The Director’s Chair Issue #118 – May 14, 2011 (Interview with a Screenwriter-Part 2)
THE DIRECTOR’S CHAIR
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May 14, 2011 Scene 12 – Take 5
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2. Two Bonuses for Subscribing to The Director’s Chair
3. How to Unsubscribe from The Director’s Chair
4. International Student Film Organization
5. FEATURE ARTICLE: Interview with a Screenwriter-Part 2
6. Write an Article for The Director’s Chair
7. Subscriber Shameless Self-Promotion
8. Links of Interest
9. Blog – Film Directing Tips
10. Filmmaking Workshops
11. Product Promotion and Film Workshops
12. Suggestions and Comments
13. Share this Ezine
14. Reprint this Ezine
15. Copyright Information
Welcome to Issue #118 of The Director’s Chair May 14, 2011
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2) Feature Article – The feature article this month is called
“Interview with a Screenwriter-Part 2. This is Part Two of an
interview I did with screenwriter and script consultant Michael
Bruce Adams. (Read full article below.)
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4. International Student Film Organization
My name is Franzi and I am writing to you in the name of the
International Student Film Organization Ltd (ISFO).
The ISFO is a free, internet based student network that serves
film related businesses and media students alike. It offers
young people from all over the world the opportunity to
discover new distribution channels for their films and to
connect with other film makers and the industry via
The website serves as a gateway for students to access
benefits such as a newsletter, a student film festival
calendar, competitions, discounts and much more over time.
One of the ISFO’s primary aims is to connect film students to
the industry and we would be very thankful if you could pass
on the news of our foundation via Twitter:
http://twitter.com/#!/futureinfilm and Facebook:
http://on.fb.me/emAfbH or other social networking sites you
are connected to. In return, we offer you the opportunity to
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on our website.
Thank you for supporting the student film community and we
look forward to hearing from you!
Founder and CEO
International Student Film Organization Ltd.
5. FEATURE ARTICLE: Interview with a Screenwriter-Part 2
This is Part Two of an interview I did with screenwriter
Michael Bruce Adams.
PETER – You keep coming back to research and I’m sure most of
our audience is cowering in fear. What happened to the
romantic idea of a writer, a desk and a typewriter magically
spewing forth screenplays?
MIKE – Well, that’s the last step and if you’ve done your
homework it can be the most fun. But as Joseph Campbell tells
us, the hero must be called to task, and there’s a lot of
preparation to do before we enter the wilderness.
But think of it this way, after however many years of having
education forced on us, we’re finally able to pick and choose
the things that we want to learn about. The world is our
oyster! What could be better than that?
I love researching, but I’ve learned to look at it like a
privilege rather than a chore. You have to approach it with
the same energy; the process might start by pouring over books
and DVDs, but it will progress to surfing the web, interviews,
travel and ultimately, stepping into the world you’re trying
You want to bomb yourself with visual images, film is a
predominantly a visual medium, but you want to infuse yourself
with everything else at the same time, the smells, the tastes,
the sounds, the feeling of the slightly tacky leather and
waxed stitching of a brand new baseball, the oil and stale
sweat smell of the glove, the spring of the outfield grass
under your shoes. You can read about it, but until you step
out on that baseball field you’ll never understand what WP
Kinsella calls, “the thrill of the grass.”
You want to identify the era and the geographical region your
story takes place in. You want to know what songs were playing
on the radio… on all the stations, you want to know what the
local favorite dishes were, you want to know who the heroes of
the town were, what the kids cared about and talked about,
what the adults worried about.
Our goal is to create experiences for the audience by creating
the world, the spiritual atmosphere and the sensory
environment where those experiences could take place. It helps
too if you have a character you care about taking you on that
PETER – Okay I’ve gathered my research materials, what’s next?
MIKE – Dig in and take notes!
As you go through your research process, the specifics of your
story will begin to reveal themselves. You’ll discover a bunch
of ideas that connect with you and make sense to your original
concept. If you didn’t have a hero in mind you should take a
bit of time to create the beginnings of one. The research is
much more effective if you are applying it to the characters
as you create them.
You want to be able to create pictures in your head of your
characters living in this world. Ultimately, when you sit down
to write, you want to be able to let complete scenes play in
your head, and then all you have to do is describe what
happens. You can’t do that if you haven’t created your world
When your story will reveals itself, it may come in stages or
all at once. Be prepared, because it may not resemble your
original idea in the slightest way!
When you’ve got the basic story you want to write, stop
researching and write your story out in a new treatment or an
outline, whatever works for you. I prefer treatments as I’ve
described before because I get more detail and emotion out of
the process than I do with an outline. Plus, having a
treatment available can be a very useful tool for nosey
But sometimes you need an outline. Imagine writing a complex
mystery or an epic biopic without having a map of where you’re
going. An outline really helps organize that type of project.
PETER – Okay. Now that you’re finished the treatment, are you
ready to write?
