March 29, 2009

Keepin' It Real with Screenwriter Cynthia Dagnal-Myron

The Writer

An optioned screenwriter, Cynthia Dagnal-Myron is an award-winning former entertainment reporter for both the Chicago Sun Times and Arizona Daily Star. She has also been a semi-finalist in the Chesterfield Writer's Film Project, Project Greenlight (twice), and the Bravo/NBC Situation: Comedy competition.

To learn more about Cynthia, you can check her out at MySpace, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

Writing for the Screen

For those of you who write for different arenas - big screen, boob tube, stage, page, web - what are elements that differ for you as the writer in regards to how you SEE the story unfolding in each arena?
I only write for the big screen and the "page," so I can only speak for those two. But the difference is that when writing a novel or an article, I can offer both action and the "motivation" for what the character is doing in words on that page. A script is all "action." You're showing, not telling. What a character does has to carry that story, and the power is in what the character does even more than what he says. In fact, if you write about what a character is thinking in a script it will receive a quick "pass." When writing a "story," you can have the character ruminate, think aloud, discuss.

You can also spend a whole page on description, to set a mood or make a point, when writing fiction. You create a whole world with words. Script writing has to be very economical, and exposition is to be avoided like the plague. In other fiction I can tell you what music is playing, what the character looks like, what perfume she wears. In a script, they frown upon this, because in the end, none of that will be decided by the screenwriter. So there are remarkable differences--glad you asked! I hadn't really thought about it this seriously before, though it's something I work with everyday.

What similarities, things no matter the medium, are important for a good story to be told?
There's a lot of info out there about how to write and what to write from A to Z. So I'm going to say something that may sound trite and isn't about "technique," but which is nevertheless extremely important. In the end, you must be passionate about the piece. As a reader for producers, I could always tell the pieces that were written just to be commercial from the ones written from the heart. I often gave "recommends" to pieces that were not as polished as they could be but had lots of "heart." The writer "took me there," even though there were little technical glitches that needed ironing out. If you know and love those characters deeply, it shows and will grab the reader, too. If you're not crying when you kill off that character, the reader won't be "feelin' you," either.

That may mean passing on a project or being backed into a few corners. It's true that it's easier to get that big break by writing a strong, "high concept" piece. I recently had to decide whether to turn a really personal piece a mentor loved into something more "commercial" to assure a read by a particular management company. I decided, after making a half-hearted try at the "commercial" version, to risk not getting that read. In the end, I think I'll still get that read and perhaps representation as well. The second try was good...but I didn't really "feel" it, and I thought it wrong to "pimp" characters I adored and had created for a certain important purpose in that way. It may take me longer to sell the less commercial version, but it was obvious from that second try that the first had the "fire."

Wish me luck!

How has the internet and the marketing/promotional opportunities that exist there helped to create a buzz with the projects you do?
I was just discussing this with my daughter the other day. She's a media arts student in the "producer" track, and she can go online and find everything from internships to producers looking for scripts. I never had that opportunity when I was her age! I've found my two amazing mentors and friends, Blake Snyder and Chris Soth, via the Net. And I've been able to get reads from William Morris and people like Steven Soderberg by just doing my homework online. That's not how I finally got my option, but it is how I was introduced to the mentor who knew the producer who finally gave me that option! So, my entire "career" thus far is Net-based. I can do deep homework for each project and get it to the producers who are most likely to enjoy them which is something I could never have done before and I can network like crazy that way.

I'm trying to use LinkedIn for that now, and it's only mildly successful as you can only contact people you already know or pray that the big name producer or agent you stumble upon is willing to add you without reporting you for contacting them "cold." But I think if you write really personable introductions to those big wigs, some may let you join their networks. If you haven't gone there, do! You will be amazed who's on there--everyone from Obama to Brad Pitt. But be careful who you reach out to. You can be "dinged" for trying to hook up with people who have no connection to you, even if those people are in some of the same groups you're in, so when you take that chance, it can backfire temporarily. It's easy to get back in the game, but until I found out that several of my friends had had the same experience, I was mortified when that little note popped up in my profile. I'm back gathering great connections with no problems! You just have to finesse your approach to the "inner circles."

