Write your screenplay. Not because it is your dream.Not

Write your screenplay.

 

Not because it is your dream.

Not because it will make you rich, famous, or powerful.

Not because there is a lack of (fill in the blank) genre stories.

 

Write your screenplay because you are YOU.

Write your screenplay because of what YOU bring to the table.

Write your screenplay because ONLY YOU can write it.

 

Everyone has a story only they can write and it would be a crime against humanity for you not to.

 

Write your screenplay.

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Published in: on June 26, 2013 at 2:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

Brave

***SPOILER ALERT***

Saw this last week and while it’s an innocuous enough film to take the kids to I’m having troubles with it from a story stand point. I can’t decide if it broke rules I hold too dearly and does work in spite of it or, if in breaking those rules, it muddles the message of the story in such a way as to make me say it doesn’t work.

So what is the story really about? What is at the root of this story and what is the audience supposed to take away from it?

The most obvious answer is it’s about a person making their own choices in life rather than simply conforming to what their parent or their society believes they ought to do.

Fine. A noble message, but why frame it from the point of view of a noble? Since when did the ruling class ever have to do what the rest of society expected them to do?

So the princess gets married. Would that really have stopped her from doing virtually anything she wanted to do, including continuing to ride her horse and play at archery? The stakes here are incredibly low.

And I think that’s my number one issue. Why a princess?

Honestly, I don’t want to be a cynical bastard here, but is it just to fit in with the Disney Princess theme?

Snow White, Cinderella, Aurora, Ariel, Belle, Jasmine, Pocahontas, Mulan, Tiana, Rapunzel

Before the merge with Disney, no Pixar princesses, after? Well, here’s the first. Hmmm. Again, I don’t want to be a cynical bastard, but Disney sort of makes me one.

Wouldn’t this have been a bigger issue and better conflict if she was a peasant and had to make a serious choice between being selfish and somehow saving her sympathetic family from starving? Yeah, yeah, the choice being presented in the film is as if it is to bring four tribes together, but it seems to me they were more than happy apart before the possibility of a marriage was even put out there and it escalates from there.

OK, so maybe that’s just the issue in Act 1. Maybe? Maybe. To me it’s a big one, but somebody else might not feel the same way. I dunno. To me the problems of rich princesses seem pretty petty.

“So, that’s just the inciting incident,” you say. “What the story is really about is her (SPOILER ALERT) mom turns into a bear.”

Yeah? So? See, that’s NOT the point of the story. The point is making a choice between parental wishes and societal norms, or being a selfish princess. I swear that really IS the point of the story and you can tell because the solution to the problem at the end of Act 3, the thing that allows the story to be resolved is Merida saying, “I’m sorry” to her mother. In other words, Merida was wrong all along, from frame one up to that moment where she finally realizes it.

But, for 99% of the story, you’re supposed to believe Merida is somehow noble and good and doing the right thing by deciding to ignore her mother’s guidance and ride around the countryside shooting arrows at trees. Even very, very close to the end, Merida still thinks all her troubles are over if she just hits the undo button and fixes one physical object, the tapestry.

The story is muddled.

So many other minor quibbling points, but in short, Merida is kind of a jerk and we’re rooting for her to be selfish.

That can’t be right, can it?

Published in: on June 30, 2012 at 10:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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What’s a Mid-point

Ever hear the phrase, “It’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye”? It’s exactly like that.

You wake up one day, go into the back yard and find a stick laying on the ground. A friend comes over and says, “Hey, what should we do with the stick?” and you say, “Let’s make today Pirate day and why don’t we have a sword fight?” and that’s kinda fun! You’re poking each other with sticks and crashing around having a jolly roger good time when suddenly, “Ow!” Right around noon your plans for the day changed.

What you thought you were going to do, suddenly becomes something very different.

People call that the “mid-point.”

Published in: on June 20, 2012 at 12:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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What Are We Doing?

“But life is often boring which is why we watch movies.”
— Poster on a Screenwriting Website

What? Is THAT what we’re doing? Was Paddy Chayefsky’s, Howard Beale right when he said, “We’re in the boredom killing business”?

I hope not. I hope the irony of Beals’ statement is we’re really in “the life lessons about humanity business” and even something as seemingly trivial as an animated cartoon can show us how to be better people even if we as audience members don’t fully recognize it.

At least, that’s one of my goals as a writer. I think as a writer you have a duty to do more than just be a boredom killer.

“We’re in the boredom killing business.”

I really hope not.

Published in: on June 15, 2012 at 6:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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One Reason Your Story Might Suck

If, at the moment of crisis, your protagonist wins due to “magic,” your story sucks.

This can be a magic wand or unknown technology. Same thing really.

