Categories
In The News

Along Came A Writer on BlogTalk Radio and iTunes

CAN members Linda Kozar, Lena Nelson Dooley, and Angela Breidenbach host shows on the Along Came A Writer Network.

Along Came A Writer Network 

2017/2016

Chat Noir Mystery and Suspense, with host Linda Kozar on the Along Came A Writer Network

The Lena Nelson Dooley Show, with host Lena Nelson Dooley on the Along Came A Writer Network

Historically Speaking, with host Angela Breidenbach on the Along Came A Writer Network

Categories
Writing craft

Stories, Parables & Movie Scripts: Basic screenplay writing with reference to HOW TO SUCCEED IN HOLLYWOOD (WITHOUT LOSING YOUR SOUL) Part VII Is Originality Fading in Hollywood?

Some of the top movies of all time include GONE WITH THE WIND, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, BEN HUR, E.T.: THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL, and FORREST GUMP, none of which had a sequel. Where are the big stand-alone movies today? Of 2015’s top ten movies, seven were part of a series, and one of the remaining three could one day become the start a series. Hollywood refers to these as “franchise” movies because they become a brand, like a franchise.

Categories
Writing Business Writing craft

Stories, Parables & Movie Scripts: Basic screenplay writing with reference to HOW TO SUCCEED IN HOLLYWOOD (WITHOUT LOSING YOUR SOUL) Part VI The Starting Christian Filmmaker Problem

Children learn to crawl before they walk.

The Kendrick Brothers made FLYWHEEL before they made WAR ROOM. FLYWHEEL was terrific for what it was: a beginning; but, beginning movies can present problems.

It’s wonderful that Christian interest in filmmaking is growing rapidly. It’s problematic that less than professional movies come to market and don’t do well. It’s a big problem when audiences are disappointed and investors lose money. Disappointment leads to distrust and makes it harder even good movies.

Unsuccessful Christian movies even hurt Movieguide®’s ability to encourage Hollywood. Our truthful message to Hollywood is that Christian content and high moral values help movies do better. However, Christian content and high more values do not make a movie successful without high entertainment value. They want to come out of Christian movies anxious to tell friends how good it was, not how bad it was.

Not that long ago a movie with really strong Christian values was rare. Now many more are being made. The average American sees 1.7 movies per year in a theater; Evangelicals see 2.7. There are at least four quality movies made for Christian audiences coming out in the next two months. There will be more as the year progresses. The greater the competition, the more important the audience-pleasing skills of the filmmaker are.

In the 1930s, theaters were owned by the studios. The studios were more like Apple selling iPhones in Apple stores. The quality of the product sold was controlled. What developed was something like a movie factory with professionals working on every aspect of each movie. When a trained professional finished one project, they moved on to the next.

This system is long gone, but what remains is an audience expectation of professional moviemaking. Many Christian filmmakers meet those standards in some aspects of their production. The Kendrick Brother’s WAR ROOM had Hollywood-quality production values. They readily admit FLYWHEEL didn’t. FLYWHEEL’s strength was in the boldness of its story, not in the camera work done on a near home movie budget.

So, how do you break into Christian filmmaking without disappointing audiences and investors?

Step one is to realize that a calling to filmmaking is a calling to diligently pursue high quality filmmaking. It requires training and hard work.

Dr. Ted Baehr’s class HOW TO SUCCEED IN HOLLYWOOD (Without Losing Your Soul) offers a solid foundation. It covers the basics of great story structure and explains the workings of the industry. It could have included the subtitle “Without Losing You Wallet” as well. Countless people seek to enter the movie business and come away bruised, discouraged and broke.

Movies are a unique mix of art and business. If you fail at either you fail, period.

Movieguide® exists to redeem the media. The goal is more people making great Christian movies and fewer making satanic filth. We passionately want Christian filmmakers to succeed. If we appear hard on some Christian movies, it’s because we want to encourage great Christian movies. We want to raise entertainment value, production standards, profitability, audience size and impact. We want billions of people around the world being changed by viewing movies with solid Christian messages.

Consider the scripture, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.” (Colossians 3:23)

Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of Lords. That means He’s greater than a president or prime minister. To do something for “the Lord” is more profound than doing a special assignment for the president of the United States or the CEO of Apple.

Imagine being “God’s filmmaker.” You enter the throne room and are assigned the task of glorifying God with a movie the Holy Spirit will use to reach people.

With an attitude of awe toward the One True Audience, you want to do your very best and to constantly be improving what that very best is. To honor God it’s necessary to grow. God gives us talent and opportunity and expects us to diligently make the most of it. To do anything less is insulting.

Imagine the joy you’d feel if your child did a fabulous drawing and brought it to give to you. Your delight would be in seeing them develop and use the talents you gave them.

