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BPS 045: How People Around You Can Hurt Your Screenwriting Dreams

I wanted to do an episode on this subject for a long time.

“You are the average of the five people you spend most of your time with.” – Jim Rohn

I wish I had someone to tell me this early on my screenwriting journey. In this episode, I go over what happened to me when I was starting out, how my friends affected me and my ability to move forward in my career and what happened to me when I moved to Los Angeles over a decade ago. I discuss how the people around you affect you on a personal, professional and even spiritual level.

I really hope you find some value in this episode.

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Alex Ferrari 0:00
Welcome to the bulletproof screenplay podcast episode number 45. right until it becomes as natural as breathing, right until not writing makes you anxious, anonymous. Broadcasting from a dark windowless room in Hollywood when we really should be working on that next draft, it's the bulletproof screenplay podcast showing you the craft and business of screenwriting while teaching you how to make your screenplay bulletproof. And here's your host, Alex Ferrari. Welcome. Welcome to another episode of The Bulletproof screenplay podcast. I am your humble host, Alex Ferrari. Now today's show is sponsored by bulletproof script coverage. Now, unlike other script coverage services, bulletproof script coverage actually focuses on the kind of project you are and the goals of the project you are. So we actually break it down by three categories micro budget, indie film, market and studio film. There's no reason to get coverage from a reader that used to reading tentpole movies when your movies gonna be done for $100,000 and we want you to focus on that at bulletproof script coverage. Our readers have worked with Marvel Studios CAA, WM E, NBC, HBO, Disney, Scott free Warner Brothers, the blacklist and many many more. So if you need your screenplay or TV script covered by professional readers, head on over to cover my screenplay.com and today's show is also sponsored by indie film hustle TV, the world's first streaming service dedicated to filmmakers, screenwriters, and content creators. If you want access to filmmaking documentaries feature films about filmmaking, interviews with some of the top screenwriters and filmmakers in Hollywood, as well as educational online courses all in one place. ifH TV is for you. Just head over to indie film hustle.tv. Now today's episode is a really quick one, I wanted to kind of put together this small episode, I thought it was something that needed to be said. And I know a lot of the tribe listening, haven't thought about this because of many reasons. So I heard a quote the other day that made so so so much sense that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. And I wanted to tell you stories about what happened with me and and the people I used to hang out with back in the day. A lot of times when filmmakers are hanging out or have a group of people around them, a lot of times you are the

the most advanced, the most driven the most the biggest hustler out of your group. And that, to me, is the worst place to be. Because you don't grow, you don't become better at what you do. You need to find people who are better than you, who will challenge you who will make you take your game up to another level. And that's the that's the positive way of looking at this, I'm not gonna talk about the negative way as well. Now, if you're hanging around five losers, and five guys or girls who are bringing you down, who are negative towards everything you do, you're never gonna get out of the out of the box, man, you're never going to get out and never get, you're never going to start the race, how you even get to get to the track, you need to find people around you, who are not only going to inspire you to be better, people who are going to support you and push you to grow as a artist, as a filmmaker, as an entrepreneur, which is all well you have to be in in order to make it and in the business today, those three things very, very, very much so. And when I was coming up, I you know, when I was in high school, I hung around with you know, good people, good friends, but they really weren't helping me move forward. A lot of times, some friends were some friends weren't. And same thing happened when I was in college. And when I got out of college, I didn't have anybody around me that was really, you know, in a different place. It was that at a higher level, let's say in, in the business somewhere, someone who would push me to be better than who I was. I was always pushing myself. I was always hustling myself. And I'll tell you what, when I was in, in Florida, you know a lot of ways and not always and I'm not trying to be cocky or anything like that, but a lot of ways. I was the big fish in a small pond, you know, and a group of friends that were around me, you know, were excellent. And some of them really did push me, but others didn't. And it wasn't their fault. It wasn't my fault. It was just the nature of where we were we were in a smaller town. In the film business was just not as you know, prolific. And then occasionally I would meet people like Egon Stefan Jr. who definitely pushed me To go a little bit farther, there was where, where he had been in the business for so long, and he taught me a lot about, about cameras about lenses and so on. But when I got to Los Angeles, that's when things changed for me. Because in LA, you know, you have to take your game up a notch, in order to survive, you know, you, you have to be, you're being pushed left and right, when you're meeting and working with people, a lot of these people have been in the business a lot longer than you have a lot of people have been, have much more experienced than you did, then you had. So when I got here, every single job I did, in a lot of ways, these clients were pushing me, these filmmakers were pushing me harder and harder. And that was, I mean, I grew within the first two years here, more than probably in the 10 years that I was in Florida, purely because of the nature of Los Angeles. Now, you could do that maybe in Atlanta, you could do that. And in New York, you could do that in many other big cities and a lot of other areas around the world that have a big film communities. But for me, it was LA. And I just, I just wanted to kind of put that message out there. Because I think you guys need to reevaluate people who around you and don't tell me about your I live with my mom, that doesn't count. I'm talking about friends. You know, I'm talking about people who are, you know, are in your business, we're trying to help you now, again, family, friends, if they're not helping you, if they're bringing you down, that might be something you need to reevaluate in your own life. I've had to do that many times with family. And it's not always very pleasant. But I know for me, it works. And it helped me move to where I need to go, especially early on in my career. So look around you and see who is around you, who are you spending the most time with? Who what is the average of the five people you spend the most time with? Are you hanging out playing Halo all the time, or drinking all the time or going on, and not really getting, you know, not writing, not doing what you need to do to get to that next level to get to that next place in your career, in your life, in your dream on your journey, you know, you've got to kind of grow. And when you're growing, you need those people around you. That's why I love masterminds. masterminds are when you get a group of people, you know, hopefully people who are farther along than you are, so they can guide you push you keep you accountable. That's why mentors are so important. Finding a mentor that can push you that can keep you accountable, and get you to that next place. It's kind of like having a personal trainer, you know, when you have a personal trainer, they're going to push you farther than you think you can go. And that's the kind of people you need around you. You know, I'm blessed because I get to talk to these people all the time, I get to have them on on my show, I get to talk to them. And they're not pushing me, but they are they are pushing me whether they know it or not just by me talking to them. I see where they are, I see the path they've walked in their journey. And it inspires me to move forward and inspires me to become better at what I'm doing. You know, and I, you know, who are you listening to on your on your way home or on your commute every day? Obviously, hopefully me. But if you know, but what podcasts you listen to what audio books are you listening to? You know, what are you doing to take your self to the next place to take you that next step further on that journey. And I think it all starts with the people you spend the most time with. And really you need to evaluate that in in 2019. And I hope this message gets out to you guys. And I mean it from a good place. And I want you guys to I don't want you to break up with your girlfriend or your boyfriend. I don't want you to leave your parents, because I said so I want you just to be really truthful and honest with yourself and find out hey, what what are these people doing for my life? Are they helping me? Or are they hurting me? Or are they just even worse, not doing a thing? They're negating they're just like, they're just they're just black. And they're not doing anything for me you if you want to make it to the next level. If you want to take your filmmaking journey farther down that path, get those skills up to push you farther than you were before. Then you've got to surround yourself with people who are better than you in those specific areas of life. Whether it's entrepreneurship, business, filmmaking, losing weight, getting healthy, meditation, spirituality, whatever it is, find those people ask the universe For those people to come into your life, and I promise you, they will. And slowly but surely you start just just releasing and letting go of the negative energy, letting go of those negative people letting go of those people who are not helping you, people who just want to stay at home, and do nothing, when you really want to get something done. And I know that is really helpful in smaller towns around the country and around the world. Places where the film business is not spewing out of every corner, like it is here in LA. But you really need to do this guys. And I, again, hope that this message reaches you guys at a good time in your life. And also, I don't care how old you are, you could be 20 or you could be 60. And if you're still surrounded by the wrong people, they're not going to move you forward to where you want to be in your life. Alright guys, better your situation better your chances on this turbulent filmmaker filmmaking path that you've decided to walk down in whatever avenue you decide to walk down in this business. I really do hope nothing but the best for you guys, and wish you nothing but the best. So thank you again for listening.

And that is the end of another episode of The Bulletproof screenplay podcast. As always keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.


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BPS 044: The Art of Writing the GREAT Screenplay with Linda Seger (CROSSOVER EVENT)

Today on the show we have the legendary Linda Segar. Linda was one of my first ever interviews back when I launched Indie Film Hustle and her episode is by far one of the most popular ever. Here’s some info on our lovely guest.

In 1981, Linda Seger created and defined the career of Script Consultant. She based her business on a method for analyzing scripts that she had developed for her doctoral dissertation project. Since then, she has consulted on over 2,000 scripts including over 50 produced feature films and over 35 produced television projects. Linda was the consultant for Peter Jackson’s breakthrough film, Brain Dead, and for Roland Emmerich’s breakthrough film, Universal Soldier.

She was the script consultant on Pasttime and Picture Bride–both winners of the Audience Favorite Award at the Sundance Film Festival–as well as for the films TheLong Walk Home, The Neverending Story II, Luther, Romero, and television movies and mini-series including The Bridge, the Danish-Swedish mini-series (now playing in the US).

Other clients include Ray Bradbury who said,

“Linda’s technique is a light to see by,”

William Kelley, Linda Lavin, and production companies, film studios, producers, directors, and writers from over 33 countries.

Having authored nine books on scriptwriting, including the best-selling Making A Good Script Great, Linda is one of the most prolific writers in her field. 

Here new book The Collaborative Art of Filmmaking: From Script to Screen explores what goes into the making of Hollywood’s greatest motion pictures. Join veteran script consultant Linda Seger as she examines contemporary and classic screenplays on their perilous journey from script to screen. This fully revised and updated edition includes interviews with over 80 well-known artists in their fields including writers, producers, directors, actors, editors, composers, and production designers.

Their discussions about the art and craft of filmmaking – including how and why they make their decisions – provides filmmaking and screenwriting students and professionals with the ultimate guide to creating the best possible “blueprint” for a film and to also fully understand the artistic and technical decisions being made by all those involved in the process.

“A very thorough and fascinating look at the whole filmmaking process – the art and the craft. Highly readable and interesting for filmmakers or beginners with a special emphasis on the power of collaboration. A well researched insider’s guide – like taking the hand of accomplished filmmakers and learning from the best.”
– Ron Howard, Oscar-Winning Director and Co-Founder of Imagine Entertainment

Enjoy my knowledge bomb filled conversation with Linda Seger.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 0:38
I'd like to welcome back to the show returning champion, Linda Seger, thank you so much for being on the show, Linda

Linda Seger 4:17
Oh, thank you.

Alex Ferrari 4:18
You have been you were one of my early one of my early episodes, one of my early interviews and your how to make a good script. Great. And you honestly were one of the most popular podcasts I had on both of my podcasts. And for everyone that everyone who's listening who doesn't know who Linda is or her work. She is a legend. She has been she was like one of the first if not the first.

Linda Seger 4:42
I was the first Yes.

Alex Ferrari 4:44
So you actually started the whole consulting helping screenwriters writing.

Linda Seger 4:51
I started the script consulting business and I started it is I was the first one to think of it is an entrepreneurial business as opposed to somebody teaching a class and helping people with their scripts, so

Alex Ferrari 5:06
So tell us a little bit about tell everybody a little bit about your background, they don't know who you are.

Linda Seger 5:10
Well, I have a big background in drama, I have a Master's, I have a doctorate in a very unusual field of drama and theology, if you can figure that out. And I've taught college, I've directed plays, and I did a thesis for my doctoral degree on what makes a script work or what makes a great script. And when I entered the film industry, in 1980, I found a whole lot of scripts that didn't work. And I took my thesis and I applied it to those scripts to figure out what's missing. And it was very workable, I started out very slowly went to a career consultant said, this is really what I want to do. So I've been doing this since 1981, I really still enjoy doing it. I work with a whole huge breadth of writers, I work with people who say I have an idea. And I work with Academy Award winners, and just about everybody in between.

Alex Ferrari 6:14
Now, I want to, I want to, I've always been curious about this, because I've had like your friend Michael Hagen, and Chris Vogler and a lot of these guys who are in the space with you. And they also work with like, you know, starting out, and then they also work with these big Oscar winning. How was the conversation like when you have an Oscar winning screenwriter, who's obviously very capable and very seasoned? What is the conversation like that you're like, when they call you for help? Where's their block? What's What's stopping me from writing something?

Linda Seger 6:46
Sometimes the problem is that it's simply not selling. And they're wondering if there's something wrong that they are not seeing. Because no one is very objective about their own work, you need a professional outside eye. But what I noticed with the experience writers, very, I'm very respectful. And I'm very careful. And I don't have to say as much. So I might just say, Okay, let's look at this first turning point. It's a little muddy, could it be just a little cleaner to really get that narrative track? And the second act going in the nod? And I, I don't have to say more, because I don't have to explain it. They know exactly what I'm saying. So there's a shortcut. And there's a kind of a trust that is there that, okay, I say those three sentences and next point. And in most of the time, experienced people are also very respectful of me. And there is that mutual sense of you're both doing a professional job. Now, I do have experienced writers who say, never tell anyone who worked with me that I call you in on my scripts, because I'm a professor now. All right. And I think other people really don't mind. Like I worked with William Kelly, who wrote witness after witness. And I think we actually worked on two scripts. So they they didn't get made. And I think the producers had an idea that was kind of unworkable, no matter what you did with that. But that was great to work with him and to know him.

Alex Ferrari 8:30
That's, that's amazing. Yeah, cuz I know a lot of times, screenwriters, especially when they get up, up and up at the upper echelons of the business, where their names are now famous or known in the industry, at least, they don't want to know that they don't want to let anyone know that like I have a secret weapon like Linda.For, for advice.

Linda Seger 8:52
Yeah. And other people are actually very pleased about them say, oh, that's, that's fine. And in fact, when I started out in 1980, and 81, I was a secret from everyone and nobody would admit it. No, what happens is a lot of people consider it sort of a badge of honor and professionalism. Like of course, I go to a script consultant to make get that last five or 10 or 20% Out of my scripts, like no problem.

Alex Ferrari 9:21
That's amazing. Because I mean, because a lot of times screenwriters, especially young screenwriters, they just they don't they don't think square consultants can bring a lot of value to them, because they're like, Oh, if, if they can do it, like if they if they're that good, why haven't they won 10 Oscars and things like that? And it's, it's kind of, I have always looked at as like, you're looking at it, you're like a technician, you're going to come in and do things and see things that they just are not gonna see, no matter how talented they might be. Michael Jordan had a coach. I mean, he was one of the greatest basketball players of all time.

Linda Seger 9:56
Well, the other thing is consulting was a totally different town. than screenwriting, and you have to be diplomatic, you have to be very good at explaining concepts. So, you know, when people say, Well, you don't write, say, No, I'm not interested in writing, I'm into some consulting, because that's where my ability, and that's where my background is. And consulting is a combination of analytical and creative, because I have to get inside that other person's story in their style. And when I give notes, I have to if it's a comedy, I have to give calm comedy notes, not just, you know, notes. And, and I'm there to help them work and nurture their own talent and their particular abilities. So it's, it suits me very, very well. And there's just a lot people will say, I just don't want to do that I really want to write and so that's great. You should need writers. Now your new book? Well, one of the many, I mean, you've written like 13 or 5000 books. Well, I didn't know for 15 and, but nine on screenwriting, and I'm writing my 10th on screenwriting right now.

Alex Ferrari 11:13
Right. And you've and you've written, you're very prolific as a writer. I don't know what you're saying you don't like to write, but you do write, you write you write. Write these books, you write a lot of books. But your latest book is The collaborative of art of filmmaking, the art of filmmaking from script to screen, yes. Push the book out there. Absolutely. So I wanted to ask you, what are some of the necessary elements that make a successful creative kind of collaboration?

Linda Seger 11:42
Well, the first thing is that film used to be think thought of as the directors, the true artists, so it was called the otter theory. And somewhere in the 80s, maybe even into the 90s, people began to think differently about making a film. So this is a collaboration between the greatest artists in each of their areas. I mean, imagine working with the greatest composers, the greatest makeup artists, the greatest actors, the greatest directors, and what a thrill that is when you think of how much they bring, because they are masters at what they do. So the collaborative art of filmmaking follows the script from the script stage, through every artist to look at what does each artist do along the way to create the film. And the script is really sometimes thought of as a guide or a blueprint. It's, it's one of the few art forms that is not complete when you do it. It's not complete, until all these different artists come in and do this great work with that. Now, what we did the first, the first two editions were done with I had a co author Ed Wetmore, who actually died in 2016. But gave me permission before that, to do the third edition by myself. When we first did this, we interviewed 70 different artists. And then we've added interviews. And in this one, the third edition, I've added some more and also did a lot of Google of research as well. And now it isn't really exactly an interview. But what it is, is that all these different artists, talk about ideas, so that so I will discuss an idea, let's let's just talk about what a composer does. And then there might be a series of quotes from famous composers that expand the idea that I have introduced. So and then there's a case study, and we decided to keep the same case study as the second edition, which is a beautiful mind.

Just because it's it's a great film. And it's really, really difficult to talk to every artists on a film. And that was the whole idea of a case study. So the first edition, the case study was Dead Poets Society, and some of those quotes are integrated into this book. And then the second edition was a beautiful mind with the help of Ron Howard at getting to all these people, except for the actors. And Ron said, it doesn't matter what I do. Russell Crowe and Jennifer Connelly are not going to talk to you so there was so much read Nightline, so I got great material in there for them. And it is interesting, because it's not easy to get these interviews. And but I mean, literally, we did 70 We sat down with me I had lunch with Ron Howard. I went to Hans Zimmer's student music studio, who's the composer and was on actually I sat with Bill Conti, the composer, when he was recording the music, he invited us to come in, listen to a recording session. So and we were in Leonard Nimoy boy's home sipping cappuccino and Lawrence chasms home. And I mean, it was, it was just, you know, it's tough, it's a tough game, it's really tough to get these people. And so there were, there are some additions to those. And just lots of lots of wonderful information in here. That's really important to every artists, because the actors should know what the editor is doing, and the editors should know what the composer is going to do. But for the screenwriter, it's really important to know what people are going to do with your script. And when what they're doing is fine. And when what they're doing is you just cringe over that because you you want great people working with it.

Alex Ferrari 16:03
Now, I mean, if you can imagine Steven Spielberg's work without John Williams, or out or without Janice Kandinsky as his cinematographer, I mean, look,

Linda Seger 16:12
Kathleen Kennedy, Catholic,

Alex Ferrari 16:14
I mean, you know, his amazing collaborators he has, and everyone thinks of Steven Spielberg as one of the greatest directors of all time, which he is, but without this group of people around him, he doesn't have that magic, you have to, it is such a collaborative art. And people always forget about that, because of this theory, the autour theory, which, you know, like the Kubrick's of the world, and you know, Billy Wilder and Orson Welles and these kind of older filmmakers, Alfred Hitchcock, but all of these guys had such a cult. I mean, they had collaborators for years. I know Ron Howard, he won't even move on a movie unless his first ad is available. And he's worth his first ad, like, they will stop. We can't even that can't go until the first ad is.

Linda Seger 17:02
Yes. And people like Spielberg, or a lot of a lot of these other people. Clint Eastwood uses a lot of the same people Spike Lee, they say we have such a shorthand, it's just so relaxing is so much easier, because you know, where everybody is, you know, that you can trust them. And so more and more people have this group around them, that as you say, goes as far as the assistant director, and I mean, Lauren's cast and did so many movies with Carol, little tin as the editor. Do so you, you just say yeah, when you work well with people, you want to keep working with them.

Alex Ferrari 17:43
It's hard. It's hard to even find people you can work with in this business. And when you find them, you hold on tight.

Linda Seger 17:49
Yes, yes. That's, that's the best.

Alex Ferrari 17:52
Yeah. And you also mentioned something earlier that, you know, screenwriters should actually know what the editor and the DP and everyone else is doing. And I'm such a proponent of educating yourself as much as humanly possible about the process. And so many times, specifically, screenwriters, they'll just stay in their little screenwriting bubble and they just like, well, like, I don't even know what a DP does, or I don't even know what the editors doing. Like, if you don't have to be an expert on any of those areas. But do you agree that you should, at every every person should know everything as much as they can about this process?

Linda Seger 18:24
Yes, and one of the reasons to know so much is that you want the best people in each area to be attracted to your script. And if you know how to write that script, where the editor says, I just love the way these scenes move one to the other, I love how clear the narrative wine is. VS, I want to be part of that, or the director loves the images, or the producer says, you know, I think I can sell this, I think this is really commercial, it's got all the elements that we look for in a great film. So the more you can know about that, the better and there is a saying, you can't use it if you don't know it. And so said you never block out law knowledge you never limit yourself. And maybe on technical things, I say I don't want to look, I don't want to learn that. But but you know, when it comes to film or something like that, you really want to be open, because it's amazing how many tools you will use that are in your toolbox.

Alex Ferrari 19:32
Now if you're able to write if you're able to write something like you're saying that, you know can addressed an editor going, Oh, I just love the way this is that or this or that or the DP goes, Oh, I love the images and what you could do with that. A lot of times those secondary and third layer of people like the director will be maybe on the fence and they'll hand it to the editor. I'm like What do you think? And that's the thing that puts it puts it over the top is that or the producer will do the same thing.

Linda Seger 19:57
Plus, these areas are so fascinating. Before we did the first edition of this book, I did a class in every area at UCLA. And so I took editing, I audited composing. I did and I actually have had a background acting so but I took an acting weekend. And I took actually three film directing classes. And people said, are you interested in directing film? I said, No, I just want to understand that folk that focus on that perception of the director. And I totally enjoyed all of these classes are just so fascinating to learn how all these different pieces fit together. And then talking to people who just, you know, really knew how to be interviewed and knew all this amazing information. You know, acting How do you prepare for the acting part or makeup. Another thing I found so interesting was the different personalities. Because the Brian Howard said, the director gets to play with everybody. And so the director has to be kind of extroverted, but to think of the editor in the dark room editing, and you think of the writer in the room, by him, by him or herself very solitary. So that's a different personality, or the actor that has to relate so well to so many people. The makeup, people told me, one of the things that they had to do is they said, We have to be able to move with all these different personalities, because we are the first person the actor sees. And we have to help set the tone, if they want to talk before they start shooting while having their makeup on. We will talk and if they want to be quiet, we will be quiet and we better be in a good mood. Because that's part of our job is to get that attitude going before he go on the set and have to do that hard work.

Alex Ferrari 22:05
That is what we like to call being professional. Yes, professional, which is, unfortunately, lacking in many ways in the business.

Linda Seger 22:15
In this business, there is a tendency to think that everyone can do everything. Everyone thinks they can, right and they can act and they can direct. And the composer said we are the first artists where people will actually admit they can't do our work. And they say in a lot of times that they will say to the composer something like I want a motet here. And the composer will say, believe me, you do not want to motet here. Let me play you what that actually is. And one of the quotes in this book, which is so cute, as they said, so many people don't know how to talk to the composer. And someone says, you know, this, this is a little too much like yellow sunshine, could you make it more like a blue cloud? Like the composers, I guess so I guess we can't do that.

Alex Ferrari 23:12
No, it's kind of like, because I've worked with many composers in my career. And it is like I've once or twice tried to talk in their talk. And I've been in both times, they just like, You need to stop that. That is not your job. It is my job to do that. And all you got to tell me and this is a great piece of advice for people working with a composer is speak emotion, speak emotion, what do you want to feel? I'll get that's my, um, the translator, from your emotion to the music. That's why you have me here. I think that was a great, great way of looking at it.

Linda Seger 23:43
Yes. And in that moment, when composers say, I got it, you know, or I I'm they play a little tune. They said that's it. They play a little tune to say, No, not even close.

Alex Ferrari 23:58
Like, like I would love to sit in a room with John Williams and Steven Spielberg just for like 15 minutes and be a fly on that wall during any any of their sessions just to see what that after so many decades and decades of making iconic things together. Like, what's that conversation like at this point?

Linda Seger 24:15
One of the interesting things that I have in here is that when John Williams compose that five note sequence in Close Encounters of the Third Kind, he said, I sat down and I came up with 350 combinations of these five notes. And then Spielberg ask a mathematician how many possible combinations are there and I think it was something like 34,000 and John Williams that I think maybe a my 350 I can find something you know the right kind of sound that I'm looking for. But isn't that amazing? And see, I think that's another great thing about professionals is that sometimes people think professionals it's easier said no proof. The difference between a professional and an amateur is the professional works harder.

Alex Ferrari 25:08
You'll make good.

Linda Seger 25:10
Yeah, they will they keep working to get it right. And they have they have trained themselves to sort of know that A ha moment says yes. Okay, this is what I'm looking for. But you know screen professional screenwriters write a scene 22 times, and amateurs after the third time they think it's there and say no, is that that's the difference between the two is you? You learn? Okay, let me look at this again. I have a saying with the books I write if I haven't written that sentence 10 times is probably not good enough.

Alex Ferrari 25:46
That's, that's great.

Linda Seger 25:48
Yeah, is in you just and you work on the wording and you work on the rhythm and you reverse the sentences. And then you decide, let's not do that here. Let's do this here. And I'm in just because I, I'm a nonfiction writer, because I do the screenwriting books, and I do some books on spirituality. And so in doing though, is I'm, you know, I'm doing the creative process of a writer, I'm just doing it in the form of nonfiction, as opposed to screenwriting. And it is interesting. I love working with ideas. I love writing books. And I have never had a desire to write screenplays. I love consulting on screenplays, I just just love the different subject matter I get and the different problems I encountered. So we all have that place where we have to figure out where we fit. And what's nice what the collaborative art of filmmaking that if you want to be in the film industry, but you're not sure where you want to be. You read about all these hours and say, Oh, I'm fascinated with editing. I never knew that when I never done so. So it was the book will help you figure out where you fit in. If you're a new filmmaker doing low budget, the book will help you through those low budget films where you don't necessarily have all the people around you that the expensive studio films might have.

Alex Ferrari 27:16
Now, real quickly, you were you were talking about professionals and amateurs and I know amateurs a lot of times are people starting out when they're writing screenwriter and when they're writing screenplays really get caught up so much in the in the the minutiae of the period has to be here that has to be there all these rules in the formatting, not even the structure or story, just the formatting. And it is important to format and like I always tell people like when you're Shane Black, they're gonna let a spelling error go by they're gonna let some grammatical stuff go by because you're Shane Black, or you're Aaron Sorkin, and that's going to fly and you have to be so much more perfect when you're starting out. But I think they get caught up so much. I'm excited. When I started writing my screenplays, I did the same thing. I was just like, literally periods and this and that. What's your opinion on that?

Linda Seger 28:05
Well, there's so many good formatting programs to help you. But if you're writing the first group, first script, it doesn't matter. And then you'll after you write it, you'll go in, you'll reformat it, what you want to do is to start getting it down and have the experience of writing 100 pages. It's scary. The first time I I wrote my first book, making a good script, great. I was terrified until the last chapter. And what I learned was you can type when you are terrified, your your hands might be shaking, but you can still type. And pretty soon you take a deep breath. And it's like, okay, and on many of my books, I've reached those points of sheer terror, said, Oh, my gosh, I have to do this chapter or what am I talking about? And is this good enough? And then you go back into it, and you get feedback. That's extremely important in writing. And you go through the process, and, you know, somewhere around my sixth book, it occurred to me I was an author. I used to say, I write books, and someone said, you're an author said, Oh, yes, I guess I'm an author. And, and as you write, I mean, I feel like I have a handle on writing now. And it goes more easily in many ways because I don't get frustrated, I don't get upset if I'm running into problems. I go for help. I go for feedback. I can hire a researcher I mean, I do whatever is needed in order to do it. But terror is part of that and especially at the beginning, and and knowing that you're having trouble with something, say I don't know how to do this. I had a literary consultant for my first seven books, and sometimes I I needed him for the whole book. And so the first couple of books he did, he worked on the whole book, and my editor at the publisher say, why are you having that? That's what I do. And I said, Well, you actually do something somewhat different. And he helps me present to you a good draft. So you don't have to do as much. But people have different talents. And then, as I got more, you know, farther along, when I ran into problems, I would go back to him. And sometimes I go back to him with a page, though on my one of my books is, he said, you know, what your your actually first chapter actually starts on page two, move that paragraph up with these three paragraphs over here. Oh, oh, it works really? Well, like couldn't see it.

Alex Ferrari 30:53
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Linda Seger 31:03
So we need we need those people.

Alex Ferrari 31:06
Yeah, I understand your point of after six books, you think of yourself as an author, I, it took me a long time before I consider myself a director or I consider myself a writer of any sort. After after, or even a podcaster at this point. I guess I guess I'm like, I'd literally turn people like, oh, you're a podcaster. I'm like, I guess after three 400 episodes, I think I guess I am. I don't? Yeah,

Linda Seger 31:29
I don't know. Interesting how long it takes for us to acknowledge. Yeah, on the other hand, some people acknowledge it so fast, that they say I'm a writer, director, producer, and you say what have you done. So I have a couple ideas. No, and the business card and a business card helps that quite yet.

Alex Ferrari 31:47
And they have a business card Don't forget to have that has a business card. So that's all they need. Now, I wanted to also because there's so I mean, I could talk to you for hours. So I'm going to try to get a little bit more in because I wanted to also touch on a few of your other books and some of these concepts in your other books. I was fascinated about the concept of competitiveness being competitive against being collaborative. You know, there's so many so many not only filmmakers but screenwriters out there who have this kind of dog eat dog mentality when they're trying to just like I got an undercut that guy or that girl is gonna you know, I'm like, I mean come like me competition with with Aaron Sorkin. I'm like, No, you're not. So stop. You're not? What do you have to say about that? What advice? Can you give screenwriters and filmmakers? Who are this kind of Doggy Dog competition,

Linda Seger 32:35
This is an amazing collaborative business. And if you have that sense of competition, work at getting over it. Now, when I started, I had that sense. And anytime someone came along, or someone's a tree, they're just a great seminar leader. And I go, oh, oh, are they better than me for that was a great script consultant. And every time that happened to say, I don't want to do this, I do not want to spend my life feeling competitive with people. So I don't have competitors, I have colleagues. And we have worked really hard since I'd say the late 1980s. To come together. So most of my colleagues, I know them, I have good relationships with them. Some of them I'm very dear friends with. But the thing when you're collaborative is that you feed each other with simply opens up your business. So I endorse other people's books, they endorse my book, my certain colleagues get me jobs, I get them jobs. We, you know, we really, and we talk about things. Sometimes we have to talk about a contract. Sometimes we'll talk about maybe a problem we're having with a client and you call and you say how do I handle this? And, and I have, I have Well, one of my when you know if I ever get sort of caught up and that junky stuff, you know that chunky stuff that we sometimes get caught up in? And Pamela J Smith is a mythologise cook script and salt. And also she says, Honey, don't get none of that on Yeah. He's great. And sometimes, you know, she'll say leave this one alone. And other times she says, No, this has to be addressed. And let's work together on the email or how we're going to address this because it's it's important for the industry to address certain things. So I think that's another thing I have what I call my confidence. And when I'm not sure about something, I say okay, how do I handle this? I don't think I'm either I'm not handling it well or I have a feeling I'm not going to handle it well unless I talk to you. So we need We really need each other and that begins to feed everything out and ripple outwards. I wrote a book about this. It's an it's not a screenwriting book it is what is called the better way to win, the better way to win, connecting, not competing for success. And I did it is a master's degree in a I have an MA in feminist theology among other degrees. And so I was interested, how do you move from one model of thinking to another when you've grown up and thinking of other people in your field is competition and it took me a long time to get over that. But the My intention was I do not want to live my life this way. It just eats you away and you know, you can't appreciate other people and oil like who's number one in the world? Oh, forget it

Alex Ferrari 35:59
Don't you agree that I mean I always because it even in my world where I'm online being an online influencer, if you will, in the filmmaking and screenwriting space with indie film, hustle, and bulletproof screenplay, I get, I get colleagues of mine who are also in this space. Who think of me a lot of times this is competition. And I always tell people, I don't have competition because there is nobody that can compete with me, because it's like me, it's like me trying to compete with Chris Nolan. Like, Chris Nolan is Chris Nolan. i He has a flavor and his movies I have a flavor of mine. You know, maybe that's not good example because he's at a different level than I am. But no, but it just even colleagues is like, there's only one Linda Seeger like, you know, there's a Michael Haig, there's a Chris Vogler. There's a John Truby. You know, all these guys have very different flavors, and are presenting ideas just in their own through their own filter. And it's just you can't really compete at that point. And some people like you, good.

Linda Seger 36:55
Yep. Because you want to be authentic, not only as a human being, but in your work. And you say my work is an expression of me. And so there isn't anyone else that does things, the way that I do it. But I have teamed up I even do team Consulting at times where just recently, someone had a very mythic oriented script. And so I did my work. And then they went to Pamela Smith, and she did their midterm mythology work on it. And then Pamela and I had a phone conversation to just make sure we were in tune because we said we don't want to contradict each other. We want to expand on each other. And, and you know, it's so much fun to work with good colleagues. So we used to be part of a screenwriting summit where it was Syd field and Chris Vogler and John Truby, and Michael Hagen, me, and we went to Tel Aviv, we went to Mexico City together, we went to Toronto, you know, just various places. And we had such a good time together. And it was such a wonderful way to get to know each other in a much better way. And so we feel, I think we all felt very warmly toward each other, and we feel very supportive of each other. And what a joy. I mean, we're, we're supposed to have fun in our work, we're supposed to enjoy what we do and enjoy the people around us and who wants to go around everyday feeling miserable and competitive with a pit in your stomach. That's not a good way to live. I don't want to live that way. So we and there are people of course, that will be competitive. And that will not be as close to you and you think well, I just don't want to rile them up. I always want to be respectful and kind. And regardless of what they do, I don't one of the things I had was I don't want to give other people a reason to have trouble with me because I don't want to cause anyone trouble. I want people you know, I mean I want everyone to be happy and fulfilled that's my goal in life was

Alex Ferrari 39:14
Why not? Absolutely it makes life a lot easier. We're here for a short time on this on this rock I mean it should be it we should have some fun while we're here and and that kind of energy is excellent. One thing you also mentioned I want to touch upon is mindset I'm a very big proponent of mindset and and how it literally can crucify us and stop us from doing anything and also opens up doors and accelerates your your create not only creative process, but your life in general. Yes, what is your you've worked with probably 1000s of screenwriters now, close of your career. I'm assuming you've run into some interesting mindsets along the way, whether it's at the very high levels of Oscar winning screenwriters to the the amateur just starting out What are some of the biggest obstacles you see that screenwriters put in front of themselves? To stop them? And I'm sure you've met super talented screenwriters who were just like, why aren't you doing more? Why'd stop thinking that way? What are some of those things?

Linda Seger 40:14
Well, one thing is people who don't want to learn. And they really think that they know everything, in which case, there's no reason for them to come to me. But sometimes they do anyway, I think they hope I'm going to write 20 pages about how wonderful they are. And so you're getting no matter what you're going to get a critique. I mean, that's what I do. But I think that's the hardest thing is people who push things away that can help them and say, you know, AI, or people like me, are not there to tell them what to do. We're there to show them how they can get more out of their script. And we don't just say, Well, do the scene this way we see look, you want more movement in this scene? Or, you know, we talk conceptually. So I think there's this kind of the sense about everyone being open. Another thing and I say this in a lot of my seminars, say learn to say yes, instead of No. Now, have your characters say yes, because no stops the story. And yes, opens it up. So if the guy says to the girl, you want to go out with me Saturday night to dinner? And she says, No, we don't have a story. And when I'm invited to places I, I just generally say yes, a lot. Now, I don't say yes to dangerous situations. But I'm going to be going and teaching in nine countries this fall. So I've been saying yes to Kazakhstan, and to Kiev, and to Warsaw and Latvia and all this. But I also know in my case, I also check things out in terms of the safety side, and I did say no to Tehran, I said, No to Kurdistan, I said no to Nigeria,

Alex Ferrari 42:03
As you should, as you should.

Linda Seger 42:04
And I have a group of consultants, I actually they're made up of generals and colonels who know the world and I save his Latvia safe. They say, Yeah, but don't go to Russia right now, or don't go to Tehran right now. And so I I take them more seriously than the State Department. So but one of the things I found in my seminars last fall, so many people came up to me after and said, That is such a great concept for life, is to say yes. And what I see is screenwriters sabotaging their careers. So somebody says, you know, we'd like you to write the script, but we don't have much money. Is it all? No, I don't want to do it. It's the first opportunity said your first opportunity. You say, yes. I mean, you want to keep the ripple effect going? And if you don't say yes, you have no narrative line about you as a screenwriter. So, you know, later down the line, you're going to say no, to some stuff, and yes, to others, but even in my work now, I generally don't say no to things because I, I want things to keep opening up. And so, you know, I say I have the whole spectrum of writers. And sometimes people say, Well, do you only work with studio films? No, of course not. I work with people just have to contact me.

Alex Ferrari 43:31
Exactly. And I think there was a book by Shonda Rhimes, the year of saying yes. Where she literally says, yes, she literally said yes to everything. And she's like, I'm going to do an experiment and anything like I get asked, no one knew that she was doing this. But for a year, she said yes to everything. And she said her world changed. Oh, yeah. Because her opportunities just opened up. And she just started going to places and doing things that she would have never done, because of her own mindsets, or because of her own things. She said no to so.

Linda Seger 44:00
And I think the other thing is look for places where you can be kind and generous. And that there's a lot of time. I mean, when if people email me, I do try to respond. I mean, I don't necessarily respond with a fork as email. But I do try to recognize, you know, people are reaching out for help. And I think sometimes you see people in this industry, who just are not generous. And then you see the people who are and one of the loveliest things I heard was I have a friend who's has produced and put together some very, very big film festivals and she says, you know, one of the nicest guys I ever met with Liam Neeson. He got off the plane. He says, What can I do to help you? She says, Oh my gosh, this is the nicest things versus someone getting off the plane with their entourage, and they're stuck up nose and, you know, do this do that. And so I think all of all of us, it doesn't matter where we are in the world is to say I, you know, I'm here I want to I want to do good things. And my sense is we, it's kind of like writing, if somebody says, Why do you write says, The only reason to write is to change the world as we know it?

Alex Ferrari 45:29
Without question, yeah, so do you believe also, I mean, I have to believe at this point that you, you would agree with what I'm about to say. But I've discovered it recently in the last few years is once you become of service to other people in whatever shape that might be, it might be something small, it might be something big. The world changes for you, and opportunities, open up the doors open. And I can't even tell you how many opportunities have presented me because of me being of service to a community of filmmakers and screenwriters out there, I get them, I literally get to sit down and have a conversation with a legend like yourself, and have this connection that, you know, if I would have called you, if I would just drop an email to you, I'm like, Hey, can I just talk to you for an hour and a half? Probably not going to happen. But But do you agree that just being of service really does open up a lot of opportunities with with people and in their lives and careers.

Linda Seger 46:21
And you have to believe that things ripple out in that even when they don't come back to you directly. They come back indirectly. And so you want to keep the ripple. You know, you want to keep that ripple going.

Alex Ferrari 46:37
Now, you also you also have written you know, many books on screenwriting, but you've also written books on spirituality. And I know when some sometimes when you say that word I know right now the second I said the word spirituality I know of at least 20 to 30% of the audience just said, Wait a minute, what's going on? Well, everyone calm down. My audience is a little used to me talking about little deeper subjects. I wanted to touch a touch upon not only spirituality, but you know, because obviously you have a very unique pedigree, with writing in theology, and where you come from, in regards to spirituality regards to your own journey in life as a creative, let's say, let's say with a creative and a screenwriting. Yes. How can that that concept of spirituality, whether you believe it or not, I always like I used the term universe a lot. It's like the universe does this and the energies of coming in and out? What is your advice to screenwriters, and filmmakers, for that matter? In regards to getting in touch with themselves? You know, I meditate a lot. And I teach meditations. And I wanted to kind of bring that to my audience as well. And it's done so much for me. What do you what do you feelings on this?

Linda Seger 47:48
Well, I wrote a book called spiritual steps on the road to success. And the subtitle is gaining the goal without losing your soul. And what interested me was the spiritual issues that go along with success. And I was mainly interested, because as I moved from failure, that things not working for years to becoming successful, I realized the issues become very different. And I think it's really easy. When you get successful you think you don't need to be spiritual anymore, because you have everything you're praying about before, of course, why and what I discovered was just a whole new set of issues. And so I got interested in those issues, although the book begins with chapter on what it means to feel called and all you know, or guided, or, say, the way you opened up, or I just found my way, and I love what I'm doing or, you know, however you define it. And so the first chapter is about that. But then as it moves on, and talks about some of the other issues. And then I think there is a commitment, what, when I started out, I kind of made a commitment that I would try to do my business with spiritual principles and with spirituality. And I figured that I sort of figured I would make it I didn't expect to do really well. But I said, you know, I don't think I'm going to fall through the cracks. Now, there were times I did think I was going to fall through the cracks, but and what I discovered instead what I mean, things have gone far bigger and better than I had expected when I started out. But I think I was willing when I started out to say, I just want to actualize myself, I want to use my talents. I want to nurture people's creativity. And so then things open up and then not saying no to how they open up because we often put those gates down like I saw myself. Oh, I bet all the studios are going to hire me. And Won't that be great and I'll get my names in there. Paper and maybe get thanked for an Academy Award. Well, that's not how my career went. I do work with experience writers, but the studio's don't hire people like me. And what I realized was where the path is evolving. That's the path, you walk down. And you don't just say, Oh, I'm sorry, you're fine. I have to put my nose in the air. And so there, there is a lot about moving down, and then realizing the issues, you have to deal with change. And I don't think in anything, we do things alone, I think our lives are collaborative. And that means if you need a therapist, go to a therapist. When I was starting my business, I went to the Young Center in Los Angeles, and they had a sliding scale, I was at the bottom of have no money. And but I worked with the union as Carl Jung, NOONIEN therapists for really several years. And it really helped because every time an issue came up in my business, I had someplace to go. I work with a spiritual director at times, and I'm going on this long trip for two months teaching in nine countries. And when I taught them was gone for two months, last fall, I worked with her throughout the summer, and I really think I'm going to go back, because I think I want to be ready for the opportunities, the challenges of that much travel, meeting lots of people you know, want to make sure I don't get too tired, it can't get sick. You know, there's because people say, Oh, they're so glamorous. He said, Yeah. I mean, it's, it's wonderful for people who love to travel, which I do. But there's a lot of challenges, and saying, I'm going to be in 10 countries in two months. And, you know, I I expect everything will be fine. But I don't know what causes tennis like

Alex Ferrari 52:05
This time of the year.

Linda Seger 52:08
So you know, you really try to cover everything and say, and the generals told me, they said, Don't go out in the countries in you know, any of these more neutral places, but the city will be safe, and it'll be fine. And when I went to Colombia, that's what they said, Do not go to the country, but stay in the city, and always have someone with you from that country. And so, you know, we will do that and follow safety procedures. But I was told no, is that you are fine in Kazakhstan, you should not have any trouble. And we approve your trip to Kansas that. So? No, so So there's kick, I think keeping in touch and I think the other thing is centering down, like when you're working on a screenplay or you're writing is there's times you just have to take a breath and kind of sit with something. And I when I write my books, there are times I will reread a chapter and I say it's not good enough. It's not deep enough. It's not saying anything new, it's not emotional, and I sit down. So let me get into my gut. What is it I want to say that maybe somebody hasn't said before? And how do I get in touch with that, and then have the courage to say it, and you know, to be upright. But there is another thing I have noticed, in my writing, I have been more willing to do personal stories, and also to be funny. And I will say this, even when we're writing a book on dialogue, and my assistant does some of my typing, and I do some of the dictating. And we'll just sit here will sit that is so funny. I hope my readers just burst out laughing when they read that paragraph. So letting all those different parts of you out and saying, yeah, sometimes you have to sit down and think about what what do I have to say that's fresh and new. NFL don't have anything to say, well, you know, there's other jobs you can get.

Alex Ferrari 54:21
Now, I mean, did you agree that a lot of a lot of screenwriters specifically will go into this business, first of all, thinking they're going to be rich and famous, which, yes, generally, generally speaking, not not the greatest business plan I've ever heard of in my life. But if you're going into it to screenwriting, and you're writing and you're putting all your energy in things, thinking of the market only, and only thinking of making money or getting out there, that generally doesn't work often. You know, it's a lottery ticket, if they're outliers that have that works, but anytime I've heard of anyone writing something that really came from inside really with something personal in touch with something else that know a story that no one else can tell, or a message that really resonates within a fictional story that comes from you. And you open yourself up in exposing your, your soft underbelly, if you will. Yeah, that is where that's where the magic is, isn't it? That's where the stuff is, right?

Linda Seger 55:23
Yes, yes, is to pull it out and not be thinking about the market, down the road, you know, say your 10th or 15th, scrapped, you might develop that sense of more of a commercial sense is gonna go along, or you have an idea that someone doesn't think is commercial, and you say, how do I make this resonate with other people, and you work on it, and you get feedback from other people. And they say, I'm, I'm really bored the first 15 pages, but then you get into something really interesting, say, oh, that's where I need to go, I need to build up on that. And so you do think, you know, I mean, I get feedback. When I write a book, I usually have six or eight readers give me feedback. And then I ventually have the editor, of course, but I wouldn't, I can't imagine turning a book into some, even to a publisher, even after all these books, without having readers that are going to give me feedback and say, Yeah, this is fascinating, or I don't understand this part, or this is repetitive where and when you want to get the filters. So you know, I sometimes I just pour a lot of things out and have other people help me filter it through. So there's a balance on anything, you know, even a balance on the humor,

Alex Ferrari 56:52
Without question, and but even with those commercial projects, you know, some, a lot of times, the writer needs to dig deep to even make something like A Beautiful Mind. Oh, yeah. Yeah, I forgot who the writer was that had cubicles gave us was exactly. He, I'm sure when he was writing that story. There was something deep in him that he put on the paper through through that amazing story. And then Ron and Mr. Howard actually took it to another place and his team. But But, but he

Linda Seger 57:23
Akiva had to really work to get that job, because he was known to the Batman stuff and that kind of very entertaining thing. But he grew up in a house that brought in autistic children. And so his mother was a psychologist, and he knew he had something to offer. And he went after that he was not in the shortlist of possible writers. But he heard about this and he went and he just pitched his loot as hard out. Then he also took that chance of making that jump into more serious work, in the same way that Steven Spielberg did it with color purple. And I have so much respect for people who take that chance they think about Sally Field from The Flying Nun to Sybil, or Farrah Fawcett majors, you know, that made that jump in a number of

Alex Ferrari 58:18
Robert Robin Williams, Jim Carrey.

Linda Seger 58:21
Yeah,Poets Society, you said that it is so risky, and it's so easy to not do that. And it's very, it's very difficult because you have a built in audience on one area, and then you make a jump into another. So when I started doing some spiritual books, everyone thought, what you're nuts. But I mean, I've adopted and I have two master's degrees in theology, and in focusing mainly on religion, the arts, but I thought I really want to, I have some things to say in this subject. And I have the background, to be able to say things, but you know, making that leap, you don't have a built in audience and people say, Well, I know you one way, I don't want to know you the other way. And so your heart has to guide you and say, it's not an easy path,

Alex Ferrari 59:18
Either. Yeah, it's like, look, I'm going this direction as an artist and as as a soul and a human being in this world. If you guys want to come along with me, great, but I'm going down this path. And if you don't, that's fine, too. I'll come back and do something that you might like again, but this is where I have to go.

Linda Seger 59:34
That's why my, my website has the writing part. And then you can click on the spirituality part if you so choose, and you don't have to choose that.

Alex Ferrari 59:43
Exactly. Now, you also touched upon something earlier and this is another one of your great books about subtext.

Linda Seger 59:49
Yes, writing subtext

Alex Ferrari 59:53
Subtext is such an art form. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. And it's something that so many early or young screenwriters will just write on the nose dialogue and on the nose, like his scenes, and subtext is what makes honestly I think what makes a good script. Great. Yeah. So what are some advice or some tips you can give us about writing good subtext?

Linda Seger 1:00:25
Well, one of the things is you want to start tuning into the subtext in your life. And when this was an assignment, Michael Weezy, said, We'd really like to have a book on subtext, would you like to write it? And I thought, oh, that sounds interesting. But I don't, I haven't thought about this. And so I started by tuning in, where do I see subtext? Where have I seen it in my past? Where, where do people say things where I think I wonder what that really means? You know, when when the guy says, I'll call you, as you leave this man? I wonder what that means. Now, if he calls me tomorrow, I'll know what it means. But if he doesn't, is he dead? Did he go to prison? Did he get in an accident? Or wasn't he really interested in that was just a line. So you, you, you know, or when you say, how does this look on me? And person says, Fine, it looks fine. And it's like, no, you don't think I look too fat? No, it's okay. I don't think I'm going to buy this, because that's not there's something going on here that I don't quite interpret. And one of the things was subtext when you come across it, you usually don't know what it means. And so going into that. And then, when I found when I wrote that book, as I thought, what are the movies where I absolutely know, there's a lot of subtext. And one was ordinary people. And one was Hitchcock's shadow of doubt. And so I studied those, and I began to look for the patterns. Where am I seeing subtext? How is this similar to this? Oh, I see. subtext can be in words, it can be in gestures, it can be an action, it can even be in the genre. And so I began to see all the different layers of that. And I had to I kind of had to learn how to talk about this, because there wasn't another book on subtexts out there. i There were a few books that maybe had a section, I don't even think a chapter I think more like a mention. And since then, I think there's just been maybe three books since that. And then we're writing a book on dialogue. So there, I actually was working this morning on the chapter on subtext, which will go in and trying to make sure I didn't say the same thing I said, in the subtext. And so, so far, so far, I have

Alex Ferrari 1:02:58
So far, so good. But yeah, but on the nose dialog is one of the biggest notes I've ever seen coming back from from screenwriters is just like, I'm going to walk over there. Or, you know, or let's not even talk about putting in history of a character, like, you know, like, when you were beaten

Linda Seger 1:03:18
Back, is that they had a terrible child.

Alex Ferrari 1:03:21
You know, like, when you're when your dad beats you, like, no, look, look, don't be much more. And I always am very keen that when I watch a movie now, how they slip in that kind of, what's the word, it's, I'm completely losing, like a resonance,

Linda Seger 1:03:35
You know, it's the little comment of this thing. You say, Oh, that either means the opposite. Or it carries layers of meaning. And that means that the writer needs to really love words, and say, That's not the right word. It doesn't have the right resonance. It's like when you sing, there's a thing called the overtones. And, and you say, it's that extra ring, almost like you almost hear that octave above or the octave below and say, that's what we're looking for, or, you know, marine biology, the undertone, they were looking for the undertow that you see something and you sense that underneath, you know, what lies beneath. And so, and that takes a lot of work from a writer because usually the first or second draft is going to be more on the nose. And then you start working to say I want to get, it's just too flat. It's too obvious. So now what is it? Well, I was just gonna say one of the things that I love about the book, I'm co writing the dialogue book with John Winston Rainey. And the end we're having a case study where we take a little section of a client's script with their permission, and then we do know Senator John does a rewrite. And a lot of the notes are, okay, we want to resonance here we want to get get a little deeper with what we're doing. And so people can actually see how do you rewrite dialogue? How do you think through it? To make it richer?

Alex Ferrari 1:05:19
Now, what is a? If you I'm sure you have at least an example. Is there a scene in film history that just like, Oh, that's really great subtext just so that you see people really understand?

Linda Seger 1:05:29
Yeah, well, there's, there's a scene and there's a scene and Well, I'll tell you what might be really famous. The photography scene in ordinary people. It's around Christmas, and the father is trying to take a picture of the mother and the son Conrad and the son in the mother, the son really is uncomfortable with the mother. And he keeps crossing his arms and turning his back and they're they want to get the two of them together, we'll show how you know get together and he doesn't want to and, and they're having all sorts of trouble getting the camera to work. I mean, it's just absolutely saturated with you say, oh my gosh, this family is so problematical. And all they want is everything to be normal and this this is not normal. This is they're struggling so hard to be normal and the therapist says you know normal is not all it's cracked up to be. But But I would look at and look at ordinary people it's just filled it's it was Gosh. Anyway, it's it's his was written by Alvin Sargent, and Elvin and I have a little email relationship. And we've occasionally met when we're in LA for breakfast. He's absolutely adorable. He's had one of the longest histories of a screenwriter way back paper, moon and all that up to Spider Man two. Wow. Just, he's, he's an amazing writer. And he's the most, I actually think he's the most adorable man I've ever met. It's like I did. And I write him when I tell him that, you know, and then he says on cue of beauty. Just the sweetest little emails at times back and forth.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:25
Now you also talk a lot about in your work, the rewriting process, and how how just insanely important is the rewriting process? Like you were saying earlier, a professional rewrites at 22 times the amateur will write it two or three times like, Oh, it's good. We're good. Yeah, what are some methods X screenwriters can do in the rewriting and rewriting process to make it more effective, and they're well,

Linda Seger 1:07:47
The first thing is you is that it's really good for you to get it out. So don't do too much evaluation too early in the process. You don't want the mother to come in and nag at you, when you've just written the, say that stuff. So you, there's times you just have to get it out. And what I do is when I'm not sure about a word or a phrase, I put brackets around it. And I might write it three different ways. And then I let it sit. And I might sit there for a month until I say, Oh, wait. Now now it's clear about how I do it. But the first rewrite is really, you going back to what you've rewritten, and I suggest you circle what is good. Don't Don't get upset with what's bad, you might only find three lines or three sections that are good, great. That's, that's your guide for the rest. And then you rewrite, and then you start getting feedback. And sometimes I think it's good to be in a writers group, if the writers group is positive, and to you know, you have your group of friends, other writers that to send it to listen to their feedback. But that doesn't mean you have to follow it. It just means listen. And then down the road, you might want to go to a script consultant, or if you don't have that group of friends who are writers who can give you initial feedback, then you can go to script consultant earlier. But But this idea of getting the help along the line, and training yourself to say I am willing to go back into this, this is flat. Now, I'm gonna have to think a bit about what I want to do about it. But nevertheless, I know this is where I want to approach it. And this is and in some ways, it's a little bit like practicing anything. I've gone back to piano in the last two years, is it I get up in the morning and there's three measures that are really really hard. I get up in the morning and I play him three times. Before I start my day in You know what, they sound a whole lot better now than two months ago. And it's the same thing as you get up in the morning. And you say, right now, I'm only going to work with these five sentences or the scene. And I'm not going to start with page one, I'm going to go in what are those places I have to tussle with, that I know aren't working. And you just, you know, break it up. And you said this is this is the process. It's the process of every single artist, is you get it down to its smaller parts, you go back to the bigger parts, you get to the smaller, you go to the bigger. And it's it's something, you know, you just learn a lot is this is the art process and don't resist it. Just recognize the sunset.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:48
And this is a tightening. It's just tightening everything up.

Linda Seger 1:10:52
Strengthening, tightening, broadening, deepening.

Alex Ferrari 1:10:55
Yeah, all those are great words. All those are great words. And, in your opinion, I think you were the best person to ask her this question. What makes a good writer Great?

Linda Seger 1:11:08
Well, they need to it's an it's a combination of art and craft. And so your art is your voice, that somebody should be this sometimes people say, I can look at a movie. And maybe I didn't see the credits, or maybe I didn't see who wrote it. I look at you know, it's a Woody Allen movie, Woody Allen has a very clear, artistic voice. Or you look at Oliver Stone, oh, that's gotta be all and Oliver Stone will be very much. And so whatever that voice is. And it might take a number of scripts to find your voice and affirm your voice. Because sometimes people are really comedic. And they're not taking advantage of that. And so you're saying what it what makes up my voice? And how do I accentuate that and balance that. And then you need to know the craft. So you're putting your voice and your specific ideas together with I know the three act structure, I know how to express my theme. I know what visuals mean, and how to create metaphors cinematically, and I know how to round up my characters. I know how to make my characters more dimensional. I know when I'm hitting a cliche, I'm going to fix that. So you just keep learning about all these elements. And you learn I learn a lot from other movies at this point. So sometimes I'll watch a movie and say, Oh, I hadn't thought of that. Like, crash, 14 plotlines all intersecting at the second turning point, like what's going on here. And I broke I wrote a book called and the best screenplay goes to and I analyze crash Shakespeare in Love and sideways. Three very different movies, I spent 70 pages on each of them, interviewed the directors and the writers of both of all of them. And you begin to you know, you say these are learning movies, these are so you find those movies where you say I can learn a lot from watching this movie a number of times. And you know, so I mean, I have favorite learning movies I love as good as it gets and Love movie, you know, you quoted from that one, and say, oh my gosh, you've just watched that movie over and over again and you keep understanding dialogue transformational arcs, relationships, character contrasts, every twist. They learn so much, and the willingness to do a line that leaves you breathless, that line when Jack Nicholson's character says, You make me want to be a better man. And you just go, Oh, my goodness is and what a deep line. Somebody had, you know, James Brooks and Mark Andrus had to go deep inside themselves, to find that ability for that kind of character to have made that kind of breakthrough to actually be kind and let some of that inner side out.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:30
Yeah, it's I was I was on a plane the other day and I had to watch Jerry Maguire again. I hadn't seen Oh, yes, what I just said when he's when he says, You complete me at the LA usually you have or you had me at hello. So cliche now, but even still, it still has that impact. And it's still so powerful. And that's one of those lines. In a movie. It's quoted slices, egg capitals, completely that one line says everything you need to know about the movie, yes, without

Linda Seger 1:14:58
The ability of the writer to write that line says you had to go to a good deep place to write that line.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:06
But you also psychologically as a screenwriter have to be willing to, to go that deep to kind of go maybe to places that you might not want to go to, to pull that out, because there are, if I may use Joseph Campbell, the treasure that you seek is in the in the cave that you are afraid to go into.

Linda Seger 1:15:28
Yes, yeah. And we'll say I have to keep, you know, moving in that in that direction.

Alex Ferrari 1:15:36
It's, it's Yeah, it is. It is. It is a it's a very fascinating, fascinating process, the screenwriting process in the filmmaking process in general. And I'm going to ask you,

Linda Seger 1:15:45
Okay, oh, I was just gonna say, and you need to know a lot of psychology to get into the different characters. And I think you need to be very careful in certain subject matters. Some people say, tread very carefully, if you decide you're going to deal with evil people. And, you know, and actors, I know, actors who have said, I'm not going to do those kinds of characters anymore, because they inhabit me, and I inhabit them in is hard to get rid of them after. And I have to go into that place. And do I really want to do that for the next year or four years of my life for whatever it is, I'm not talking about the perfect goody two shoes characters, but you do have to be careful about taking serious subjects too lightly.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:34
Well, I mean, well, perfect, perfect example. Just to follow up on that. I always tell people, when I see someone who's quote unquote, evil or bad, is it his perspective? Because from the perspective of Hannibal Lecter, he's good. He's the hero. He's the hero of his own journey. You know, he doesn't go like, you know, twisting the mustache going, aha, you know, and that's where all bad people are evil people. It is all about perspective. And I think the best villains in it all have this kind of, in their perspective, they're doing good if there's multilayered, like I'm doing something bad according to other places, but I'm doing it for a good reason. Like you have it just perfect example is Fanus in Avengers, this last this last Avengers movies, he wants to destroy half of the universe, but his perspective is it's like, look, we're overpopulated. This is just what I'm gonna do. So there I mean, it's weird, but it's a it's a way of his it's a perspective, would you agree?

Linda Seger 1:17:34
Yeah. And there's also a lot of times insecurity behind it. Really bad backstory? I mean, a lot of things to explore about what's really going on inside that person? What are they grappling with? What are their temptations that they have to give into? What are their obsessions? Because they don't have the good and the light, to illuminate the way or to you know, help them take another path? And so, you are you are in the grass of evil, too.

Alex Ferrari 1:18:10
Yeah, without question. And I'm gonna ask you the last few questions, ask all of my guests and I could talk to you for at least another four or five hours, but I want to respect your time. Now, what advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Linda Seger 1:18:23
Well, the thing is, you have to eventually know marketing. And you have to eventually look for opportunities to be able to either sell your script or to get an assignment to, to do with script. But I think know a lot and then get into organizations may depending where you live, if you have women in film near you, and men come join Women in Film now or you have a cinema arts organization or any kind of, you know, screenwriting groups or whatever, get involved because it has been proven that people who are in a community of some sort or collaborative, in some sort, do better. You have those people who say to you, I'm let me you know, yes, I have an agent or let me refer you to whatever that might be. So get in, get involved and learn and try to get inside the business to some extent, if somebody says, you want to come to the set, say yes, because the experience of being on a set and seeing what happens and all the waiting and all the cables that get moved around. But just to see what that is like, is a really terrific experience to have. So you're trying to broaden your experience to understand this and you're trying to build relationships. You want to be very careful about using people that you meet But on the other hand, you know, if you have an opportunity, have your 22nd elevator pitch ready. You get in the elevator with Steven Spielberg for some reason, he's going in the 12th floor, you better push the 12th floor button to say I have 12 floors to say, I'm writing a story about a joint strike that threatens the fourth of sound and the Fourth of July weekend. And it Oh, the elevator with me, I want to talk to you. So then be prepared. That was the other thing be prepared. So when somebody says I love your idea, do you have a script? It's a good idea to have the script? Or if you have a new idea, can I see some of your writing, have some writing that you've really gotten as good as it can get? Because you don't want to be caught? When you finally have an opportunity? In you're not ready to take it?

Alex Ferrari 1:20:54
Would you? Would you believe that Steven Spielberg must be terrified of going into elevators by himself at this point in his career,

Linda Seger 1:21:00
Especially after I said that if he hears the podcast? No, you're not the second floor.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:07
You're honestly I've had so many different, you know, people on the show talking about pitching and that they always use Steven Spielberg in an elevator as an example of

Linda Seger 1:21:20
The urban myth or something like that.

Alex Ferrari 1:21:21
I mean, it's insane. And okay, so can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Linda Seger 1:21:30
You mean somebody else's work? Yes. Oh, probably the power positive thinking, by the way, Norman Vincent Peale. Way back. You know, I was ready to go to college I had read. I had read that. Great. And maybe it had an influence, because one of the questions on the application was, what books have you read in the last six months outside of classes, and I probably had one of the best book lists like the making of the President 1968, East of Eden, lack of the power of positive thinking I had just a lot of great books and what I had been reading, so maybe it kept me into college.

Alex Ferrari 1:22:11
That's right. It's a great book, by the way. Yeah. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?

Linda Seger 1:22:19
Oh, I think the biggest lesson was learning that this that life is collaborative. I entered this business thinking yourself made, and just, you know, you do it yourself. You never asked questions, you pretend to know everything. And it became clear that was not a good idea. And I literally spent about a year learning to change my thinking. And it and what was interesting was, I had spent years probably 14 years of living on the edge. And once I changed my thinking, I found success within a year. So that change of thinking is really important is your mindset. Mindset matters later when collecting that competing for success.

Alex Ferrari 1:23:06
And the toughest question of all three of your favorite films of all time.

Linda Seger 1:23:11
Um, Amadeus is is undoubtedly one, I call it the big jam. People always know I'm going to mention witness. And one of the reasons I'm a Quaker, and although we're not Amish people, sometimes mistake commerce and Quaker, and my husband proposed to me during the barn ways raising scene of witness. It was not an exact proposal, but it was, it was a sort of proposal. And then the real one came a little later. So of course, it's very special. And then I knew I knew Bill Kelly. And Pamela Wallace. BILL KELLY has died. I talked to Earl Wallace once, but I didn't know him. But Bill and I occasionally had lunch together. Pamela and I had PEF team taught together and she's endorsed a few of my books, so that's special. But now you want a third one I guess probably Tootsie

Alex Ferrari 1:24:10
Oh, great. Oh, what's this an amazing three bar movies. Yeah, I'd love to see it's such a

Linda Seger 1:24:16
Yeah. And see these in these films. When you find a favorite film it really stands up. So you watch it over and over and over and you say you know I don't get tired of this film. I even when I know the dial even when I like to say is just you keep getting the nuances and say What a brilliant piece of filmmaking is

Alex Ferrari 1:24:38
My mind's is always go I hope and everyone listen to this show knows what I'm about to say Shawshank Redemption, which I think is well yeah, that her fairy films ever, ever, ever written, put together everything. It's fantastic. And finally, where can people find you your work your books? Everything that Linda has to offer?

Linda Seger 1:24:56
Yes. Well if you know my name, Linda Sager and think of sacre like Bob Seger s Eg er, my website is Linda sager.com. My email is Linda Linda Sager calm, you're gonna going to easily easily find me and I'm on YouTube. And I mean just a lot of things. And you could find some really interesting things on YouTube of me that are unexpected like me horseback riding to music.

Alex Ferrari 1:25:28
Linda, honestly, you are a national treasure in the world of screenwriting. So thank you so, so much. Like I said, I can literally talk to you for at least another four or five hours comfortably. And I think everybody would be entertained listening.

Linda Seger 1:25:41
I love talking to you. So you know, we can do this. Again, this has been great.

Alex Ferrari 1:25:46
Thank you so much again, and I again, thank you for dropping some amazing knowledge bombs on the on the tribe today. So I truly appreciate it. Good. Thank you. I want to thank Linda so much for her time and coming by the show and dropping major, major, major knowledge bombs on the tribe today. So Linda, thank you. Thank you so much. If you want to get links to any of Linda's work, her consulting, her website, anything just head over to indiefilmhustle.com/315. And it will be links to everything and anything that Linda does. So thanks again, Linda. And guys, today is the day my screening at the Chinese Theatre of my new film on the corner of ego and desire plus a talk and book signing of my new book shooting for the mob is happening today. For tickets, just head over to indiefilmhustle.com/screening. And I hope to see you guys there. Thank you again so so much for the support. And that's the end of another episode of the indie film hustle podcast and the bulletproof screenplay podcast. As always keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.


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BPS 043: The Meditating Screenwriter – How to Be More Creative

Over the years I have mentioned my meditation practice and how important it is in my daily routine on the show. Many of the #IFHTribe have asked me to do an entire episode on meditation and the importance it has in the creative process. Today is that day.

In this episode, I go over:

  • My personal meditation practice
  • Why it’s impossible to CLEAR YOUR MIND
  • How to embrace your minds inner voice
  • How science view meditation
  • Neuroscience and what actually happens to your brain when you meditate
  • How meditation can make you more creative

I discuss practical everyday uses for meditation in your creative life. Some of my greatest ideas and thoughts have come to me during my meditations. I’ll also teach you how to meditate for 10-15 min to start and then over time, you can grow your practice to 1-2 hours a day like I do. Once you start meditating it becomes addictive.

Get ready to open your creative channels to full flow. Enjoy!

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 0:00
So today, guys, we are going to talk about meditation for filmmakers for screenwriters for creatives in general, and I've been contacted by a lot of the tribe contacted me to do an episode on meditation to help them with their filmmaking or their screenwriting. And as many of you know, I've mentioned my meditation practice throughout many, many episodes, and many, many interviews I do that is one of the cornerstones of my productivity, my creativity, and what I do on a daily basis here at Indie film, hustle. So I thought it would be interesting to do a meditation podcast, not like I'm not going to do not taking you through a guided meditation, though, if you guys want me to do something like that, I'll think about it. But this is more about my process, and kind of debunking a lot of myths that come along with the concept of meditation. So I'm here to just tell you how I do it, and what I've been studying and what works for me, which is not the traditional way of doing meditation. Now, before we start, I will tell you one thing, the second I started meditating, and again, I meditate anywhere between an hour minimum a day to two hours, sometimes longer. On any given day. It has changed my life, it has changed my perspective on things. It has been such a powerful, powerful thing in my life. It has centered me a lot of the anger and frustration and things that were before just consuming my soul consuming my day to day experience. And I just just needed something to help me get out of that. And the second I started meditating, I saw changes almost immediately, I was thinking clearer. I was becoming more creative, I was becoming more focused, more productive. All these things started to come into being anytime I had a question that I needed an answer to, I asked it in my meditations. And a lot of times, those answers would just come to me while I was meditating it, it helps me answer deep problems that I might have in my life, or forks in the road or where I should go. It is pretty transformative. And and there's a reason why so many big entrepreneurs and CEOs and billionaires and all these guys, about 80 to 90% of them all have a regular meditation practice. Now I'm also not going to talk about just the spiritual side of it. I'm going to talk about the science of what happens to your mind into your body when you go into a meditative state. And because I've been doing a lot of research lately in regards to neuroscience and what the actual you know, the things that happen to your mind and what happens to the way your mind reacts in your brain reacts. And meditation has been proven scientifically again and again after research after research after research that it does help with so so so many different ailments, different stresses, and so on. So let me tell you a little bit about my history with meditation, I've been trying for the better part of 20 years to include meditation into my daily life. And throughout those 20 years, I knew the benefit of it, but I always tried it and just never could really get my excuse upon my mind around it. Because I would sit down, and my mind was just going a million miles a minute, and I could not clear the mind, I could not empty the head as so many people have said in the past, and I just felt like a failure, when I did it, it just didn't, just didn't resonate with me. So I then tried to do it maybe for five minutes at a time, and maybe eight minutes at a time, 10 minutes at a time, you know, and it just never stuck, I just never found a lot of value in it. Even at that point in my life, I just My head was too, I was just too clouded with so many other things. And then about a year and a half ago, I, I sat down and had a meditation teacher, that I that is an old friend of mine. And we started sitting down and she kind of taught me how to meditate properly. And, and the value of longer meditations and things like that, which I'll get into. And from that moment on, I started meditating for 10, or 15 minutes at a time, then 20, then 30, then an hour, to my record of a day in one day, four and a half hours of meditation. And I'll tell you about that day later. But for the first time in my life, when I started to meditate in the way I'm about to tell you, doors started opening up, I started seeing benefits right away, all sorts of wonderful things started happening to me. So I want to break a myth right now that clearing the mind, as so many meditation instructors say, does not work because it's impossible. It's like asking your heart to stop beating, it is not a possibility your mind is active all the time. It is swinging ideas and thoughts and everything, it's just not possible to clear the mind. So what I do is I allow the mind to keep going, I embrace the activity in my mind and your mind should stay active during your meditations. As your thoughts come in and out, hold on to them and then let them go. There is no clearing your mind. What happens to me in my meditations is when I just start thinking about things, it's kind of like when you're about to go to sleep, you start thinking about things, think about things and then all of a sudden, you're you're gone, you're in your lala land. But when I meditate like that, I have ideas coming in and out, then all of a sudden, the noise starts to quiet down a little bit. And I start focusing on one series of thoughts or one thing that I'm thinking about or two things I'm thinking about. And it just kind of pairs everything down. So the noise starts to go away a little bit. But you're always thinking about something. And then sometimes I've gotten to a place in my meditation where I I actually just start going deep, so deep that I don't even know where I'm at, I go into another place in my mind. I'm in such a deep meditative state that I'm still thinking about things but I lose track of time I lose where I am, to the point where I then get up, you know, an hour and a half to two hours later. And I wasn't planning to stay that long. Right before I did this podcast. I was planning to meditate for an hour. I ended up meditating for like an hour and 30 minutes. And I don't even realize when I didn't get like I didn't I didn't know where the time went. And that's when you are so deep in where you are in that wonderful state in the meditative process. And that's where a lot of the magic that I'm we'll talk about in a little bit happens. Now, what is the best time to meditate? A lot of people always ask me early morning is historically the best time right when you wake up because your mind is still in that alpha sleep state. It is easier to meditate then it's easier to fall back into that state because when you meditate, you go into that alpha state. So when you just get up, get up, go to the bathroom, come back to bed and start your practice. Now all you got to do is sit up when you meditate so you can sit up in your bed with your back straight is extremely important that your back is straight. You could do it on a couch, sit up on your bed on the floor with a pillow against the wall if it helps. Whatever you do, just keep your back straight. Now as you start to meditate, just become aware of how your body feels. Focus on your breathing if you like, do you have an itch, scratch it. It's another thing. By the way, if you have an itch, there's no place in the rule books that say you can't scratch it, it's not like you're gonna break out of a meditative state because you scratch an itch, scratch it, scan your body, scan your body with your mind to see how you feel, is there an ache is or hurt, or tingling is there heat is or cold, start doing that, and your mind will start flowing with it. And as thoughts come in and out, just flow with it, don't fight it, grab onto a thought. And if you want to go down that path, go down that path of thinking of thoughts. If not let it go till another one comes in, and so on and so on. And so you, you'll start seeing that your mind will start to quiet, the noise will start to quiet. And it will allow you to focus, focus on one thought focus on one or two thoughts, ideas, things like that, which are so so important. So it does clear out the noise. But it's not clearing of the mind, you're always thinking of something, you're always thinking of thoughts. But there's not 1000s of them going off at at a time. And this might take a little time to do. But this is just how it works for me. Now, if you hear a noise outside or outside the door or outside your window or a siren going off, okay, just ignore it. And keep just keep going forward. What I like to do is I put on headphones. So I block out all noise I have some like, you know, waves playing, you know, ocean waves or a noise machine, or something like that to kind of clear it out. I also even wear an eye mask, like a sleeping mask. So I literally cover my entire all my senses, my hearing in my eyes. So I'm really deep in like, so light doesn't affect me, sound doesn't affect me. And it really helps me go in deeper and faster. And I've been doing that since the very, very beginning of these last almost two years of meditating. Now, another question I get all the time, how long should I meditate?

Well, I compare meditation to a train leaving the station. The longer you let the train travel down the tracks, the farther and deeper you can go into your meditation. Every time you stop and start a meditation meaning like, you know, you stop for 10 minutes and you leave, come back for another 10 minutes you leave all that kind of stuff, it's kind of like the train leaving the train station from the station every single time. It doesn't pick up where you left off in your journey. It's it starts at the exact same time. So the longer you could stay in, the more benefit the cooler the things that could happen to you the ideas that creativity, all the things that I talk about, the longer you're in, the more benefits you will reap. Now the more you meditate, the faster your train will be able to travel as well. So it's not just like Chugga chugga chugga at the beginning, the deeper you could get into meditation, the faster you can get in like I can get in probably within a couple minutes. And I'm deep, I can go in deeper really quickly. If trained myself, with my practice to go in that deep. It used to take me 30 minutes to go in that deep. And sometimes it does take a little longer depending on where my mind is during the day, when I meditate. Oh, and by the way, I said mornings are always best to meditate. I personally like to meditate throughout the day. I meditate in the afternoons, I generally don't meditate in the evenings every once in a while I'll meditate in the evenings. But I generally either meditate in the early morning, or afternoon sometime during the day, it's when I find it's easier for me to do it within my schedule. And what I like to do because I'm a morning person, so my my juices are flowing really heavily in the morning. And I find that when I meditate that early for me personally, it's not as beneficial as when I have maybe run the tank out a little bit after lunch or something like that, when I could do that. Now, if you start to meditate, meditate for 10 minutes at a time, just at the beginning 10 to 15 minutes is fine. Your goal should be to get to 30 minutes, that should take you a month, two months, whatever works as long as you keep that practice going. If you have to spend six months to get to 30 minutes, that's fine. But as long as you stay with those 1015 minutes a day, keep going at it, then you will go for longer and longer stretches. And the longer you're in, I promise you the more amazing you will feel afterwards. Now, I wanted to tell you about my four and a half hour day. I went in so deep that the things that I saw in my mind and the things I experienced in my body. Were pretty remarkable. And I tell you this because ideas started coming at me. problems that I had deep seated problems I was dealing with in my life at the time, answers started to appear for me. When you have a problem, a deep seated problem in your day, then even deep seated, if you have any kind of issue with someone, or with something, or with something you're carrying with you, or a goal you're trying to achieve or something along those lines, if you ask the question during your meditation, you'll be surprised that the answers that will come back at you. It is pretty, pretty insane. From my experience, at least. Now mind you, I don't have a meditation group. I don't talk to a lot of other meditators that are are as deep as in it as I am. And by the way, I'm not as deep as monks or any other kind of heavy meditators are I you know, I don't know a lot of other meditators. So a lot of what I'm talking about is from my own personal experience, and from what I've studied. Now, I also do something I like to call little mini meditations throughout the day. Now, this is not included in my one to two hours a day of full blown meditation. But I've noticed that after 15 minutes to an hour, my battery starts to run down and consider my energy pack of the day, very much like an iPhone battery. If you don't charge during the day, or wear down lower and lower and lower, and as it gets lower and lower, lower, my productivity starts to fade, and my concentration starts to fade. So every hour, so I'll take five to 10 minutes, and just go to a couch, sit down and meditate for those five or 10 minutes. And I can't tell you how beneficial, those five or 10 minutes of meditation are. If you're just starting out, just close your eyes for five minutes, and breathe. That's it, you'll be amazed at the energy that you come back with you, you become clear your mind starts. It's like like literally plugging your iPhone into a supercharger. And it charges it charges me up every like every time I do it. It's really, really remarkable. And it's really helpful. There's a lot of studies and research that says that to be more effective in your day to day productivity, you should take breaks, you know, especially if you should never do anything more than 90 minutes without taking a break. Again, this is not possible for everybody, but try to do the best you can every 15 minutes or an hour, take five minutes you get you get breaks, take five or 10 minutes, go somewhere quiet. And just meditate for those five or 10 minutes, I promise you, you will get a lot more done during the day than you normally would. You won't feel as beat up and as tired especially for those in the tribe who are doing those hour commutes or two hour commutes. As you're listening to me, right now, I'm sure you want to charge that battery up because you will wear that battery down. And as you wear that battery down, that's when things start to break down, your temper start to come up, you become shorter, your temper become shorter, you don't think very clearly, you don't. Don't allow yourself to filter things that come out of your mouth. A lot of arguments and fights happen because of this energy drain. And if you're able to do these little technique of maybe a five minute or 10 minute meditation every hour, hour and a half throughout the day, it will help you get through the whole day more productive, more balanced and more centered. Now I was going to talk a little bit about the science and the science is so so clear, and meditation they've done so many studies on meditation and the benefits of meditation. So I'm going to list off a few things that the science says about meditation, you do become less stressed, oddly enough, right? Your stress levels start to drop. And when your stress levels start to drop, during your meditation or in a meditation practice, your body has time to rest. It has time to repair itself, your mind becomes clearer, you can produce more you can become more artistic, more creative. You can write better when you when you drop that stress. And it's as simple as sitting down and being quiet. sitting down and doing everything I said earlier in this episode, and meditating, you'll be amazed at what happens when you drop that stress out of your life, that fight or flight stress out of your life. On a side note, in regards to stress in regards to fight or flight, chemicals that run through you every time you're stressed out. It could be anything in this world that stresses you out could be your boss could be your wife could be your traffic that you know your commute your kids, whatever it is, when you have that stress, the the chemicals that create fight or flight. And if you don't know what fight or flight is, it's something that's been programmed in us since the beginning of our evolution where if there's a tiger, that tiger will try to attack you and eat you. You create all these chemicals rushed into you to defend yourself and run you they're going to fight it or you're going to fly you're going to take off now in our evolution. That was only supposed to be released when there was danger. But because of the world we live in, because of all of the stresses in our life, whether it's financial, whether it's everything I just said, that fight or flight, chemical bath that our bodies and our minds are in, are on almost all the time. So when that happens, you get sick more your immune system goes down, you can't think clearly you can't be creative, you can't do anything. And that is one of the biggest things that is happening to our society in general. But I'm talking specifically to my filmmakers and screenwriters and my creatives out there, that you won't be able to be creative, you won't be able to write, a lot of you guys will say, Oh, I have writer's block, or I can't just get through that one big thing that I need to get done. This is one of the reasons to stress that you have if you can release that stress, with meditation, a lot of things will start to open up, you'll get healthier, you'll be sick less, and your mind will be clearer, your mind will be able to focus on the tasks at hand, whatever that might be. When I say about clearing your mind, your mind, at least for me, at least when I'm stressed out, your mind becomes clouded almost in a fog. And you can't think clearly. So then you go into instinct mode. When you're in that instinct, mode of survival, you can't create. It's not a place of creation. You ask any of these just really accomplished artists, writers, filmmakers, when you're in that kind of pressure cooker. Mindset, it's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to be truly creative, or at least as creative as you could be, your potential drops dramatically. And no one talks about this kind of stuff in our in our world, because it's just not talked about. But that's why I'm here I'm going to talk about it goddamnit. That's something I want to bring to the table. And I just see how it's changed my life. And I wanted to change yours as well. Like I said earlier, meditation also charges your battery, your mental battery, and your physical battery, you cannot underestimate that power of what that can do. Now another thing that's happened while I've been meditating is my need for sleep has dramatically dropped. So as many of you have heard in a performer episode, when I talk about my daily routine, where I wake up every morning around 430, to go work out, I and I go to bed around nine 930 Every night,

those six hours of sleep or so that I get is more than enough. I've been doing this for months now, working all the time, during the day, hanging out with my family and all that kind of good stuff. And I've been able to make it work. And meditation has allowed me to do that because I don't need as much rest, because my battery's more charged than I used to be. Now I know and spoken to meditators, and specifically my meditation teacher who can work 1820 hour days, without even sleep, some of them are at a point where they don't even sleep for 2436 hours. And they just meditate during the day. And it gets them going. I'm not at that level yet. I hope to be one day, but it's not where I'm at yet. But that's pretty amazing. And I've seen it again, in my world of what I'm able to do with it in a small in the small doses of what I'm able to do. I can only imagine being able to do that, like my meditation instructor. She does that. She's also been meditating for 3040 years. So it's a big difference. She's much, much, much farther along than I am. Another benefit of meditation is amazing things will begin to happen in your life. And when I say that, I mean that when you are able to clear your mind we're able to focus so many other dominoes start to fall in your life in a good way. You start seeing things clearer opportunities start presenting themselves, you will start attracting certain amount of type of person to you. And it's pretty remarkable, and I can't explain the to too deeply. But I will tell you that. Just trust me things will happen in your life. You become more self aware of your own body of your own experience. And you become more intuitive about what you should or should not do in your life in your career. In your art. You will begin to ask yourself questions you've never thought of before empowering questions because the answers to those questions, start to change your life in one way shape, or form in a positive manner. Again, because you're able to clear out the crap, things are starting to be able to shine through that were just muffled before and it's a it's truly truly amazing. I have an issue in my life. I asked a question during my meditations. And I'm always amazed at what my mind will say When you're able to go within, and focus on the inside, remarkable things happen. I truly believe that all answers to any question you might have lies within you, not outside of you. It all lives within you and meditation as a way to get it to it. Now, I hope this little mini introduction to my meditative practice has helped you guys, and will help you along your journey as a filmmaker, screenwriter, a creative of any sort. And I want to offer a book up to you guys to get to read and help you along this path a little bit. It's called the code of an extraordinary mind by vision Lohani. Now the book did not help me specifically with my meditation because I was already meditating by the time I read this book, but I can see the value in it and what he brings to it. He talks a lot about his meditative practices was teaching meditation for almost five years, 10 years. He has one of the biggest animation apps on on Apple's App Store. And the book itself teaches you to think like some of the greatest nonconformists, minds of our air to question to challenge to hack and to create new rules for your life. So you can define success in your own terms. It is a really, really remarkable book and I can't recommend it highly enough. I'll put a link to it in the show notes at Indie film hustle.com, forward slash BPS 043. Again, I hope this helped you guys. You've been asking for it for a while, so I brought it. It's a little bit outside our regular scheduled programming, but I do believe it's going to be beneficial to a lot of the tribe out there. So if you haven't gone already, please head over to indie film hustle.com forward slash mob and pick up my new book shooting for the mob based on the incredible true story of how I almost made a $20 million movie for the mafia and Hollywood. It is a insane, insane ride, so definitely check it out. And that is the end of another episode of The Bulletproof screenplay podcast. May your meditative practice help you on your screenwriting journey. As always, keep on writing, no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.


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BPS 042: No Bullscript – Screenwriting Advice from the Executive’s Perspective with Danny Manus

Today on the show we have an author, writer, and former studio development, Danny Manus. Danny parlayed his career as a development executive in Hollywood to becoming an in-demand script consultant and founder of No BullScript Consulting.

The author of No BS for Screenwriters: Advice from the Executive Perspective, which is now in its 2nd Edition, Danny was ranked in the Top 15 “Cream of the Crop” Script Consultants by Creative Screenwriting Magazine and was named one of Screencraft’s “25 People Screenwriters Should Follow on Twitter.”

Danny has taken over 3000 pitches, written almost 250 articles on screenwriting for numerous websites and publications including ScriptMag, for which he is a columnist, and has been a judge for the PAGE Awards four years running. In this episode, I wanted to see what the perspective is from the other side of the desk.

Enjoy my conversation with Danny Manus.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 1:43
Well, today, we're literally doing that with our guests company called no bull script. Now, today's guest is Danny Manus, it's not Danny is a Hollywood development executive, and has been working in the business for many, many years working with huge companies and has taken over 3000 pitches, and is now focusing his life on helping screenwriters pitch and be able to get their projects seen by executives by the studio system. And he's coming at it from a very unique perspective, because he was on the other side of that desk for many, many years. So his experience is pretty priceless. That's why I wanted to have him on the show. And today in this episode, we really go deep into the weeds on what executives want, how to pitch properly, the do's, the don'ts, and so on. And Danny has been able to parlay his career as a development executive in Hollywood to become an indie band script consultant, and the founder of NO BULL script consulting. So he is definitely someone you guys should be listening to. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Danny Manus. I'd like to welcome the show. Danny Manus. Thank you so much for being on the show, brother.

Danny Manus 3:10
Thank you so much for having me. I'm really looking forward to this

Alex Ferrari 3:13
Awesome, man. Awesome. So before we get into it, I want to know how you got into the business?

Danny Manus 3:19
You know, it was kind of a boring story, but I'll make it fun. I I interned for a semester I went to Ithaca College in New York. They had a semester in LA program, which is half of the reason I went there. And so I interned at Columbia Tristar in TV development, and at Fox in feature casting. And I just, I loved it. I loved everything about LA I loved everything about the business. I was studying screenwriting, I came out here to write just after graduation. I you know, I had two big studio internships under my belt, I thought oh, I'll get a job no problem. And I stupidly which I kicked myself for one of the mistakes one of the many mistakes I've made you know, I didn't go into like the agency Trainee program or something like that, which I feel like I probably should have and I I tell people to do if they're moving out here young and hungry. But um you know, I looked for a assistant job and I you know, have the UTA job list when that used to be a thing you know, that you could really use and I got a job as the assistant at Sandstorm films, they had a first look deal with Sony Screen Gems. They had just had number one movie with them with the Forsaken, which was both there and Screen Gems first number one movie so they were very happy with them. And I was their assistant for about a year and I was awful. But you know, it was just like everybody else at that time in In the early 2000s, you interned, you're an assistant, you did your job. And if you were good at your job, you got promoted. And if you weren't good at your job, you floated around as an assistant for a little longer. Thankfully, I was useless as an assistant, but I gave great notes. And so they kept me. I had good ideas, and I gave great notes. And so they promoted me and we found a new assistant to help but it was, you know, as a small production company I had, it was for three heads. One person who was above me and me. And, and then when we brought in the assistant was one more, but we did a lot of movies. We did I think, in the three years I was there, we did seven films for watch, which is a lot. And most of them for Screen Gems. We did the covenant, which was a number one movie did the remake of prom night, which was a number one movie. And when we did a lot of movies that were not number one movies, back then you could make like straight to DVD movies and still make a lot of money. Right. So we did a lot of those too. And yeah, and I just kind of I love development. I really liked that world. I came out to write, like most development executives, and Joe Cardona, J. S. Cardona who was our principal, who's a writer, director. He's done 3040 films took me under his wing along with a couple of other writers that we were managing. That we worked with a lot. And so we kind of called ourselves their managers, we put them on projects, and they got paid. I mean, they were working writers getting paid and getting movies made. So you know, when he kind of took us all under his wing for a while, and it was really nice to have that person, you know, shepherding your, your career and then Sam storm ended. And I went over to Clifford rubber productions, to help had just done Cinderella story, which was a you know, $20 million grossing teen movie. And I love teen movies. And so I started there and was there for another few years. And I still work with Clifford, he's a great guy. And then during the writers strike, that ended we had things in, you know, that I had sold during the writer strike and, and it was still going and still going and still going, it was going at United Artists, which was at the time not to get too far into it. At the time, it was like, right after Tom Cruise did the jumping on the couch thing. Everyone was like, he's never gonna work again. And so he's like, I'm going to get into producing and really give my all into producing and so he loved the project that I had sold to UAE and things were go in and we were meeting with directors and we had a rewriter on and all this great stuff. And then all of a sudden Tropic Thunder came out. And everybody was like, Oh, wait, we still have Tom Cruise. Let's find another project for him. And then like everything got put on the backburner that was not Mission Impossible to turn around and blah, blah, blah. That's and that's Hollywood folk. But the breaking story was honestly just like everyone else's interned was an assistant, worked my way up to their director of development at Sam storm. And then went over to Clifford's as their director of development you know, got some things going and then decided half decided half writer strike, because there was kind of a hiring freeze, kind of, for like a year. I went on a lot of interviews, I did a short stint at eclectic pictures for lovely summer, for long for long summer. And, and while I was doing that, and working, you know, to other jobs, and trying to get my own stuff, you know, Project side already been attached to or that I was finding as a producer, as I was getting that going. I started an apple script and started consulting and, and it took off and so instead of looking for more exec jobs, I was like, You know what, I'm going to be my own boss for a little while, um, see what I can do and see what I can make of it.

Alex Ferrari 9:33
Good for you. So So you basically your your, you made your bones as a development executive, basically. Yeah. So, which is one of the reasons I wanted to have you on the show because I love to hear perspectives of development executive, someone who's been in the trenches, seeing these scripts come in, I'm sure you've heard a couple scripts in your day. And you've heard a couple pitches in your day. So

Danny Manus 9:55
Yes, so the about 360 current count 360 or so?

Alex Ferrari 10:01
So is that a dog ears are just normal counting

Danny Manus 10:04
That is it makes me feel like I'm living in dog ears. But yes, those are actual.

Alex Ferrari 10:10
Alright. So let me ask you, what is the worst pitch you ever took development executive because there has to be one that stands out.

Danny Manus 10:21
There is I mean, the worst worst pitchers are not the ones given by the professional writers who come in for regular pitch meetings. I've had pitches that aren't so great. But the ones that you talk about

Alex Ferrari 10:33
the ones that you would be on a podcast and someone would ask you, what's the worst and the one that you would say? That's the one we're talking about

Danny Manus 10:38
When you might put in your book, and

Alex Ferrari 10:42
what not to do of what not to do? Yes.

Danny Manus 10:47
They come from the pitch fests and the, you know, the out of the box, kind of pitching things and, and events like that. The best one, the best. The best one I used to tell. I was still a Clifford's. I don't remember what event it was, but it was here in Los Angeles. And, and it was about a year or two after Garden State had come out. And, and so I had this guy and he, he sat down, it's like, you know, I have kind of an indie dramedy, kind of like Garden State about this guy who, you know, is high and mighty high and powerful. But he goes back to his hometown, which is being like his beachfront property, which is being taken over by evil developers or something. And you know, he really hasn't connected with his home in a decade, or with his family, and he's taking a stroll down the beach to just kind of, you know, get back into the field of his hometown and a huge wave comes up and washes ashore, and it washes this great big seal up onto the shore that knocks him over and the seal rapes him

Alex Ferrari 12:07
so for everyone, for everyone not seeing this on the video podcast version of this Danny's face is dead straight. It's a complete that can delivery was was brilliant. It's just brilliant delivery. Oh, how he did it. And the re the seal rapes him. It just stood there stone faced it was. Wow,

Danny Manus 12:29
I practice that one. My former life I was Jonah Hill.

Alex Ferrari 12:33
I got it. I can't believe that's a real thing. Seriously.

Danny Manus 12:37
Yeah, that was a good one. I mean, I've had a couple of incest ones, which was

Alex Ferrari 12:43
and these people aren't completely the screenwriters are completely straight.

Danny Manus 12:49
totally serious. It was in Portland at an event I go to every year it's a wonderful event. So nothing you can see event this was just this guy. Now keep in mind my company at the time it Clifford's. We did Cinderella story we did Sydney while we were doing teen coming of age shows, sweet comedies. And this was right after Brokeback Mountain came out the year after. And the guy you know, even he went he wasn't even sitting pitching to me. He stopped me in the hallway because he couldn't get a session. And he was like, I think this is really for you. I couldn't get a session. I couldn't sign up. But I really want to tell you about as I'm sure tell me about it. Because like it's a coming of age love story between a dad and a daughter. And I gave him three outs. I went like a stepfather and a stepdaughter. And he was like, no, no. I was like, like two older people who didn't know until they were in their late 40s and 60s that they were related. They didn't No, no, no. It was like, like, like two people who didn't know that they were related in the team together. It's like no, no, like a father and his 16 year old daughter. Oh, my when you're just straight pitching me an instance. Cinderella story. He was like, I really think the best part was like, I've posted parts of it online. And it's gotten a great reaction

Alex Ferrari 14:16
from we're incest our os.org

Danny Manus 14:19
Yeah. And I was like, you know, I think that might be a Pass.

Alex Ferrari 14:25
Pass. It's a hard pass

Danny Manus 14:27
about it. But for now I'm gonna pass. Thank you, though. No, I'm good without the handshake.

Alex Ferrari 14:36
I love but I love that you gave them outs. And you were like, and actually your stories were more interesting. I'll be like, Okay, those are like more interesting concepts than just straight up incest.

Danny Manus 14:48
Yeah, I've had a few of those. I mean, I've had butthead police, you know, where people come in with gimmicks. I used to talk about you know, don't bring any gimmicks here.

Alex Ferrari 14:59
Oh, like Yeah, like like A stripper will show up or they'll bring drop

Danny Manus 15:02
costumes and props. And I had a guy with literally a foam, but on his head, you know, and and to be fair, at least it tied into the concept. I mean, it wasn't like a random prop for Batman or something was it? It was, it was but it was butthead police. It was it was an animated show. So you give it a little bit of leeway. You know, but you realize, you realize that for five minutes, you're literally pitching to an asshole. I mean, like there's there's one staring at you on his head, as he's pitching and all you can do is

Alex Ferrari 15:46
Oh, my God. Wow. Why haven't

Danny Manus 15:52
I fall asleep in a pitch? Which was amazing. No. Yeah, that that was a really good one that in his defense, it was the condition or is it? No, the condition was it was like 430 It was one of the last sessions it was eight hours of pitching. Everybody was exhausted. And but if if your own pitch puts you to sleep, just think about what it's doing to us. And if I didn't have my friend that day and sitting next to me, I mean, he nodded off for like, four seconds. You know? Like you could tell he was like telling the stories like it's a road trip about you know, two girls and they you know, they got to go save their um in those four seconds, I look over to my friend like,

Alex Ferrari 16:46
Is he is he sleeping? Sleeping? I was never mind. I was actually doing a consult once and I was at at a Starbucks and I had this moment screenwriter in front of me, we were talking. And he literally God bless him. He just had a rough night, because he had kids and everything. And while we were talking, he was just like, just yeah, just like, like completely go out while I'm talking. And, and you're not feeling when you're so exhausted. That you're trying to keep your eyes open. Yeah, but you can't. That's what I was for 30 minutes. I felt so I'm like, Dude, do you? Do you just want to go home? Yeah, if I could, man, I can't sleep I haven't slept on I

Danny Manus 17:28
Don't have kids writers don't have.

Alex Ferrari 17:31
So okay, so that's the worst of the bunch, which are amazing. By the way, some I have not laughed so hard in this in this show ever. So I appreciate that. For people watching the video version of this, you will see me lose my crap. It is hilarious. I can't I can't believe some of the stories. Now what is the best pitch you ever heard? One that you said, wow, this guy just not this girl just knocked it out of the park.

Danny Manus 17:57
You know, I had a couple of them. I had a pitching team that really had their stuff down. I will be honest, I don't remember the story. But I remembered them. And I didn't really like the story. I just liked how they pitch. They felt very sort of themselves. They had it down so they weren't talking over each other. They knew what you know, what beats to press and who was going to say them and in what order. So you know, they felt rehearse. They didn't feel amateurish. They were tight. They were tight. Yeah, it was a tight pitch. It was in five minutes of rambling. Because you don't need five minutes to pitch your story. You need three tops. And so yeah, they just had it down. And I mean, unfortunately, you don't remember the great ones. You really don't. I mean, you remember great pitch meetings and great people that you meet in pitch meetings. But you don't remember every story. That's good. You know, or that's great. You just remember the really

Alex Ferrari 19:06
bad one remember the incest Do you remember the but remember the ones

Danny Manus 19:09
that leave an impression? Yeah. Remember the ones that you call your mom about and be like, guess what happened today?

Alex Ferrari 19:15
Or you call your mom and go I don't know why I'm doing this and why am I in this business? What's going on? I need to reevaluate I'm making poor life choices.

Danny Manus 19:23
Look like last week was was uh, two weeks ago was my 16 year anniversary in this in this town and in this business, and I still call her every other day and say the same God.

Alex Ferrari 19:34
Just like I don't know why I'm here. I don't understand it.

Danny Manus 19:37
You should have made me go to business school. Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 19:41
Why did you support my dreams? How good you know what?

Danny Manus 19:49
A lawyer like all our other Jewish friends doing

Alex Ferrari 19:53
now Can you can you give some tips on how to do a good pitch like what are some of the keys that you need to have to have a pitch?

Danny Manus 20:01
Yeah, absolutely. You know, I've been teaching pitching is how I got into how I made the jump from executive to consultant, really, as I was speaking at a lot of these conferences across the country as a, as an executive, still taking all the pitches at the pitch fest, and I just keep seeing those same mistakes made time after time after time. And so I wanted to teach that class, which was called the no BS guide to pitching, which eventually kind of led to no postscript great and some great. I can't take full credit for it, I can only take half credit for it. My my first web developer, actually came up with it when she asked what do you you know, what do you want it to be a balance, like I wanted to really be my personality. And I teach a class called the no BS guide to pitching and the no BS Guide to Characters. And she was like, How about no bull script. And I went, Oh, trademark trademark trademark. So, but I started teaching that pitch in class, and over time, it has changed 100%. But for me, what I teach in pitching is the five C's and an H, especially when you have your short pitch, and you only have 235 10 minutes to do your pitch. It's all about concentrating on the five C's. The first one being context. where actually the first one is concept, you know, what is your idea? The second one is context, which is to me, you it's the template movies, you know, it's in the vein of this and that it's setting up the tone and the genre. It's setting up the context of why you're the person to write it, you know, what is your connection to the story or character? What is your connection or inspiration? You know, that's going to be somewhat anecdotal, maybe, but something personal, that's going to connect us to you, so that we know why you're the writer that was supposed to write this story. And, you know, and as well as anything about you that we need to know, you know, that's going to make you stand out if you've won prestigious contests, if you've been published or produced before, if you've been optioned before things that are gonna make you stand out against the pack. So the context to your project and the context to you. Next is character who we are going to follow. Why. And I always have my clients and writers say this is why this character why now, if you can't answer those two questions, you probably haven't figured out a strong enough character base to get your plot in moving or to make us invest in that character story. You know, what do they have to achieve? What do they have to overcome? Who's against them? You know, what is their goal, but also what is their deeper, you know, like emotional need and want. And just, and maybe a line of backstory, so we have some context to them, you know, what their baseline is. So we know once that inciting incident happens, like where their arc is going to take them. So the basics, you know, half a dozen basics about your main character. And, you know, I was a judge at Austin Film Festival, I taught their pitch prep class for their competition for a few years, and was judged for their pitch and calm for a few years. And you only get 90 seconds, and it's a tight 90 seconds. But every single pitch, if if writers spend 20 More seconds on character, their pitch would be 50% better. Because that is what's going to hook somebody. So that's character, concept, context, character conflict, what is the external conflict that's going to drive the story, we probably got a little bit of the internal conflicts in the character section. And then the fifth, C is confidence and just going in there, knowing that they want to hear from you, you have something to say, you know, and you are confident you know, your story backwards and forwards. You don't have to read off cue cards for three minutes. You know, like this is not your first time and if it is your first time you are faking it till you make it so we don't know it's your first time.

Just just go in there and own the table own the room so that you know, you're you're not cocky because we don't like cocky, but we do like confident in your story. You know, be collaborative. You know, if someone has a note, or someone makes a suggestion, don't be like No, that's an how it goes, I wrote this, you know, II open, but be confident in yourself and your ability. And the H which I tack on there is hook. Because we really have to know, once we know your concept, what is the hook that's making your concept different and taking it you know from a new angle, new, you know, direction, new thing that we haven't heard before. And if you can nail the five C's and the H in a 235 10 minute pitch, you will at least have the basis to bring somebody into that world and let them know you know what your story is about neither it's going to interest them or it's not.

Alex Ferrari 25:43
Excellent advice, sir. Excellent advice. And I'm assuming you go in much deeper detail on all of those in your lectures and courses and stuff.

Danny Manus 25:50
Yes, I do. Yeah, there's a there's tons of hours on it is one of my site it does go much more in depth as well as logline and forgotten context is where your logline would go as well. Okay, I mentioned that.

Alex Ferrari 26:07
Now, what is the biggest mistake you see first time screenwriters make?

Danny Manus 26:12
Um, you know, get this question a lot. And honestly, the biggest mistake is rushing it rushing the process, submitting before they're ready submitting before their scripts are ready. Not doing their research. And just the deadly combination of impatience, desperation, and ego.

Alex Ferrari 26:39
Horrible mix.

Danny Manus 26:41
If you get those trifecta, you are ft before you ever start, it's it's never going to happen. Because this this business takes four things. It takes luck. It takes timing, it takes

Alex Ferrari 27:05
your soul. It takes your soul. No,

Danny Manus 27:09
it does take your soul. It takes talent. It takes timing, it takes luck. And and it takes there was one other I always say talent, timing, luck. And persistence. Well, that too, and the right idea. And the right idea. And if you know, if the right writer doesn't have the right idea at the right time and have the right luck. It doesn't happen. Even if you have two or three out of those four. It's usually the force that becomes the X Factor. You know, there's so many projects I've worked on, or developed over the years that were just like, two years before it's time, you know, and if we hadn't, if we had just waited another year, everybody wanted that thing, you know, or there were writers who had the greatest idea I've ever heard. And it was the right time, but they weren't the right writer for that project. You know, and it's just when those four thing is, you know, the right idea, the right writer, the right time, and the right luck, all come together. That's when success happens. But too many writers are trying to force it. And their impatience and desperation will not only cost them sometimes 10s of 1000s of dollars, which, you know, as a consultant, I'm super wary of, because, you know, let's face it, it's not a secret. Some people don't like consultants, and there's some really shitty consultants out there who should not be charging for, for working with people. And, and they ruin it for everybody else. And the writers who are so desperate to get their first script out and made are the ones that are going to fall victim to that, and we hate seeing that happen. And so, you know, and executives, they can smell desperation, a mile? Bacon, you know, like, you it's the one thing you know, I know, a writer who's a good writer, prolific writer, hasn't quite broken through yet. But um, you know, he got a reputation as being a little too desperate. And people don't want to work with desperate writers. They want to work with people that that feel like they're already professional writers. They just, you know, don't have the, you know, the job's yet to prove it, but they feel like they are professional writers.

Alex Ferrari 29:54
Desperate?

Danny Manus 29:55
I mean, that really is.

Alex Ferrari 29:56
Yeah, nobody wants to you know, it's like a girl doesn't want to date a guy Like so desperate or vice versa. It's the same in this business. And I remember being on both sides of that equation, me being the desperate one. And then me being the one that seeing that smells the desperation on people, and it's such a turn off, you can have the best idea ever and it's such a turn off.

Danny Manus 30:18
To be fair, to be fair, I think I'm more desperate now.

Alex Ferrari 30:24
I smelled, I smelled it on you, sir.

Danny Manus 30:27
You're just you're just desperate for different things, you know, 15 years in, then then you were when you you know when you're in your 20s. But you just you learn how to keep it under, you know, you don't let the desperation bubble up in a conversation. You just you learn to stamp it down.

Alex Ferrari 30:48
You hide it? Well, sir, you hide it well. Now, another big thing that screenwriters have to deal with, and we kind of touched on this earlier, but notes and how to deal with notes. Because that's such an issue, especially for, you know, amateur writers or new writers. I've seen it I've seen it I've been there I've been I've done it myself early on in my career, where you get a note from a producer or director or an actor, and and you just get completely defensive over your baby is like, No, I am the one you are not How dare you. professionals don't do that. professionals understand that there is much bigger, it's show business.

Danny Manus 31:30
Yes, it I always say, you know, this is not they don't call it an art colony. They call it show business. However, I will say that I think professional writers get even more angry about notes

Alex Ferrari 31:45
depends on how, depending on how big they are, and how much experience you have.

Danny Manus 31:49
Yeah. But the thing is that a professional writer notes, it's not about the note, it's about the note behind the note. And they know how to they know, they know the code, you know, they figured out the code that backs us, to give you the note they're trying to give you without saying you wrote a bad character. You know, there, there's something else they're actually saying. And professional writers have figured out how to decode that, and how to address their note, while still getting across what they want to get across. Or, you know, new writers are so scared of losing that deal that they're scared of asking the question like, What exactly do you mean by that? Or, you know, would you, you know, do you think this might be a good solve? They're just, you know, they just solve everything, you know, they just try to, you know, if it's exes, you know, the character is not that likable. You know, a new writer, will go back to page two, when they're introduced, and say, you know, Bill 35. likable. You address that.

Alex Ferrari 33:03
That's great. That's great.

Danny Manus 33:05
But but, you know, a writer, you know, that's been doing this a while, is going to go back and look at okay, well, why is that character coming off as likable is, you know, is the goal that they have, you know, not relatable? Is the, you know, are the stakes not high enough for us to be engaged? You know, is the dialogue not quippy enough to show off their personality and make us care? Like, what is the reason for that disconnect? You know, there's a, there's a note behind that note that you have to find. You know, and, and that's the real difference. And that just comes with experience and, and time and the notes process. It's part of why I think new writers should get professional notes before they start submitting to producers, because it lets you in on that process, and gives you someone to discuss those notes with so that you understand the note and can address the note and get the options for the note before you're thrown into the lion's den. And you're like, he doesn't like my characters. What what do I do? Do I make a new character? You know, and you freak out over a note that is probably easy to address, if you know how to address it. So but you have to be collaborative, you have to be open to notes, even if it's the dumbest effing note you've ever heard in your life, and you will get that note? Your response in the room is yeah, you know what? That's interesting. Let me think about that. And then you immediately do not think about it because it is the dumbest note you've ever gotten. But you don't say that you play the game a little bit and stay vague. And you know, and that's how you win. But

Alex Ferrari 34:56
it's but it's politics. It's a game and that's what that's what screenwriters Even filmmakers, they don't understand when you're working in the Hollywood system, there is so much subtext in meetings, there's so much subtext and conversations, there's so many politics going on behind the scenes, and the higher you get up on that ladder. The harder is like I can't even imagine what was like for someone like Zack Schneider, dealing with a franchise like Justice League and Superman, and Batman how what you had to deal with. At that level? Well, you've got a bunch of scared executives, who all think they're gonna lose their jobs, because this whole thing is coming crashing down. And they got to bring in Joss Wheaton to do something for it.

Danny Manus 35:38
And by the way, every executive thinks they're about to lose their job at all times. At all times, and half of them will, you know, but on the flip side of that, I will say, and I always stand up for execs, because whenever I'm on a panel with writers or you know, they're always hating on executives, you know, who are these people who just want to slap their names on my creation and feel like they're part of the writing process? You know, I call I call bullshit on that. And I do, because the executive who's working with you, on your rewrites, who you've pitched this to who is pitching your idea to their boss, they're your biggest cheerleader in that room, they are putting their name and reputation on the line for you and your idea. So if they're making a suggestion, it's not 95% of the time. Yeah, there's 5% of douchebags who just want to take credit for stuff, but 95% of the time, it's because they know what their company or their boss is going to respond to, or not respond to in a pitch or in a script. And they want to help you make that good impression. Because your good impression is their good impression. And your success is their success. And so they have no reason to give you crappy notes on purpose. Unless you're a horrible person, and they're trying to get rid of you.

Alex Ferrari 37:06
Which there is that there is that there is that there's a tiny

Danny Manus 37:09
bit of that, but But you know, they are your cheerleader in the room, they are not there to destroy you or your project or turn it into something else they are by and large, very creative people. And I will point out a sad but not sad but interesting fact that there are more executives or former executives that have sold their scripts in the last five years than contest winners. Interest so more execs, like me, we came out to write we have a background in screenwriting we do, right? You know, and, and we're not there to screw people over, we're there to get stuff done and be part of the creative process and kind of guide you through that company's creative processor or development process. But you know, a lot of writers and the higher up they are, the more they feel this way. They feel that the you know, the too many executor their enemy and they're they're really truly not almost all of the time.

Alex Ferrari 38:17
That's, that's very true. Do you also find it and I think it's something extremely important for screenwriters, especially young screenwriters coming into the business to understand that, in Hollywood, Hollywood is run by fear and avoidance. I mean, it's simply, you and I both know that from being here, but the whole the whole

Danny Manus 38:37
Im scared shitless right now.

Alex Ferrari 38:40
I live in constant state of fear all of my life. No, but But seriously, though, like this, there, that's why there's so many noes, because there's so much fear of like, I'm going to lose my job, I can't put my you know, balls out there. I can't kind of take the risk. And that's why there's that's why the films that come out of the Hollywood system are what they are. And occasionally you'll get some really interesting stuff. But that's not their business, their business is to put out product that sells to the masses. And that's the way the game is played the days of the days of the experimental studio movie. They're there, but they're rare. They're rare. It's a few and far between. Would you agree?

Danny Manus 39:19
Yes. Yeah, absolutely. It's, it's a different business than it was even five years ago, you know, 10 years ago, 15 years ago. It's a completely different business. The stakes are higher, the budgets are higher. The audiences are pickier you know, they have to make such different decisions than they used to. You know, when there was a DVD market. You didn't have to get it completely right. Because you were still gonna make another 60 million, you know, on DVDs. And you know, we made a lot of programmers at my first job at Sandstorm and they made a lot of money. You know, we did the sniper Movies.

Alex Ferrari 40:00
There are those that that franchises made so much money.

Danny Manus 40:06
So much money we did, we did sniper two, three and four, you know, and we just kept going, it's kept going, they kept going, we did, we did not there, they kept going. But, you know, we did two, three and for we did them for about five, five and a half million dollars. Plus with the rebate that we got for shooting and you know, Thailand or Budapest, you know, it's like four and a half million dollars. And they it's gross, like $50 million, you know, on DVD and, you know, package sets and stuff like that. And so those days are gone. And the days of of developing, you know, it used to be when I started in development, it was like the 50% rule, if you could get a good idea 50% There, we'll take it the other 50% narrow, it's like you needed to be 90% done with a package before we're even going to read it. And think about making it, you know, and you know, somebody at Netflix already has to want it. You know, it's with it with LOI. It is a completely different business now than it was 10 years ago. The upside is there's more ways to break it in more places to in more platforms to get your stuff made and a wider array of stuff being made. Outside of the studio system, the downside is that the studio system all want exactly the same movie by exactly the same person for exactly the same budget. And, and it is hard to crack into that system much more so than it even was. And I think because of Hollywood's attempted rebranding itself and and diversifying itself and finding new voices and new talent and new things. execs are even more careful 100 times more careful than they were three years ago, you know, they are looking for very specific things now. Whereas before, it was like look, just have a great idea and have a great script. And now it's it's not just that, you know, and so writers have to do their due diligence, and not follow the trends because it never pays to follow the trends. But you have to know what the trends are so that you can try to get ahead of them. You know, I said years ago, that very soon there's going to be a major rom com a major LGBT rom com that, you know, that hits, and that's going to be a new big thing. You know, and then love Simon came out and that I mean, there's a bunch of things, you know, in development right now that that fits that bill, especially for Netflix. So it's trying to find that next thing while knowing what, what people want to read.

Alex Ferrari 43:07
I actually you know, I know a lot of screenwriters, professional screenwriters, and I've read some of their scripts, some of their specs, and I and I sometimes I'll get done reading it, I'm like, why is it dismayed? Yeah, like, this is amazing. Like, what, like, I see Meryl Streep in this. I see. You know, I like I mean, it's just so good. Because I've read bad scripts, I write bad. I've written bad scripts. So I've read but I've also read bad scripts as well. And when you read something of quality is just obviously, they know the craft, they know the thing. They're, you know, they have credits of movies that you and I would if I said out loud, you would go Oh, that guy. And they even have a star attached. And it's still no,

Danny Manus 43:52
You know, I read just as much great stuff from writers who aren't getting produced as I read crappy stuff from writers who are getting produced. And you know, that just happens it just happens it's a numbers game. It's a referrals game. It's a budget game. There's a million reasons why good scripts don't get made and some bad projects you know, get sold or or get made. It's almost it's not usually the writers fault every once in a while but that's that's just how it is. I've had plenty of projects over the years that I was like, This is my no brainer. If this doesn't get made, I will eat my shoe. And you know, and you know, shoo,

Alex Ferrari 44:38
Shoo, a one steak sauce on it, you know, little SriRacha

Danny Manus 44:44
Yeah, it goes down easy. And then there's other stuff is like this is the worst piece of crap I've ever read. How is this getting? You know, how is this going in to every major studio with major producers attached? It's not good. That's just something you have to accept. And you can only do so much and write the best script for you for your voice that's going to help you get ahead and stop worrying about, you know, can this sell? And just, you know, worry about can this get me to that next place in my career that I'm looking to go to? You know, can this Phil you know, can this achieve for me my next goal instead of like, Can this win me the Oscar? Know what your first script it's not winning you the Oscar, you know just like trying to get read by you know, anyone three will first Yeah. And then worry about your Oscar like 10 years from now.

Alex Ferrari 45:43
Ridiculous. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. Me mean people's egos people's egos gets I mean, this, this town is so full of ego is dive and funny. And we've, I mean, I've dealt with it I've had, I still have one, but I try to keep it in check. And I keep it relative. But there's some people who just I've literally had filmmakers in my post sweet. Tell me straight faced. I'll see you at the Oscars next year. Like straight faced, like not the sun at Sundance. Nothing I back up, not ask her. Like, that's where this is going. And I'm like, Wow.

Danny Manus 46:29
You know, I will say the tagline for my company is hate me today. Love me. In your acceptance speech? I saw that. That's correct. So you know, it could happen. I'm waiting. I'm gonna wait.

Alex Ferrari 46:39
Could we also win the lottery? Sure. Sure, it can happen. It can rob them. Now I want to talk about something that writers filmmakers as well. They all think that this is the magic thing that you need an agent. The agent is your face. Just kind of your eyes rolled back for people not seeing this. His eyes rolled back. I think he lost consciousness for a second as I said that. But the you already had a little mini stroke. Because Because agents and managers, all I need is I need I need Ari from entourage. I don't like I need Ari from entourage. There is an

Danny Manus 47:22
Ari has been fired in the me to movement. So you're screwed. Actually.

Alex Ferrari 47:27
I know both both the real RA and the x or Jerry pivots. But you we need, we need a Baracuda we need a shark like that to be our agent and that they're going to go out there and they're going to hustle and get my scripts read. Give me the millions I deserved. Please, let's just talk about that. Let's let that out in the air. Please tell me your perspective.

Danny Manus 47:47
It is my least it's the least favorite question I get from writers. Which, because it's the number one question I get from writers is how do I get an agent? And for 90% of those writers, the answer is you don't you know, the agent will get you if you need an agent. But most writers don't. You know, unless you have three, at least three viable sellable pinchable commercial projects, and agents not going to pick you up yet go for a manager. If you really feel you need someone, but for those writers who only have one idea, or you know, they just have that they don't want to be screenwriters, as a professional as a long term career, they just have one great idea. One script they want to write, you know, one piece of legacy they want to leave because I think this is a great story. Don't waste your time with managers and agents and stuff like that they have no use for you. Right, you know, just try to make your script as great as possible. And then try to find a producer who will read it. And you have a very singular focus. And that's almost easier, a lot easier than a writer who wants to do this as a long term career. But if you want to do it as a long term career, there are plenty of ways to find representation. But know when you're ready. And most writers, again, are submitting far too soon. If you don't have, you know, a dozen ideas that you're developing, if you don't have at least two if not 3/5. Finish scripts, if you don't have, you know, if you've never pitched before, if you've never networked before, if you know if you've never done any of the homework and the research before, you're not ready for a manager yet. Keep working on your craft managers aren't going anywhere. You know, and it's not like if you don't get them in 2019 You'll never get one then they're always gonna be there. You have to wait until you're ready because you really do Want to get one shot most of the time. But between contests and events, and pitching and social media, and consultants like myself who have good contacts with those reps, and, you know, just friends and referrals, or whatever, there's a million ways to find a manager, and they can be super helpful in your career. But know when the right time is, and as far as agents go, I don't want to bad mouth agents,

Alex Ferrari 50:36
bad mouth agents, it's

Danny Manus 50:37
okay. But you have to know what you're offering them. Right? You know, they don't. I'm like a manager who's kind of there to guide your career, and they're in it for the long haul. And they're there to help you develop an agent is there to close that deal, and get you the best terms possible. And a great agent is there to make a great writer into a superstar. That's what great agents do. If you're barely on your first project, or you're on your second script, and you're just trying to get read, you are like two to five years away from needing an agent, you know, and if you do need an agent, your manager will help you get that agent, because they have those relationships. I always say look for a manager before you look for an agent, you know, unless you have something really specific. Or you have something in development with, like a client of that agent, you know, if you got to an actor, which by the way is way better than going to an agent? No, if you if you're looking for an actor, or you think you know, the actor that's right for your project, don't go to their agent unless you have an offer. Because the first words out of their mouth is hey, that's great. What is the offer. And so if you don't have financing, don't bother with the agent yet go to their production company, where they have assistants and executives who are in charge of finding and reading scripts for their talents to produce. And there is no no better silver bullet in this industry than having a great actor attached to produce your project opens every door. So if you're thinking that, you know, Shirley's theorem might be right for your project, to go to her agent, unless you have a $14 million offer to make her go to her Delilah, whatever it is, you know, films, you know, Banner, call and get in the system on the phone and tell them that you think this would be great for her to produce. And get in that way. And then if she likes it, and once the role great if she doesn't, you know, she'll get another actress of great caliber to read it. That's way better than ever calling an agent's. But that's something on the packaging side, if you're trying to get an agent yourself, go for a manager first, have a portfolio of work that is commercial and sellable and ready to go and know exactly who you are as a writer and who you want to be, which is something I work on with my clients and my mentees constantly. Because today, unlike 10 years ago, where you had to decide like, were you a TV writer, are you a film writer, and today everybody wants both, like you have to be both or want to do both. But you also have to know your voice. And you also have, what kind of writer you are and how you're going to be sold for the next two or three years. And you know, everyone's like, I don't want to be pigeonholed. I don't want to get into a box.

Alex Ferrari 53:42
Lucky to get into a box.

Danny Manus 53:44
Yeah, friggin pray for that box, jump into that box with both feet, like like my cat does. And just love that box. Because that box is making you money. That box is getting you scripts, that box is giving you a career that you're going to be able to jump out of that box and make an even bigger career two years from now. So I get real nice and cozy in that box for two years and stop effing complaining that you're being put into a box in the studio system. That's what you're being put into.

Alex Ferrari 54:19
It's insane when I hear that like I don't want to be boxed in like you you would be so blessed and lucky. If you could be boxed in I know what I know I used to my one of my good friends was West Cravens assistant years ago. And he would tell me stories of how upset Wes was about man. I'm stuck in this horror box. I can't do anything. And do you remember that there was a movie called Music of the heart? Yeah, with Meryl Streep. GLORIA And Gloria Estefan. That was a West Craven directed film. Absolutely. And you know why he got that? Because they wanted scream too. That's the only reason he got an expense. He wanted scream twos, like you want scream to give me it was called 500 violins originally and then then a music of the heart. And and I was like, but look at that the West Craven had one of the greatest horror, directing careers in the history of cinema. Honestly, he's his name is up there. But he was unhappy about being in the

Danny Manus 55:25
box. Look, I get it. I mean, you don't want to be in that box forever. Yeah, you know.

Alex Ferrari 55:31
So don't be too good, is what you're saying. Don't be too good in that box. Like if you're really good that you're stuck there. But just be good enough to get in a box. And then you could top out.

Danny Manus 55:40
Right? But that's the conversation to have with your rep saying, Look, I love doing horror. And that first script that got you a rap and got you 40 meetings around town was a horror script. So that's the the next two projects you're going to do our horror projects. But if you tell your rep upfront, like hey, I love doing the genre stuff. But I also want to do comedy. And I also want to do an action movie, then their job is to find that project, you know, to develop with you or for you to develop that is going to make that transition for you so that you're going from horror, to horror comedy, to comedy, you know, a horror, horror action to action comedy, to whatever, and so that they have a plan for your career. And I always tell you know, when when writers are trying to find their voice, find their box, but not get too stuck. I always tell my writers to look at the sub genres that you're writing to try and find a through line. That is your voice because it's not usually in that major genre, that first genre. But if you come to me and you say, Look, I have an action comedy, a horror comedy and a romantic comedy. I was like, Okay, well, you've got a through line there, that tells me what your voice is. You're just bringing that voice to different genres. But now we know what your voice, you know, what you want to do with that connective tissue is so that we can sell you as a type of writer, even though you're doing different genres, we know what your voice is bringing to that genre. And that's how you break out of that box is by using those sub genres and secondary genres, to bring out who you are, as a writer instead of just, you know, the genre of the premise you happen to come up with.

Alex Ferrari 57:34
That's awesome. Advice, actually, is really great, great advice. And I'm gonna ask a few questions. I ask all of my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?

Danny Manus 57:47
There's the funny answer,

Alex Ferrari 57:48
Run. Run,

Danny Manus 57:49
Just run.

Alex Ferrari 57:52
We both go to the same place.

Danny Manus 57:54
Run Forest. The, you know, the the real answer, there's two real answers I'll give. And one is a mistake that I made for many years in my career was, I thought I was going to be an Emmy winning writer. And so for the first few years, and before I was even in the business, I didn't pay attention to the other stuff. I didn't think I had to know about financing, or distribution, or, you know, or, or casting it. Well, I loved casting, but, you know, there were other things, the business side of it, that I didn't think I needed to know, because I was just going to be writing talents, you know, and that's, and that's it, I didn't know about the development process. Until you know, I was interning and started doing coverage. And you know, and then as an assistant, you know, doing scripts I didn't know about networking, like I just didn't know other stuff. Because I was so focused on my little corner of the world. And if you are a writer today, you have to multi hyphenate yourself. If you're a filmmaker today, you have to multi hyphenate yourself if you're an actor today you have to multi hyphenate yourself. So you need to do you need to treat it like a business and do the work and do the reading and be knowledgeable on way more than just your little corner of the office. That's that's one thing is have a bigger scope in terms of the information you're taking in so you really understand the business you're getting into from all sides. The second thing is right while you can because it's not going to get easier as you get older. I wish when I you know looking back when I was 24 and I had time oh god I ever those days, but I did. But I didn't write you know, because there was probably some party I was invited to you You know, and you're like, Ah, I had so much energy at 24 What the hell did I waste that for? If you are, if you are young enough, try to break in from the inside, come to Los Angeles, get a job in the industry, break in from the inside, it will cut yours out of your journey. If you can't do that. Then at least get out of your box, wherever that box is. If you are, you know, in the middle of Oklahoma and you are writing alone, find a group find a conference find people go online social media, use it to your advantage. You know, know when this business is a marathon, and when it's a sprint, no one to ask for help. Find a find a consultant or a mentor or a person that can help you. You know, there are no shortcuts. There's no shortcuts. And I wish I learned that. Earlier, I wish I learned that nobody owes you Jack. S. And it took me a little while to to learn that. I mean, look, I'm from Long Island. I mean, I've been working since I'm 14 I worked my ass off and in college, and since I'm 15 1415 years old, but um, you know, now they now they call it white privilege back then. And we were just assholes. Like, somebody owes you a little something just for getting through college just for doing the thing that you're supposed to be doing. You're like, where's my agent? And my million dollar career? Where's my Emmy? 30? Like I saw 30 year old Emmy winners, where's my Emmy? nobody owes you anything. And to keep working your ass off no matter how hard you work on that first script. Keep working on the second and the third?

Alex Ferrari 1:02:06
Absolutely. Now, you know Daniella, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact in your life or career?

Danny Manus 1:02:14
Like what screenwriting book or what

Alex Ferrari 1:02:16
Any book book book?

Danny Manus 1:02:18
Yeah, that's a good one. I'm running book works as well. I mean, I don't know that I loved their script. Okay, this is the probably the opposite version of what the answer you're looking for is, but there were screenwriting books that I read as an executive. And starting out that I disagreed with, so vehemently that I had to write my own and start teaching classes because I was like, if people are reading this shit, they're going to have the wrong impression of what executives really want. And so I need to write my own book, you know, and do my own thing to, you know, to tell them how it really is, you know, and tell them other, the other side of it, and so, I won't, I won't mean what, what books but their books on pitching and 62nd pitching and things like that, that you might be able to figure out that I just really disagreed with, you know, at the time 1010 plus years ago that inspired me to write my own articles on my own books and then do the consulting and, you know, bring something else that wasn't out there to writers in terms of like great literature come 1984 was always a huge, great favorite of mine. It's the one I remember in ninth or 10th Grade Reading and picturing as a movie and me saying in my head I really want to make the movie version of this one day. And so I you know, that was that was one that always stuck with me and then now we're living it

Alex Ferrari 1:04:08
We laugh because we're dying inside.

Danny Manus 1:04:11
Laugh because it makes us sad

Alex Ferrari 1:04:15
Now what is the what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Danny Manus 1:04:21
I think like I said, nobody owes you anything. And you're gonna make mistakes. I'm working on a new book and book proposal now about those mistakes. Who knows if it'll ever get done but

Alex Ferrari 1:04:41
Smoking like a true writer?

Danny Manus 1:04:44
Yeah. You know, a, you know, I hate to say it, but like, passion isn't enough. But if you don't have it, you'll never make it right. Um, you know, that's good. Like, if you don't absolutely love this industry and what it does and what you know, and what you can get to do in it, they get out because it's awful otherwise, like it is. It has its moments, don't get me wrong, it is. It's fun and stuff, but it's hard. I mean, if I knew then what I knew now or stuff, you know what I make different, I'd make a lot of different decisions. But if you don't absolutely love it, if you don't feel like you were trained for nothing else, I have no other viable workplace skills, I can't do math, I not created history. But there's very little else I can do,

Alex Ferrari 1:05:44
You've doubled down, maybe you've doubled down, you've doubled down, like you're in

Danny Manus 1:05:49
it until, until it's over, you know, but but that like, passion is great, but it's not enough. But if you don't have the passion to it, and you don't love it, get out because it will eat you alive and make you and make you a worse person. Instead of make you a better person.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:11
I always whenever I speak, I always say this to people in the room, like everybody here knows an angry filmmaker or a better filmmaker. Everybody here knows an angry screenwriter, a bitter screenwriter. And if you don't know one, you are the angry, bitter screenwriter, you are the angry, bitter filmmaker,

Danny Manus 1:06:28
you know, and we all go but if you haven't been bitter for a day, you know, you probably haven't been in this business long enough. Hey, man, no, no, no, no. I mean, look, I get dinged, I used to get things all the time for being cynical, and, you know, a little bit more of a pessimist and I try to balance it out. But you know, you are what you are, but you gotta you gotta look on, you gotta try to look on the bright side of things. And the hard part about Hollywood is that the carrot is always right. Yes, you know, and some times it's right here. And sometimes it's right here. And you're just constantly following that carrot. Because every once in a while, it just gets so close. And yeah. Ah, you know, and that just drives you crazy. But, but you keep going because as long as there's a carrot in front of you. You just got to keep following it. But that is the dangerous part of this business is you always feel like there's a carrot there.

Alex Ferrari 1:07:28
Isn't that carrot. So? Well, anyway,

Danny Manus 1:07:32
three of your favorite someone to help you help you reach that carrot. Oh, and then you can't do it alone. Right? That networking and friends in this business is important. And I made a horrible mistake. And I talked about this pretty openly in my classes. Like, you know, when I was starting out, I separated I had a lot of friends from school that came out here we were all you know, TV film students. But they were my friends. And then he were my business people. You know, here were my business acquaintances, or my colleagues, or the word that I like to use a friend and says, That's a great word. Yeah, that's what my coining friends is. But I never it was quite a few years until I really started to realize that you have to make those a friend and says and colleagues, friends, yes. Because you don't, you're always going to be on the outside a little bit. And we all feel like we're still on the I feel like that every single day my wife and and most people do. I know people who are very much on the inside who still feel like they're on the outside. But make friends and treat people like they could be friends and not just colleagues that can get you something or, or someone you can do something for, or some sort of favors this. Because even though Hollywood does work on a favorite system a lot of the time it doesn't feel like a favor when it's with your friends. And so, you know, networking is great and everybody talks about networking. But and I was okay at networking when I was younger, I hate it now, but I was okay at it when I was younger, but what I wasn't good at was turning those networking moments into friendships. Fair enough. That's great. And I try to do that especially as they're coming up because the people you come up with or who you're going to be in this business with for 2030 years.

Alex Ferrari 1:09:35
Now three of your favorite films of all time.

Danny Manus 1:09:39
I knew that you ask people this and I I tried to I came up with so many things of what you could ask me writer influences that I love and like, you know, underrated scripts and topics. I've been trying to figure it out. And of course they do change you know, every year Favorite Movies. The ones I always tend to go back to are a few good men, great American Beauty. And, and a comedy that I think is so underrated but every time I say it's I wouldn't say it's my favorite movie of all time, but the original Death at a funeral. Oh, it's such written by Dean Craig it's a British one, not the Chris Rock one. The the original one with Alan Tudyk. And, and, and a wonderful cast of characters is such an insanely hilarious underrated comedy. That when I read it as a script, I had to call the agents and just be like, Can I meet with him? This is the funniest thing I've ever read. I don't I don't think I ever actually did get that meeting. But, but I love the movie. My cousin Vinnie is up there. Love cousin Vinnie. In terms of comedy, you know, I can watch heat you know all day they The Nice Guys and sort of like newer movies that I think should be classics. Shane Black's The Nice Guys is right up there

Alex Ferrari 1:11:13
All good titles. They're all good titles, not where can put all the copper. Now where can people find you? And can you list off the books you've written and what you offer and all that kind of stuff and where they can find you?

Danny Manus 1:11:25
Yeah, people can find me on my website, which is nobullscript.net if you .com It'll take you there too. But no,

Alex Ferrari 1:11:35
I was gonna say is there another noble script that we're not aware of

Danny Manus 1:11:39
Funny enough, it was taken, you know, not 10 years ago, this this year 2019. This may as my 10 year anniversary, congrats, running this company. I don't know how that happened. But it happened. When I started the company, my hair was here. And so at the time when I got it somebody another consultant friends of mine, who I didn't know at the time, oh, noble script.com. And there was nothing there, but they owned it. Now I own it. But uh, yeah, noble script dotnet. You can find me on Twitter at Danny Maness. I put tons of screenwriting stuff and other comedy news ranting, you know things.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:24
And then you get a new offer a mentorship and you also offer consulting?

Danny Manus 1:12:29
Yes, absolutely. On noble script, you can find all my consulting services and packages from I mean, I've really worked soup to nuts from concept and brainstorming, through all the different drafts to polishing and rewriting query letters, pitch help. It really is pre managing, I like to call it pre managing, because I help my writers figure out what they should write, help them develop it and write it. And if it's great, and it's ready, and it's a recommend I try to get it out there, you know, to my context, so I think we'll respond. And a year ago, I started this mentor service, I only take 15 writers at a time, or somewhere around there. And it's a five month mentor service, it's much more in depth, we do calls every two weeks. So you're getting lots of notes calls, we're going through your ideas, we're developing them, and instead of just you know, paying for one set of notes, and then you know, maybe come back for a second set and which is great. This allows us to go through the process of however many drafts it takes to get it really polished upset. So by the end of the, you know, five months, you've got at least one if not two scripts that are really ready to go. And it includes career, you know, coaching and pitch coaching and query letters. It's very all inclusive. I'm about to start my third cycle of that. Now for the spring I still have slots, so I have a handful of slots open and I'm always always looking for more because I actually really enjoy being able to mentor writers it's not for first time writers I should say that this is not for first time writers writing their first script. This is for writers who have written a couple things and really want to take their you know their career and their scripts and their next projects to the next level. But you can reach out it's on my website or through Twitter you can email me always at Daniel at Noble script dotnet you can email me and and I'm happy to help and my book, no BS for screenwriters advice from the executive perspective. It used to be it's still on the writer store website but now that the writer store doesn't exist anymore.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:44
Is it gone gone?

Danny Manus 1:14:46
It's gone it's gone gone.

Alex Ferrari 1:14:48
Like I know it's gone in Burbank, but like is it's gone on the website too?

Danny Manus 1:14:52
No the websites still there. Okay. Still there. They do still sell some webinars and books and things that you can still get my book on. on there. You can also email me for an E version, they have a hardcopy version. I do have an E version that that you can always get from me. And yeah, and I'm always looking for new groups and conferences out there. So if you're listening and I know there are a ton of great people listening to this, you know, this pod cast if you've got a conference or a film festival or a panel and you want someone to you know, bring the fun

Alex Ferrari 1:15:32
Bring the spice,

Danny Manus 1:15:34
Bring the spice

Alex Ferrari 1:15:42
Remember the whole desperation thing we were talking about? It's starting to come off.

Danny Manus 1:15:45
Can you smell that?

Alex Ferrari 1:15:47
It's a good quaf could smell it to the air. Dan, it's been a pleasure talking to you, man. Thank you for dropping some great knowledge bombs on the tribe today, man.

Danny Manus 1:15:58
Thank you so much for having me. This is great.

Alex Ferrari 1:16:01
I want to thank Danny so much for coming by and dropping some major knowledge bombs on the tribe today. It is always nice to have the executives perspective when you're pitching to executives. So if you want to get links to anything we talked about in this episode, including contact information for Danny, his book, and so on, head over to indiefilmhustle.com/bps042. And guys, if you haven't, please check out my new book shooting for the mob, which is a allegory of what not to do when chasing your screenwriting or filmmaking dream it is a an insane down the rabbit hole story of how I almost made a $20 million movie for the mob and I was taken on a rollercoaster ride through Hollywood. It is based on a true story. And definitely anybody in this business. Anybody who wants to get into this business should definitely read it. Just head over to shootingforthemob.com that shooting with two O's. The mob.. And that's it for another episode. Guys, as always keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.


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BPS 041: Ordinary vs Special World’s on the Hero’s Journey with Chris Vogler

We have all heard about Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey by this point but what is it really. Chris Vogler, the author of The Writer’s Journey – 25th Anniversary Edition: Mythic Structure for Writers and the man who brought the Hero’s Journey into the film industry, breaks down the ordinary and special worlds of the hero’s journey. Enjoy.

These videos on screenplay structure are from his best selling online course (available on IFHTV): Story and Screenwriting Blueprint – The Hero’s Two Journeys.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 0:00
Before we start today, guys, I just want to lay out something very clearly, is that the matrix is a documentary, not a film, and I'll explain what I mean, in this episode. Now, the title of the episode is why filmmakers are programmed to fail. And I wanted to go deep into this because it is something that is affected my life dramatically. And I really hope that this episodes, clarify some things and bring some things to your conscious mind in a way that hasn't before. I want you to understand something that our lives are ruined by our subconscious mind. And I'll prove it to you. Did you drive a car today to work? Or any time? Did you brush your teeth?

Did you think about walking to the kitchen and making breakfast? All those kinds of mechanical operations? Who's running that? Who's running the code driving the car? Who's running the shop when that was going on? Because your mind was somewhere else you were thinking about problems or stress? Are you thinking about why this movie that I'm working on is not getting made, or I can't find the money, or and this is happening while you're driving a 2000 pound piece of metal down a highway or you're walking down stairs, or you're brushing teeth. Or you're running or jogging, or any of these other kinds of things, even sometimes while you're talking to somebody else, or listening to somebody else for that matter. These operations are run by your subconscious mind. It is not run by your conscious mind, you don't have the mental cognitive energy on a daily basis to run your entire system, if you will. And I'm going to use a lot of computer terminology because I think it really makes things a lot easier to understand. If you had to actually consciously think about getting yourself out of bed, putting your feet on the floor, thinking about lifting yourself up, coordinate how you're going to walk and think about every single step while still watching everything around us and nothing hits you or bump into you then go to the bathroom. All these things all these morning rituals, I'm just talking about the morning rituals, let alone your daily rituals. All of that is run by your subconscious mind. That is all hardwired operating system that is run by your personal operating system. The problem is that many of us are still running Windows 95. And we really should be running that brand new Mac iOS. I don't want to get into a Windows Mac thing. I'm just using it for an example guys, everyone calm the heck down. Now I want to I want you to listen to this very carefully. That same operating system, that same subconscious mind that runs your day to day business your daily operations also keeps you where you are in life and on your filmmaking or screenwriting path. Let me repeat that. Your subconscious that same operating system is What is keeping you from what you are trying to obtain in your life and in in your filmmaking in your screenwriting, I want you to understand that the construct that your subconscious has built, has a need to protect itself in its own mind. Your subconscious does not like change or want change, change is scary. Uncertainty is scary. But understand from an evolutionary perspective, this makes perfect sense. stability and predictability is safe, change is uncertain, change my open you up to be eaten by a tiger, or knocked over the head by a competitor while you're trying to, you know, get food or or survive. But these mental models don't serve you anymore.

And once you understand this, this is really life changing career changing stuff. When you're about to embark on making a movie, let's say, and you haven't done it a million times before, that's scary. And your operating system is not happy about it, and it will kick in to protect you. In its mind, it's there to protect you on an evolutionary level, it's there to protect you in any kind of change, or modification in the code will kick in the agents Agent Smith will come in and start sabotaging you and making things hard, because it doesn't want you to go down that road. Now I'm going to throw another thing at you. Your operating system or programming is installed within the first seven years of your life. Now this is scientifically proven. Hell, the Jesuits have been saying this for over 400 years. They said give me a child for seven years, and then I will show you the man that he will become, because they knew that this seven year period is when all the programming all the O 's is installed into you. Now let me explain. In order to survive on this planet, your brain needs to build an operating system. When you come in your your fresh hard drive. You got nothing in it. You don't have any any beliefs. You don't have anything in it you have you have basic basic basic operating systems, how to breathe, how to cry for food, very basic stuff. But in order to survive in the on the planet, you need to upgrade that operating system. So how do you do it? You watch your surroundings, you watch your parents, your siblings, your community, people that are around you. So whatever is going on around you in those first seven years, that is getting imprinted into your operating system. The ideas that you pick up in those first seven years set you up for life, that is what's going to run you for the rest of your life. If you don't believe you can be successful, if you don't believe that you're worth it. Or if you don't believe that whatever you don't believe on a subconscious level, then you will create habits that will stop you from creating the things that you might want on a conscious level and sabotage yourself. That's what I've seen so many times with filmmakers that I'm like, Why is that guy or that girl? Not moving forward? They're so talented, and they're so experienced, but yet something seems to be stopping them. I don't know what I'm not going to write it off as bad luck. But I'm just curious why that happens. I've seen it so many times, in my experience working with filmmakers, 1000s of filmmakers over the course of my career, that I kept seeing it again and again and again. And I wondered what that was. This simple reason is why poor people stay poor and rich people stay rich. It's because of the programming. Now think about it for a second lottery ticket winners lottery winners, right? How many times have you heard somebody that has never had money in their entire life win $100 million? What happens? The majority of the time they lose the money or they self destruct because they don't have the programming to handle that kind of money. It's just not something that they know or how to deal with or even how to handle. Why is it that 65% of professional athletes lose a lot, if not all of their money within five years of retiring? How many times have you seen athletes at signing table somewhere? Years later when they were making $20 million a year? And years later? They're signing for 50 bucks 150 bucks a signature? Why is that? Not in every case. But in some cases? It's the programming. If you think life is a struggle, if you say this film business is just too hard, they'll never let me in. I'll never be successful. I'll never get my movie made. Guess what? If that's what you're saying to yourself, then you're right. Period. If that's the thoughts that are going in your head, you're programming yourself to fail. For years, I did this. For years, I was the angry, bitter filmmaker, who was so upset at everybody else and looking at everybody else around me, you know, getting a leg up, and I wasn't getting those opportunities. I'm like, why is it? Why is it? Why can't I get my shot? I'm sure many of you listening to now, right now have had that conversation in your head, maybe even this morning? Why am I not getting the shot, I'm good enough, I feel that I can do it. But yet, I was programming myself on spinose. To me, I was programming myself

to fail. And only when I made a change, only when I decided to just completely override my operating system did things change, when I finally got to a place where I could not take it anymore, I decided to make that change. And that's when I made my first feature. This is Meg, or from the moment I said, I'm gonna make the movie, it took me 30 days to shooting that damn thing. And when I did, I didn't give my operating system time to even react. I was there I was in it, I was doing it. And I just said, I'm not going to stop, I'm going to keep going and I overrode my programming. I stopped those horrible mental constructs that I was creating for myself, these limiting beliefs that I kept repeating to myself, again, and again, and the subconscious was listening. And all of my habits, all of the things around me that I was doing, the people that I was attracted to, in the business, meeting people that would bring into my inner circle, all were reinforcing those negative, those bad thoughts that I was putting in my head, that bad programming 95% of our lives comes from these programming in the subconscious. Only 5% of your life is being lived consciously. Even if you think that you're at the driver's seat, you're not in all areas of your life, health, career, love, money, creativity, relationships, every area of your life is run 95% by your subconscious mind, by that Oh s by that operating system that programming. So what is the solution? What can you do to change this? Step one, recognize where you are struggling in life. Just look at your life and ask Where am I struggling? Because if you're struggling in an area that the programmer that Oh, s is not supporting, guess what, you're gonna have a problem, it's gonna fight back at you, the agent Smith's are gonna come at you, and you're trying to be Neo, and you're trying to create new programming, change the system, change the matrix. And I'll give you an example. I've spoken about this a little bit before, but I'm going to talk about a little bit more detail. Now. I've always had issues with my weight. And I know a lot of people out there listening because I've heard you guys message me and you know, and talk to me about this, that I've had issues with my weight all my life. Why? Because of the programming I had when I was a kid. You know, unfortunately, I had family members who were obsessed about their weight. And even though I wasn't when I was born, ask a baby, what its thoughts are on its body fat, or how their weight is or how they look in jeans. They don't think about things like that, that is all implanted. That is all programming based around what's around you. So I was programmed with this, that weight is a struggle. It's going to go up and down. I will never be thin, I will never be in shape. I will never have a six pack. All these thoughts were in my head. And I decided, you know, within the last six months, I said that's it. The same way I changed my mind and change the programming about my filmmaking career. I did the same thing with my health. And I said that's it, I'm going to change. I did the same thing when I was when I went vegan. I said enough's enough. I don't like the way I feel. I don't like what's going on in my body, I'm going to change. And for me, that was a good choice. Not for everybody. But for me it was. So when I decided to change the programming about working out and change my habits. All of a sudden, I was the guy that wakes up at four o'clock in the morning to go work out. I am the guy that works out six days a week and is happy to do it in like jumping out of bed ready to go work out. I'm the one that watches what they eat and how they eat. They make good healthy choices. Am I never gonna eat a piece of cheesecake again? Of course not. I Of course, I'm able to indulge. But the point is that that programming has been shifted. And now it's such a habit that I can't go back, it would hurt, it would actually be very difficult for me to sit down and just pick out like it would be difficult in my head to do it. Because my programming is now shifted. I reprogram myself, I am my own Neo, in the matrix of my life. I'm so sorry, with all the matrix bonds, I apologize, but I'm just using it, I think it's a good, good way to illustrate the point. So that's step one, recognize your struggle

and focus on it. That's step one. Step two, it's time to upgrade your operating system. The conscious mind is creative. And it can learn from an audio book, a podcast, an online course. And you can learn information that way and you can bring information in. But the subconscious mind does not work like that. The subconscious mind does not pick up those things. There's only two ways to program the subconscious mind to change that operating system. The first way is within the first seven years of life. That's one way. The second way is repetition. Practice, practice, practice. You didn't learn to drive a car in the first seven years of your life, but you learned how to drive a car, didn't you? You learned and you practice until it was installed in your operating system. Now you don't even think about the process of driving. Look at any 16 year old driving a car for the first time. One it's hilarious unless you're in the car or around the car. But secondly, all their mental energy is focused on the task. They're a wreck. They're nervous, they're anxious. Why? Because that operating system is going haywire. Their urge their want their desire to drive is overriding their operating system. Their their their desire for freedom in that car is overriding their operating system and their operating system is trying to handle it is trying to deal with it. But they do it so much. That finally becomes hardwired and now it's cool. If you've been driving for years, like I have been driving since I was 16 years old. It I don't even think about driving again in a car and I go there's never nervousness. There's never anxiety about driving. I don't care. It's amazing. It's amazing once you start thinking about it. That's why Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimmer can jump in a pool and just swim without even thinking about it. Why? Because he has done it 1000 times. Do you think that Steven Spielberg or Chris Nolan or David Fincher walk on the set and is nervous about the day? Or is nervous about the people that they're working with? Or about the process? Generally speaking, no. They might be nervous about new elements have been added in like story or actors, or getting the performances that they want specifically about this, but the mechanical processes of directing? Do you think Spielberg gets nervous? They think Scorsese gets nervous. Of course not. That's home for them. That is the pool that Michael Phelps one jumps into, it's their home. So when you jump on a set for the first time, you're a nervous wreck. Because you don't know what's going on. You're trying to figure things out, you haven't done it before. So your operating system is going haywire. It's trying to stop you, but your desire to make that movie, your desire to write that screenplay is overriding your operating system.

So this is where affirmations come into play. If you want to be a successful screenwriter or filmmaker, repeat every day, I'm a great writer. I'm a great filmmaker. I have the abilities needed to tell stories, I have the abilities needed to direct this film. Say it again and again and again to yourself. And the secret sauce to making this really, really transform your life is adding feeling. If you feel what you are saying, if there's an emotion attached to it, it will supercharge what you're doing in your subconscious feeling is so so powerful. Think about a great time in your life and then how that makes you feel in your body. Think about a bad time in your life and see how that makes you feel in your mind and your body. When you add positive feeling when you add real emotion to a thought that really in truly supercharges your transformation that will begin to change your operating system that will begin to change your subconscious mind. Doing this with a combination of educating yourself on what you need to do or be is a game changer. during your life, I'm not saying you're gonna sit there and look in a mirror and go, I'm a great filmmaker and never pick up a book. But if you start to do that, that programming will start kicking in, and then all of a sudden, you're going to notice that other habits are going to start coming in, you're going to want to listen to audiobooks every day, you're gonna want to listen to more podcasts, you might even want to start taking more online courses and start maybe, I know it's crazy, setting up time every day out of your busy day, to educate yourself, to learn your craft, to add those tools in your toolbox. But it all starts with the subconscious, because you could take a thout look how many people here listening? And I know I can't, I can't get any hands up. But I'm sure that many people who are listening have taken an online course, taught by some of the greatest masters of all time, but yet, it hasn't moved the needle. Why is that? Why is that? How many 1000s of podcasts have you listened to? How many online courses have you taken? How many audio books have you listened to? And yet, if you're not moving forward, in what you're trying to do, what's holding you back? Could it be your operating system? Could it be your subconscious mind that is holding you where you need to be because that's where it wants you to be because it's safe and predictable. On an evolutionary level, you've got to break through that mental barrier, you've got to break through that mental construct, it serves you no longer if you want to be happy, repeated again. And again, when your subconscious mind gets it gets that programming update that you won't have to say it anymore. Just like driving a car, just like learning your ABCs How many times did you sing that darn song until you can sing it off the top of your head now, not ever have to think about your ABCs once your subconscious, or operating system gets it, that is when you will start to create habits that will change your life and will change your filmmaking career, and your screenwriting careers in ways that you cannot even imagine. It has in my life. And like everything on this show. As I go through the journey of my filmmaking career as my creative career, my life, I try to share it with the tribe. If I find value in information that I'm finding, I want to share it with you guys. Because these concepts that I've just laid out, have changed my life for the better. I am healthier than I've ever been in my life, I'm in better shape than I've ever been in my life, even when I was in my 20s. And even when I was working out with a trainer back then I'm in better shape. Now. I can do things now that I was never able to do then. And this is less than six months, guys, I haven't been doing this for years, in less than six months, I've been able to drop almost 40 pounds. And I still got about another 15 or so that I want to get rid of. Because I got to get that six pack. Why not because of ego. Because that's where I need to be. On a health standpoint, it allows me to do more for you guys, for my tribe, for my business for what I do with my family in my life. That is what I've changed my programming to be. And it's changed my filmmaking career,

I've done two movies, where the first 40 years of my life, I haven't done any, in the last couple years I don't do and if I really wanted to, I could have probably done four or five movies this last year. But I had other fish to fry I was writing a book we're building up the you know, the podcast doing all the things I had to do. But if I wanted to, I could have easily done that. Because I changed my programming. Now I also don't want you just to write down on a post it note in your bathroom, that I'm a good filmmaker, I'm a better filmmaker I am. I'm happier. Whatever that is, that is a suggestion. You need to repeat it to yourself, in your mind, or out loud every day. So your subconscious gets it and it will make a difference. I promise you it will make a difference in your life. Because it's made a difference in my life. I cannot tell you all the things that have changed in my life because of this bit of knowledge, this knowledge bomb that I got months ago. I want you to understand something that I'm about to release a book. I am a published author. Now, I never in a million years had a program in my head that I was published. I could be a published author. Why? Because I didn't have anybody around me that I knew that was one. I didn't know it was something that somebody else did. But when I decided I'm like I'm going to write a book, and I'm going to do it and it's going to get released and I'm going to get it published. And that's exactly what I did. Now Now all of a sudden, I've got three or four books lined up that I'm writing. Why? Because my programming has changed. My program is now telling me oh, writing books is safe, you can do that. And when I come across new programming that I want to change, I will change it. It's all within your power guys. I want you to understand that the freedom for you to change your life, to change your filmmaking career, to change your screenwriting is all within your own power. It's in side of you. I just did an episode a little bit ago about meditation. It took me years of trying back and forth to be a meditator. Because in my mind, in my programming, I didn't have anybody around me that was a meditator. I didn't have any good role models, I didn't have any, any programming that could reinforce that. So I was like God, something that somebody else does. And I was just talking to a tribe member today, actually, who will remain nameless, but you know who you're who you are, sir. Where when they saw that episode, title, they're like, oh, meditating, that's, that's for somebody else. I'm just gonna keep hustling harder and harder. And I'm gonna just keep working harder and harder. Because their programming told them that meditation, that's, that's something new, that's something scary, I don't want to go into that world. And they just wrote it off. Now, mind you, I am a guy who has a company called indie film, hustle, I wear a hat that has hustle period on it. I'm all about the hustle. I'm all about the work. It's about being smart about it. Using that energy properly, hell just even be able to get energy to do it properly, which starts with your health, and your mind, and your mental health and your spiritual health, all of that stuff. That's where you have to go in order to move forward. Once again, guys, you have the power to change your life. Nobody outside of you, nobody anywhere else. If you're waiting for someone else to make you happy or to make your dreams come true. You're going to be waiting a long time. You're going to be waiting and waiting and waiting. It is a recipe for nothing but pain. Understand that

you need to take control of your life. You need to start making these decisions and these changes in your own life. And you have the information, there's no excuse anymore. The information that I've laid out in this episode can change your life, your filmmaking life, screenwriting life, your creative life, and just your life in general. I really hope that this episode has helped you guys again, a lot of this information has helped me out dramatically in my life. And as I continue to find and discover new things, I will continue to relay them to you guys. I know you guys have been, I mean getting given me so many emails lately, I can't even tell you so many messages about these new series of podcasts that I'm doing that you guys are really digging it. So please, if you love these podcasts, please share them with as many people as you can. I want this information to get out there. I want my community I want the tribe, I want filmmakers and screenwriters, and people at large to get this information because it is just kind of earth shattering kind of stuff. Because when you're able to change your life, then you can change lives around you. And when you can change lives around you, they can change lives, and so on and so on and so on. So I really hope this helped you guys out a lot. I'm going to put a couple of books in the show notes at Indie film hustle.com Ford slash 306 That might help you understand a little bit more about this process. