Thursday, February 25, 2010

Nick Fellowship...

Well, well, well.

The truth is out.

Although we pretend to be solely interested in writing movies, these escapades truly all began in an interest in writing for TV. When we began writing specs for TV they all sucked, but we've learned some things in the process, and will perhaps share these things below. Might as well...the nick fellowship is coming up.

Here are our brief thoughts (in between punching up our 30 Rock, eating french fries, and trying to moisten our addled-by-California much for an inside the parentheses thought. Am I right....?.................

right though.....


too much............)

Anyways, our thoughts:

We hear 30 Rock is hot to spec

Buy or download a script for your spec and study format and structure

Watch your show to get a feel for timing.

Don't accidentally rip off a plot already used (guilty...)

Don't hold back! Be radical, and stand out.


Anybody else? Tips?


Monday, February 22, 2010

Screenwriting expressions adored by many, but not by all???!?

Ugh. Most expressions really piss me off. Especially in regards to writing. Maybe because they're expressions and I'm such a counter-culture psuedo bohemian douchebag that I can't stand how apt they often are. But maybe also because the people who spout these kernels of wisdom and truth more often than not are crappy writers and new-age hipsters that worship three moons and plan their lives according to their horoscopes.

And there is one expression - king of all expressions in the writing world - that rears it's ugly head more than any other. "WRITING IS REWRITING". ughhhhh. I hate hearing this when I'm like "Yeah, just gotta go work on a rewrite for a little." "ah, yes. of course, friend. you know what they say..."writing is rewriting."

Yea. They say it. I know. But I don't want to hear it. It haunts me everywhere i go. and it's so true that i think it needs to be changed to..."Rewriting is writing." Subtle, yes, but oh so deep, insightful and brilliant as well. Or are these expressions, in fact, exactly the same?

Bask in that.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

First 30 or bust?!?!?! The most important pages in any screenplay...

The first 30 pages of any (normal length) screenplay are completely, totally most the important. Hands down. If you get your first 30 right, you’re going to get your end right, and you’ll probably have a pretty easy time with the vast, disgusting wasteland that Act 2 often presents itself as.


Because by creating a screenplay you are creating an entire world. You need to set up the world. Can animals talk? Is bowling the most popular sport? What are the rules in your world.

Same goes for characters. Your hero and villain have to be set up in the first 10, but by the break into two, you have to show us not only what they want but also how they are going to get it. What is going to stand in their way? What are their flaws?

The first 30 pages of a screenplay provide a roadmap for the rest of your journey, and if you nail them, you’ll have a way easier time finishing a first draft you can be (kinda) proud of.

We usually rewrite the first act 2 or 3 or 4 times before moving forward, making sure we’ve planned enough, that we’ve done significant set up and that we have someplace to go.

We recommend the same for most people.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Don't Text in your Screenplay

The only reason we like texting in real life is because it's a good way to avoid talking to someone that we don't want to talk to. We don't have to pick up the phone or call that annoying friend/relative/associate and that is awesome! No confrontation, no awkwardness, no conflict..

Texts are awesome...right?!??!!?

Not in your screenplay, douche.

You WANT conflict. As much as possible. So why avoid it? If Dick and Jane are in bed together, and Dick can just TEXT his mistress about the awesome and experimental sex they had earlier in the toolshed, Jane probably won't have any idea what's going on, and it's really easy to cover up.

But imagine this...


Dick and Jane read in bed. Dick eyes the clock impatiently. He swings one leg over the bed carefully.

Where are you going?


You just went.

My stomach hurts.

I'll make another appointment with the gastrointestinal guy.

Jane, please no. He...makes me uncomfortable.

We'll get to the bottom of this. Pun intended.

Dick sighs and slinks into the bathroom. Jane turns her attention back to her book.

(under his breath)
I know. So good. It felt so good.

Good, sweetheart. Let it all out.

Yes, pumpkin. No you.

When did you have pumpkin?

Jane stands with her ear to the door.

No. I love you pooh bear.

Dick...? Are you talking to...?

Jane edges the door open. Pokes her head in. Sees Dick standing in front of the mirror, nervously chattering into his cell phone.

She grabs the hairspray and blasts him mace style in the face. Dick grabs his face, stumbles, falls, and knocks his head on the bathtub.

Dick dies. Jane picks up the cell.

I'm comin' for you next...bitch!

