Many thanks to Aaron Mendolsohn who’s sharing a 20% discount with you lucky Bang2writers on his book, The 11 Fundamental Questions: A Guide To A Better Screenplay.

Now, I’ve read Aaron’s book and what I like about it is how it’s so short and to the point, yet breaks down some really valuable pointers for any writer putting their concept under the microscope. It’s just 41 pages and illustrated, so not a tough read; plus it also relates all Aaron’s pointers to produced content, both recent and classic, so you can see his advice ‘in action’.

I’ve written about the importance of concept over and over on this blog, so can recommend Aaron’s book without hesitation. But don’t take MY word for it check out these words of wisdom from Aaron himself … And if you like what you see, check his book out and claim your discount as a Bang2writer.

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I don’t love the story-breaking process.  It’s like putting on sunscreen when all I really want to do is get outside and play with my kids.  It’s like doing push-ups before breakfast.  I whine about it, I put it off, I dread it every time.

And every time, I’m really, really glad I did it.

Being a stickler about my story-breaking is one of the key reasons I’ve managed to sustain a 20+ year successful writing career.  Early on I was pretty informal with how I did it, but as time went on my story-breaking started crystalizing into a method that I would repeat with each new feature and pilot I commenced.

My method is simply this: I ask myself a series of questions that prompt ideas about key character and story points.  Once I answer the questions to my satisfaction, I start filling in the story until I have a detailed outline.

I have 11 questions in total.  Questions #1 and #2 are fairly intuitive: “#1: Do I know what my story is about?” and “#2: How am I honoring and subverting my genre?”  Storytelling 101 for sure, but I have found that taking the time to answer the “easy” questions with a good, thoughtful paragraph or two always adds substance and nuance to the under-developed notions that tend to bounce around in my head – and always improves upon them.

Do I know what my story is about?” is particularly important because the answer ends up being the Post-It Note cornerstone of my screenplay (or pilot or series pitch).  If I can’t distill my concept into a simple, clear, one-sentence logline, I may be sitting on a story that’s weak, broken or over-complicated. Here’s an example of a good logline:

An arrogant king who suffers from a debilitating stutter is forced to work with an eccentric speech therapist to deliver the speech that will unify his kingdom.”

In that one sentence I summed up the Central Character (the king), his Fatal Flaw (arrogance), the main antagonistic force (his stutter), the Journey (working with a speech therapist), the Climax (the speech) and the stakes (unifying his kingdom).

The next two questions are more challenging and require more thought.

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#3: Who is my Central Character(s) and what is their Conscious and Unconscious Desire?” is an important one because it prompts me to write a character bio and spell out the dilemma and conflict that will drive the central character’s journey.  Story-related questions like “What is the Overarching Conflict?” and “What is the Central Characters Lowest Point?” are good because they help me navigate the bewildering badlands of the Second Act.

I added Question #4 a couple years ago after a conversation with screenwriter Billy Ray (“Captain Phillip”), with whom I serve on the Writers Guild West Board of Directors.  He felt it was important to ask “What is the Central Idea?

The Central Idea is an overarching notion or theme that pushes the story forward and is tested in every scene.  It is not to be confused with a logline.  To cite some examples, the Central Idea for “The Matrix” (in my view) is:

Neo can only be the One when he believes hes the One.  For “Selma”: Martin Luther King knows that Selma is the key to the Civil Rights Movement.

For “Mad Men”: Don Drapers worst enemy is himself and the shameful past hes trying to escape.

It’s like a thesis your story is testing out.

The remaining 7 questions focus on character development, stakes, antagonistic forces and important story beats.

I use the 11 Questions to stress test every story I’m breaking, whether it’s for a feature screenplay, pilot teleplay or TV series pitch, but it works equally well for books, plays and web series too.

But it only works if I answer the questions truthfully.  If I try to “cheat” and come up with an answer that’s vague or that twists a notion I already have in my head so it kinda-sorta answers the question, I’m not doing myself any favours.  That’s just lazy writing.  When I answer truthfully, and with thought and substance, I end up with stronger story bones and, ultimately, a better screenplay.

Asking yourself the tough questions – whether they’re my 11 or your magic number – is a great way to stimulate ideas and make sure your story-breaking is on track.  Because – to cite the Central Idea of “The Money Pit” – without a sound foundation, the house will collapse.

BIO: Aaron Mendelsohn is a working screenwriter, a professor of screenwriting at Loyola-Marymount University, and the Secretary-Treasurer of the Writers Guild of America West.  He is best known for Disney’s AIR BUD, which spawned eleven sequels.  Current projects include a Warner Bros feature, a Spike TV drama series and a Hallmark movie.

Aaron’s story-breaking method is now available as an ebook: THE 11 FUNDAMENTAL QUESTIONS: A GUIDE TO A BETTER SCREENPLAY.  For a limited time he’s offering a 20% discount to Bang2Write readers.  Go to www.11questionsbook.com for more information.

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TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talks have been known to move and inspire people through a vast array of topics. One of its most moving themes may yet be on writing. Some of the most prolific writers also prove to be engaging speakers, and have shared important tips with aspirants on the stage.

