Gerald Hanks Filmography

Monday, October 3, 2022

Screenwriting Advice: When September Ends

"Well, nobody cares, well, nobody cares.

Does anyone care if nobody cares?" - Green Day, "Homecoming" (2004)

So you've written a screenplay. 

It could be a deeply personal story about a tragic experience that shaped your outlook on life from that moment until now.

It could be a story that you've worked on for years, sweated over every page, bled over every word, until you thought it was perfect.

It could be a story that allowed you to bare your soul on the page and let out all the negative emotions you've kept inside your entire adult life.

It could be a story that delivers a vital message about the injustices in the world and how you, as a brave writer, have crafted these characters who stand up and speak truth to power.

For all of you courageous souls who have poured your heart, mind, body, and soul into your screenplays, I have two words for you.

Nobody. Cares.

Not your family. Not your friends. Not your writers' group. Not your writing teacher. Not your favorite movie star, for whom you specifically wrote the lead role. 

Certainly not anyone who has to read your deeply heartfelt story as part of their job. 

Not that production company intern. They're too worried about getting their own scripts on their boss's desk.

Not that contest judge. They're too busy slogging through hundreds of bad scripts as they try to find the one gem that makes their job worthwhile.

Not even that professional script consultant you admire. (HINT HINT) Sure, they care about making you a better writer. They care about helping you understand the process. But they don't care about YOUR story the way that YOU do.

The bad news is: Nobody cares.

The good news is: Nobody cares…until you MAKE them care.

How do you MAKE them care?

I'm glad you asked.

"Eddie Felson : You're some piece of work... You're also a natural character.

"Vincent Lauria : [to Carmen]  You see? I been tellin' her that. I got natural character.

"Eddie Felson : That's not what I said, kid. I said you *are* a natural character; you're an incredible flake." - "The Color of Money" (1986)

You MAKE them care about your story by MAKING them care about your characters.

If they don't care about your characters, all the beautiful writing, all the cathartic experiences, and all the sermonizing about the world's ills won't make them care about your story.

If you can get them to care about a walking tree that says its name over and over again, then you can get them to care about anything.

If you can get them to fall in love with a green-skinned, pointy-eared, black-eyed baby that doesn't even speak, then you can get them to follow you anywhere.

If you can get them to empathize with toys, cars, robots, ghosts, and insects, then you can play with their heartstrings like Jimi Hendrix on a Stratocaster.

The biggest mistake that writers make with their characters isn't that they don't deliver stirring speeches or wring a tear from a glass eye.

Your characters can be humans, aliens, animals, or machines. They can even be (literal) sock puppets.

What they can't be is (literary) sock puppets.

You can't write them as stand-ins for your family, your beliefs, or your traumas.

You have to write your characters like roles that actors want to play. 

You have to write your characters that viewers want to watch succeed or root for to fail.

You have to write characters that have unique goals and universal needs.

"You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you." - Carly Simon, "You're So Vain" (1972)

As much as I hate to break this to you, your screenplay shouldn't be about you.

It can reflect your experiences, but the reader doesn't need to see those experiences in excruciating detail.

It can convey your beliefs, but the script is not your sermon, nor is the reader your congregation.

It can serve as therapy, but the reader is not your therapist.

Your screenplay isn't ABOUT you because it isn't FOR you.

It's for the intern who has to decide if their boss should give it a look.

It's for the contest judge who has to determine if it could win a cash prize.

It's for the producers who have to find investors willing to put in millions of dollars to get it made.

It's for that struggling actor looking for a breakout role to launch their career.

It's for the crew members who get up early and put in long hours on the set every day during production.

It's for the post-production team who struggles to turn raw footage into spun gold.

Your job is to get all of these people to care about your characters enough to risk their jobs to turn your written blueprint into a finished product.

Most of all, it's for the viewer who wants to go on an emotional ride for an hour or two.

Until then…nobody cares.

"Won't you please, please help me?" - The Beatles, "Help!" (1965)

If you want to learn how to make these people care about your script, Story Into Screenplay can help.

If you have a script and want a professional evaluation from an experienced screenplay contest judge, Story Into Screenplay can help.

If you have a script and want one-on-one sessions to get it in the best shape possible, Story Into Screenplay can help.

If you have an idea and want guidance to turn that idea into a professional-level script, Story Into Screenplay can help.

You can book a FREE* 30-minute consulting session with Story Into Screenplay by filling in the form on this page or by emailing storyintoscreenplayblog[at]gmail[dot]com. You can also send a direct message through our Facebook page.

You can also check out the Story Into Screenplay YouTube channel to see interviews with some of the top story consultants in the business.

Gerald Hanks will also be at the Austin Film Festival and Screenwriting Conference from Friday, October 28, to Sunday, October 30. Email or DM for details.

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