Gerald Hanks Filmography

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Screenwriting Advice: Protagonist vs. Main Character in “Blue Beetle”


Aside from the questions about how it connects to the overall “DC Universe” continuity, screenwriters could benefit from watching Blue Beetle and looking at the difference between a protagonist and a main character.

In most stories, the protagonist and main character are one and the same. The protagonist's choices drive the story, force the antagonist to respond, and fuel the plot's central conflict. However, some stories separate the character who takes center stage from the one who keeps the plot moving. 

In the case of Blue Beetle, Jaime Reyes takes on the mantle of the classic superhero when an alien artifact invades his mind and body. As a result, he gains the powers of flight, invincibility, and the ability to manipulate energy into tangible weapons and shields.

So, if he has all of these powers, why does he need his sister, his mother, his elderly grandmother, his paranoid uncle, his love interest, and an antiquated flying bug to rescue him from the bad guys? Even if he can't use his powers, why can't he use his own knowledge, intelligence, or skills to engineer his escape rather than relying on his inexperienced and unqualified family (except Nana) to come to his aid?

While this approach can deliver on vital themes, such as the importance of family, it also undercuts the central character's ability to work their way out of their own problems. This issue arises when the central character lacks the essential elements needed to make them a protagonist.

As the VOTE METHOD demonstrates, characters need four vital elements to make them compelling to both actors and audiences:

VICTORY: What does the character want?

OBSTACLES: What stands between the character and their Victory?

TACTICS: What does the character do to overcome the Obstacles and achieve the Victory?

EMOTION: What emotional need drives them to pursue the Victory?

In Jaime's case, the script defines his VOTE early in the story:

VICTORY: He wants a fulfilling, good-paying job.

OBSTACLES: He lacks experience, connections, and the “right” background to get a break, especially with how Victoria Kord and Kord Industries run Palmera City.

TACTICS: He approaches Jennifer, Victoria's niece, about getting a job. 

EMOTION: He needs to live up to the expectations he feels that his family has placed on him.

Once the alien scarab takes over his body and gives him these powers, he loses sight of achieving this or any other specific Victory. From that point on, while Jaime serves as the story's central character, the role of the protagonist falls on Jennifer.

Jennifer has all of the elements needed to make for a compelling protagonist:

VICTORY: She wants to keep the Scarab away from her aunt Victoria.

OBSTACLES: She lacks access to the modern technology at the Kord laboratories.

TACTICS: She employs her father's outdated technology. She also enlists the help of Jaime and his family.

EMOTION: She needs to prevent her father's legacy from becoming an instrument for Victoria's warmongering ambitions.

Jennifer's decisions move nearly all of the story's major plot points:

  • She stands up to Victoria when she meets Jaime.
  • She steals the Scarab and gives it to Jaime for safekeeping.
  • She goes back and steals the “Tedwatch”.
  • She takes Jaime and Rudy to the “Beetle Cave” to find a cure for the symbiosis between Jaime and the Scarab.
  • She leads the family in their rescue of Jaime from Victoria.

As an antagonist, Victoria also has all the elements of the VOTE:

VICTORY: She wants to regain control of the Scarab.

OBSTACLES: Jennifer, Jaime, and his family have the Scarab and can't/won't let it go.

TACTICS: She employs her private SWAT team, including her “One Man Army Corps”, Lt. Carapax.

EMOTION: She needs to prove to everyone (including herself) that her father was wrong to pass the company on to her brother before his disappearance.

While the conflict between Jennifer and Victoria drives much of the plot, the action focuses on Jaime learning how to use the Scarab and how he deals with his family. Instead of developing each of them as characters with agency through the VOTE, the script uses Jaime and his family as pawns in the battle of wills between the two women. 

The purpose behind this analysis isn't to dismiss Blue Beetle as a film or Jaime Reyes as a character. The film makes him out to be an earnest young man with a loving family and a desire to make a difference. 

These aspects make him a likable character who can connect with an audience on a surface level. However, the script leans on these aspects after his transformation rather than allowing his choices to drive the story.

So what can screenwriters learn from Blue Beetle

A script that relies on a relatable central character is a nice place to start. A script that has a proactive protagonist is the key to a truly compelling story.


You can learn more about the VOTE Method by working with an award-winning screenwriter. 

Story Into Screenplay offers one-on-one consulting sessions that can walk you through the VOTE METHOD and take your writing to a new level.

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Friday, July 28, 2023

“Barbie” and Dialogue: Say Less!


One of the most troublesome aspects that aspiring screenwriters encounter involves how they employ dialogue. The writer will often use their characters' dialogue to “tell” the viewer what's happening rather than using the character's choices and actions to “show” the story. 

This approach to dialogue often falls into one of three categories:

Exposition Dumps: The character tells another character (and the viewer) what's happening or how the story world works.

On The Nose: The character tells another character (and the viewer) exactly how they feel at that moment without subtext or intent behind their words.

Long Speeches: The character delivers what should be a rousing speech or a call to action that often goes on too long and exhausts the audience.

I encounter these problems in the scripts I'm assigned to read more frequently than I can count. I also typically downgrade scripts that I see employ these tactics. When I conduct my VOTE Method seminar, I often advise my clients to check out the opening sequence to Up to show how to convey the story of an entire relationship in an emotionally impactful way, all without delivering a single line of dialogue.

Barbie breaks every one of these rules. Does that mean that writer/director Greta Gerwig (Little Women, Lady Bird) and co-writer Noah Baumbach (Marriage Story) don't know what they're doing? How did they get away with using dialogue in ways that would get a student writer a note that reads, “See me after class”?

Here's how:

Exposition Dumps

One of the biggest examples of an “exposition dump” occurs when a story uses an off-screen narrator to inform the viewer about the status of this world.

For instance, the recent superhero film “Black Adam” included a narrator in the opening sequence to tell the viewer about this ancient world and the cruel masters who allowed a young boy to die.

In Barbie, Helen Mirren's regal inflections informed the viewers of the “before times”, when the only dolls available to young girls were baby dolls.

The difference between these two approaches stems from their tone. The narration in Black Adam took itself seriously and told the viewer nothing that they couldn't see for themselves.

The same technique in Barbie showed how serious narration could complement the over-the-top silliness of the opening sequence (a parody of 2001: A Space Odyssey) as young girls smashed their dolls and worshiped at the feet of a 30-foot-tall Barbie doll.

On The Nose

One of the aspects I teach in my VOTE Method workshop (LINK VIDEO) involves how each line of dialogue should serve a purpose for the character. 

Each line should get them closer to their Victory or deter their “opponent” from getting theirs. 

When one character tells another exactly how they feel, especially early in the story, this approach can undercut their efforts to get what they want. 

This tactic resembles a poker player showing his hand before the other players have finished betting. At that point, they've given up on the game and conceded their Victory to the “enemy”.

In Barbie, when Barbie starts to feel anything other than happy, she expresses it outright and questions where these feelings could come from.

Much like in Forrest Gump, the character's naivete allows them to get away with conveying their feelings in such an open and honest manner.

While this approach could lead to healthier relationships in real life, it also leads to the death of dramatic tension and narrative momentum in your scripts.

Long Speeches:

Speaking of narrative momentum, the “long speech” stands as one of the biggest momentum-killers in any script.

When one character delivers a speech, that character has to take on the weight of the scene while everyone else stays still and remains enraptured by the speaker's words.

These speeches typically occur at the close of Act II, when the protagonist and their crew have hit their lowest point in the story.

This speech should stir the masses into taking decisive action toward overcoming the antagonist and building a groundswell of support from the viewer.

In dramas, these speeches can become overblown, over-long, and over the top.

In comedies, a brief silence followed by a sight gag or incongruous sound undercuts the speaker's efforts and renders the speech pointless.

In Barbie, the intent behind Gloria's speech isn't about rousing the Barbies into action against the "Ken-vasion". Instead, it shows her anger with how women in both worlds can't get ahead in a "system (that) is rigged".

As her frustrations with the Barbies, the Kens, and her daughter bubble over, she lets loose with this lengthy but effective speech as she confronts these inequities.