What should writers/filmmakers have in their arsenal if they want to heighten their chances of success?
Screenwriters have to become more willing to do research about marketing than they sometimes are. Put as much time into that market research as you did writing the script. As I said in the previous question, you have to really seek out the right producers, managers and agents and to be tireless about getting that spec script out there. I've found some of my most valuable email addresses and lists and such by simply Googling someone's name and going through all those pages that pop up! After awhile, you'll find people who like your work and will help you get it into the right hands.

It's true that those who stick with it will at some point be successful--longevity and determination do matter. When I started out I was completely out of the loop. I live in Tucson, I knew no one in the movie biz, and I had no idea what I was doing. I stuck with it, I wrote to screenwriters I loved, I sent my work out as samples and never gave up even when I felt like a complete greenhorn. I now have two strong mentors and lots of contacts who can help me get my work where it needs to go far more effectively. It's having the moxie to make mistakes and learn from them! Al Pacino once said since we learn from our mistakes you should try everything. He's right!

What sites should writers/filmmakers of your field bookmark for great information?
Screenwriters should start with these. Two are my mentors' sites, and their workshops and courses are worth the time and price. I'm going to one of Blake's workshops just for a "tune up," even though he's my mentor for life whether I pay or not. He's a sweet soul, Blake, and he loves writers, so get involved on his site even if you can't afford the workshops. He will respond to emails, too. Chris Soth is another soul mate in the business, and his DVDs will get you there--the best I've ever used, and I'm very skeptical about most DVDs on screenwriting because they're mostly pontificating, not teaching. These deliver, and I return to them often. And if you have enough money to invest in his full course for one year, (it's a write off for writers), do it!

As for sites, again, if you start with any of these, you'll find a treasure trove of links to other sites, so here you go:

Blake Snyder
Chris Soth's Million-Dollar Screenwriting
Wordplay: Screenwriting Secrets from Working Screenwriters/FADE IN:
Hollywood Creative Directory
Master Scene Checklist
One Slack Martian's Screenwriting Blog
The Unknown Screenwriter
Living the Romantic Comedy

**Bonus question: What is your artist mission statement? In the projects you have developed, are planning to develop, what is important to you to convey?
I want to write scripts that speak to the resilience of the human spirit, period. But I focus on the experiences of women of "a certain age," whose wisdom is often ignored. I'm writing for those actresses who are having trouble finding work these days. And it's working!

March 23, 2009

March 29 - Screenwriters Go Wild on Tale It Like It Is




Time: 4:30pm EST

Call-in # (347) 215-9311

Writing for the Screen w/ Studio Reader Stan's Stephen Kogon

The Writer

Born in Maryland, Stephen Kogon [MySpace] now lives in Los Angeles and works as a writer.

As a screenwriter, he’s had several screenplays optioned, including two from the producers of Free Willy and The Thomas Crown Affair.

In 2001, he semi-finaled in the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting Competition with his script, The Fells Point Five.

In 2005, he had his novel, Max Mooth – Cyber Sleuth and the Case of the Zombie Virus published.

Since 2006, he has written the web comic strip Studio Reader Stan (, which satirizes the entertainment industry.

Stephen founded The Reading Writing It’s Exciting Program ( in 2005, a literacy program designed to help kids read and write at their grade level. In conjunction with Barnes & Noble, the program has put on several reading events in which several hundred elementary school kids have been able to perform something they’ve written.

In 2008, Stephen started the Web site, dedicated to helping teenagers live healthier.

Studio Reader Stan

Check out the first cartoon made for Studio Reader Stan!

Writing for the Screen

For those of you who write for different arenas - big screen, boob tube, stage, page, web - what are elements that differ for you as the writer in regards to how you SEE the story unfolding in each arena?
Well, the novel that I wrote was adapted from one of my screenplays, as are the ones that I am writing now, so the story basically unfolds the same way. The main difference is, quite simply, length. If you transcribed a 100 page screenplay word for word into manuscript form, it would be 50-some pages.