Here’s a compilation of amazing TED speeches from renowned authors all over the globe:

1) Everybody has creativity

In a society fixated on ‘genius’ and being unique, Elizabeth Gilbert shares how everybody has the capacity for such creativity.

Aspiring young authors should feel comforted by the fact that greatness isn’t reserved for just one type of author or story.

2) Reframe the way you look at the world

Author Tracy Chevalier looks at paintings and sees stories in them. This led to her best-selling book, The Girl with a Pearl Earring.

While everyone else might see a plain view, writers have a flair for looking at the world in a different way every time.

3) Start at the end

It seems unusual to have an ending before you even know how to begin, but this is how Andrew Stanton created some of his most emotionally moving animated films. One of the minds behind Wall-E and Toy Story, Stanton suggests that writers ask themselves: What do you want to achieve with this story?

Starting at the end and having a set idea of what you want to achieve can actually give you a better handle of how you can achieve it.

4) Technology is a helpful tool

Some writers don’t like the idea of using tech to help them get their ideas, but for author Joe Sabia, technology is just another step in the evolution of storytelling.

From something as simple as a pop-up book, innovations in storytelling have come to shape the way we tell stories today. So there’s no shame in writing in that online platform, or making use of a few apps to gear up your productivity.

5) Editing matters

As a long-time copy editor for The New Yorker, Mary Norris knows what it’s like to read through copy and make a more polished end product.

As writers, we need to acknowledge our responsibility to fact-check, proofread, and of course weed out grammatical mistakes in our work. Plenty of professionals can help us with our editing.

6) Passion does drive motivation

Famous for her magic realist novels, Isabelle Allende talks about a passion that drives writers to write. While having a structure is necessary to keep all things in order, don’t let the initial flame in you die.

What drives writers to write is ultimately their passion, and that’s what you need to keep hold of.

7) Inspiration can come from within

Susan Cain’s often-cited work on introversion and the power of introverts again poses a meaningful food for thought: introspection is just as important as external observation.

Writers tend to forget that they have an entire world inside their minds that they haven’t yet explored. Though looking for inspiration outside yourself is necessary, inspiration within you can yield results that are just as creative.

8) Go Back to the familiar

Pico Ayer describes travel as a great way of exploring one’s identity both geographically and introspectively. Similarly, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie talks about how, in order to reshape our stories, we need to also look at what we are.

The danger of a single narrative, according to Adichie, is that it overshadows all others. But in order to voice out your story, you need to look back at your roots, first.

9) Don’t hold back!

Celebrated Korean author, Young-ha Kim, describes the power of child-like wonder in a world that has become too structured.

Tapping into that inner child and forgetting your inhibitions in writing can get you off on a good start. Well, at the very least, it can get you started.

BIO: Stacey Marone is a freelance writer and contributor for  essays scholaradvisor. She likes exploring new cultures, languages and gathering interesting facts. In her free time, she also does volunteer work and organizes some activities for children. Her passions involve painting, reading, and writing. You can follow her on twitter.

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I don’t tend to suffer from writer’s block per se, but I do get saturated with expectations (mine and others’) … It means I get overwhelmed by everything I need to do in terms of edits and rewrites and deadlines. Then on top of that I have all my responsibilities and various baggage everyone has and before you know it, my work has ground to a halt. Then it becomes a vicious circle as I get more and more het up, because I feel like I can’t move forward. BLEURGH!!

I love this infographic because it addresses the problem of writer’s block (or whatever you want to call it), plus what may cause it and gives robust potential solutions. It would seem I’m both a ‘Mark Twain and John Steinbeck wannabe’ as I do what these two great writers recommend … Find out what their ideas are, as well as a solution that works for you. Good luck!

MORE ON B2W ON GETTING INSPIRED TO WRITE:

Inspired By A Small Seed: 6 Writers’ Stories

6 Writing Prompt Tips To Help You Get Started

19 Tips On Overcoming Writer’s Block From Famous Authors

20 Inspirational Quotes Writers Can Learn From (And Why) 

30 Doses Of Inspiration From Fictional Teachers And Mentors

Writer

From Visually.

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For a long time I had an embarrassing secret: I couldn’t get past the outlining phase.

“Writing” was endlessly beating out plot points, charting character arcs, and shuffling notecards, never feeling like the story was quite “there.” Never feeling ready to move on to scenes and pages.

Ugh. If you’ve been there, you know how frustrating this is.

Really the problem was that I had identified myself as a “plotter.” It happened by default; after all, I knew I wasn’t a “pantser.” But plotters need to nail down every last detail of a story before firing up the screenwriting software, right? That’s what I thought, anyway. So I would keep at it, hoping at some point I’d have it all figured out. Truthfully? I was stuck.

And then I was hired to write a screenplay, to deliver it on deadline, and I had to get un-stuck – fast!

What I learned (finally) is that the writing process isn’t linear. Even if you somehow managed to figure it all out in advance, there would still be change and discovery through the creative process.

