SARA C. asks:
“I saw a video pitch where someone basically pitched their idea and I imagine that is how it is in a room? Here is one example:
Good question Sara.
I will answer your question and expand on the topic of Video Movie Pitches for other readers.
There are some major differences between a video pitch and sitting in a room pitching an idea.
Sitting in a room, all you have is your smiling face and your words as story selling tools, so both have to be intriguing on their own merits. You may also have storyboards, graphics, or other printed materials to pass around the room.
With a video pitch, you have music, sound effects, title words, image effects, showmanship… basically, with a video pitch, you can get creative and splashy, wowing your viewer in other ways, ways that may divert from or add to the actual story itself.
Just because a person can act on camera, or edit video well, or add cool effects, it does not mean that person can write their way out of the 6th grade, much less write a blockbuster movie.
When it comes down to it, the actual script itself has to be exciting and well written.
Maybe a video pitch could open a door so that someone would be willing to read the script or treatment. A video pitch from an unknown writer without a script would be a tough sell.
The people who are able to sell story ideas alone without a script are successful and well-known writers, producers, actors or directors, people with money, connections, and creditability. Eventually, these people too will, of course, need an actual script.
Out the gate, all the unknown creatives must have a full feature script to back their idea.
Personally, I would not put a video pitch on the Internet because it could be easily stolen. I put a lot of material on the Internet for free, but my golden ideas, ideas I want to make money on, ideas I think are unique and sellable, I do not put on the Internet.
A video pitch could be fun if it were made with certain entertainment executives in mind who work at specific film studios or TV networks (or actors, directors, producers), and your agent mailed the video pitch on DVD with the script directly to these people.
Video pitches are not a common selling tool today for scripts, but they may become more acceptable in the future. Technology is changing much faster than the movie-making executives who decide.
Currently, it is still the script itself or a film short or a book or a news article that will sell a story idea for a movie.
Young people are coming up with all sorts of creative ideas to get noticed. Anything is better than nothing. If you do nothing, you definitely won’t sell anything.
If you are going to do a video pitch, make sure your screenplay is complete and ready to send!!! A video pitch with no screenplay behind it is pointless. A video pitch is basically a commercial for your script, so if you have no script, you have no product, and there is no reason to make a video pitch.
BRIEF IS BETTER! People in Hollywood are extremely protective of their time. Whether you are making a video pitch, writing a treatment, or talking to someone in person, keep it short and to the point if you want anyone to pay attention to you. TWO MINUTES seems to be the current tolerance level for people to watch videos on the Internet.
In honor of The Great Gatsby movie that comes out today — I am so excited! — lets talk about a real Great Gatsby from my life, Hollywood Screenwriter Shane Black.
Shane Black is the writer / director of the highly rated Iron Man 3 that also comes out to theaters this May 2013.
Interested in screenwriting since I was a kid, getting to know real people who actually made a handsome living at screenwriting proved to me that the dream could be a reality.
In Hollywood, I was awestruck by the riches abound. I met lots of screenwriters, the best paid of them all (in the millions) was Shane Black.
Notably generous, and like the Great Gatsby, Shane Black threw lots of unforgettable parties at his mansion.
It was the turn of the millennium, the Internet had just started to take off, and it was a time of massive change. Everything was new and the future was uncertain.
My first full time job in Hollywood was at E! Entertainment, which put me smack dab in the middle of everything that was happening in Hollywood.
The parties at Shane’s house I remember most. To me, Shane’s house was the kind you would see in fairytales, it was big and grand.
The parties physically took place in one of two areas (or both): the disco arcade movie-screening room with tipi and bar on the top floor (3rd I think); or if the weather was good and the invitee list long, the party spilled out in the big backyard around the salt water pool. Occasionally, an actress would buy new boobs and flaunt them all night. There were go-go dancers in cages. With all the wings and levels of the house, people tended to lose themselves and never leave. It was outrageous.
We swam, watched movies, played pinball, danced, ate, drank… and made bad choices.
