A few days before Christmas I lost a job that was half of my income.
It would be enough to fund a few months of being a full-time writer. So I did it and decided to invest some of the money to get my work out there. I was living in Orange County at the time and knew less than a handful of people in Hollywood, so I looked for ways to get my scripts into the hands of people who could do something with them. Spring of , The Blacklist website was picking up steam and starting to open doors for writers from anywhere. This is when they were still only doing features. I paid to upload a few scripts and get reads, hoping to be included in their weekly email blast to agents, managers and producers.
The three scripts were wildly different: one was a crime fiction drama, another was an epic animated Christmas adventure and eventually I also uploaded the comedy I wrote for the Industry Insider Contest. A few weeks later, I scored my first ever meeting with a manager who responded to the crime fiction story.
At that meeting, we talked about the script he liked, then he asked me what everyone else asked me. I was trying any and every avenue I could to break in. But once that meeting went downhill I decided to answer that question a different way.
A few weeks later, everything started to break open. The prize was lunch with the awesome Susannah Grant and a meeting with a manager at a well known company. I was thrilled. Relentless dedication and my investment in myself was paying off. And I did. In between rides I was getting emails and voice messages from managers looking to set up meetings for the following week. Later that afternoon, we took the tram tour and while it was rolling around the backlot I spotted the sign for Amblin Drive. Throughout this time, the Tracking B contest organizer was guiding me and helping me strategize, walking me through the surreal process.
I recognized his name right away. We ended the conversation by agreeing to let him rep me and the script.
He suggested a few quick tweaks, mostly to further highlight some important moments. This mostly amounted to bolding and underlining big beats that might easily be missed by assistants and creative execs burning through their tenth script of the day. That night, my script began showing up in the inboxes of people who would go on to change my life.
From that day on, Brooklyn became a close creative partner.
And lots more parts. If you choose to go down this path, do your research and pick ones which have a proven track record as well as access to significant managers, agents, and producers. Like it or not, breaking in as a screenwriter or TV writer is a competition. And once you do get your start, it continues to be competitive. That takes courage. If only there were a blog which would cover that on a daily basis….
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To develop one, you need to live life, feed your creative soul through books, art, music, and over time discover who you are. The odds are long… very long… against this type of thing happening. You have to have talent, persistence, passion, and a drive like Mickey has to push yourself to be the best writer you can be. This is arguably the most important structural principle you can master.
If your hero's visible goal is defined too early in your script, the story will run out of steam long before the climax. If the outer motivation isn't defined until the half way point, the reader will have lost interest and moved on to another screenplay. You've probably noticed how often I've used the word visible in this article.
I want to prevent any confusion between the plot of your movie and the inner journey your hero takes.
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Structure is a formula for laying out the events we see on the screen. Your characters' growth or arc, which will be gradually revealed throughout the story, grows out of their pursuit of the visible goal, but it doesn't conform to these strict turning points. This is one of those principles that sounds simple, but is hard to incorporate in your writing. Hollywood movies are built on what the characters do as they pursue a clearly defined endpoint or outcome. Because much of what we respond to emotionally grows out of the hero's longings, wounds, fears, courage and growth, we often focus on these elements as we develop our stories.
But these invisible components of the story can emerge effectively only if they grow out of a simple, visible desire. It is at that point that your hero begins to experience This is not to say that this stage is without conflict. But whatever obstacles your hero faces, he is able to avoid or overcome them as he approaches At the exact midpoint of your screenplay, your hero must fully commit to her goal.
Up to this point, she had the option of turning back, giving up on her plan, and returning to the life she was living at the beginning of the film. But now your hero must burn her bridges behind her and put both feet in never let it be said that I can't work two hackneyed metaphors into the same sentence. It is at precisely this moment that Thelma and Louise rob the grocery store, that Truman crosses the bridge in The Truman Show, and that Rose makes love with Jack in Titanic.
These heroes are taking a much bigger risk, and exposing themselves to much greater jeopardy, than at any previous time in those films. As a result of passing this point of no return, your hero must now face…. After Mitch McDeere begins collecting evidence against The Firm at that movie's midpoint, he now must hide what he's doing from both the mob and the FBI complications , and failure will result in either prison or death higher stakes. The conflict continues to build until, just as it seems that success is within your hero's grasp, he suffers These disastrous events leave your hero with only one option.
He can't return to the life he was living at the beginning of the film, since he eliminated that possibility when he passed the point of no return. And the plan he thought would lead to success is out the window. So his only choice is to make one, last, all-or-nothing, do-or-die effort as he enters Beaten and battered, your hero must now risk everything she has, and give every ounce of strength and courage she possesses, to achieve her ultimate goal: Thelma and Louise must outrun the FBI to reach the border; and the Kennedy's must attempt one final negotiation with the Soviets in 13 Days.
Mickey Fisher on Writing, Selling, and Producing a TV Pilot Spec Script — Part 2
During this stage of your script, the conflict is overwhelming, the pace has accelerated, and everything must work against your hero, until she reaches Several things must occur at the climax of the film: the hero must face the biggest obstacle of the entire story; she must determine her own fate; and the outer motivation must be resolved once and for all. This is the big moment where our heroes go into the Twister; the Men In Black go up against the giant alien, and the Jewish factory workers make their escape in Schindler's List.
The exact placement will be determined by the amount of time you need for No movie ends precisely with the resolution of the hero's objective; you must allow the audience to experience the emotion you have elicited in the exciting, sad or romantic climax. You may also need to explain any unanswered questions for the audience, and you want to reveal the new life the hero is living now that he's completed his journey.
In movies like Rocky, Thelma and Louise and The Truman Show, there is little to explain, and the writer's goal is to leave the audience stunned or elated. So the climax occurs near the very end of the film. But in most romantic comedies, mysteries and dramas, the aftermath will include the final five or ten pages of the script.
Understanding these stages and turning points provides you with an effective template for developing and writing your screenplay. Is your story concept defined at the one-quarter mark? Is your hero's goal truly visible, with a clearly implied outcome, and not just an inner desire for success, acceptance or self worth?
Have you fully introduced your hero before presenting her with an opportunity around page 10? But a word of caution: don't let all these percentages block your creativity. Structure is an effective tool for rewriting and strengthening the emotional impact of your story.
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But you don't want to be imprisoned by it. Come up with characters you love and a story that ignites your passion. Then apply these structural principles, to ensure that your screenplay will powerfully touch the widest possible audience. He has worked in Hollywood for the past 35 years, and has presented seminars, lectures and keynotes in person and online to more than 70, participants worldwide.
He lives in Sherman Oaks, California. I have tried every software application imaginable in quest of the perfect way to write a movie and when I put Movie Outline on my Mac I came to the end of the rainbow. I use Movie Outline all the time. It has many powerful features, is easy to use and makes writing and formatting a screenplay a breeze.
No script writer should be without it. Kevin Williamson Screenwriter — Scream. If you're looking for a tool to help you nurture your idea for a movie into an actual shooting script I recommend this program without hesitation.
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