So why fight it? Writing is rewriting, and most professional writers advise getting through the first draft quickly so there’s something on the page to begin to rewrite. (And rewrite and rewrite again.)

If you’re ready to get out of the endless-outlining trap and power through a first draft, I’ve compiled five different methods for doing just that. These strategies provide enough of a game plan to get you through the draft without getting lost, but are also minimalist enough to keep you from getting stuck trying to plot out every inch of your story. So you can get to the end, and on to the real business of rewriting … LET’S GO!

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1) Springboard method

“Springboard” is simply a way to think about a significant event or reveal that changes the action and creates an engine to drive the next section of script. Rather than outlining every scene, your pre-writing with this method involves coming up with the springboards that occur throughout the story (aim for one every 12-15 pages or so), and the new type of action or struggle that’s launched by each one. You then use this framework as a guide through your first draft.

Good for: Writers who like to think in sequences, or stories that naturally follow a Point A to Point Z geographic journey.

In short: Use springboards to break up your script into manageable sections, and kick off each one with a burst of energy.

MORE: On Writing: Why Planning Beats Seat-Of-Your-Pants Every Time 

2) Flashlight method

With this method, your pre-writing involves identifying the two or three main relationships and/or conflicts in the story, and the starting and ending points for each. Then the writing process involves working linearly from the beginning of your script, planning only the next step of each conflict or relationship before you write it. This method gets its name from a former writing teacher of mine, who described it as “seeing only what’s illuminated by your flashlight.”

Good for: Stories involving ensembles or multiple storylines, or writers who want to shake up the ol’ writing routine and try a more intuitive method.

In short: Limit overwhelm by keeping only the next development of a plot or relationship in view as you write.

3) Conflict Escalations

If your story is based on one main conflict, this method works well. To pre-write, you brainstorm all the escalations you can think of for the conflict, and organize them for a progression of intensity. While writing the draft, you’re always aiming toward the next escalation.

Good for: Any story with one central conflict, however epic or intimate.

In short: Organize a sequence of increasingly intense escalations in advance for a writing map that virtually ensures a first draft with momentum.

MORE: 5 Visual Representations Of Storytelling Structure

4) Cause and Effect

With this method, your pre-writing involves creating a cause-and-effect statement that encapsulates each quarter of script. Think along the lines of, “When this happens, then it causes this to happen, but then it causes THIS to happen!” And keep in mind that the “effect” parts of your statements can be escalations, reversals, or changes in action; you probably want to vary it up for drama’s sake. The statements are the broad strokes of each quarter of your script, but they help you focus on creating narrative drive and impactful turning points.

Good for: Writers who worry their stories are episodic.

In short: Build sections of story around cause and effect statements to easily see how plot events are linked and to banish the word “episodic” from your feedback.

5) Key scenes

And in the final method, you’ll focus your prewriting on the key scenes that make up your story. For instance: meeting the protagonist, meeting the antagonist, the protagonist’s goal becomes clear, the stakes become clear, the climactic showdown, etc. Whatever it is that makes up the basic story you want to tell. Once you’ve identified those essential key scenes that tell your story, you’ll write those scenes in any order you choose. You’ll then write the pages needed in between to connect the key scenes together.

Good for: Writers who like (or want to try) writing their stories out of chronological order.

In short: Identify story tentpoles in advance, then write them in any order that inspires you.

MORE: INFOGRAPHIC: How To Write Screenplay Outlines, Beat Sheets And Treatments

These methods are intended to help you lighten up so you can get out of prewriting, through the first draft, and onto the work of rewriting. In the end, use whatever tools you need to get you to Fade Out. It’s just the beginning, my friend.

Good luck!

BIO: @NaomiBeaty is a screenwriter and script reader in Los Angeles CA. Visit her online home for a view from the trenches and free downloadable screenwriting resources.

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So. Much. Truth.

So, I was trawling through Facebook – as you do – when I saw this pic via super-agent and veteran Bang2writer Julian Friedmann:14068041_10210409048923795_5888457822449917423_n

Why this pic is particularly relevant to writers

As any script editor, agent, producer or mentor will tell you, they see writers clinging on to:

So, it’s pretty much THE NORM for writers to find a BAD way of doing something in this biz and then sticking to it NO MATTER WHAT.

WTAF is up with that?? I’ll tell you. But first, a little background.

Stop what you’re doing

Sometimes, as a script editor, I will need to – gently – suggest to a writer s/he moves on and finds another story or draft or way of doing something because what s/he is currently doing is NOT WORKING.

It’s not something I suggest willy-nilly. Many creative endeavours are salvageable and with the right mindset, a writer can achieve whatever s/he wants. I really believe that.

However, this ideal must be tempered with realism too. Sometimes a writer is not ready to really dig deep on a work. They may not have the experience or craft level to do what needs to be done.

Plus also, sometimes their idea simply SUCKS BEYOND ALL REASON and no one will touch it with a ten foot barge pole.

In these cases, I may suggest they rethink.