Like Gatsby, Mr. Black has a dark mysterious nature about him. I was warned not to talk to him about certain things, like “why we exist,” because it may depress him, so I always kept conversation light.
Shane himself was not lavish. He had an old beat car and dressed simple, usually in black. Shane tended to lay low and observe. During the time I knew him, he was suffering writer’s block in the early 2000′s.
Since then, everything has changed.
A UCLA roommate of Shane, Loren Kantor, made the woodcut portrait of Shane featured in this article.
With permission from Loren Kantor, below I share with you some more anecdotes from the early days of screenwriter Shane Black’s life:
First published April 26, 2013 by Loren Kantor
This week marks the release of Iron Man 3 written and directed by Shane Black. Shane’s story is well known. At age 22 he wrote Lethal Weapon giving new life to the action, buddy film genre. In 1990 he sold his script The Last Boy Scout for $1.75 million. Writer Joe Eszterhas eclipsed this figure with his sale of Basic Instinct for $3 million but Shane’s subsequent sale of The Long Kiss Goodnight for $4 million made him the highest-paid screenwriter in Hollywood. Shane continued to write screenplays into the 90′s but then he seemed to disappear. As with most Hollywood stories, Shane’s is complicated.
I was fortunate enough to live with Shane for a year while attending UCLA. In those days, Shane was a theater major who aspired to be an actor. He loved 70′s character-driven film thrillers like The French Connection, Dirty Harry and Bullitt. He was an avid reader of the hardboiled detective fiction of Ross Mcdonald and John D. MacDonald. He carried a dog-eared copy of William Goldman’s Adventures in the Screen Trade wherever he went.
I remember seeing Shane perform standup comedy at UCLA. He was frenetic on stage, trashing props and uttering punch lines about “anal probes” administered by UCLA security. Like many college seniors, Shane was uncertain about his future. He was always gracious and kind but he was also moody and intense.
One day I came home from class to find Shane typing in the living room. He was writing a satirical one-act play about the second coming of Christ. Shane’s method of typing was unique. Using just his left and right index finger, he pounded the typewriter with intense force and amazing speed. I watched spellbound as he seemed to box with the typewriter keys, pages flying out of the carriage as if Shane were channeling the ghost of Ben Hecht.
Shane completed his play in two days. A week later he staged the piece at the UCLA Theater Department. Like his future films, the play was both dark and funny. Jesus returns to earth but people are oblivious to his message. He hires a Jewish public relations man who procures Jesus a “drink milk” tv commercial and books him on the talk-show circuit. The story ends in tragicomic fashion true to Shane’s cynical view of life.
Shane spent most of his time in his college days with the Pad O’ Guys. ThePad was a group of fledgling screenwriters and film students who lived, ate and breathed movies. Members included the future filmmakers Ed Solomon (Men In Black), Jim Herzfeld (Meet The Parents), Greg Widen (Backdraft), Robert Reneau (Demolition Man), Ryan Rowe (Charlie’s Angels), David Silverman (The Simpsons) and Dave Arnott (The Adventures of Ford Fairlane).
A year after Shane graduated, he wrote Lethal Weapon in six weeks. One of Shane’s Pad friends, Fred Dekker (Night of the Creeps) helped Shane find an agent and soon several studios engaged in a bidding war for the script. Shane sold the screenplay to Warner Brothers for $250,000 and his career formally began.
Shane was determined not to become a Hollywood A–hole. He continued driving his rusted Mustang convertible and he lived with several Pad friends in a Westwood apartment. As Shane’s career flourished, he experienced jealousy and resentment from friends and fellow filmmakers. Critics lambasted his writing style and he was turned down for membership in the Academy. (New Academy members were required to have “two produced works of substance and merit.”)
Shane struggled with his early success. He experienced self-doubt and began to believe his detractors who said he only made money, not quality films. When Warner Brothers hired Shane to write a sequel to Lethal Weapon, Shane’s version killed off the Mel Gibson character. Shane’s friends saw this as a symbolic suicide since the character was viewed as Black’s alter ego.