So how did the Barbie writers do it? (TL;DR version)

Exposition Dumps: Make the exposition a tool to convey the tone more so than the information that the viewer can already see.

On The Nose: Make the character naive so that they lack the guile to employ subtext when conveying their feelings.

Long Speeches: Avoid these early in the story. Use them at the Act II/III break as a means to stir up the other characters and the viewer.

Story Into Screenplay offers professional script evaluations and one-on-one consultations that can help you take your script to the next level. 

You can schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation session by completing this scheduling form and selecting the date and time that works for you. You can also send any questions or comments to storyintoscreenplayblog(at)gmail(dot)com.

Monday, July 17, 2023

Will AI Replace Screenwriters?

As you may have seen, the historic "double strike" of the writers' and actors' unions has launched a debate about how the studios consider the use of so-called "artificial intelligence" programs to supplement, diminish, or outright replace writers and performers.

Many aspiring writers have considered the question of whether their chosen profession could go the way of the buggy-whip maker and the bowling alley pin setter and go extinct due to automation.

The answer: No. 

Hold on! We're not done!

One of the first things I teach in my VOTE Method seminar is what I call the "Fundamental Theorem of Storytelling".

"The purpose of a story is to evoke an emotional reaction from the audience."

This axiom holds for every approach to art, from painting to sculpture; music to dance; poetry to stand-up comedy.

One aspect that sets screenwriting apart involves how heavily it relies on a replicable structure upon which stories can construct their narratives.

Can a machine learn how to follow that structure, create scenes, and write dialogue and action that fits within that structure? At this stage, the answer appears to be a resounding and frightening, "Yes."

However, writers who worry about an "AI takeover" should ask themselves a better question: 

Can a machine convey the laughter, pain, joy, grief, sorrow, or any other emotion that a well-written screenplay can deliver?

That answer is an equally resounding and encouraging, "Never."

No amount of generative text could ever spark laughter in a crowded theater. No algorithm could ever make an audience stand up and cheer. No computer-generated actor could bring viewers to tears without an actual human (or team of humans) behind it.

When the studios realize that writers are more than "creators" they can intimidate and that stories mean more than "content" they can sell, then they'll truly know the value of the power they hold over this industry. 

Instead of bringing in billions and kowtowing to Wall Street, these studio heads need to see that their responsibilities extend beyond the next quarterly financial report or their annual salary review.

Writers don't build cars. Actors don't assemble widgets. We create art. We tell stories. We build culture. We craft a legacy that will outlive us all and leave an emotional impact on future generations.

To the writers and actors on strike, we stand with you and hope that you get the fair compensation that can keep you going while preserving an industry that we all aspire to join.

To the studio heads and tech companies, you have the opportunity of a lifetime to become the custodians of a new generation of creativity and passion that will last well after the money runs out and the stock price crashes.

In the meantime, this "new generation" of creative dynamos will get ready to join our union colleagues and reap the benefits that will come after these "Hard Time Blues" have passed.

Story Into Screenplay offers professional script analysis and one-on-one consultations from an award-winning screenwriter and veteran contest judge.

You can schedule a FREE 30-minute consultation by clicking here or emailing us at storyintoscreenplayblog(at)gmail(dot)com

Thursday, June 1, 2023

Prequels, Sequels, and Intellectual Properties: What's A New Writer To Do?

A recent article on the industry news site /Film examined how three original movies released over Memorial Day weekend all had disappointing box office returns. 

The road-trip comedy “The Machine”, the “Meet The Parents”-style comedy “About My Father”, the relationship dramedy “You Hurt My Feelings”, and the action-thriller “Kandahar” made a combined $13.1 million at the weekend box office. These numbers don't even come close to the big release of the weekend: the live-action remake of Disney's “The Little Mermaid”, which made over $95 million.

Even after a 66% drop-off from its first week, “Fast X” nearly doubled the box office returns of “Machine”, “Father” and “Kandahar” combined ($23 million vs. $11.7 million). After four weeks in theaters, Marvel's “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3” still brought in over $20 million. (Source: The Numbers)

When you combine these numbers with the ongoing WGA strike, the immediate future looks bleak for writers trying to break into the business. With this dismal news, you may ask, “Should I just give up on my dreams of writing for Hollywood?”

