Gerald Hanks Filmography

Monday, February 27, 2017

What Do Moonlight's Oscar Wins Mean For Aspiring Screenwriters?

FULL DISCLOSURE: I have not yet seen Moonlight. The only Best Picture nominees I saw were Lion and La La Land, two wonderful films, but I will try to see Moonlight at the earliest opportunity and post a VOTE breakdown when I get the chance.

Putting aside the blunder during the Best Picture award presentation, the multiple Oscar wins (including for Best Adapted Screenplay) for Moonlight carries some serious meanings for aspiring screenwriters.

The success of this film during awards season shows how so many rookie writers ask themselves the wrong questions. In too many cases, writers new to the craft ask themselves, “Is this hot in the marketplace?” or “Will this sell to a big studio?” or “Will this get me an agent?”

As a screenwriter, the questions you ask yourself as you write your story should revolve more around the story and less around the marketing hype that propels the Hollywood machine. In fact, every part of this script and its process sets itself up in direct opposition to the “conventional wisdom” of the marketplace.

  • The script tracks Chiron through three periods of his life (early teens, mid-teens, early twenties), rather than limiting the scope to a few days or weeks.
  • The main character is a “double minority” (African-American and homosexual), not exactly a “hot seller” in the traditional sense.
  • The script is based on an unknown, unpublished, unproduced play written by a drama student, with no “pre-sold” audience who would be familiar with the material and rush out to buy tickets.
  • Co-writer/director Barry Jenkins had only one other feature-length screenplay credit, 2008's Medicine for Melancholy.
  • Jenkins and co-writer/playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney were based in Miami, more than two thousand miles away from the Hollywood establishment.

So how does this little film, with a largely unknown cast and a budget of under $2 million, beat out the betting favorite (La La Land), the redemption story (Hacksaw Ridge), the big-budget sci-fi epic (Arrival) and the gritty modern western (Hell or High Water)?

In the immortal words of Alfred Hitchcock (who never won an Oscar in his long and illustrious career), “To make a great film, you need three things: the script, the script, and the script.”

Tell your story. Tell it as well as you possibly can. Don't let trends or money or “the market” tell you what you should write. The only one who can tell your story is you, so you'd better get to it.

If you need help in telling your story, Story Into Screenplay is here for you. We offer coverage reports, script doctoring services, and one-on-one script consultations. To find out more, drop us a line at storyintoscreenplayblog[at]gmail[dot]com, or send a message through our Facebook page.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Screenwriting With the VOTE Method: Super Bowl LI Commercials

For those of you who don't know, Story Into Screenplay based out of Houston, Texas.

For those of you who don't follow pro football, or life in general, Houston hosted Super Bowl LI, along with a number of events that catered to prominent members of the entertainment industry in conjunction with the game itself.

While some writers may view such events as opportunities to network with celebrities, pitch script ideas, and get some "face time" with industry bigwigs in a festive atmosphere, I avoided the Hollywood hype train as it rolled into town.

Like most Houstonians, I treated the Super Bowl like the occasional hurricane that blows through town, forces residents to hunker down, and leaves tons of garbage lying around in its wake, which explains why this post comes a week after the Big Game.

However, like millions of other viewers, I watched the commercials that accompanied the broadcast with an increased level of scrutiny.

Some aspiring screenwriters make the mistake of looking down on commercials as “beneath them” on a creative level.

As a veteran writer of several short films on very short deadlines, I can tell you that it often takes more skill to tell a coherent story that covers a minute or less than it does for one that takes over two hours.

Here are some examples of how the VOTE method can be applied to characters in the most viewed commercials of the year:

Melissa McCarthy for the Kia Niro hybrid SUV:
V: Melissa wants to take part in environmental protection causes.
O: She has to deal with angry whalers, lumberjacks, and fragile ice caps.
T: She drives her “Eco-Hybrid” SUV from location to location.
E: She needs to feel like her actions are making a difference.

John Malkovich for SquareSpace
V: John wants to get the domain name for his website.
O: Another user, also named “John Malkovich”, has his domain name.
T: He writes emails, makes phone calls, and badgers the domain name holder.
E: He needs to recover the domain name, as it represents a part of his core (online) identity.

Budweiser 2017 Super Bowl Commercial: “Born The Hard Way”
V: Adolphus Busch wants to create a German-style lager beer in America.
O: He faces dangers in his travels and prejudice from Americans opposed to immigration.
T: He travels by any means possible to get to St. Louis, a frontier town where he can make his own way.
E: He needs to achieve his dream in America, since he was denied his chance in his native Germany.

Audi 2017 Super Bowl Commercial: “Daughter”
V: The girl wants to win the soapbox derby race.
O: She faces treacherous road conditions and aggressive driving from the boys in the race.
T: She uses her driving tactics and her own aggression against the boys.
E: She needs to show the boys that she's just as good at soapbox derby racing as they are.

While you can think what you want about any socio-political statements these ads make, you should look at these ads as a writer and examine how they create memorable messages through strong characterization. After all, isn't that what we all want to accomplish as screenwriters?

If you need help with your screenplay, whether it's a 30-second commercial or an epic feature film, contact Story Into Screenplay at storyintoscreenplayblog[at]gmail[dot]com, or through our Facebook page.