After The Long Kiss Goodnight tanked at the box office, Shane’s golden boy reputation took a hit. Producers were eager to end the spec script bidding wars that Shane had helped trigger and old friends seemed to gloat. Shane had an aversive reaction. He was burned out on screenwriting realizing the process was no longer fun.
Shane bought a beautiful home in historic Fremont Place in midtown Los Angeles. (The house served as the main character’s home in The Artist.) Shane stopped writing and began an era of partying. The Halloween bashes at Shane’s place were the stuff of legend. But the drinking and substance abuse took a toll. “I just sort of got lost. I drank too much.”
With the support of filmmaker James Brooks, Shane began writing again. In 2003, he completed his comeback piece Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. This time, he wanted to direct as well. He showed the script around Hollywood but responses were lukewarm. Some producers didn’t even bother to read the script. To Shane, the experience was humbling.
Shane turned to producer Joel Silver who procured $15 million from Warner Brothers to get the film made. Shane cast Robert Downey Jr., who at the time was nearly unemployable having just served time in prison. He also cast Val Kilmer who’s career had gone cold. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang was a mystery suspense film inspired by the writing of Raymond Chandler. The film was a modest success but more importantly Shane was back in the film game.
Shane stopped drinking in 2008. He again became serious about writing. Jon Favreau & Robert Downey turned to Shane when they needed help with the first Iron Man screenplay. Downey credits Shane for writing the press-conference scene after Tony Stark returns from captivity. (Shane asked to be paid in “blueberries and wild salmon.”) When Favreau declined to direct Iron Man 3, Downey lobbied for Shane to direct. Shane had helped Downey resurrect his career. Now Downey was returning the favor.
Shane always admired the “old gunslinger” story. A character falls into a dark place and must rise above his demons to redeem himself. It seems Shane has done the same. The initial reviews of Iron Man 3 are positive and Shane is ready to begin his second act. If we’re lucky, we’ll have many new Shane Black films to look forward to. Here’s hoping Shane feels the same way.
Kantor’s woodcut art and stories of Hollywood legends are amusing. My favorite woodcuts are David Lynch, Tom Waits, Lauren Bacall, Jeff Buckley, Charles Bukowski, Steve Buscemi, and Midnight Cowboy. I encourage you to look up your favorite Hollywood legends, read interesting stories, and buy a cool woodcut print from Kantor.
What “In Development” means is that story rights have been purchased (or optioned for a time) and a producer is preparing the story for screen. A story from a book or other source may require an entire screenplay adaptation to be written or a script may need some tweaking to satisfy all investing parties. The script could take months or years to perfect.
To move into pre-production, for big budget movies, often a well-known actor or director must be attached. If there is discontent over the script, lead actors, director, or they cannot raise enough money to make the movie, some stories may never leave the Development stage. In such case, the story may eventually be shelved.
Once the story is ready to be filmed and there is money to pay for it, it gets green lit and goes into
pre-production: find locations, draw storyboards, prepare costumes, secure talent and crew; then
production: the actual time of filming, all hands on deck; and finally
post-production: when the film is edited, sounds and music are added, and marketing kicks into high gear.
