Thursday, April 28, 2011

On Story: Episodes 1 and 2

On Story, Austin Film Festival's new TV series, focuses on the inspiration and creative process at the conception of the filmmaking process. Each episode includes interviews and footage from past Austin Film Festival panels and screenings of screenwriters and filmmakers discussing their craft and films, and features a short film from a Texas filmmaker, which has previously screened at the Austin Film Festival.

The first episode includes the short film Frente Noreste, an Austin Film Festival 2010 Official Selection, by Angela Torres Camerena as well as new interviews from Randall Wallace, Writer-Director, Secretariat; Lawrence Kasdan, Screenwriter, Empire Strikes Back; and Shane Black, Writer-Director, Lethal Weapon, Long Kiss Goodnight, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Check it out:

Watch the full episode. See more On Story.

In Episode 2, the creative minds behind Star Trek, Transformers, El Mariachi and Watchmen discuss the challenge of creating fantastical worlds and getting the audience to suspend their disbelief. Featuring David Hayter, Roberto Orci, Damon Lindelof, and Robert Rodriguez. Film: Tadpoles by Miguel Alvarez. Take a look:

Watch the full episode. See more On Story.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Screenwriting software

Lisa writes: I am deep into writing my first spec, and everything is going pretty well - but I am using Word and I seem to be wasting hours upon hours on something that seems fairly simple: the formatting. I am not sure how paid writers write their shows every week, but I am assuming they use something like the Final Draft software (which I cannot afford). Do all the pros use screenwriting software? How do you format your specs?

I understand your frustration! Formatting is tough and it takes a while to master. Make sure you are READING as many professional scripts as you can - both so that you have templates to look at and also so that the right "look" of a script starts to sink in. There are a few links to script sites on the right of this blog, and I know that Google searches yield many more. Just make sure you're looking at real scripts and not transcripts.

All the pros definitely use screenwriting software. A John August poll found that 75.2% of screenwriters surveyed use Final Draft, which I also use. This program automatically formats a lot of things that would take FOREVER on Word. I know that the $249 pricetag ($180.99 on Amazon) is steep for aspiring writers, but I think it's a worthy investment in your future career. Every professional needs tools for his or her trade, and this is a tool we need for ours. Also, agents/producers/execs/readers/etc will likely be able to tell that your script has been written with Word and not with screenwriting software, even if you spend a long time perfecting your spacing and such. They won't necessarily write off your script as bad, but they might see it as a little amateur - especially since the formatting details are so hard to get right in Word.

When I was in college, my school's bookstore offered a student discount for Final Draft - so check yours to see if that's an option. You can also search for online deals: the Writers Store offers academic versions of Final Draft for as low as $129.

Another John August post on screenwriting software
mentions Movie Magic Screenwriter 6 (which ranges from $99.95-$169.95) and Scriptware, so you may want to look into those too.

Celtx is a free screenwriting program. I have never used it, and friends have given mixed reviews, but I think it would be a much better option than Word.

I also really like Christopher Riley's book The Hollywood Standard for learning about montages and intercuts and figuring out unusual formatting know, like intercutting a montage of flashback testimonials that happen offscreen.

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Friday, April 15, 2011

FREE Panel: Breaking into the Industry w/ Mark Gordon, Debbie Liebling, Pete Chiarelli & more

Breaking into the Industry: FREE Panel

Film & TV Producer Mark Gordon introduces you to a brand new website to help you break into the industry.

Learn about the site and exclusive opportunities with Intern Sushi, a network with industry peers, and hear from a panel of experts who have all moved on from life at the bottom and have become some of the industry's most respected.

Panelists include:
Debbie Liebling - President of Production, Universal Pictures
Pete Chiarelli - Screenwriter, The Proposal
Lauren Levy Neustadter - Vice President, 20th Century Fox
Jessica Matthews - Literary Agent, CAA
Michael Lasker - Manager, Mosaic

Wednesday, April 27
7:30 PM
Darryl Zanuck Theater @ Fox Lot
(Enter at the Galaxy Gate - Entrance is off Avenue of the Stars)
10201 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90064

Tickets are free but seating is limited, so click here to reserve your spot. Please bring your ticket and a photo ID with you.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Premiering tonight: Happy Endings

Forget who gets to keep the ring - when a couple splits, the real question is, who gets to keep the friends?

Happy Endings premieres tonight after Modern Family at 9:30 on ABC. Check out more info at

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Thursday, April 7, 2011

Parenthood FTW

Parenthood is the best show you're not watching. I promise. Last week's episode, "Taking the Leap" (Season 2, episode 19) was probably my favorite of the season. After watching a second time, I realized how thematically tight it is: Julia's conversation with Amber is a great parallel to her later conversation with Joel, and Gabby's advice to Christina features the same concept of support. Basically, this show has amazing writing/acting/directing - and the whole thing looks gorgeous, too. Here's a clip:

Really, you owe it to yourself to watch the whole episode.

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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

30 Rock is ending?

I couldn't sleep much past seven this morning, and now I know why. 30 Rock will end in 2012, according to an interview with Alex Baldwin in New York Magazine's Vulture blog:
"I will tell you one thing, and that is our show next year is our last year of the show. Our contracts are expired [in 2012], and Tina [Fey] is gonna have a big career directing films and writing. She's going to be the next Elaine May. She'll be great."

The Office is continuing after Steve Carrell's contract expires, but Alec's comments specifically mention Tina and not just Alec. 30 Rock without Alec AND Tina? It just wouldn't be the same. Hmm.. TVLine quotes an NBC insider as saying, “We have had no conversations about 30 Rock ending next season.” I'll post an update if we get official word from the network.

Either way, I'm happy for Tina Fey...I have always wished to be a little less like Liz Lemon and a little more like Tina Fey. I'm excited to see what she'll bring us next; I might even deny my poverty and buy her new book Bossypants instead of waiting for it to show up at the library in like 2 years. Still, it's sad to say goodbye to a show that's made me laugh every week since it began. It's an ongoing lesson in joke structure, and many of the hilarious lines remain in my head for months. Why say "you have bad breath" when you can say, "When did you have time to eat a diaper you found at the beach?"

Thank you for an amazing show, Tina. I'll keep a lookout for your next movie, since I obviously want to go to there.

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Friday, April 1, 2011

Final Draft Big Break Contest

Generally I'm wary of screenwriting contests because I doubt how much they can really help your career, but the Final Draft Big Break Contest for screenplays has cash prizes that just might be worth it. Plus, the judges are all cool, legit people.

The deadline is June 1 and the entry fee is $50. (The late deadline is June 15, with a $65 fee.)

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