I don’t care what comes before or after and it doesn’t matter how funny, witty, clever, romantic, touching, heart rending, cute or adorable the other hundred moments make up your story is composed of, if at the moment of crisis it takes “magic” for your protagonist to win, your story sucks.

Yeah, yeah, what about “Harry Potter”?

I’m not sayings stories using magic as a framing device suck, I’m saying using magic as the answer to the protagonist’s ultimate problem in the story sucks.

Why?

Because its the one thing, beyond all things, the audience can’t do themselves. They can’t do it. They can’t relate to it. They can’t take it away from the story as a lesson learned.

What it means is, they just invested a huge amount of time and energy for nothing.

But what about “Harry Potter”? Even in the very first story, he stands against against Lord Voldemort and is protected by magic; isn’t he?

Yes, but he doesn’t know it. What enables Harry Potter to “win” is his courage in the face of adversity, not any magic he thinks he has. The fact he only survives dues to the magic of his mother’s love protecting him is incidental. It’s his courage to face Voldemort and die trying, something no adult is willing to do. That’s Harry’s victory.

What about “Star Wars” and the Force? Doesn’t Luke use the Force to enable him to hit the exhaust port and blow up the Death Star?

Does he? Does he really? Or is it that he rejects the technological solution being fed via the targeting computers, stretches out with his feelings and relies on instinct like he used to when he killed whomp rats back home in his T-16? Luke knew how to hit the target before he ever met Obi Wan.

And you, as a the viewer, can understand that. You can take that home and into your lives as well. You might not be able to use the Force, but you’ll call it instinct and trust in yourself more than blindly following the countdown of the targeting computer.

It’s not a magical solution; it’s a human one.

Published in: on June 14, 2012 at 2:26 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Double Standard

I’m trying to reconcile how history has treated two men and the following is absolutely true.

The first man served in the Navy during WWII and was assigned to the Office of Strategic Services, OSS. Following VE Day, he was among the first American servicemen to liberate the Nazi-run concentration camps. He was involved in gathering evidence against war criminals for the Nuremberg Trials. The assignment included arresting documentary film maker Leni Riefenstahl, to have her identify the faces of Nazi war criminals in German film footage captured by the Allied troops.

The second man was a well known Hollywood actor. During WWII, due to his “nearsightedness,” he was classified for limited service only, which excluded him from serving overseas. He was assigned to Army Air Force Public Relations in Culver City, California. He was eventually promoted to Captain. By the end of the war, his units had produced some 400 training films for the AAF.

Following the war, both men found themselves in Hollywood. One returned to become a novelist and screenplay writer. The other resumed his acting career and became a leading man in numerous films.

During the Army-McCarthy hearings, the second man, the actor, was a friendly witness and named names. During the House Un-American Activities Committee, HUAC, hearings in Hollywood, both men testified as “friendly” witnesses and gave up names.

In doing so, the first man, the one that had worked with the OSS, helped free Nazi-run concentration camps and helped the efforts of the Nuremberg Trials was shunned by his friends. Although he did manage to write one of the best known films of all time, he worked very little after the HUAC trails with only a handful of individuals willing to work with him. In fact, in many of his obituaries, a very strong sentiment of betrayal and anger was still demonstrated by people writing they were glad he was dead.

The second man, the motion picture star, not only wasn’t shunned, but was held up as a beacon of anti-communism even though he was a union boss. He became a famous and well paid spokesman. His funeral was attended by about 4,000 people including the President of the United States as well as leaders from from around the globe.

Take two men, one great and the other unremarkable except for a small bit of fame. Give them both an essentially identical inciting incident and the great man becomes shunned by his peers and obscure, while the slightly famous man becomes one of the most respected in the world.

Published in: on May 12, 2010 at 1:27 am  Leave a Comment  

About Paul Quade

I’m a fan of the Save the Cat! method of screenwriting and can be found lurking the forums there.

I have a Certificate in Feature Film Writing from the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program.  Instructors at UCLA; Chris WebbCindy HewittAndrew GuerdatKarl Iglesias.

I studied sketch comedy writing at ACME Comedy Theatre with Travis Oates.

My understanding is this entitles me to a seat at any Starbucks as long as I keep buying coffee.

Published in: on April 28, 2010 at 4:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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Play It Cool

Play It Cool <— Clicking the link will open a .pdf.

Ever wonder who’s in control?  Maybe this will help explain it.

Published in: on March 2, 2010 at 7:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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ABBY

ABBY <— Clicking the link will open a .pdf.

This was a class assignment where we weren’t allowed to use the character’s names or describe the scene in any way, only ID them as AAA and BBB and have the scene revealed via dialogue only. The idea was to ensure we understood how to give each character a unique voice and not have them be simply interchangeable.

Published in: on February 24, 2010 at 7:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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