Most Writers Do This, Instead

Yet when I suggest this, for every ten writers I say this to, nine will say, ‘But I spent HOURS on this!!’

That’s right- just ONE will listen and say, ‘You know what? I think you have a point. I will change direction.’

The other nine writers are mistaking their time as being WASTED on stuff that does not work. As a result, they want to keep going with something that doesn’t work instead quite literally hold themselves BACK! WTF?

In these cases, my heart sinks. Of those nine, I can make maybe three see sense – that they’re standing in their own way by clinging onto the concept,draft or strategy that is not working.

But this means six hold steadfastedly to *that thing* that is not helping them. As a result,they do not advance and this leads to heartache for them. I don’t want my writersto be upset,I want them to PROGRESS and feel satisifed with their work.

Time INVESTED vs. Time WASTED

I know it’s hard when you do something and it doesn’t work. You may have spent tens of hours on this draft; or perhaps you’ve spent the same amount of time marketing or querying and all you’ve got back is crickets.

But instead of thinking of it as WASTED TIME (and keeping going with it), think of it instead as INVESTED TIME.

You now know what DOESN’T work. This is power. So don’t make yourself powerLESS by keeping going with the wrong thing!

Learn from it.

Let it go.

Move forwards.

PROGRESS AS A WRITER.

Good luck!

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2

1) Why are we talking about this?

There has been much controversy online about Lionel Shriver’s recent speech (click for full transcript). Writers of all colours and persuasions are furious and outraged, while others are just straight up confused.

Here’s some accounts of cultural appropriation, smackdowns to that speech, as well as other responses:

2) What is culture?

It’s important to note culture is not just limited to ethnicity. It is a combination of things. Google defines it as ‘the ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society’. This seems a pretty tidy but useful definition for the purposes of this post

3) So, what is ‘cultural appropriation’?

Here’s a dictionary definition of cultural appropriation:

A term used to describe the taking over of creative or artistic forms, themes, or practices by one cultural group from another. It is in general used to describe Western appropriations of non‐Western or non‐white forms, and carries connotations of exploitation and dominance.

Check out those key words: ‘taking over’ … ‘exploitation’ … ‘dominance’.

So, conceivably, it can be many things … Such as when a British person eats chicken Tikka Masala; or when a male writer pens the script for the new Star Wars film which has a female lead; or perhaps it is a white person telling a story with a protagonist who is a person of colour. All of these are potential examples of cultural appropriation.

4) Why are people angry about cultural appropriation right now?

For some – like Shriver, presumably –  there is no such concept of cultural appropriation. They may argue my examples in the last section mean we are living in a world made up of diverse cultures. They may say their ‘appropriation’ is actually appreciation of the vibrant atmosphere of life on our planet, because for better or for worse, the human experience is universal. We can relate, we can empathise and we can understand, and thus – as writers! – we can convey.

But now, imagine this: white people wearing Native American head dresses at a party, despite the loaded history. If your first thought is, ‘That’s not on’, it’s because this is an example of cultural appropriation. Think those keywords again: taking over … exploitation … dominance. Gettit yet??

In other words, the head dress is being used by another group of people, in mockery and/or an insensitive manner.

5) What’s my take?

I believe the former part of that last statement is common sense. Mockery and insensitivity are not cool and as writers, we’re supposed to be empathic creatures, no?

For the purpose of the writing and the creative sector then, I will focus on the latter of that last statement: the use by another group of people in mockery and/or an insensitive manner.

6) When are you guilty of cultural appropriation?

  1. When you write a character of a different background/culture to yours and use them as a mere plot device.
  2. When you mock that other culture (*just because* or through ignorance).
  3. When you write poorly.

The above stops us connecting with the story. Which, let’s face it, is the whole point of storytelling. LE DUH!

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7) ‘BUT …What about my freedom of speech?!’

Here’s the thing with being a responsible grown up. You have the freedom to use a knife in your kitchen for cooking. The context, the intention and the function are all made clear.

But if you stab somebody with that knife … you did a bad thing. Understand?

8) What is the responsibility of the artiste?

As writers, we DO have a responsibility, of course we do. It is up to each of us to convey our stories in the best, most authentic and just way possible.

That’s IT.

So, if your writing is strong, you will rarely have to defend why you wrote a character a certain way.

Look at JJ Abrams, this guy was writing strong females from the late 90s to now. His shows Fringe, Lost, etc always had well-developed and strongly-written ethnic minority characters too.

Instead of being offended, people connected. They related to these characters … And this is the key. And how can you do that? You and your characters (mostly) have one thing in common! You’re both human beings and you can empathise.

9) Isn’t cultural appropriation a double-edged sword?

Yes, it is. If we view it from the opposite end of the spectrum and argue it’s important to write within the confines of your physical identity and societal branding, then we would only know what we already know, and we would never be enlightened or curious.

The collective human experience would suddenly become a pigeon-holed selective experience reliant on building walls instead of bridges.

10) Are we REALLY limited?

This is usually where writers get their knickers in knots and say they’re being STOPPED from writing stuff. But are they, really? Writing is democratic, no one can stop you writing … Getting it published or produced? Now that’s a different thing.

