Gerald Hanks Filmography

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Dear "Producers": Pay Your "Fare" Share

A cab driver picks up a man in a suit.
The man gives the driver the address of a large downtown office building.
The cab driver asks his passenger if he has business downtown.
The passenger tells him that he's going in for a big job interview.
When they arrive, the cab driver asks for his fare.
The passenger says that he doesn't have the money to pay the cab driver now, but he promises the driver a share of his salary if he lands the job.
If you're the cab driver, what do you do?

Would you hire a cab driver if you didn't have the money to pay the fare?
Then why would you ask a screenwriter to create your script on nothing but empty promises?
Think about it.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Straight A's: 5 Ways How Strong Characters Can Launch Your Screenwriting Career

If you've read through some of the previous entries here, you'll know that I'm a big believer in the idea that strong characters form the basis for a high-quality script. Regardless of your genre, plot, theme, or setting, the measure of your ability as a screenwriter comes from how well you can create memorable characters. When you create a script that has powerful characters who overcome tremendous obstacles while pursuing meaningful goals, you'll earn a lot more than straight “A”s in your next screenwriting class.

One important way for you to get attention for your script is to win awards from screenwriting contests. Industry professionals are always looking for the best available scripts, and screenplay contests are valuable resources for agents, producers and directors who are looking for top-notch writers. Your ability to develop multi-dimensional characters can mean the difference between a script the contest judges can't stop reading and one they can't stop reading fast enough.

Contrary to the popular belief among many new screenwriters, an agent's job is less about nurturing you as an artist and more about selling your talents as a product. A major reason that new screenwriters don't land an agent is that an agent needs a quality product to show off the writer's skills. When you create characters that compel readers to turn the page to see what happens to them next, you've made a product that agents will find irresistible and will give their utmost efforts to sell to producers.

Angel Investors
An “angel investor” provides the start-up capital for a new business in exchange for a portion of the equity. These investors often look for high-risk, high-reward opportunities. While the practice of angel investment started with Broadway plays nearly a century ago, independent films have also attracted their share of angel investors. A script with strong characters can attract angel investors, as many of these investors will often see the characters as reflections of their own adventurous personalities.

Actors are constantly seeking out that star-making role, whether they're new to Hollywood, on the comeback trail, or looking to break the chains of typecasting. Why did Matthew McConaughey, star of such rom-com bombs as Failure to Launch, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, and The Wedding Planner, accept a “minuscule” paycheck of $200,000 for the lead role in Dallas Buyers Club? In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he said that he “got (his) self-satisfaction” from the role. If your characters can give A-list actors the “self-satisfaction” they're looking for in a role, your success is all but assured.

If you ask an audience what a movie is about, you probably won't get answers like, “love conquers all” or “war is hell” or “conformity is a prison.” You're more likely to get answers like, “it's about a washed-up boxer who gets a shot at the title” or “it's about a girl who fights her oppressive government with a bow and arrow” or “it's about a woman who fights back against her abusive husband.” Audiences don't pay to see messages or themes or platitudes. They pay to see characters. Make them want to pay to see yours.

If you want to write a script that will earn you these “A”s, contact us at StoryIntoScreenplayBlog [at] gmail [dot] com. We can work with you in building your characters, developing your story ideas, and fleshing out your concepts through in-person and online consultations tailored to your needs. Check us out on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and check out our YouTube channel.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Why Do We Write Screenplays?

If you're reading this, you must have an interest in screenwriting. You could be an aspiring writer who's never written a script, or an experienced writer with several films under your belt. You could be a director looking for a writer to develop your ideas, or you're a producer who's looking for a writer to create a product you can sell to investors. You might be an actor looking for insights into how scripts are created, or just a film fan who wants a deeper understanding of the screenwriting process.

In any case, you may have contemplated the question of “why do writers write screenplays?” Out of all the possible creative endeavors, why do writers choose to sit in front a screen, open up our word processing software, and bash our heads into the keyboards until our brains spill out? Why do screenwriters choose to isolate ourselves from friends, family and fun, only to write out words that very few people will ever read? The reasons for such self-inflicted torture can be as varied as the scripts sitting on the shelves of the hundreds of Hollywood production offices, but most of them boil down to a select few.

“I want to be rich and/or famous!”
If you chose to get into screenwriting to be seen on red carpets, trade jokes with Jimmy Fallon, and get the VIP treatment at the hottest clubs, you're barking up the wrong tree. Unlike the world of live theatre, in which the playwright is royalty, the film industry ranks screenwriters below directors, producers, actors, crew members, craft service workers and janitors. Also, for those of you who think your “million-dollar idea” for a script will be your ticket to a Beverly Hills address, go back to the first entry of this blog to quickly disabuse yourself of that notion.

“I want to tell the world that ...”
On the opposite end of the spectrum from the “fame-seeking” writer is the “message” writer. If the intentions behind your script are to deliver a message that will change the world, take the advice of the late, great producer Samuel L. Goldwyn: “If you want to send a message, call Western Union.” Save your deep philosophical musings on the nature of life, love and loss for your fanfic novel or, better yet, a bumper sticker. At least no one has to sit through reading a long, boring, self-indulgent bumper sticker.

“I want to tell a story no one has heard before.”
I got three words for you: No. Such. Thing. In his book The Seven Basic Plots, Christopher Booker holds that there are as few as seven unique stories in all of literature. In Save The Cat, Blake Snyder narrows it down to ten, including “Monster In The House” and “Dude With A Problem”. Since you can't tell a unique story, you have to know how to tell an old story in a unique way. That's why you'll often need a script consultant to help you shape your concept into a story that has blends the familiar elements with your unique voice.

“I want to provoke an emotional response from the audience.”
If you're writing a comedy, you envision the audience howling with laughter. If your script is an action-packed shoot-em-up, you dream of the audience cheering the Hero when he vanquishes the Big Bad. If horror is your genre, you want to see the ticket-buyers scream, jump, and cover their eyes at the frightening images your writing has conjured before their eyes.

BINGO! Now you're getting somewhere! The reason we write for the screen is to sit in the back of the darkened theater, watch the audience, and know we're taking them on a ride through our sick and twisted imaginations. Novelists get more praise as “writers”, but they don't get the immediate feedback from the reader. Directors get awards for bringing the images to life, but those images had to come from our fevered minds. Actors get the red carpet treatment for their performances, but they'd still be waiting tables without our scripts.

So, dear fellow screenwriter, the next time you sit down at your favorite writing spot and ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?”, remember that audience. They're waiting for your script to make them laugh, cry, cheer, boo, and take them on an emotional ride.

If you want to create a script that tug at the emotions of producers, directors, and agents, get in touch with us at StoryIntoScreenplayBlog [at] gmail [dot] com. We work with new and experienced screenwriters in developing their characters, story ideas, and concepts through in-person and online consultations tailored to your needs. Check out out us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and check out our YouTube channel.