You don’t get to heaven by delighting God, but delighting God is like delighting your father. It brings both of you tremendous joy.

At Movieguide®, we love to be delighted by filmmakers, and we take great joy in giving out awards and prizes. The Movieguide® Awards is a festive celebration of the best being offered in movies and television. It gives us tremendous pleasure to see filmmakers encouraged to go out and make something even better.

The bottom line is that beginning Christian filmmakers need to start with the right attitude. They need to see themselves as serving God by pursing excellence in filmmaking. Their work should be an excellent offering joyously created to give to one’s Heavenly Father.

To be continued…

 

Categories
Writing Business Writing craft

Stories, Parables & Movie Scripts — Basic screenplay writing excerpted from HOW TO SUCCEED IN HOLLYWOOD (WITHOUT LOSING YOUR SOUL) — Part III — For Better or for Worse

Stories, Parables & Movie Scripts

Ted Baehr
Ted Baehr

Basic screenplay writing excerpted from HOW TO SUCCEED IN HOLLYWOOD (WITHOUT LOSING YOUR SOUL)

Part III

For Better or for Worse

Communicating effectively requires learning and applying the basic principles of language, grammar, rhetoric, technique, and general rules that govern each genre and medium. There are three levels of such principles: general principles (which apply to most communications), genre specific principles, and media specific principles.

There are also several steps involved in producing powerful communications, including movies and television programs. Here is a brief outline of the most important foundational steps in preparing your communication. Each genre and medium will modify this outline by adding or subtracting steps or substeps. However, this outline is your basic guide to the steps required to communicate effectively.

 

12 Basic Foundational Steps to Communicating Effectively:

  1. In light of who you are, why you want to communicate and well thought out research and ascertainment, make a brief note of what you want to say, your idea, conviction, or your key thought. This idea, thought, or statement must be something that you believe and want to communicate through a movie or television program.
  2. Ask and answer the appropriate ascertainment questions to target your audience, determine your genre and medium, and plan the execution of your communication.
  3. Rephrase your idea or key thought into an active premise that you can prove in your communication, taking into consideration your answers to the pertinent ascertainment questions.
  4. Identify the elements needed to prove your premise, most of which are inherent within your premise. In drama, these elements are your characters, conflict, climax, and resolution.
  5. Structure these elements taking into consideration your audience, genre, medium of choice and your answers to the ascertainment questions which are appropriate for your communication.
  6. Write out, plan, or script your communication, punctuating it with technical, dramatic, or literary effects to capture and retain audience interest.
  7. Prepare, storyboard, and/or rehearse your communication.
  8. Produce, polish, or otherwise finish your communication.
  9. Edit, review and revise your communication.
  10. Deliver, distribute or broadcast your communication.
  11. Survey your audience to find out how effective your communication was and how it can be improved.
  12. Review and revise your communication to improve it if possible.

Half of this process is preparation. Many people fail to prepare or dash off a script and believe that they will perfect it when the right person buys it. However, you never have a second chance to make a first impression, so you need to perfect your script right from the beginning, even if you need to change it later.

Remember that the average movie takes nine years from start to finish. The Passion of the Christ took ten years. Evita took twenty–three years. Batman took seventeen years.

How To Succeed in Hollywood Without Losing Your Soul by Ted Baehr
How To Succeed in Hollywood Without Losing Your Soul by Ted Baehr

There are several reasons why it takes so long. First, there are 300,000 scripts submitted every year to the Writers Guild of America and many more are written that are never submitted, aside from the flood of novels every year, but less than three hundred movies open in theaters every year. Thus, most scripts never make it into production. Second, Hollywood movies cost over $104 million to produce and distribute in 2010, and it takes a long, long time to get all the elements together so that some distributor or investor will want to put up this kind of money. Third, most people take years to get the script right. The Los Angeles Times interviewed a woman who was trying for twenty years to sell her script. She said that in all those years she had not had the time to take a scriptwriting course or read a book on scriptwriting. The Los Angeles Times and all of us should be perplexed: What was she doing all that time that she could not take a moment to learn her chosen craft?

To be continued…

Categories
Writing Business

Tips from the Pros: Dr. Ted Baehr

Sarah Sundin
Sarah Sundin

Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California! Today I have the honor of interviewing Dr. Ted Baehr. Not only has Dr. Baehr penned many books, but he is the founder of the popular and influential Movieguide® review service, which is having a surprisingly positive effect on Hollywood. Check out the statistics in the final question below!

Ted, how did you get into writing?