MIKE – Yes. You’ve finished your treatment which means you’ve
done enough research for your story to take shape, which also
means you’ve done enough to start writing your rough draft.
You’re going to continue your research regardless, but at this
point, the research is going to provide you with details and
technical information to support your story and it can be
added into your draft as you go.
Here’s what I mean. I like to start writing a draft as soon as
I am emotionally prepared to write the story regardless of
whether I’m finished the research or not. If I can get a
complete emotional journey written down, knowing that I may
have to adjust some plot points later on, then that’s fine,
that’s great. It’s the emotional journey, or the inner journey
of your character, that your audience will be hooked on; the
plot is just the vehicle for the emotional journey.
PETER – This is an important point that Michael has mentioned.
I have always felt that (as writers and directors) we need to
FEEL more than we THINK. It’s like talking with actors – if
you ask them to feel, they will DO.
MIKE – Yes, and that’s why I believe it’s important for
writers to write when they’re inspired, and I believe it’s our
responsibility as professionals to be able to create that
inspiration when we need it.
You may find as a writer that you come up with your most
innovative stuff at certain times in the day, so be true to
that if you have that luxury, but don’t waste the rest of the
When I get into my rough draft I like to do long days 12 – 16
hours. This is the best-case scenario for me. I like to write
plot oriented stuff in the mornings, move the story along, and
plan out my next moves. I edit in the afternoon; read and
reread, cut superfluous language, clean up formatting, play
around with different scene orders. And at night, when the air
seems to have quieted, that’s when I let myself drop deep into
the characters and their world.
I’m more honest at night, dialog rings more true, I reconnect
with the reasons I chose the story, the reasons I started
writing in the first place. The nighttime is magic for me.
PETER – What’s the trick to writing a believable character?
MIKE – The trick is to turn your senses inward. Trust that the
bank of sensory memories you have stored away from all the
experiences in your life can help you create accurate sensory
impulses for your characters. Close your eyes and put your
self in a still frame from your scene. Paint that frame until
it is true and accurate.
Now slip into the role of your character, become that
character and live the scene as it plays out. React as that
character, speak, feel and think as that character. Now do the
same process with each character in the scene.
As you get good at this you will be able to jump from
character to character and live out the scene in real time.
You will also find that the responses and actions of your
characters will be frighteningly truthful and unique. You will
also find that, with practice, as in dreams, you will be able
to control the spin of situations so that you can rewind and
try a different reaction from a certain character that might
take the scene to a new and more exciting direction.
You write with all six senses, the five usual ones and the
sixth sense, which for writers is transcendence.
Transcendence, or the ability to rise above and go beyond the
limits of normal physical human experience, is both a tool and
Eventually you will so adept at slipping into your characters’
psyches that you can take your characters into any situation
and create a truthful, resonant story. So when a studio says
to you, “We love your story but it’s an ensemble drama and
what we really need is a single character driven action
piece,” you can say, “No problem. I can do that.” That’s
transcendence. That’s magic.
PETER – Do you use the same technique for building characters?
MIKE – Building characters comes out of the research. Remember
we talked about what a benefit it is to have your characters
in mind when you going through your research process? Well,
it’s almost like reverse engineering. When you have the seeds
of a story and an idea of what your main characters look like,
then you have a pretty good idea, simply from psychological
dynamics, of what you expect your character to be capable of
through their journey. Then you work back.
If your character has to accomplish a near impossible goal at
the end of their journey then you might wonder where that
strength would come from. Was it a positively reinforced trait
or negatively reinforced? And how would they react at having
to use that strength? Would they be liberated, or racked with
guilt? What were their parents like, the home, their
upbringing? What key events impacted their lives? Did they
make key decisions or let life make decisions for them? Did
they have room to breathe as a child or were they hemmed in by
a Brooklyn brownstone neighborhood?
All these things have an impact on who your characters are and
who they will become over the course of their journey through
your story, and this is called their character arc. So, when
you research, you build your characters, when you write, you
become what you’ve built.
PETER – Back to the writing schedule. 16-hour days! Is that
what it takes to be a writer? Not everybody is going to go for
that or can physically do that (work, family).
MIKE – Right, everyone is different. And no, it doesn’t take
16 hours a day. That process works well for me but it may not
for anyone else. Some people feel burnt out doing more than
four hours a day. Some attack the page only when inspired and
then only for as long as that initial burst of inspiration
But consider this, let’s say you’ve got a contract to deliver
a first draft in six weeks and you know you’ve got at least
three weeks of research to do before you can touch the story.
You better have a pretty disciplined process to accomplish
As a writer you are an artist, but if you’re being paid, that
makes you a professional. Being a screenwriter means you are
just as accountable to time schedules as everyone else on the
crew. Delays from you cost money and nobody’s going to like
that. You might want to try and learn to write under extreme
circumstances, force yourself to create in a noisy coffee
shop, force yourself to create with the radio, the TV and the
washing machine all running.