Not necessarily. This news means that aspiring writers must address vital issues with their scripts if they want to make them more attractive to producers and viewers.


If your first spec script is a wide-reaching historical saga with a cast of thousands (e.g. “Gone With The Wind”) or a galaxy-spanning epic sci-fi adventure (e.g. “Star Wars”), you may want to adjust your expectations. 

Many aspiring writers fail to keep in mind that each frame of a film costs dozens of man-hours and thousands of dollars to produce. Most writers get their “big break” by writing low-budget features. These stories often involve less than a handful of actors, limited locations, and tightly-focused stories.


Some genres have specific tropes that allow their stories to reach a wide, committed audience without the need for huge production costs.

For instance, horror, crime, and suspense films often don't require high budgets but rely on a tight narrative structure and a hardcore audience willing to absorb a new story that feeds their cravings. Also, faith-based films typically rely more on their positive messages than on extravagant production values to attract a built-in audience. 


If your story doesn't fit within these genres, you may want to consider taking a different approach. For instance, if the scope of your story doesn't fit within a minimal budget, you may want to consider expanding that story into a novel. 

Thanks to companies such as Amazon, self-publishing has never been easier. If you can gather a fan base for the novel, you can show producers that you have a built-in customer base willing to pay to see that novel go from page to screen. 

Another approach, especially for stories that rely heavily on dialogue and have static locations, could involve turning the story into a stage play. This approach worked for Aaron Sorkin when he wrote the stage play for “A Few Good Men” and later adapted it for the screen.


If you want to write stories that can attract a built-in fan base but don't want to deal with the expense and legalities involved with intellectual property rights, you could adapt a story in the public domain.

For instance, “Succession” has become a global TV phenomenon. When you strip it down to its core, the story is a modern-day retelling of “King Lear”, as the siblings battle each other for both the crown and the affections of their patriarch.

This approach can also work with low-budget horror. The 2013  horror/comedy film “Warm Bodies” featured a pair of “star cross'd lovers”. Julie, a young woman from a family of zombie killers falls in love with “R”, a young man who happens to be undead. 


Another approach that could help you focus your writing career involves considering your primary goal for writing the script in the first place.

If your goal involves selling your ambitious first spec script to a major studio for a million dollars and signing a multi-picture deal, you may want to buy a lottery ticket instead. The process of buying a lottery ticket is faster, much less painful, and has much better odds of giving you a substantial payout.

If your goal involves writing a low-budget script that gets your name out there and gets you noticed, you could use this project as a launching pad for your more expansive stories.

If your goal involves using your scripts as portfolio pieces to show your skills at characterization, story structure, or dialogue, these efforts could help you land an agent or manager who can steer you toward those high-profile (and high-profit) projects. 


One way in which projects can pull viewers' eyeballs away from the overwhelming amount of established properties stems from the use of old-fashioned “star power”. Many viewers, especially those interested in more mature stories, will favor watching a great performance from a big-name actor over the latest superhero pyrotechnics or “fast cars and furious drivers” adventure.

Contrary to some opinions, producers are not vultures, actors are not peacocks, and viewers are not sheep. They're all people. In the end, stories are about people. If you can write a story with characters that can connect with people, you'll have a huge advantage.

One of the most effective ways to gain this advantage starts with a FREE 30-minute consultation call with Story Into Screenplay. During this call, we can assess your project, determine where you are in your writing process, and lay out a path to get your script ready for the big time.

You can schedule your FREE initial consultation by filling in this form or contacting us at storyintoscreenplayblog(at)gmail(dot)com. 

Monday, May 1, 2023

What Does a WGA Strike Mean for Aspiring Screenwriters?

Screenwriters who are trying to get into the business could face different outlooks on what a strike from the Writers Guild of America could have on their career prospects.

On the positive side, managers and agents may have more time to read scripts from non-union prospects than they typically would. Without the workload from their union-member clients, their readers (often unpaid interns) will have more opportunities to read scripts from non-union writers.