Screenplays have more in common with short stories or novellas than novels that are over 45,000 pages. In a screenplay, you have to worry about length because if it doesn’t generally fall into the 100-120 page range; it’ll have a stigma to it. And often if it’s over 120, it’s overwritten anyway. So, in that respect, a novel allows for more freedom. That’s where the easier distinction ends. With novels, you have to do a lot more painting the picture with your words. I’m still much more comfortable with screenwriting because I’ve done that longer, and I know if I write every day, I’ll be done in a few months. A manuscript I recently finished took me over a year.

What similarities, things no matter the medium, are important for a good story to be told?
I think the main thing is the characters. Something about them has to make the reader or viewer want to keep reading or watching. Whether the character is likable so we root for him/her, or relatable in a way that reminds us of ourselves or someone in our lives (which creates a connection), or is just so fascinating that even though he/she isn’t likable or relatable, we are still compelled to see how their journey ends.

Do you think the way we write for movies, plays, TV, and the web have changed the way the novel writer comes to his or her page? If so, how?
Well, I can’t speak for other writers, but I think TV and the web have so rotted my brain that … uh, forget that I admitted that. No, this is hard to gauge, but they may have affected my attention span and/or what I think the audience’s attention span is. One thing I’m always fighting with is overwriting. And as you’ve seen by my answers so far, I’m failing miserably in that fight. In regards to my web comic strip, though, if you look at the first 50 or so, they’re a lot longer and wordier. Regular comic strip readers would email me that they thought they were too long, so now I really try to economize my words. And I think doing that has helped me to economize my words with screenplays as well.

How has the internet and the marketing/promotional opportunities that exist there helped to create a buzz with the writing you do?
It’s let me focus on what I do best, write. If I had to promote in person or over the phone, I’d never do it. With the web comic, it’s helped a lot because I can just post a link to it from MySpace or Facebook or anywhere, and same with the cartoon which we put on YouTube. For my book, I emailed a lot of libraries around the country and told them about my book and sent them my reviews. It was a little time consuming, but I got the book into at least one library in 40 some states and some in Canada.

What three things should writers have in their arsenal if they want to heighten their chances of success?
Passion, drive/work ethic, and patience. Look how brief that answer was. I’m learning.

What are three sites that writers of your field should bookmark for great information?
This is a tough one for me because there’s SO much information about the craft of writing on the Net I feel overwhelmed by it and end up not visiting those sites very often. The sites (like Drew’s Script-O-Rama) where you can download screenplays for free are invaluable. I’ve found the best way to learn is to read well-written material. A site like is good for finding information about all the various film festivals. Done Deal is also a great site for information about agents, production companies, and script sales. And if you want some wit and humor to go with your learning about who’s buying what, then Script Girl’s videos on YouTube will work for you.

March 16, 2009

Screenwriting + Pure Hilarity = Brian Spaeth

The Writer

Brian Spaeth was raised in Hudson, Ohio, and attended The Ohio State University, where he went to class twice in two years. Anything else he would write here would be a lie or a joke, because he is very exciting and enigmatic in that way. His hobbies have all been abandoned, but he likes watching professional basketball and working out. Brian lives in Los Angeles, which is on the Western coast of the United States, right next to either Nevada or Arizona. He always gets those two mixed up.

Check out Brian at his blog, at his Twitter and Facebook pages, and at Prelude to a Super Airplane, his book's official site.

The Web Series

2WO G2N G2Y [official site] tells the story of a man with no memory, no name, and two guns.

Embroiled in an international revenge plot between a pair of secret, international revenge seeking organizations, who are international and want revenge, he must rely on the only things that his body remembers how to do - be really tough and use two guns at once.

He wears four belts.

2WO G2N G2Y is a 30-part web series, which is made exclusively to be online, on the internet. Told in 30 parts, it's for the web. It's broadband, how you like it - online.

What does it all mean? The internet is officially on fire. More on fire than anything as ever been ever.

Check out the trailer!

Writing for the Screen

For those of you who write for different arenas - big screen, boob tube, stage, page, web - what are elements that differ for you as the writer in regards to how you SEE the story unfolding in each arena?
None of it differs for me – I write almost the same in all areas. I mean, web and film are different structurally, but other than budgetary issues, I don’t really see a big difference. Web is just shorter form, and there are a bunch of rules one could go into about ideal length, etc., but none of them are set in stone.