But okay … Should men be limited to ONLY writing about men? If a man writes about a woman is it automatically sexist? Is he guilty of cultural appropriation for conveying a gender who have a set of norms and beliefs that differ from his own?

Yet the likes of Nicholas J Sparks have a massive female readership because thousands of women connect with his portrayal of women. His characters are authentic, whether you personally like them or not; hundreds of thousands of readers and fans say otherwise. His stories have touched – even changed – their lives.

11) What is the purpose of all this?

Stories are bridge builders. The purpose of storytelling is to connect. It is to cause an understanding and for a connection to be built between the piece itself and the viewer/reader. The reader finds meaning in the story according to his/her experiences and it’s only right and proper a writer honours that. But how?

12) What do I need to do?

Do your research! A good writer loses themselves in their characters entirely. They think about the world, the emotions and the issues their character will face on a daily basis. They do proper research and understand the characters and their world properly.

This would naturally lead to a much more authentic portrayal of that character, removing the notion of cultural appropriation, not to mention mockery and ignorance from the story.

13) When does it go too far?

Where is the line between entertaining and offending? Comedy is the classic example here … Writers may walk the line of what is offensive, but equally we may laugh because of that.

There is the notion of ‘punching down’ and ‘punching up’ in comedy: ie. If a black man jokes about race, he is ‘punching up’ at our heirarchal society that is loaded against him. An example of ‘punching down’ would be a white man making the same jokes, pretending he has to deal with the same issues as his black colleague.

But beyond the notions of ‘punching up’ and ‘punching down’ – not to mention exactly what constitutes this! – we’d ALL be hard-pressed to nail down how far is TOO far.

Because surprise folks, it’s all subjective!

MORE: 8 Mistakes That Will Kill Your Comedy Screenplay DEAD

Concluding:

So maybe you’re nodding in agreement, or perhaps you’re even more confused. But GREAT NEWS! All you have to do is (hopefully) what you’ve already been doing, which is:

  1. Letting go of the naysayers and the fingerpointers
  2. Write the BEST story you can
  3. Using AUTHENTIC characters
  4. Doing your research
  5. By being inclusive and intentional

Easy, huh? Lol … See you on the other side!

BIO: Hina Malik is a super-awesome writer who’s currently writing her first novel. Catch her on Twitter as @dodgyjammer but BEWARE: she’s got plenty of animated .gifs and she’s not afraid to use them.

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Every storyteller eventually comes to a point in their life when they feel like they have nothing more to give. They feel completely drained and totally devoid of new and fresh ideas.

It happens to award-winning authors, journalists, comic book writers, and even screenwriters – and we all know what passes for a good script for movie or TV these days!

It’s not uncommon to feel this way – some of the greatest writers struggled throughout their career to put something meaningful on paper. Ernest Hemingway, Maya Angelou, Neil Gaiman, Pedro Almodovar, and others – they all had days when they stared at a merciless blank page and felt empty.

In an effort to help you fight that and find a great idea that you can mold into a piece of epic writing, we’ve gathered advice from the world’s leading and award-winning screenwriters. Learn what they do when they need to come up with a brilliant idea!

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1) If you want to be a writer, write!

… And if you want to be a writer that regularly comes up with great ideas? Write even more! Write when you have something to say; write when you don’t – write even when you have a million other things you would rather be doing.

Brian Koppelman says that inspiration is great but if you don’t write every day how will the muse know where to find you? Take his advice to heart and practice your craft every day – write often and your brain will subconsciously work on new ideas all the time.

2) Sit down and finish the damn thing

Sarah Silverman notes that the biggest mistake most writers make is writing something half-way and then trying to make it better, polish it all up – and that is where they get stuck.

Her advice is: sit down, write, and see things all the way through to the end. You don’t have to write constantly – stop while you’re still on a roll, before you get stuck.

When you sit down to write tomorrow, pick up where you left off, and don’t edit what you’ve written so far. No matter how awful the writing is, at least you’ll get some closure and advance your idea to the end.

3) Learn to let go of your favourite idea

Joss Whedon’s advice for when you get stuck is – get rid of your favorite piece of writing. You know, that scene you’re just so proud of that you’re trying to piece together everything else around it. Just scrap it. Most of the time it’s that one scene; that one chapter that isn’t really working and is holding you back. Get rid of it – if it makes its way back somehow further down the road, great! If not, it didn’t belong there in the first place.

4) Don’t borrow – blatantly steal great ideas

When you think about it, pretty much everything is already said and done. Tarantino tells us not to be afraid to blatantly steal good ideas wherever we see them – whether or not they were stolen depends entirely on what you do with them. Cherry-picking great ideas and making them better than they were is how you create new and riveting works of art – and it mostly makes for a compelling read. If everyone was hung up on originality, literature would end with Shakespeare.