Top 50+ Stories In Development
The Avengers 2 (2015)
Director: Joss Whedon, Production Co: Marvel Studios
Fifty Shades of Grey
Production Co: Focus Features
The Expendables 3
Director: Patrick Hughes, Production Co: Nu Image / Millennium Films
Avatar 2 (2015)
Director: James Cameron
Justice League (2015)
Production Co: DC Entertainment
Pirates of the Caribbean 5
Production Co: Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Closer Than Love (2013)
Production Co: Solomon Pictures
Production Co: Scott Free Productions
Production Co: Annapurna Pictures
Kill Bill: Vol. 3
Director: Quentin Tarantino, Production Co: A Band Apart
Director: Greg Berlanti, Production Co: DC Entertainment
Jeepers Creepers 3: Cathedral (2013)
Director: Victor Salva, Production Co: American Zoetrope
Toy Story 4
Production Co: Pixar Animation Studios
Mission: Impossible 5 (2015)
Director: Christopher McQuarrie, Production Co: Skydance Productions
National Treasure 3
Production Co: Jerry Bruckheimer Films
Director: Bryce Dallas Howard, Production Co: Imagine Entertainment
Director: Rupert Sanders, Production Co: K/O Paper Products
Bad Boys 3
Director: Michael Bay, Production Co: Columbia Pictures
Creators: Rob Liefeld | Fabian Nicieza, Production Co: Marvel Enterprises
Production Co: Columbia Pictures
Dumb and Dumber To (2014)
Directors: Bobby Farrelly | Peter Farrelly, Production Co: Conundrum Entertainment
Snow White and the Huntsman 2 (2015)
Production Co: Universal Pictures
Production Co: DC Entertainment
Production Co: Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE)
Mortal Kombat (2013)
Director: Kevin Tancharoen, Production Co: New Line Cinema
Arrested Development (2013)
Director: Mitchell Hurwitz, Production Co: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Into the Woods
Director: Rob Marshall, Production Co: Lucamar Productions
Veronica Mars (2014)
Director: Rob Thomas, Production Co: Rob Thomas Productions
Directors: Guillermo del Toro | Mark Gustafson, Production Co: Jim Henson Company, The
Ram Leela (2013)
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Production Co: SLB Films Pvt. Ltd.
I Am Legend 2
Production Co: Overbrook Entertainment
Bond 24 (2016)
Production Co: Eon Productions
Production Co: DMC Film
Austin Powers 4
Production Co: New Line Cinema
Brief einer Unbekannten
Director: Matt Zemlin, Production Co: Solomon Pictures
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)
Director: Francis Lawrence, Production Co: Color Force
Production Co: Fuzzy Door Productions
Sherlock Holmes 3
Production Co: Warner Bros
Paranormal Activity 5 (2013)
Production Co: Paramount Pictures
Director: Justin Theroux, Production Co: Red Hour Films
Untitled Tron: Legacy Sequel (2014)
Director: Joseph Kosinski, Production Co: Walt Disney Pictures
The Legend of Conan (2014)
Production Co: Chris Morgan Production
Director: Stephen Daldry, Production Co: Marc Platt Productions
Clash of the Titans 3
Production Co: Legendary Pictures
I, Robot 2
Production Co: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
xXx: The Return of Xander Cage
Director: Rob Cohen, Production Co: Paramount Pictures
Director: Shane Black, Production Co: Lin Pictures
Green Lantern 2
Production Co: DC Entertainment
Journey 3: From the Earth to the Moon
Director: Brad Peyton, Production Co: Contrafilm
The Girl Who Played with Fire
Production Co: Sony Pictures Entertainment
Production Co: Columbia Pictures
Rush Hour 4
Production Co: New Line Cinema
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Sequels and famous books top and fill this list. These stories are all likely to move onward into the production phase because they have already earned a lot of money.
Where does this leave you, the unknown screenwriter? Read…
Slamdance 2013 Screenwriting and Teleplay Competition
SHORTS FEATURE FILMS TELEPLAYS WEBISODES SCRIPTS
The Slamdance Screenwriting and Teleplay Competition is dedicated to discovering and supporting emerging writing talent. To that end, we are unveiling an exciting new partnership this year with JuntoBox Films who will be awarding a Grand Prize of $10,000 cash and a $50,000 production grant to the winning feature script. JuntoBox Films’ goal of producing films and finding writers with innovative and interesting stories is a great fit with what Slamdance strives to achieve.
We welcome screenplays in every genre, on any topic, from anywhere in the world. A unique feature of the competition is providing constructive feedback for every entrant. In addition to this, we also offer a more intensive coverage service for a supplementary fee. Now in our eighteenth year, we have a history of highlighting talented, independent screenwriters and introducing them to the entertainment industry. All of our readers approach scripts differently, but in general we are looking for originality and promise in a work. As an organization, we strive to foster an independent spirit among new writers and filmmakers. We’ve established a strong track record through our competition successes and are committed to continuing our pursuit to champion outstanding new work.