As for book writing, I’ve not written a “traditional” novel. The books I’ve written and those I have ideas for are all meant to eventually be translated to film in some way, so I’m never coming from this like an “internal monologue” place.

I guess what I’m saying is I’m always looking at the eventual screen version, and if it becomes a book, I start there and work backwards. On a completely side note, you see a lot of people doing this with the comic book format these days because almost any comic book has some small chance of getting optioned if it’s halfway decent and in publication.

What similarities, things no matter the medium, are important for a good story to be told?
Obviously, you need a beginning, middle, and end. There are a shocking number of writers I’ve read who forget one of these parts. After that, it needs to be entertaining or meaningful in some fashion. If it’s boring or has zero effect to the majority of the people who read it, you’ve failed.

I’m not saying go write some artsy abstract thing or something, because for the most part, I think especially screenwriters who are starting out need to be concentrating on really basic, commercially viable product. That’s what will get you in the door.

But…as long as your reader feels they’ve used their time in a positive fashion by reading your material, you’ve done a good job on your story. (But if you forget your beginning/middle/end, it’s not technically a story – I’m not sure what that’s called.)

How has the internet and the marketing/promotional opportunities that exist there helped to create a buzz with the projects you do?
Basic awareness. The alternative/new distribution methods are still figuring themselves out in terms of attaining revenue streams in a ratio equal to traditional methods, but the ability to skip the studio/publisher and go right to the audience exists. That’s a very powerful tool if you can harness it.

If I can plug something here, I’ve been working on a little side thing in this area for self-publishers. If any comedy (and comedy ONLY) writers are currently (or soon to be) self-publishing are interested, please get in touch with me at

The only requirement is your writing has to be good, and you need to be willing to do some legwork to promote.

What three things should writers/filmmakers have in their arsenal if they want to heighten their chances of success?
a) Multiple Ideas – You need to be seen as an ongoing revenue stream for anyone you’re working with, i.e. agents, producers, etc., and also – sometimes the throw-away idea you think is garbage might be the one someone else sees as gold.

b) Humility/Muzzle – Know when to shut up and listen, even when the person talking to you has no idea what they’re talking about. Telling them they’re an imbecile does you know favors, and nobody likes a pretentious artist.

c) Knowledge – Read as much as you can about the business, so you understand how it works. Go to the WGA website and read the sample contracts if you’ve never seen one. Follow box office and know what kinds of material the industry will be looking for. Research agents or producers before you meet/contact them. Watch old movies – have a working knowledge of film history.

What are three sites that writers/filmmakers of your field should bookmark for great information?
Variety [link] – Hop on the RSS for both Film and TV news. See what’s selling, know what’s happening.

John August’s blog [link] – Screenwriter of Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, etc. A wealth of info on the craft and business of screenwriting.

I’d also read Deadline Hollywood Daily [link] and David Poland’s The Hot Blog [link] – they both cover industry news in-depth. The latter also thinks the former is garbage, so you get some alternative views on the same issues.

What is your artist mission statement? In the projects you have developed, are planning to develop, what is important to you to convey?
Hmmm…I don’t really consider myself an artist, so I guess it’s somewhere in the area of, “Have fun and be able to avoid a real job.” I kinda consider myself a business type who happens to be a good creative writer – I just want to write stuff that entertains, makes money, and allows me to continue doing it.

Is it luck or something else that allows me to have my personal taste aligned with what’s big and commercial? I don’t know.

In short, I love explosions and fist-fights, and I’d much rather produce and act than write. :-)

March 9, 2009

Writer of All Trades - Dotcomers.TV Kristin Johnson Talks Writing across Media

The Writer of All Things

A graduate of the University of Southern California Master of Professional Writing Program and member of Women in Film and Television, Ms. Johnson draws on her multitude of experience in writing and storytelling. She is an award-winning poet (Blue Mountain Arts) and short story writer whose fiction has appeared in anthologies including the Southern California Anthology and Aleatory’s Junction, a respected journalist, and a produced playwright with theatre award nominations (Desert Theatre League, Palm Springs, California). Three of her books have been published—CHRISTMAS COOKIES ARE FOR GIVING was “enthusiastically recommended” by the MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW. Her essay "Lincoln, YouTube and history Reconsidered" was excerpted for HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. LINCOLN, A National League of American Pen Women anthology celebrating the Lincoln Bicentennial and officially sanctioned by the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration.