5) Nurture those little nuggets of brilliance

Writers often have a flash of a story – a character, a setting, or a specific situation. Then they start mulling it over, trying to piece things together so that it has a beginning and an end. Almodovar argues against that. According to him, a hint of an idea has to be nurtured straight away before it’s gone or destroyed by overthinking. When you have an outline of an idea sit down and write it. Keep the story short and simply flesh it out; after that, go back in past and write the beginning and try to tie all the loose ends at the finale. Ten pages is usually enough to see if the story has any potential.

6) Keep watching good movies and reading good books

Koppelman believes that writers need to build a repository of great ideas and the only way to do that is to immerse themselves in good writing. Never stop watching good movies; they will serve as an inspiration in the future and you will probably find great bits and pieces in them that you can pinch and rework, making them even better.

7) When all else fails, have fun!

Possibly the best piece of advice comes from Paul Thomas Anderson. For him, it’s all about fun. When you are out of inspiration gather a crew of like-minded people, pick up a camera, and go out and have fun. Shoot whatever you want, wherever you want. Think of crazy plots and crazy situations on the fly and film them. This serves as a great re-energizer and can potentially lead to a great, groundbreaking idea in and of itself.

Keeping you on track …

  • Write down each single thought that comes to your mind, transforming your notebook into a treasure chest full of fresh ideas.
  • Pull yourself together! Don’t become a giant ball of wuss – bring at least one idea to the end today, not tomorrow.
  • Tear your notebook, get rid of what you thought was great and start with another point.
  • Steal the idea and raise it – succeed where others have so clearly failed.
  • Don’t miss your idea – a feather in the hand is better than a bird in the air.
  • Read books, watch movies or follow Charles Bukowski after all.
  • Just have some fun turning all your crazy ideas into reality.

BIO: Scott Ragin is a passionate writer who draws the inspiration from something that really means the most to him: his readers. Scott is a content writing expert at Aussiessay. He loves guiding other people through their content writing practice and shares his ideas as a blogger. Feel free to contact him at Facebook.

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Hey guys, I don’t know about you but I’m kinda worried about Ocean’s Ocho, despite the spectacular line up of stars appearing in it. I’m just not sure an all-female heist movie can work! Here’s why …

Confirmed & rumoured cast in OCEAN'S OCHO

Confirmed & rumoured cast in OCEAN’S OCHO

1) Everyone knows women are solitary creatures

If you’ve ever been privileged to see a female in the wild, you’ll know they just don’t tend to band together in single-sex groups like men do.

I mean, C’MON: when was the last time you saw a group of women working or eating together; going on outings; fundraising; staging events; having meetings; building stuff metaphorical and literal??

This is a man’s world and women know their place within it, after all … Which leads me to my next point.

2) Women are above *that sort of thing*

There’s a wide variety world-wide of all types of people of course, but overall there is a reason women tend to NOT be:

  • Serial killers
  • Criminals
  • Sports people
  • Thrill junkies
  • Ghostbusters

And that’s because women just are above that sort of thing. We have an in-built sense not only of self preservation, but the LETTER OF THE LAW. It’s set through our bones like a stick of rock.

You know this makes sense.

3) Women are only interested in men

Look, this is just basic science. When you have a vagina, you know everything about about BEING female. (Plus as everyone knows, WOMEN TALK  so if we miss anything, we can soon tell one another and fill in the blanks).

With this in mind then, it makes sense that women generally are interested in men – because men just aren’t like us. They’re almost like aliens, really if you think about it.

So it stands to reason that women would FAR rather watch all-male casts than all-female casts.

4)  There’s just no money in it!

Even though female leads have made money at the box office in a variety of guises steadily since 2010, there’s just no way of knowing whether all-female casts will do the same. In fact, an all-female Ghostbusters sequel is in doubt because the first movie under-performed at the box office.

This is blatantly because the cast was all female, rather than a sustained racist and misogynist campaign by internet trolls who everyone knows we should all let speak FOR us.

So on the basis of this one movie not doing as well as hoped – and before VoD, DVD and other ancilliary markets are factored in to return – we should probably just take a lesson from those trolls in their mothers’ basements and say ‘Thanks but no thanks’. 

5) We need a REASON it’s all female characters!

What’s really puzzling many people about the all-female reboots of franchises like Ocean’s Eleven is the fact we need a REASON there should be all women taking on this narrative, in this case a heist.

After all, as we’ve already established, women are naturally law-abiding citizens who don’t enjoy thrills and spills, PLUS they’re naturally solitary. So WTAF?

Also, a bigger issue: the original Ocean trilogy spent AGES painstakingly describing WHY THE HEIST COULD ONLY BE CONDUCTED BY MEN.

So now Hollywood has confused everyone and we’re all very sad.

Yes, Yes Kirsten Wiig I AM kidding you

Look, people. No one says you have to LIKE reboots but think very carefully about WHY you won’t be watching one with an all-female cast. We live in a screwed up world and it’s a LOT easier to fall for heirarchal BS than you think, even if you identify as feminist! TRUE STORY.

Oh, and if you’re saying, ‘Yeah but I want ORIGINAL STORIES with all-female casts!” Great, so do I. But how are these original stories going to magically appear in a risk-averse environment like Hollywood if we don’t give £££$$$ to tried-and-tested properties FIRST?

