Screenwriting Tips... You Hack
'My Writing Process' Blog Tour

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This is one of those chain letter blogosphere things. I’ve never done one before, but there’s a first time for everything.

The blogger who tagged me for this tour was fellow Australian screenwriter Henry Sheppard, whose post you can read here. (Note: Link contains hilarious photo of me from 10 years ago, during my filthy backpacker phase.) Henry’s a great blogger, and I recommend subscribing…

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Which Godzilla Film Should You Watch?

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So you just saw the new Godzilla movie and loved it, and now you’re excited to check out the big guy’s back catalog. But wait! There are thirty of these films. Don’t just open up Netflix, type in “Godzilla” and hit play on the first thing that pops up. You might end up accidentally watching Godzilla’s Revenge, and I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

No, you’ll want to be a bit more discriminating…

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GODZILLA (2014) Review

MILD SPOILERS

There’s so much to distract us nowadays: friends, food, tablets, phones, Twitter, television, games. So much noise and light, and still we crave more. We don’t like to be alone; nor can we be without our phones, our lifelines to the artificial world we’ve constructed for each other. As prey animals, we fear the darkness and the silence. Because we know it’s dangerous to be alone.…

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Show Us Your World

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I’ve been thinking about an interview I watched recently with Lena Dunham, genius writer and showrunner of GIRLS. She was talking about how her show was picked up by HBO, and more generally about how HBO selects and develops its shows.

The key phrase used was “HBO is looking for worlds”.

That’s about as succinct a summary of HBO’s business model that I’ve ever seen. It really is the one big…

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How Not to Write a Screenplay

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Inspired by this post, I thought I’d share some tried-and-true methods for not writing your screenplay:

  • Agonize over your script’s title.
  • Start a pointless argument on Twitter.
  • Decide you need to do more research. Fall down a Wikipedia hole and forget what you were doing.
  • Change your screenwriting software.
  • Wait for your manager/agent/friend/reader to email you back.
  • Make more coffee; you need…

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Truly, Madly, Detective

I wrote an article about TRUE DETECTIVE for Popmatters.com. Here’s the link:

http://www.popmatters.com/feature/180164-true-detective-stories-told-by-starlight/

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Two Documentaries

I recently watched two excellent documentaries, FREE TO PLAY and LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF. Both are unapologetically subjective, designed to serve specific agendas, yet they also deal with universal issues. Both have unusual production histories: FREE TO PLAY is the first film by Valve, the legendary video game studio, and is available free on YouTube and Steam; LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF was put…

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Computer Chess and Getting to the Point

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I recently watched COMPUTER CHESS, a 2013 film which I guess is best described as an indie mumblecore mockumentary… about computer chess. It surprises you. What starts out as a dark, sad, funny, Christopher Guest-style film slowly morphs into a stealth remake of BLADE RUNNER. For those playing at home, that makes two stealth remakes of BLADE RUNNER in one year (the other being Spike Jonze’s HER).

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True Detective: Seasons Two Through Six
HBO's "True Detective" Season 1 / Director: Cary Fukunaga

Season 2, 2015

In the 1930s, two female Pinkerton agents — one Orthodox Jewish, the other a lapsed Catholic — unravel a Masonic conspiracy to dismantle California’s streetcar system. TV critics are outraged at the show’s unflattering portrayal of organized religion. Elisabeth Moss wins an Emmy for her role as Scarlett “Red” Steelspur.

Season 3, 2016

Three generations of NYPD detectives…

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Why Flashbacks Suck

I’ve been reading Samuel Delany’s book “About Writing”. It’s fantastic — easily one of the best books on writing I’ve ever read. He comes across as effortlessly wise without ever feeling like he’s handing down instructions from on high.

If you’re not familiar with Delany, he’s a gay, black, science fiction author who writes weird, looping novels full of bizarre sex. So you might expect his…

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In With The New

I used to have a screenwriting blog.

I started it 5 years ago while working as a script reader in LA. I posted a screenwriting tip a day — over 1200 tips in total. Each post a short meditation on writing. People seemed to like it; it was hosted by the Black List for a while, and was even adapted into a book by Focal Press. Then, about a year ago, I stopped blogging. I went away and wrote other…

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Screenwriting Tip #1222

Actors are trained to think in terms of scene goals, and you should too. If a character is speaking and acting at cross-purposes with their goal, it’s probably because they’re being influenced by some unspoken inner need.

Screenwriting Tip #1221

Character must be demonstrated before we’ll believe it. If you tell us a character is a “smooth-talking lawyer”, we’ll accept the “lawyer” part. The “smooth-talking” part must be verified by watching what the character says and does.

Screenwriting Tip #1220

When sending out a script, don’t try to hedge your bets by saying “it’s an old script” or “it’s a rough draft”. If it’s not good enough to show people, don’t show it. If it is good enough, back it 100%.

Screenwriting Tip #1219

Writing a comedy? In the first draft, concentrate on making the characters feel real. Jokes are for the second draft.