Our competition consists of four categories. Awards are given to the top three scripts in each category. In addition to that, JuntoBox Films and Slamdance will present the new Grand Prize for the best feature length screenplay.
• Original Teleplay/Webisode
Early Deadline: Feb. 25th – March 25th, 2013
Regular Deadline: March 26th – May 13th, 2013
Late Deadline: May 14th – June 25th, 2013
WAB Extended Deadline: June 26th – July 2nd, 2013
Early Submission Fee: $30.00
Regular Submission Fee: $40.00
Late/WAB Extended Deadline Submission Fee: $50.00
Early Submission Fee: $40.00
Regular Submission Fee: $50.00
Late/WAB Extended Deadline Submission Fee: $60.00
Up to 120 pages:
Early Submission Fee: $50.00
Regular Submission Fee: $60.00
Late/WAB Extended Deadline Submission Fee: $70.00
More than 120 pages:
Early Submission Fee: $65.00
Regular Submission Fee: $75.00
Late/WAB Extended Deadline Submission Fee: $90.00
Coverage Fees: (in addition to the submission fees)
Standard Coverage (within 2 months): +$75
Express Coverage (within 21 days): +$115
September 18th 2013 – Announce 100 Category Quarter-Finalists
September 25th, 2013 – Announce 32 Category Semifinalists
October 2nd, 2013 – Announce 12 Category Finalists and 20 Grand Prize Finalists – In no particular order
October 8th, 2013 – WGAW Party for Finalists and Semifinalists – Category Winners and Grand Prize Winner Announced
WEBSITE for more info: http://showcase.slamdance.com/Writing-Competition
Here are a few tips on how to write an Oscar winning script.
1) Write a Drama.
2) Live 30 years or more before writing your Oscar winning script.
3) Your subject matter should appeal to people age 30 to 100 because that is the age range of Academy voters.
4) Make the audience laugh or cry.
5) Surf a current debated social-political topic without offending anyone.
6) Create sympathy for the type of character that is usually despised.
7) Base it on a true story or real setting or common event.
8) Keep it simple and realistic. Cutting edge, abstract, and avant-garde movies are appreciated only in small circles.
9) Build your story with a slow, strong, steady pace. Super fast, splashy, action-packed, modern masterpieces seldom win.
10) To get people to watch the film, attach a famous actor with a good reputation, but not so famous that he or she does a disservice to the story and the script is overlooked.
11) Story arch and character developments are mandatory. Audience must learn something as the lead character learns it.
12) Conflict and obstacles are requisite.
13) No one is perfect, nor should be your characters.
14) Don’t write a story that is too disturbing, gross, violent, or outrageous; you don’t want your viewers to walk away sick, upset, or angry. People vote for stories that make them feel good about themselves and their own lives.
15) Impart an indisputable moral message.
16) For an award winning movie script, the lead character must break away from what is expected of him or her. Whatever the person is supposed to do, he or she does the opposite. Macho guy is weak. Prostitute is innocent. Parent is irresponsible. Monster is friendly. Child is brave. Poor person is rich. Dumb person proves smart. You get the idea. Create an unusual twist on the norm.
Click here to read Oscar winning screenplays.
What attributes do you notice Oscar winning scripts to have?
Other helpful screenwriting articles are:
“Location, location, location,” is a real estate property motto, meaning to say that it is not about the house itself that has value, but rather the land on which it sits that determines how much the house is worth.
A little shack with a small garden out in the middle of Kansas has very little value, whereas the same exact house and garden could be worth millions if it was on Manhattan in New York.
Location is equally important when writing your screenplay. The choice of your location settings in your scripts could also mean the difference between millions of dollars or your script never selling.
Location gives mood and setting to your story. It is part of the story. By choosing famous locations, your readers and viewers already know certain things, so it saves you a lot of time in explaining them in your story.