An experienced scriptwriter, she wrote two direct-to-DVD movies at the request of a friend. “Pirates of Ghost Island,” the second movie, was distributed by Lions Gate Films. Her short screenplay “Daniel’s Letter From Heaven” has been a finalist in the 2003 British Short Screenplay Competition, ‘The Best & Most Prestigious Short Screenplay Competition in the World,’ and a quarterfinalist in the 2007 Screenwriting Expo Screenplay Competition in the Short Screenplay category.

Wanna learn more about Kristin? Check her out at, A Ghost Writers Blog, MySpace, and Facebook.

The Project

Teenage waitress Honey Dee battles the greedy, slick, corrupt businessman Dubious Diction, who owns her hometown of Greedville. She creates Dotcomers Café, the main setting for the series, and inspires the cast of quirky eccentric characters to resist Dubious.

"Dotcomers" is a creative blend of today's edgy, satirical cartoons and yesterday's zany, classic toons; that means its appeal is...we can almost hear Yogi Bear saying this...broader than the average cartoon!

Dotcomers explores the culture of social-networking entrepreneurs who don't wait around for a bailout to solve their problems. They fight the old corrupt system, represented by greedy Dubious Diction, which is open to excess. Although they are quirky and they clash on more than one occasion, Dotcomers represent the best of the Internet culture, and Honey Dee, founder of the Dotcomers Cafe, is a female role model who uses her mind and common sense to make a difference in the world.

The Dotcomers characters were originally designed by "Casper" creator and "Felix the Cat" producer Joseph Oriolo and have been redesigned by James A. Rumpf II as well as Kristin Johnson, Joshua Johnson (no relation) and Richard A. Crankshaw as well as a stunningly talented team of voice actors.

Watch the trailer below!

Writing for the Screen

For those of you who write for different arenas - big screen, boob tube, stage, page, web - what are elements that differ for you as the writer in regards to how you SEE the story unfolding in each arena?
That's an excellent question. As writers, we work with words, but those words have to perform different jobs depending on the medium.

Writing for the Web is a tricky animal that does have similarities to screenwriting. However, with writing for the Web, you have to consider where your reader is coming from. All the words in the world, and your most brilliant column or article, won't mean much if a reader can't find what they want. But this kind of user-driven writing delivers its own rewards, as with the storytelling medium of interactive fiction.

With a book, words are the window to imagination. You can get unabashedly poetic with words. You can create similes and metaphors. You can devote whole chapters, assuming your audience has the patience, to describing historical scenes, characters' thoughts and feelings, or a royal coronation on an alien planet - assuming that this is as fascinating for the reader as it is for you. You can let the action unfold as it will and take side trips in a novel. You can have subplots that may seem irrelevant but that pay off later - for example, Hermione Granger's passion to help house-elves in the Harry Potter series.

Onstage, words are still your medium. You can use different tools to accomplish the same ends, for example, the soliloquies written by Shakespeare and Lorraine Hansberry or Harold Pinter's quick exchanges that contain a wealth of subtext." Seeing Hamlet's father's ghost or Romeo and Juliet's suicide is highly powerful. Shakespeare purposefully designed those moments that way, not just with dialogue but direction.

Then we come to screenplays as well as television writing and the unlikely-seeming connection to writing for the Web. A novice (or even advanced) scriptwriter, like a beginning poet or an amateur blogger, will just dump every thought onto the page. You might - might - get away with this in fiction, as in superb stream-of-consciousness. You can't get away with it in poetry. We've all suffered through those poems or read those blogs in which an emo teenager, for example, details every detail of a bad day: out of coffee, girlfriend/boyfriend broke up with you, family is dysfunctional, teacher/boss hates you, and so on. There are slice-of-life screenplays in which all the incidents add up to nothing. There's no conflict, no meat, no substance. Words become empty.

People these days have the opportunity to change the channel, return the DVD, or in the case of Web content (and those viral Web videos we've all watched), push the "Back" button.