It’s about the money. It’s ALWAYS about the money. This can either be depressing or liberating. I know which one I’m going with … So, Ocean’s Ocho, bring it on.

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I LOVE this from Kirk and Deron at the Hollywood Inclusive podcast … These guys really know what they’re talking about!

Unlike many sites (coughTWITTERcough) which have become an extended whinefest every time the word ‘diversity’ comes up, Kirk and Deron offer REALISTIC and yet powerful solutions to this issue that we writers can put into practice at page level.

So, make sure you give it a read and pass this on to your writery friends – but also accept there’s a limit to what writers can do, too. We have to tell the best stories we can with what’s available and as long as we put the thought in, we’ve done our bit. What else is there? Oh yeah: listen to Hollywood Inclusive!

Diversity

1) Be intentional

When you introduce a character in a screenplay, you include the character’s name, the character’s age range, and a visual description of the character’s activity and appearance. Part of a person’s appearance is their race, so feel free to assign it, if it’s necessary for your story.

Look at your overall list of characters and–especially with main characters and primary supporting characters–actively decide the racial make-up of your story’s participants. Maybe the types you call out get overlooked … but maybe they don’t. Explicit inclusion in the script phase will increase the odds that the finished project on the screen is inclusive as well.

Corollary: It’s also appropriate to say “Any Ethnicity” for some of the folks on your character list, and that very term will guide your production team to keep an open mind. Use your explicit race (and even gender) call-outs when it most matters. But if a character’s identity isn’t informing your story, leave it open. MORE: Stop Saying “Diversity”. Start Writing VARIETY! 

2) What’s in a name? A lot!

If the tip above is about explicitly assigning a background, this is about doing it implicitly. Deron re-evaluates a character list if the first names all came out Anglo-sounding. Kirk doesn’t write a line of dialogue for a primary character unless he has assigned that character a surname. MORE: 7 Ways To Name Your Characters 

3) Include yourself. Then include “other”

Perhaps it’s easiest for you to write a main character of your same gender and race. That’s fine. Write what you know. (And, of course, this is one of the obvious reasons we need many types of people in the pool of working writers.)

But after that, build your set of characters to offer people who specifically do not look or think like you. Diversity of thought is one of the main favours you can do yourself to help yourself generate conflict within your story. MORE: 4 Tips To Write An Unusual Character 

4) Create worlds where diversity is POSSIBLE

And that should be most worlds. Reflect reality. Or, if you’re inventing a reality out of whole cloth, then invent a world that includes many types. MORE: INFOGRAPHIC: Hollywood Diversity by The Numbers

B2W_WOC_GREEN

5) Watch the pronouns

You’re going to decide the gender of your main characters. But do you need to your day players to have an assigned (or assumed) gender?

Instead of saying “The doctor looks at his watch,” you can say “The doctor glances at the time.” It’s a minor point, but the second one doesn’t make a gender assumption. MORE: Gender Inequality In Film: 5 Key Findings

6) Research is your friend. Your friend is research!

TV shows have consultants for a reason. Books and web articles exist in which an author shares the experience of their identity. You can’t be expected to know everything about other cultures. You can’t be expected to know everything about the experiences of members of other ethnicities, genders, or religions. (Or, for that matter, upbringings, occupations, socio-economic backgrounds, geographical locations, etc.) So ask!

If you are respectful and sensitive, there are very few people who won’t happily talk about themselves. Don’t directly lift someone’s story, of course, without getting a lawyer and discussing life rights. But let the story you’re already telling be guided by the insights of people who experience the world the way your characters do. MORE: 6 Reasons Writers May Need To Sacrifice Facts For Drama

7) When possible, remain involved

On some projects, you’ll get a paycheck and be sent away to pray that what ends up on the screen at least resembles what you had in your head.

But other times, you might be able to continue giving input. Production teams on low-budget projects might be desperate for input or help. Offer to write the call sheet; most casting directors would welcome the insight (or at least the fact that it’s one less thing they have to do.) Volunteer to sit in on auditions. If a great actor plays against type, help the production team see how it might work well for the story.

Hopefully you’re getting paid for rewrites. Even if you’re not, it might be worth it for you to do one more draft. A brilliant performer can make your work shine, so it’s likely worth it. MORE:  3 Issues With Casting That Great Character In The Produced Version Of Your Screenplay 

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BIO: KirkWrites79 and @digitalderon co-host the podcast Hollywood Inclusive at GoodTalkNetwork.com. Each week they speak with industry guests about the latest events and trends in media and entertainment. They collaborated on the creation of this article LIVE on their show! LISTEN HERE.

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So, MAD MAX FURY ROAD producer Iain Smith gave us all a shot in the arm about film production yesterday … But it’s all well and good SAYING we need to be brave and bold, HOW do we do it???

So, many thanks to @MarkMacNicol, a Bang2writer and LSF Talent Camper from last year’s intake who’s decided time waits for no (wo)man and istaking the bull by the horns … He WILL get his films made, using SEIS and film tax credits, thus taking on the role of producer!! OUTSTANDING!!