See! If Dick was texting...none of this could have happened. At most, a little suspicious "what are you doing? who are you texting?" might have come up, but that's not dramatic. PLUS. Nothing is more of a buzz kill on the big screen than a 20 x 20 image of a blackberry screen "U R SO SEXI LUV U. CAN'T WAIT 2 C U L8ER BABEZ!"

Always be as cinematic as possible! Never text!

The end.

Love always,

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Free Screenplay Notes!

Hey Everyone,

We've been talking a lot lately about how hard it is to get someone (really anyone) to read your script. It's annoying. It especially annoyed us before we got out to LA.

We're like..."If someone would read our script we would so gladly read theirs." Because we really enjoy reading other people's work and giving notes. That's something we firmly believe in: learning how to give good notes and think critically about screenwriting improves your own writing exponentially.

That is why we're offering FREE NOTES to three people each week. We'll twitter "FIRST 3 RT'S OF THIS POST GET FREE NOTES THIS WEEK" and when those RT's happen, we'll direct message you our email and read/give you notes that week.

We're not going to waste time summarizing your work or giving a synopses or anything. We're just gonna read it, open word, and write down what we don't think works and some suggestions on how to fix it.

This will keep us reading scripts, and hopefully inspire a little more reading friendliness in the writing community.

Alright. Tweeting presently.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Screenwriting problems in THE BLIND SIDE

Some problems with the blind side…

1)   Early on, a teacher finds a letter written by Michael Oher (the silent football player), that details exactly how he feels at his new school.  It’s called “white walls” or something, and is basically a perfectly crafted insight into his mind.  Pretty obvious and convenient trick to get into his head when we have no other way in.  Oh…except for all the subtext of everything that was going on.  This note really hits you over the head.
2)   The  convenient cut away…Michael goes to a party at some crack den, and tosses some gangsters against the furniture (gun wielding gangsters).  I mean yea…Mike is big and scary but these are gangsters…with guns.  Well…cut to: Michael chilling at a laundry mat without a scratch on his face.
3)   Act I was too long. And the opening scene seems totally misplaced.  For those of you who have seen the movie…do you agree? It opens with a bullock VO over a football play, describing ‘the blind side’ and the importance of the left tackle. But then we don’t get bullock for like…15 minutes and we never see her analyzing tape again. The audience needed to learn why michael’s position was so important, but it could have happened when SJ was teaching him.
4)   Still, we liked it, just like everyone else. Generally entertaining. Good for what it is. Recommended to our parents.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


The more difficult, and more original, that you can make your hero’s problems, the better your screenplay is going to be. In Oz, Dorothy certainly encounters her fair share of problems, including, of course “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” Part of what makes Dorothy’s story so great is that it’s at once very simple and intrinsic – all she wants is to go home – and surprising and fantastical. The world she must navigate to reach the wizard is fraught with interesting peril.

But, that’s been done. Lions, tigers, bears, witches…they’re all still threats, but you can’t successfully employ your everyday dangerous carnivores or wicked, magical women without some kind of twist. Say, for instance, that Dick and Jane are in an Oz-like world. They’ve already encountered some giant, scary animals and the audience is terrified of what else lurks in the shadows. You spring a witch out, that’s no real surprise. Even a cannibalistic witch…see Hansel and Gretel. But say all of a sudden Dick and Jane are just confronted by an innocent looking little kid.

Dick and Jane slowly make their way through a tangled jungle thicket.

Do you hear that?

F***. What if it’s another oversized, man-eating wasp?

No…it sounds…smaller.

Suddenly, a SMALL CHILD, 8, emerges from the bushes wearing a chef’s hat and apron and smiling broadly. Dick and Jane breathe a sigh of relief.

Aw, hello. What’re you doing out here? Where’s your mommy?

Without warning, a few more SMALL CHILDREN materialize, all holding various kitchen utensils, including a butcher knife. Things start to look a little sinister.

Are you kids lost?

The Small Children begin to advance on Dick and Jane, all smiling widely and wielding their kitchen tools menacingly. The first Small Child licks his lips.

Oh. My. God. Dick, I think they’re going to eat us!

Who would expect a tribe of tiny cannibal children to be the next enemy that our brave heroes face? A masterful example of the unexpected nemesis can be found in the comedy, Galaxy Quest, when a bunch of actors pretending to be a starship crew land on a strange planet. First, the gang encounters a village of adorable aliens who seem innocuous until they start ripping each other apart. Then, the hero is trapped on the planet and faces a pig monster which he thinks is the worst imaginable creature he could possibly battle. But no, next a cluster of nearby rocks transforms into a behemoth villain and nearly squashes our unsuspecting hero like a bug. The scenes that take place on this planet, hence, are both suspenseful and comedic because you just don’t see it coming.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Some of you may have noticed that, of late, Saturday Night Live lacks a certain, well, funniness. Recently, while watching a particularly humorless episode of the show, we came to an epiphany: almost every sketch would be improved by either a literal or proverbial punch in the face.