In a TV show, people are coming to you not necessarily from the beginning. I watched the entire last season of "24" without having watched the previous ones.

Yes, the concepts were a bit bewildering, but Jack Bauer's mission - save the U.S., save the world - was abundantly clear. (On the other hand, you might be, well, lost if you haven't seen any of the previous seasons of "Lost".) You have to make it crisp and intelligible and relevant, which more and more drama and some comedy shows have done. Famed scriptwriting teacher Robert McKee has said that the best scriptwriting today is done for television. Even though everyone goes into angst on "Grey's Anatomy," they don't spend an hour of inertia in which everyone talks but nothing happens.

There are some talky screenplays, TV shows and Web sites that are excellent, with great content, but the verbiage, whether at a dinner scene ("My Dinner with Andre" being an exception) or on a page devoted to movies, gets in the way. People have enough respect for books and fiction to keep reading even when the plot is slow but the words and emotions are appealing. Movies are something entirely different. When people go to a movie, they expect to be taken on a journey that will make them forget the world for two hours. There is already too much meaningless conversation in the ether. Our lives are filled with it.

"Seinfeld" got away with making that entertaining, but that was the exception. Words have to count in writing for the big or small screen. They have to do the job of grabbing your heart and mind and holding them in an iron grip until the end credits roll.

This is one of our tasks on "Dotcomers," the animated series producer James Rumpf II and I are trying to launch, We have great characters and we want to tell compelling stories about how the Internet has changed the world. We can't just talk about it through dialogue - we have to demonstrate these characters in action. The dialogue has to be sharp. The action in the screenplay has to be precise; otherwise, you're watching characters just sit around in an Internet

What similarities, things no matter the medium, are important for a good story to be told?
The commandment of "Thou Shalt Not Bore Thy Audience" is still valid no matter what the medium. I don't mean that you have to have nonstop violence or sex, since many people, myself included, find *those* boring.

You have to care about the characters. "WALL-E" connected with audiences because, even though many people (including my movie buff friends) found the notion of a fat, childlike future population and a destroyed Earth depressing, you still cared about that cute robot. "Slumdog Millionaire" had depressing elements such as cutting out street kids' eyes to make them more sympathetic and earn more begging money for the gang lords, but in an economy that gives us nothing but bad news, we love the idea that people can improve their circumstances. "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" suspends disbelief and gives us a great love story.

Similarly, Richard LaGravenese made people care as much about the romance in the movie "The Bridges of Madison County" as people did in the book. The images were visual poetry."Gone With The Wind" was so powerful as a book that people forgot the changes of their world and experienced the changes of the Old South, and they immediately cast Clark Gable as Rhett Butler. The movie did justice to the book because it captured the essence of Scarlett and Rhett and Tara without getting bogged down in details. How many people find it impossible to forget the image of Scarlett in shadow as she swears she'll never go hungry again?

And two words: Harry Potter. Take an orphaned kid who turns out to be a wizard, and finds just as much trouble in his new life as in the old, but with more joy and a sense of purpose, give him a monumental challenge and a fascinating world to play in, and the result is gold.

You have to touch your audience. Make them laugh, make them think, shift them from their reality.

Do you think the way we write for movies, plays, TV, and the web has changed the way the novel writer comes to his or her page? If so, how?
Another great question. While the novelist still might approach plot and character and language differently as, say, writing for a Web site, we all know that first chapters and excerpts get posted on the Web and, as such, have to be top-notch in order to motivate readers to buy. MJ Rose published LIP SERVICE on the Web and successfully compelled a publisher. If you want your chapters or excerpts to get Dugg or Tweeted or shared on, you have to make sure that those words are "viral," that people will e-mail their friends with your book excerpt the same way they now endlessly forward YouTube videos.

Plays, TV and movies force you to think about what characters want and how they go about achieving their goals. Lajos Egri talks about the dramatic premise, in which there's a three-part premise line that sums up each of the three acts that have dominated dramatic structure since Aristotle. Egri uses the example of "Romeo and Juliet": Great love defies even death. "Great love" is the beginning or inciting incident (Romeo and Juliet meet), "defies" is the action (Romeo and Juliet risk everything to be together), and "death" is the end result (Romeo and Juliet die but their love story affects everyone around them).