On the other side of the coin, most agencies will not be taking those scripts to market while the strike endures. As Eric Jones with The Tobias Agency told me and his other clients, "I am going to respect my friends at the WGA and cease submissions from Studios and Production Companies until a resolution has been reached."

Without the means to sell their clients' work to producers, the scripts sit and gather dust until both sides resolve their issues. While these issues address the short term, what does a strike mean in the long term for writers at the start of their career path?

For writers who want only to sell a single feature or pilot, the answer is, "Not much." Writers who count on one script to launch their career resemble those people who rely on a single lottery ticket to win a fortune: the odds are against you ever achieving this lofty goal.

For those who want to develop multiple stories and create a lasting career, the answer is, “Plenty.” When the strike resolves, union writers will walk away with more opportunities to make more money and have better working conditions than they had under the previous agreements. 

However, until a writer can sell at least one script, they lack the professional credentials (or “points”) needed to join the union and take advantage of these benefits. At the same time, these improvements for union writers could also create a new baseline for non-union writers who want to start in the industry. 

So what does a writer's strike mean for non-union writers? Just as with everything else in this tumultuous industry and these turbulent times, the short answer is, “Wait and see.”

In the meantime, here are some Do's and Don'ts to follow during the strike: 

DO: Educate yourself on the issues

As someone who aspires to work in this industry, it is incumbent upon you to learn why your potential peers are taking the steps toward walking off the job and, in some areas, shutting down Hollywood to stand up for their principles. 

If you have representation, talk to your rep and learn what your options are. If you don't, read the WGA Strike Rules and follow the news in industry publications such as Variety or Deadline.

DON'T: Expect a quick resolution

Whenever people must face a complex problem, they want a simple solution. The problems between producers and writers have been almost 15 years in the making. Add the issues of changing technology, emerging markets, political unrest, and recovery from a global pandemic to the list and you have what could be a long, drawn-out process toward resolution.

This strike will be the eighth labor stoppage since the formation of the Screen Writers Guild in 1941. These strikes have run anywhere from two weeks to twenty-two weeks. Issues ranged from residuals on TV reruns to payments for home video releases to compensation for digital downloads. The reasons that writers can take those payments for granted today stems from the gains made from previous generations who marched a picket line.

DO: Support your favorite writers

If you have a favorite writer, you can find ways to support them during the strike. If they have a book, buy a copy for yourself and one for a fellow writer. If they teach online classes, take the class and learn all you can from them. If you don't have the money to spend, spread the word about their work on your social media platforms. 

For those writers who live in New York or Hollywood, screenwriter Michael Jamin recommends going to the picket lines and marching with the writers. Not only does this show your solidarity with the union, according to Jamin, but it also allows you the chance to meet working writers that you may not have had until now.

“Whoever you're talking to (on the picket line) is going to be grateful that you're carrying a sign,” says Jamin. “They will talk to you because there's nothing else to do. Talk about a networking event!”

DON'T: Take “Scab” Work

Although such opportunities are not expected to become available during the strike, a non-union writer could still sign a deal with a company against whom the union is striking. Since the writer isn't a member of the union, the WGA is in no position to punish them for taking the job. However, the strike rules state that "Non-members who break the rules will be prohibited from joining the WGA in the future."

This means that the non-union writer will not be able to take advantage of the benefits that come with union membership, including collective bargaining, minimum wage agreements, health insurance, and pension payments. This “scab” work also puts a black mark against the writer's reputation in the screenwriting community, especially with showrunners, as they could see the non-union writer as undercutting the union's efforts to improve conditions for their fellow writers both now and in the future.

DO: Keep working on your craft

Just because you can't submit your work to producers doesn't mean your work as a writer stops. According to the WGA Strike Rules, writers can still write a spec script during a strike. You can take this time to work on a new idea, rewrite an existing script, or enter contests to get your script noticed.

One of the most effective ways to hone your skills comes from working with an experienced screenwriting consultant. 

Story Into Screenplay offers one-on-one live sessions with an award-winning screenwriter and veteran screenplay contest judge who can help you evaluate your project, clarify your goals, and guide you through the process of turning your ideas into a professional-level screenplay.