SNL relies heavily on characters that repeat a certain phrase or behavior. Sometimes, this trick works, but more often than not, whatever humor is originally present quickly fades and I want to tear my eyes out.

A perfect example is a recent sketch in which Kristen Wiig, playing one of her usual obnoxious characters, begs everyone in the room, “Don’t make me sing” despite the fact that she is clearly dying to sing. While she brutishly tries to make up words to music she doesn’t know, she continues to repeat her protestations. Here’s a link to the clip, you’ll see what I mean: . By the end of the sketch, everyone in the room clearly wants to punch Kristen Wiig’s character in the face. BUT NO ONE DOES IT!

And how hilarious would that be? Instead of a sketch trailing off, as this one does, with a slightly altered version of the same joke, one character should just get fed up and punch someone (preferably Kristen Wiig) in the face. It would be surprising, and refreshing, and if you’ll pardon the pun, add a much needed punch to SNL’s currently pretty flat show.

Comedy is all about surprise and shock, and SNL totally lacks that. So do a lot of comedy shows these days. Repetition done right can be humorous, but done predictably…well, it’s predictable.

Moral: Don’t be afraid of a punch in the face. It could save everything.

If you're watching SNL this week, see if a figurative or literal 'punch in the face' can save one of the many floundering sketches.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Screenwriting tricks we hate: As You Know Bob...


Dick sips his water delicately. BOB, 55, disheveled and angry, slinks over from across the room.


How goes it, Bob?

Not good. I'm at a loss. It's...hard.

Well. As you know, Bob. This is your third divorce. And, as we've discussed time and time again, the third is always the hardest. And, if I recall correctly, you're not getting any less I right?

Dick laughs boisterously.

But seriously. You know as well as I do. You're broken. You're old. Your balls are, let's face it, not worth the sack they bounce around in.

You think it's time?

You've always thought you were a woman Bob. Make the change. What better time than now? You're forty three, you have two dogs, a mortgage, two angry ex-wives, and a boyfriend.

You know something, you're right.

Yes, Bob. I do know. We both do.

This is the AS YOU KNOW BOB PROBLEM to the extreme. Don't tell a character something they already know. It's tempting. Incredibly tempting. Because it's easy. Don't slide down that slippery slope.

PHRASES TO LOOK OUT FOR (used above): As you know, as we've discussed, if I recall correctly, you know as well as I do

Monday, February 8, 2010


So you want one of your main set pieces to be your romantically involved couple searching for their first home. But as you start to write, you realize that even HGTV sometimes struggles to make that interesting, and it’s ALL they do. So how do you make Dick and Jane discussing countertops and wall color interesting?

Actually, mundane activities are some of the most exciting to write about, because they offer such a blank slate for crazy shit to happen. Take this for example.


Dick and Jane browse around an open house, led by their smug, fast-talking realtor, CARSON.

The kitchen seems nice. Spacious. Although,
I don’t cook that much, soooo…

(to Dick)
You’re gonna marry a bitch that can’t cook?

Carson sends furious text messages on his phone.

Excuse me?!

Uh, we just really like to eat out.

Just joshing you. Of course I’m sure you’re
a wonderful cook. Marvelous. Let’s take a
look at the master bedroom.


Dick and Jane stand in the bedroom. Carson talks on his phone.

Yeah. Yeah, I’m trying to make a sale to these
two total losers. Kidding, you guys! You’re the
greatest. Yeah. Yeah. Gotta go. Scratch ya later!

Scratch…what the…

Uh…is there a closet?

Why, do you need to come out of it?

Carson laughs hysterically.

Joshing, joshing.
(to Jane)
Seriously though, I bet this one’s a real dud in the sack, eh? Eh? You want a real man
take my card!

Jane stares agape at Carson. Dick blushes.

My name is slang for male genitalia. I
think I have –

Right, right, right. Hey, great hardwood floors
in here, if you catch my drift. Eh, eh?

He laughs again. Dick and Jane exchange disturbed glances.

There you go. An egomaniacal, inappropriate real estate agent gives Dick and Jane’s house hunt an original, comic twist. You can do the same with everything from shoe shopping to a haircut to getting an oil change. Don’t be intimidated by writing something that seems like it might bore your audience. Just make sure it doesn’t bore you, and you’re safe.