This premise can somewhat sum up the blockbuster vampire series "Twilight," in which Edward and Bella's love does indeed defy death since Edward is an undead vampire! Bella sees Edward in Chapter 1 after she has already moved to a town she dislikes, and the stage is set.

Often the novelist doesn't begin the novel with a compelling character or situation, but spends three or four chapters going through so much backstory or minutiae. In screenplays, the first five to ten minutes/pages (a page equals a minute of screen time) had better establish who the protagonist is and what the dramatic dilemma or call to action is. In "Chinatown," J.J. Gittes and Evelyn Mulwray are introduced within those first pages, and J.J. Gittes accepts the assignment to tail Evelyn's husband. We also see Evelyn's husband introduce another central plot element: water rights in Los Angeles.

Literary agents and publishers may read the sample chapters of your novel that you send them, but quite often those first ten pages, even the first page, will decide the fate of your manuscript. Granted, screenplays are not the same as a novel - they're far less reader-friendly - but anyone in the business can tell within five to ten pages if they like your script. And don't neglect endings. The studio or even the editor may ask you to change your ending, but it's important to have a powerful one that makes sense.

A good middle is as important as a great beginning or an unforgettable conclusion. Far too many novelists and scriptwriters meander along in the middle of the novel or in Act Two of the screenplay, relying on old cliches, contrived plot conveniences, new characters or implausible scenes, or anything else just to fill pages. Meanwhile, your main character or characters (in an ensemble script or novel) languish without their potential fully realized, and we just stop caring.

Movies are such a powerful visual language that they can inspire a writer to think visually -- how would the scene look? What are the characters doing physically? How are their actions putting them in conflict (stated or subtle)? Can you pull off a powerful visual scene that can show the hero's greatest moment of decision and sacrifice without spelling it out with the usual cliches or long explanations? Even the dialogue has to be original in its language.

Think of "Casablanca" in which Rick "I stick my neck out for nobody" Blaine explains his newfound spirit of sacrifice to Ilsa Lund : "Ilsa, I'm no good at being noble, but it doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world."

How has the internet and the marketing/promotional opportunities that exist there helped to create a buzz with the projects you do?
Another great question! On, I was able to market my work and land my first direct-to-DVD B-movie scriptwriting assignments, which I did more for the experience than anything else.

"Dotcomers" is all about the change the Internet and social networking/promotion has brought to the way people do business. True to the title and the essence of our project, we've used Twitter, blogs, our Web site,, and the online Hollywood Creative Directory to market and promote our work. We found our animator and our voice talent online through And I got the invitation to guest blog on this amazing site through my "Writing the Short Screenplay" online workshop at the third annual MuseItUpClub online conference.

What three things should writers have in their arsenal if they want to heighten their chances of success?
A thick skin combined with sensitivity (in the sense of being compassionate and attuned), passionverance (my own portmanteau), and a network of friends and contacts that you keep active.

What are three sites that writers of your field should bookmark for great information?
Simply Scripts - This is a treasure trove of great screenplays, often updated to include the latest releases. Besides the classics such as "Chinatown" and "Casablanca," the site had the script to the brilliant "Idiocracy," a movie from the creators of "South Park" and brilliantly based on Cyril M. Kornbluth's classic science-fiction story "The Marching Morons". The movie, with its satire on the dumbing down of our culture, was largely ignored when it was in theaters. There are also foreign film screenplays on the site as well as television scripts.

IMDB - Do you need the plot details of a movie you admire? Do you want to do research on producers? IMDB is the source.

Creative Screenwriting Magazine - It's not only a magazine, it's a fabulous annual contest.

I'd be remiss if I didn't plug Palm Springs Virtual Film Directory, The MuseItUp Club, and Absolute Write.

