Archives For screenwriting

The Two Antagonists

August 20, 2013 — Leave a comment

“Education consists mainly of what we have unlearned.” — Mark Twain

Here’s something I picked up when I was listening to a few interviews about a screenwriting book called, Dan O’Bannon’s Guide to Screenplay Structure. Okay, okay… so I technically didn’t read the book but I was curious enough to look into it. And guess what? The curiosity paid off when co-writer, Matt Lohr, dropped a few teases from the book.

Please note I’m not truly regurgitating the information here. Most of this, is me filling in the blanks. If what is in the actual book different from what is said here, it’s just me misinterpreting the clues.

If you’re also a novice screenwriter, this might be a good purchase. The book supposedly has an overview of the other screenwriting gurus before stepping into Dan O’Bannon’s way. And if you don’t know who Dan O’Bannon is and why you should consider his opinions, here’s a sampler of his output: Alien, The Return of the Living Dead, Total Recall, Dark Star, Screamers, Lifeforce and some other B-horror goodies.

So let’s jump to it.

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Here is a clip that I stumbled upon some time ago that I kept to heart because… jeeze, it’s rather great, honestly. This is Iron Man’s father — Robert Downey Sr., who is a wonderful director who some may or may not know. He’s cult filmmaker and there’s a good reason why. If you have a chance, seek out some of this works like: Putney Swope or even Moment to Moment (Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos Tonight). Definitely great for those who like a more experimental/surrealistic approach to filmmaking.

Anyway, the main goods…

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I was writing an email to a colleague. Got into the subject of screenwriting. Then I thought about what I learned in the past year and five months. So, here is a variation of that summary I wrote in that recent email. It’s like the bare essentials… it’s the DIY / low-cost way of beginning to learn the screenwriting craft.

And it goes like this:

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On Feb. 14, 2011, the Scriptwriting Program was having the first Hothouse Play Reading event. Writers provided 15 pages of material and actors were asked to volunteer their time to do a live read. Here was the perfect opportunity to see how our stories, characters, and the words they say, held up against the expectations of an audience.

For the moderator role, the program organizers would ask of a theatre expert from the local community. This could range from coordinator, critic, or even a university professor. Basically, friends of friends of the instructors.

These moderators were supposed to give a guest talk for theatre acting students and scriptwriting students. It was eventually decided that this option was scratched due to the performance of the first moderator.

I believe having the person come in to do an hour of talking and then expect them to sit through two hours of amateur scripts was overwhelming. Plus it was a Monday night. And it was Valentine’s Day. AND his wife was with him.

So what happened?

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When you begin to learn about screenwriting, you will hear the word “structure” thrown around a lot. You will either accept it and try to learn from the screenwriting gurus and dissect the crap out of existing movies. The whole reverse engineering deal.

Or you’ll refuse the whole notion of it and try to rebel against it. You’ll probably believe that you’ll tell original stories, better than the cliche crap that following these formulaic structuring can create.

I believe that the good writer has many qualities.

(I say “good” for now because once you’re “great”, you’re just a smooth jungle cat on the prowl.)

Two qualities to highlight. The first is the ability to intuitively structure your story. The second is that you’re good at writing or maybe a better way to put this is that you have some creative ways to tell stories.

Let’s contrast this with the impression I got from my screenwriting course I took over a year ago and probably many other classes that have a screenwriting guru hanging about. These courses focus on structure.

Can we all agree with this?


My recent revelation through the Internet and email conversations have led to an important point to remember:

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Script Frenzy is over. And I have a finished “script”. How do I feel? Modestly content. There is more work to be done for this baby of mine. It’s a little on the Frankenstein side but I’m sure it will go on a rampage soon enough.

What’s more important is not the finished product. Hell, it’s barely considered a first draft. I rather refer to it as “The Vomit Draft” or “The Shit Draft” or even “A Verbal Diarrhea Delight” (something an estranged relative would find pleasing). If bodily fluids or scatological imagery is too much, I guess you can call it: “The Terrible Draft”.

Here are five things I learned about myself after Script Frenzy:
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Soon it will be April. That means it will be Script Frenzy time! If you don’t know what that is, here is the basic gist:

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