Get started with a FREE 30-minute session (phone or Zoom) to find out more. Fill out the Google Form to schedule your session today!

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Screenwriting Advice: Contests vs. Coverage vs. Coaching

As the new year gets underway, many people resolve to eat healthier, work out more, and lose weight. They may look up fad diets, watch exercise videos, or sign up for a gym membership.

However, when it comes to losing weight, the most effective advice often comes from medical professionals or experienced trainers who have worked with clients to get the results they need.

At the same time, a writer's thoughts often turn to how they can make this year's scripts better than last year's efforts. They may have their friends, family, or writers' group look at their work and gauge their reactions to see where they can improve.

For writers who want an impartial evaluation of their projects from an industry expert, they frequently turn to one of three options:

  • They get coverage on their project from a professional script reader.
  • They enter their project into a screenwriting contest.
  • They work with a screenwriting coach to get their project into shape.


A professional script evaluation rates and analyzes the various aspects of a screenplay. These reports often indicate what works and what needs work when it comes to the writer's skills with character development, plot pacing, story structure, dialogue, and more. 

Studios and production companies often work with these readers to generate a "coverage report". These reports serve as a summary of the project's strengths and weaknesses and as a tool in the producer's decision-making process. They also often include a rating of "Recommend", "Consider", or "Pass".

Pros: Most professional script readers offer coverage-style reports. Rates on these reports are often affordable and can serve as a guide during the rewrite process.

Cons: These reports can reflect the reader's biases toward specific genres or approaches to storytelling. Since each report reflects the reader's opinion, the writer may need two or three (or more) to determine if an issue mentioned in the report reflects a flaw in the script or a bias in the reader. 

When Should I Get A Coverage Report? The most effective time to get a script evaluation is when the script is at or near a professional level. These reports often help the writers fine-tune the small details that can mean the difference in the script moving forward or staying in the slush pile. 

The grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting should also be 100% perfect. As the old saying goes, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." 


Screenplay contests can serve as launching pads for a screenwriting career. A placement in a contest can add to an aspiring writer's resume, while a win could add to their bank accounts.

Pros: With so many contests available in nearly every genre, the task of finding one that fits a specific project should be easy. Many contests also offer the option of purchasing feedback (similar to a coverage report) for an additional fee. 

Cons: With so many contests available in nearly every genre, not all of them have equal standing among industry insiders. Some may operate as nothing more than money-grabbing scams that prey on the hopes and dreams of aspiring writers. 

When Should I Enter A Contest? If the script has received at least two "Recommend" ratings from different coverage readers, it may have a strong chance to win a top-flight contest.

Another aspect involves choosing the best contest to enter. For projects in a particular genre, writers may stand a better chance at winning a smaller contest that focuses on that specific genre than competing for the top prizes in a bigger contest such as Austin or Nicholl. 


While many aspiring writers rely on books, classes, and videos for their education, some projects may require an outsider's eye to spot where the project could improve.

Also, some writers may want to adapt their novel, biography, or article into a screenplay without the first idea of how to start the process. A coach can show them the differences between writing for readers and writing for the screen. 

Pros: Much like working with a personal trainer, the client can get expert advice and one-on-one training with someone who wants to see them succeed. This part of the process can also help with the client's feelings of isolation and frustration that come with taking on such a big project.

Cons: Much like working with a personal trainer, this process can be expensive and time-consuming. Much of the success of this process stems from the level of commitment the client is willing to put in, as well as the chemistry between the coach and the client.

When Should I Work With A Coach?: If you have a project in another medium, a screenwriting coach can guide you through the adaptation process. If you have a script and want to work with a professional who can take your project to the next level, an experienced coach can help you boost your writing skills. 

Even if you just have an idea and want to know where to start, a qualified coach can show you what agents, managers, and producers look for in a script. 

At Story Into Screenplay, you can get coverage-style reports, contest advice, and personalized coaching all in one place.

You can contact us through the form on this page or by sending a direct message through our Facebook page. Also, be sure to follow us on Facebook for updates, interviews, and more!

Let us help you get your script in shape in 2023!