Mark breaks down this complicated-sounding venture into just seven or eight bitesize chunks for us. The road to funding is not an easy one, but it CAN be done — so if you want to be a writer-producer like Mark, what are you waiting for??

Remember, if this article is helpful to you, return the favour to Mark by sharing it and help him get the word out about his projects. Ta!

SEIS-Image

I first heard about SEIS (Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme) from Chris Jones. Chris was a big help, as not only did I hear about the scheme from him but he gave me pointers on how to set it up.

I had two scripts with producers who were looking for investment. I knew I might get a call from them any day or that the call might never come.

So, I saw SEIS as an opportunity for me to take control. On at least one project I wanted to be the person making the calls not waiting for them.

Basically SEIS is a UK Government scheme designed to give flagging industry sectors (like film) a boost. Investors receive a 50% refund regardless of the film making a profit or not. I’ve increased the refund to 70% by adding the 20% from the film tax fund.

I want to try and help any of you brave enough to put your balls on the table. So I’ll focus less here on SEIS and more on what I’ve done to date (so you can consider doing the same). There’s plenty material online about SEIS and what it is or isn’t etc.

The following is pretty much the order I did things in and where I’m at right now (sign up for email updates on my website or follow my twitter @markmacnicol for news). Or any specific questions fire me an email mail@markmacnicol.com.

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Steps Taken:

1) INTRO VIDEO: Posted on www.markmacnicol.com This is designed purely to reach potential investors and generate preliminary interest. In the absence of a rich benefactor I knew I would be dependent on generating traffic to this video. I learnt from my crowd funding experience how crucial a decent intro video is and that people are much more likely to watch video content than read text.

2) OUTLINE PROPOSAL: I created a detailed document for potential investors. Split between business side (explaining how they get the 70% refund) and creative (what film is about/inspired by).

3) LTD COMPANY: Easy enough to set up online. I did it before accountant was in place. Next time I’ll get him to do it though as his fee for this service is minimal.

4) SHARES: I offered 150,000 shares to investors at £1 per share (minimum 1000 shares, meaning a £1K stake). Currently 50,000 shares have been purchased so we’re a third of way (SEIS maximum investment is £150,000).

Total shares in the Ltd company are 300,000 so investors have 50% of the equity. I’ll split the remaining 150,000 shares between me and (to make it a more attractive job/proposition) to selected cast/crew also.

5) BUSINESS BANK ACCOUNT: I used RBS. Straightforward process but LTD company has to be in place first.

6) HMRC APPLICATION: Applied for something called ‘advanced clearance’ from HMRC. The initial application was straightforward and HMRC were helpful. Took a while to get confirmation back though (2-3 months) but we got there eventually.

7) ACCOUNTANT: This was time consuming as I spoke with three who were prohibitively expensive. Eventually I found one who came on board for a reasonable fee. It was on the understanding they didn’t have SEIS experience but would do the necessary research to get up to speed. Fortunately for you they now have that experience so if you want their contact details let me know.

8) NOTECROWD FUNDING: I’ve been asked if I’ll crowd fund. I have a background in crowd funding after all (mainly Theatre productions) and I’ve 100% funded four campaigns to date. Provided we hit the £150,000 target (using SEIS as an incentive) then it’s feasible I wouldn’t have to crowd fund.

Though I probably will launch a campaign at some point. Not because the project will need the money (though of course when it comes to producing films there will always be unforeseen expenses). It’s more to do with me wanting to give people who don’t have £1000 to invest (even if they will get 70% back) the opportunity to get involved. In particular those who have supported my previous campaigns.

So that’s where I’m at!

Without wishing to get all mushy on you I consider myself part of ‘the tribe’ so don’t be shy about reaching out for help. I see it as my responsibility to ‘pass it on’ as I wouldn’t have managed to get to this point without the help of fellow tribe members like Chris Jones.

Please share the link to site/video on your social media platforms and help me spread the word – thanks!

BIO: Mark MacNicol graduated with a Masters degree in screenwriting from Glasgow’s Caledonian University and has written two novels and directed, produced and written multiple stage plays. For more info on Mark, click HERE. Follow him on Twitter – @markmacnicol. Remember to watch and share my Intro Video – www.markmacnicol.com. Cheers!

More on B2W about £££/$$$:

The Writer Is King (Or Queen) … IF You’re In Ultra-Low-Budget Film

Writing The Low Budget Screenplay, Pt 1

Writing The Low Budget Screenplay: Part 2

How To Write Your Script To A Microbudget And Not Make It Look Microbudget On Screen

3 Reasons To Write A Low Budget Marketable Screenplay

6 Things Low Budget Filmmakers Must Do

6 Ways To Make Your Screenplay More Likely To Get Made 

6 Ways To Make The Most Of Low Budget Visual Effects

6 Tips To Write Science Fiction On A Budget

10 Ways To Scupper That Microbudget Film

10 Lessons Of Making A Microbudget Movie 

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