Woody Allen has famously used New York as his backdrop to many screenplays and movies. He has not only used New York to augment his stories, but he has also added to the general public’s knowledge of what is New York and what it is to be a New Yorker.
Woody Allen more recently has chosen to branch out and spotlight Paris and Barcelona, even using the cities’ names in the movie titles, which brought great film success by city association. People like me who love Paris or long to go to Barcelona will pay money to see the movie just based on the title and city alone.
Each time you tell a story, your use of a location adds to the world knowledge of information about that location.
Perhaps you will choose your hometown as a backdrop to your story and maybe your script will be the only movie ever featuring that town. As long as there is something special about that town, something that separates it and makes it unique, then your story would probably be the authority providing information about that town.
On the other hand, maybe your hometown is exactly like hundreds of other towns, and for that reason, for being nondescript, you might tell an ironic or dark humor story.
In the current show Once Upon a Time, the Any Town is a witch’s fairytale curse.
Characters are what drive most TV shows through the seasons, not the location. Television sitcoms capitalize on the nondescript Any Town America so that they can focus on the distinctions or parallels of their characters.
For movies, you want to do something different than TV. David Lynch specializes in taking the Any Town and making it creepy with all sorts of dark secrets and strange characters.
Alcatraz is an exciting new TV show coming out tomorrow night January 16. Picked up by Fox, the TV pilot episode was based on a screenplay by Elizabeth Sarnoff, Steven Lilien and Bryan Wynbrandt. The Alcatraz title and story immediately enthrall you because of the history and mystery of its real life location, the high security island prison in the San Francisco Bay. The Alcatraz prison location comes with boatloads of intriguing real and fictitious characters from which to select.
If you are having writer’s block, studying locations is wildly inspiring.
When I study a new location, there seems to be a serendipity of interesting facts that play perfectly into my story.
If you are struggling to find a location for your story, do a search using mood and theme keywords that express what kind of story you are trying to write. You can do searches for “romantic city” or “scary country” or “mysterious place” or “strangest architecture” or “roughest river” or “highest mountain”. Look at the locations of what each of your searches brings. You just might find the exact right place to encapsulate your story.
Say your movie title was “Highest Mountain,” a general location: what it implies is hope and achievement. Wouldn’t it be interesting to flip that upside-down and tell a story about failure and sinking to all time lows?
I could go on forever about the importance of location and all the ways in which it can liven up or sell your story, but hopefully you get the idea now.
In researching a location, ideal ingredients and missing links present themselves to you and help take your story in a new direction that may have otherwise eluded you. Respect and always consider location in your screenplays.
Note: Remember, when writing screenplays, the goal is to be as tight and clear as possible, using the least words to say the most; continue to do that with your locations and scene headings: short and to the point!
Get started writing your screenplay!
For more information on how to write a script, see SCRIPT FORMAT for structure and formatting; for a springboard of script ideas read SCRIPT WRITING PROMPTS; and for general script tips read articles on HOW TO WRITE A SCRIPT.
It is really hard for screenwriters to get anyone to read their scripts, so I strongly encourage writers to make their own movies. Getting people to watch a movie is much easier than getting people to read a script. The shorter it is, the greater your odds someone will watch it.
One beautiful thing about humanity is their ability to think big…
… big big big, far beyond what they might be able to do today, therefore, it can sometimes be a hindrance, this ability to think big, because it takes a lot of small steps to get someplace, steps that people don’t want to take.
Instead of holding out for that million-dollar 3-picture deal (that is never going to just fall on your lap), how about you start with whatever resources you have around you right now? If you truly love storytelling, then do it! You don’t have to be rich to tell a story. If you can eke out a little bit of time and a little bit of ingenuity, you can make a movie.
Here is a fun project to test your creative juices.
Can you make a movie with no money, no time, possibly no actors, and tell a full and complete story with character arch in less than two minutes?
How? You ask.
If you have a mobile smart phone, then you have video and online access to YouTube, therefore you can make a movie. There are also lots of other ways you can make a movie.
Let’s Start with Story and Character.