Think I’m crazy? Let’s say you sell a script. You’ll end up
working on new drafts and rewrites with a bunch of different
people, directors, producers, actors, in the craziest
situations you can imagine, including on set or on location as
the director and cast wait for you.
Not exactly a chair by the fireplace, your favorite sweater
and a cup of herbal tea is it? So, yes, it’s great to develop
a wonderful ritual and environment for creativity, but you
also have to perform when the bullets are flying.
PETER – Okay, so I’m very disciplined, I’ve followed your
advice and I’ve completed my rough draft. Now what?
MIKE – Stop! Print out your draft. Hold it, feel the weight of
it, rifle the pages. You created this. By finishing this draft
you have accomplished what only a small fraction of the
population even dream of doing. When you are done relishing
your achievement, take your time, put your draft down on your
desk… and walk away. Step back and don’t tell anyone that
you’re done except maybe your dog and a nice bottle of Shiraz.
Take a day off.
When you come back, get into the research, go over the notes
you made and make new notes on details you might have left out
or some new ideas that come to mind. Then pick up your draft
and read it once, start to finish, without a pen in your hand.
Get an overall feel for it.
PETER – What specifically are you looking for?
MIKE – Does your emotional theme still resonate as you had
hoped it would? What feeling do you get at the end? Is this
the feeling you want your audience to leave with? Are there
any scenes or bits that don’t ring true? Does that scene you
wrote when you had the stomach flu still make sense in the
overall story? Do you still care as deeply for your characters
or have they lost some luster in the telling of their tale?
Are all the subplots either tied up or left hanging with the
impact you were hoping for? Do you get a sense of reading a
complete story, yet still wanting to know more because the
characters were that compelling? Answer these questions
truthfully, then, rewrite your draft. You keep doing this
process until you’re ready for others to read it.
PETER – What is the single best way to learn to write better?
MIKE – Write. It’s as simple as that. The more you write the
better you get. The process of write-critique-rewrite is the
most effective and efficient learning tool you have at your
disposal. This presupposes that you are examining yourself and
your work with a brutally honest eye. Writers that lie to
themselves will not be able to bring truth to the audience.
PETER – Mike, any inspirational last thoughts?
MIKE – Yes! Write!! I think there’s a lot of people out there
who would love to write a script but can’t quite get started.
The fact that you have a desire to tell a story is enough.
Trust in yourself and the knowledge that you have a worthy
story to tell… sit down and write it!
Don’t worry if it’s not perfect, it took me until my tenth
script before I ever really liked anything I had written. I
guarantee you this, if you just go ahead and give it a shot,
writing a screenplay can be the most fulfilling thing you’ll
ever try. And after your first, if you continue with writing,
you’re just going to get better and better.
PETER – How can we reach you if we need your services?
MIKE – Easiest way is by e-mail. My address is
mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org and Producers and Directors who are
looking for new scripts or help with an existing project can
call me as well at area code (604) 813-2552.
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8. Links of Interest
1) Demystifying the Creative Process – “I’m not creative. I
wish I could be more creative, but I don’t have it in me. Why
are some people creative and others aren’t?”
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard those statements
The truth is almost everyone has creative potential. What
separates good creatives (or dormant creatives that get lucky)
is that they’ve learned how to walk through the creative
process. The irony is that most of them don’t know that there
is a documented process, yet they’ve developed habits and
processes that allow them to walk through the process. On some
brute level, they understand the process, though they don’t
know how the process works.
2) YouTube for Filmmakers – YouTube has given a lot of people
a more equal opportunity to excel in their field and reach a
bigger audience. Just recently, I talked about how YouTube has
leveled the playing field for politicians, but of course it’s
also done a ton for filmmakers in the past 5 years.
3) Vimeo Video School – Vimeo Video School is a fun place for
anyone to learn how to make better videos. Start by browsing
our Vimeo Lessons, or find specific video tutorials created by
other members. http://vimeo.com/videoschool
9. Blog – Film Directing Tips
Please take a look at the many articles on my blog,
http://FilmDirectingTips.com and make some comments on the
posts. Your feedback is important to me because they will help
me decide on the content of this blog.
10. Filmmaking Workshops – Peter D. Marshall
I have worked in the Film and Television Industry for over
37 years – as a Film Director, Television Producer, First
Assistant Director and Series Creative Consultant. I’ve been
asked many times to share my Film and TV production
knowledge with others. As a result, I developed several
workshops that I have successfully presented over the past
To find out more about these workshops, just click on the
link below. If you are interested in any of these four
workshops for yourself or your organization, please contact
me to discuss how we can bring these workshops to you.
11. Product Promotion And Film Workshops
From time to time, I will contact you to inform you of film
workshops, filmmaking products or Online courses that I feel
are beneficial to filmmakers like yourself. Of course, you are
under no obligation to purchase anything – I only offer this
information as a service to subscribers of this free ezine.
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