March 2, 2009

Writer, Director, Producer John W. Bosley on Writing, Movies, & Amnesia

The Writer, Director, Producer

Born on an Air Force Base in North Dakota, John Wayne Bosley was named after the legendary actor John Wayne. At age seven he started writing short stories. By age twelve he was writing more and the length of his stories were becoming more involved. At this age he wrote his first screenplay, The Knight Story, kicking off his pursuit of filmmaking, which eventually would end any pursuit of “the next great novel." At age 15 he started to dabble more into writing poetry on the side which helped to influence his style of dialogue and pacing of his scripts. His senior year of high school he took a class on video productions with Brenda Jepson (now the Co-chair of the Maine Film Commission). Jepson taught and inspired him to continue his pursuit of filmmaking. In 2001, four months after 9/11, after reading “Rebel Without a Crew” By filmmaker Robert Rodriguez, John was inspired with the idea for the script later to be named: “The Allan Carter Saga Part I: ‘amnesia’” which he wrote, directed and produced. “Amnesia” went through 13 drafts and took 6 ½ years to complete.

Learn more about John and his projects @ J.B. Movies and Visual Arts and on Twitter.

The Movie

About The Allan Carter Saga Part I: amnesia

Allan Carter wakes up with amnesia . Only one thought drives him forward: “I have to find my family!” He finds himself being shot at, hiding in caves and secret tunnels, and being chased through the forest while constantly searching for the truth. What kind of world did he wake up to? And, what really happened to his family?

Watch the trailer below!

Writing for the Screen

For those of you who write for different arenas - big screen, boob tube, stage, page, web - what are elements that differ for you as the writer in regards to how you SEE the story unfolding in each arena?
I have written both stageplays and screenplays. But I write my stageplays like screenplays. I try to keep a steady pace. I write into the script how the actors leave the stage and the stage is changed while action is going on so there there is no lag time. When you watch a TV show or a film, there isn't a two-minute delay for the scene to change; the story just continues going. I try to find ways when writing stageplays to do the same thing. Sometimes I have them carry conversation with curtain closed. Sometimes write it that the scene is intentionally changing behind them as they are moving across stage. Whatever creative way that I can keep the play going, conceiving how it will look performed, so that there is no stopping or starting up between scenes.

What similarities, things no matter the medium, are important for a good story to be told?
An "inciting incident" which poses a question like: damsel in distress, will the hero save her? Then a conclusion to the question which in that case is either a yes or no. There also needs to be a depth to the relationships and it needs to deal with some of the universal questions that people deal with around the world. There are so many deep questions people have. A good story should dig into the souls of the audience and awaken some feelings they have about the issues.

How has the internet and the marketing/promotional opportunities that exist there helped to create a buzz with the projects you do?
With 'amnesia' we did the Amnesia Movie Poster Contest in Jan./Feb. We allowed contestants from Twitter and other platforms to submit a poster on how they potentially saw the film. It created a lot of interaction and drew in a lot of attention toward the film and other projects. We also did the Amnesia Party on Feb. 20th to have specific Tweeps watch the film at hosted parties around the country and then to Twitter about it and their feelings about the film. Twitter, Facebook and MySpace have given me a chance to connect on a deeper level with the audience.

What three things should writers/filmmakers have in their arsenal if they want to heighten their chances of success?
Connect on Social Media sites, find their style, learn from life and life experiences, and connect with people on a day to day basis. You can not write about life if you're not living it.

What are sites writers/filmmakers of your field should bookmark for great information?
Twitter and Linda Seger's site; she is a script consultant, one of the best who also writes many books on screenwriting.

What am I trying to convey in a project?
Interesting question. It is many different things on different levels. Personal level it brings up the worse case scenarios, the "something bad is going to happen" that we don't want to happen. Instead of running from fear, we should deal with it. It also brings up family and the struggle to do what is right when everything seems wrong. But beyond a story I found 'amnesia' to convey something bigger, loftier: The idea that anything is possible and that we are only restricted by the limits of our imaginations.

March 1, 2009

Want to Talk about & Write Screenplays?

Ever thought about turning your novel into a screenplay? Have a great idea for an original screenplay?

Then come hang out @ Book to Screenplay @ Yahoogroups.

For authors who are interested in creating and marketing screenplays of their books. All scriptwriters at all levels are welcome to join our discussions.

It is our goal to explore all aspects of screenwriting, from the first glimmer of an idea to your march across the stage accepting that Academy Award!

With Script Frenzy starting April 1st, this is a GREAT time to get an idea developed for the month of writing!