Ted Baehr
Ted Baehr

When I was the president of the company that produced THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE for CBS Television in 1979 and 1980 that had 37 million viewers and won an Emmy Award, Roy Carlisle from Harper & Row called and offered me a contract to write GETTING THE WORD OUT. I had, of course, written booklets and other materials for years, but that contract changed my publishing. 

Categories
Writing Business Writing craft

Beyond the Movie in Your Mind

"MaureenHello! Maureen Pratt here with another blog post about the craft of writing.

I’m typing this just before I leave to see one of the "blockbuster" movies coming out during this holiday season. Many films are timed to open during the next couple of months so that they can be eligible for award consideration, so the selection these days is varied and abundant.

Anticipating seeing "Lincoln," (my movie of choice today), I thought I’d talk today about fiction writing and a very specific way of filtering that "movie in the mind" to better hone story telling and characterization.

The concept of translating the "movie in the mind" to a novel, novella, or shorter story is a powerful one. Movies are by their nature action-packed, and when told on the big screen, they take on an epic quality even if the story involves only two characters. Sweeping scenes, broad emotions, and long passages are the things that hook us into sitting and watching – or sitting and writing. But forever lengthy storytelling can become unwieldy and dilute the impact of a very worthy tale.

This is where the "secret weapon" of moviemakers comes in, and where we can glean some very worthwhile food for thought and action. After a scene has been shot and a movie "in the can," comes the shirt-sleeves-rolled up work, the place where the story truly gets told: The editing room.

I’m not talking about rewriting in this context, that is, I’m not addressing the need to rework scenes, characters, plot points, or even changing the setting of a work. The editing to which I refer is more about establishing the pacing, featuring (however briefly) the small details that illustrate big points, and sculpting the work as it stands so that it can be three-dimensional, even if the words physically lie flat on the page.

Editing in this sense is carried out by watching the movie, and then coming in close on specific points that tell a bigger tale. For example, perhaps you like the initial description of your heroine. She’s petite, brunette, blue-eyed. Now, "movie-edit" and look at several possible "shots" that you can use to more precisely and uniquely describe her. Is one shoulder slightly lower than the other, perhaps indicating she’s carried a heavy load (a briefcase?) a long way for a long time? Is there even lighter hair coming in at her roots, indicating a transition from brunette to arriving middle age? Even if she appears calm at the start, does she have a characteristic fidgeting habit with her fingers indicating some tension underneath? As with picking which shots to use in a movie, in a book, pick out helpful details and use them in description, too.

Cinematic editing is also important when deciding where a scene begins and ends. We’ve all had the experience of not knowing, for example, how to close out a critical scene, with the result that the conversation or action becomes diluted from too much indecision. A masterful editor knows exactly when to "cut," often timing down to a second. This takes practice. A useful exercise is to take a scene that you feel is too long and cut it a few times at different points. How does each cut affect the flow? Tension? Impact? Practice makes perfect!

In movie editing, many aspects of the work come into play, and the same is true for a book. For example, movie editors are conscious of where music comes in and how it builds a scene. Think about this next time you’re going over your work. What music do you hear and when; that is, what background do you have in your scene that fleshes out either the characters or the setting? Also, how is the continuity from one scene to another? Are you sure that your hero remains brown eyed throughout, or that the local bakery is just that and doesn’t transform to a bookshop halfway through the book?

As you watch movies this holiday season and beyond, notice the editing – where cuts are made, which shots are used (where the focus is placed), and how music and other background elements play in telling the story as a whole. Then see which of these tools might help you go beyond the movie in your mind and arrive at a work that is multidimensional, compelling, and true!

Blessings to you!

Maureen

www.maureenpratt.com

http://blog.beliefnet.com/gooddaysbaddays/

Categories
Writing craft

Finding and Writing a Character’s Voice: Lessons from Playwriting

Pic for website 2012     Hello, again! Maureen Pratt here with my monthly blogpost about the craft of writing. Today, I'm going to focus on techniques to employ to find and write distinctive voices for each of your characters or individuals in fiction or non-fiction.

    I began my professional writing career as a playwright, earning my Master of Fine Arts in Theater Arts with a concentration in playwriting from UCLA and later having a number of plays produced. Unlike writing for the movies, playwriting "runs" on dialogue. A professional script for live theater contains very little, if any, description except to set the scene, and actor's notes should be non-existent. (Once a play has been published, which assumes it's been produced, these notes are usually inserted as guidelines for subsequent productions, however, original scripts do not include them.) So, it's vital that a playwright master the art of dialogue, crafting lines that contain meaning, emphasis, and character without "indicating" these in the script.

Example: "Mary: He did what? How? I don't believe it" instead of: "Mary (raising her voice and her eyebrows): He did what? (She sits down on the sofa) How? (She sighs) I don't believe it."