Thursday, February 4, 2010


Don’t get too caught up in dialect. If you have an old black lady from the 1890’s, southeastern Missouri…don’t worry about getting her right down to an apostrophe. Faithfully reproducing dialect chops your work up in the worst way. It takes the reader out of the story, makes them re read lines, and makes them wonder about the sanity of the writer.

Instead, stick to general dialectical ideas. Like specific words, or phrases or expressions. If CHARACTER X lived somewhere where it “rained like watermelon gumdrop water lilies” then put that weird expression in, along with others like it. Broaden your focus, forget apostrophes and odd pluralization and focus on words and phrases. This will get the idea across WAY more effectively than an extremely specific dialect. Also, with all your characters, focus on the cadence and rhythm of their speech.

A good rule of thumb (and I forget where I read it) is to try to have at MOST one apostrophe/altered word per line. It’s not hard and fast, but it will keep you in line.

To finish, a quote from Thomas Hardy's “Tess of the d'Urbervilles”…

"Well, yes," said Mrs. Durbeyfield; and in a private tone, "at first there mid be a little pretence o't. . . But I think it will be wiser of 'ee to put your best side outward," she added.

That seriously almost looks like middle English. This is from a NOVEL and it’s still kind of a trip up…but much easier to get with. So, in screenplays…

PRACTICE WHAT DURBEYFIELD DOESN’T PREACH! Put your best foot forward, free from the hang ups and pratfalls of loyalty to dialect.

(quote taken from this article on the consistency of dialect in novels……totally different but also worth reading)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

How to: Take Notes at Screenwriting Groups

We're in three groups and thought we'd share what we've learned about the in person, group style note giving and receiving process.

1) Don't get defensive. It's awkward and weird. People don't want to hurt. They want to help. Even if they suggest you kill your protag on page 5. They are dumb. You aren't. You know your story. Move on.

2) Think about every note. Even the 'murder your protag' notes can help you in some way. Think about where that asshole note giver was coming from, get to the root of it, and try to address the problem.

3) Take notes on the notes. Write it all down.

4) Don't take it personally. People don't care about you enough to make notes on your screenplay a personal vendetta against you. Chill.

5) Know your note givers. If HORROR JACK tells you there needs to be more disembodied fairy midgets...yea...And if raging feminist doesn't understand the irony or sarcasm in your SLUTTY BIMBO character...fuck her!

6) Learn and Master the "Art of Disregarding Notes". Some people just won't 'get' your story. See numbers 1,2, and 5. Do these people get your screenplay. Again...don't disregard all willy nilly. Consider EVERYTHING seriously. These people are saying these things for a reason. Figure out why.

7) WRITE TO PREVENT NOTES! This will vastly improve your writing. Pre empt your note givers by writing a good screenplay. Give yourself notes AS THEM before you present, and try to address the problems. This is a tried and true re-writing tool.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Screenwriting and Real Estate: LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!

Recently, while watching the 1963 classic "Charade," we realized the importance of utilizing location in writing. The final showdown takes place first in a busy, columned courtyard. It then moves to a theater (rich with trap doors). Wherever your characters are, is the scene in some way enriched location?

This isn't a steadfast rule, but something to look for, particularly in action or comedy scenes.

Check out the scene below. Unique Location bits: perfume, lipstick, make up counter, escalators, disguise.

Clearly, this is to the extreme, so proceed with caution.


Dick sprints into the store carrying a bucket of fried chicken. Jane is close on his heels.

You won't get far! I can smell that chicken, Dick!

Dick's eyes dart across the room. He scurries to the perfume counter, breaks the display and grabs Britney Spears' new scent, "WASHED UP HO". He sprays it on the chicken, smirks and takes a bite.

Dick looks into a magnified makeup mirror and spots Jane lurking. He grabs a tray of sample lipsticks. He turns to swing, but Jane is still across the room.

The lipsticks CRASH to the ground.

Jane leaps through woman's clothes and lunges at Dick. Dick runs towards the escalators. They are off. He climbs up one flight but Jane flips a switch. He's running up the down escalator.

Dick falls backwards and the escalator slowly carries him back to a waiting Jane, now disguised as a man.

Dick looks up hopefully.

Sir, you have to help me! Thank God!

Or thank Jane...

Jane rips off her costume mustache and shoves it down Dick's throat. He chokes loudly.

I always thought I'd die choking on a mustache...

Dick dies.

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