Without story and character(s), you have a blob of color and sound, which is ok too, but we screenwriters, we want to write something, we want to say something, and we to connect with our human audience.
No matter if your movie is 2 minutes or 2 hours, something has to happen, right? Since this is a short short, let’s keep it to one event.
Although your character doesn’t necessarily have to have a change of heart, it is more interesting if your character learns something new and we learn with him or her.
How are you going to do that?
There needs to be an action…
…an event, a happening, a cause that will create the effect of your character thinking differently or behaving differently. Something has to happen that propels your character along an interesting and new path.
If no fictitious ideas come to mind, think about your own life in the past year… Think about one single moment, one thing you saw, one thing you read, or one thing you dreamt that permanently changed your way of thinking. That’s a story. That’s a character arch. What was that thing? It can be small or large, but it should have meaning and resonate with people.
Take that one moment that affected you and brainstorm with it… Imagine different scenarios and different characters involved and affected by that one moment, and choose the most interesting character and moment of them all.
Sometimes, we are just bystanders or observers of something interesting, so it doesn’t have to be your personal event, it can be someone else’s; maybe you were just passing by, but it personally affected you anyway.
When telling the story, put yourself in the shoes of the most interesting character involved and tell it from their perspective, no matter how good or bad that person happens to be.
Tell a story that will affect and change your viewers because your character has been affected and changed.
This is our goal with film and cinema and any type of storytelling, at least my ultimate goal, to say something meaningful to the world in a very short amount of time, whether it be two minutes or two hours.
Use What You’ve Got!
Once you have a moment and a character that you want to explore on film, now you need to think of the free-est possible way to do it.
Whatever your assets and creative strengths are, they are probably different from mine or other people’s.
Maybe you have time, money, or equipment at your disposal? A nice camera? Some willing friends to act? Some creative friends to do props, set, and makeup? A massive catalog of profound photos you took? A supportive family?
Maybe you like drawing cartoons? Or doing photography? Or making Play-Doh clay figure stop motion animation with your digital camera and your kids’ help? Maybe you have a go-pro camera and are an adrenalin junky?
Everyone has different things at their disposal and different amounts of time or money. You are going to do the best you can do with the best of what you have.
Show a change.
For this project, your character needs to go from being a worm to a butterfly in under two minutes.
The main thing I am asking here is that you have a story and character arch in your movie. Something should be happening other than filming something pretty, or funny, or scary that has no story arch. Those types of movie clips are good for YouTube and for TV clips, but they are not full complete stories, which as a screenwriter, you need to be practicing the development of characters and stories that have something to say.
For one of my shorts, I used an ad lib script, meaning I did not write a script for it at all, it was just an idea in my head. With ad lib scripts, you can save money by letting the images and concept dictate the dialog on the spot.
Either you can narrate, as I did, or your actors can ad lib, which saves time (and time is money) because the actors don’t have to memorize an entire screenplay. They just have to get across a general feeling and idea, which can be more fun, more liberating, more natural sounding, and more magical.
Ad lib allows art to take on its own form and surprise you.
Some directors prefer to let their actors alter the script with the natural flow of ad libbing. In this way, cinema has taken a great departure from theater plays, novels, and poetry, where the written word is sacred.
Ad lib can be great for emotional human concept movies like dramas, romance, and comedy, where the stiffness of a script might not play out well.
Sticking to a screenplay would be important for convoluted detailed stories that are true or have a thick plots, like with mysteries, thrillers, suspense, and sci-fi.
Life is full of opportunities for you, even if you have no disposable money. Look around you; be creative.
Making Your Audience Love the Bad Guy
What is an antihero?
An antihero is a villainous main character of your story; he (or she) is the lead protagonist who is not quite as nice or good as an archetypical hero like Superman. An antihero has serious personality flaws and often may be a stereotypical bad guy, a downright villain, but because he is the one telling the story, we like him. Antiheroes are often criminals and we see the story from their perspective, which causes us to relate. It is the antihero’s tale and in his tale, the ‘good guys’ are often the bad guys.
Examples of antihero central lead characters are rogue cops, dark misunderstood individuals with super powers, military figures in compromising situations, and criminals trying to get ahead.
An archetypical hero may be beautiful, strong, noble, rich, blessed, intelligent, lucky, or have super powers; an antihero may try to get those things in corrupt ways.
The envy and hate a person may feel towards the hero may create an antihero, a less fortunate person driven by sin, basic instinct, or need to ignoble actions.
The antihero can be the underdog who becomes top dog by unscrupulous methods.
An antihero may be good at heart, but does terrible things.
A most famous example of an antihero is the character Tony Montana played by Al Pacino in Scarface (1983), a poor Cuban guy with a crazy temper who climbs up to great wealth as a drug dealer, pictured above with his foxy wife played by Michelle Pfeiffer.
Why do you have to make your audience love your antihero?
Your audience has to love your antihero or your script won’t sell. Movies with fully detestable lead characters do not sell.
People do not want to be angered or depressed by a movie, they want to feel charged and rejuvenated. When people go to see a movie, they want relief in some sort of way. If your lead character only makes people feel uncomfortable and frustrated, or they do not relate to him or her at all, you will have a flop of a movie.
The antihero serves the common people by taking action where the rest of us don’t because our good morals and laws prevent us. The antihero reacts to his anger about perceived injustices that may have to do with money, crime, war, bad manners, or relationships, whereas the average person will do nothing. We want this bad guy to succeed because we are secretly angry too, but we can’t do anything about it.
The antihero serves a very important part of society, filling a void in our lives, the void where we feel powerless. The antihero makes us feel like something right is being done to equalize things, even if it is wrong.
The antihero is our hero because he is doing what no one else wants to do and he takes all the heat for it.
How do you write your antihero into your script so that your audience will love him or her?
By telling the story from your villainous antihero’s perspective, the audience is forced to relate with him or her on some level. You must show why your antihero became the way he did, why he does what he does, and give the audience a reasonable answer to which we can all relate.
The antihero must have traits to which the audience can relate. The antihero may have a family he is trying to save, protect, or support. The antihero may have basic needs that everyone has, trying to make money to eat and support himself. The antihero may have a love interest who is his weakness — we can all relate to being in love.
No matter how bad you make your antihero, as long as he or she has personality traits and life circumstances to which the audience can relate, you can write a successful antihero.
The motivations of your antihero have to be something to which your audience can relate. Wanting money, power, living comforts, and love are some of the most common motivations with which we can empathize.
As the antihero is doing bad things, he must be punished, so don’t forget to punish your antihero. If he doesn’t get punished, then he is just another bad guy, an antagonist, and your audience will hate (and envy) him for getting away with it, which is not good if you want to make money as a screenwriter.
The audience must sympathize with your antihero.
When you write your story for your antihero, imagine that the audience is a court jury and you are the antihero’s defense attorney. It is your duty to convince the jury, that despite all the bad things your client has done, he doesn’t deserve to be punished. And why he doesn’t deserve to be punished (even though he will get punished) is because your jury audience can relate to the motivations of why he did what he did. If you can’t make the jury understand his perspective, you have just another loser creep on the stand that everyone wants to give the death penalty, and that my friend, is not a good antihero and not a financially successful movie either, and you have failed as a defense attorney and as a writer because your client is just so bad and inhuman that no one can relate to him, nobody likes him.
Ultimately, your lead character, whether good or bad, has to win a popularity contest. The majority of people must like him. That’s what movie sales are, they are the public saying, yeah, we love that one, we love that guy. Blockbuster hits are the winners of popularity contests. Love it or hate it, that’s just the way it is. The most popular guy or gal is not necessarily a good person, but it is the person who is most liked.
A well-written antihero will evoke thoughts from the audience like these :
That’s a bad guy, but I can understand why he does what he does. I wouldn’t want to be on his bad side, but I would sure like him on my team. I secretly love him and sometimes wish I was him, but I probably wouldn’t admit that to anyone.
Who are your favorite antiheroes?
Please share in the comments section.
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