the trailer, it promised something more than the average movie experience. I have always thought it was time for Hollywood to reinvent some trends, especially in Superhero style movies (superheroes never grow old) and being a huge fan of backstory, ‘Steel’ promised something totally different – a Clark Kent unlike any Clarks in the past, his tumultuous, vulnerable childhood, that ever-important search to discover his true identity and why he is ‘different’ from everyone else. All themes that give a protagonist humanity and makes his journey to viewers relatable. Also, David Goyer and Chris Nolan were the scribes of the flick, the same who brought the ‘Batman’ franchise to a whole new level.

As I was watching it, I was aching – simply aching to post some quick thoughts. What the trailer promised and what the movie promised was something totally different.  A FEW SPOILERS AHEAD.

I will say this again: the-movie-had-promise. Which is why it was so frustrating watching it. First the non-linear storyline really drove me nuts – before we can grasp even one character’s emotional journey, it was onto the next. As a viewer, you need enough substance to invest yourself in characters – suffer with them, laugh with them, cheer with them, weep with them. The screenplay’s choppiness, moving from one time period to another (which works in some films, but not in this one) and its inability to stay focused made that more difficult than it needed to be. Some of the weaker scenes included the stuff in Krypton – got a bit too spacey after a while, especially in the second and third act with Lois’ involvement.

The characters, in my opinion, were mostly well cast, but in short, their material was just not given enough time to develop fully. The whole movie was a Zach Snyder puzzle – a puzzle with pieces meant to make one picture but somehow being placed to make a completely different one. Sounds brutal to all the die-hard fans out there? Yep.

This is not to say that the movie was altogether bad. It does have a fairly solid cast, tackles the right themes, certainly gave me personally, glimpses of the greatness it could have been. Henry Cavill certainly plays his role well as the tortured hero who wants to know why he is different from everyone else. My problem with it (and by the way, I only started watching the original Superman last night) is the revelations were not timed well – every scene came off as non-linear, leaving an odd sense of lacking continuity. Also, I found the script cumbersome in some places – Russell Crowe (Jor El) and Amy Adam’s (Lois Lane) speeches were a bit long and expository in my opinion.  Not to mention more sillier, less-significant inconsistencies: the fact that Russell had an accent and the others in Krypton didn’t (something which my sister bothered to notice).

And speaking of Adams (Lois Lane), there were certainly glimpses of a developing relationship between her and Clark, but she spent a lot of time spouting a lot of information rather than giving us a chance to visualize it/experience it emotionally – the result of which left her character cold, flat, lifeless.  As for antagonist-nemesis General Zod (Michael Shannon), he wasn’t bad – a character who thinks he is protecting his people and will do everything to preserve his view of the world, even if it means destroying everything including himself in the process.

So there I said it – my reaction to ‘Man of Steel’ was mixed (I feel like if they literally re-edited the whole thing and made it flow better, so it’s less choppy, I would be happier and rotten tomatoes would move up their rating to 80% – but that’s just me).

The good: Henry Cavill was a pleasure to watch (though his character traits were more endearing as a young boy.  The God complex takes over a bit too much at times as an adult, leaving him less vulnerable). Some of my favorite scenes also involved his dad Jonathan Kent (Kevin Costner), Clark’s mentor figure, whose scenes were purposefully driven to enhance young Clark’s humanity, as well as some nice touches here and there (with the bully kid in Clark’s childhood being the kid that Clark saves, Jonathan’s lessons to his son – ironically less wordy and more heartwarming than Jor El’s, Clark embracing his powers, some cool visuals and action sequences).

Did the movie have heart?  Yes, though it still left a lot more to be desired thanks to all the choppy editing, something they will hopefully rectify in the newly announced sequel in the works.

The ending, which, I won’t give away, hearkened back to the whole humanity-vulnerability thing I mentioned about Clark, and at least managed to drive that point home – the hero inside everyone.

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Anyhow, what did you guys think of ‘Man of Steel’? Interested to hear your thoughts.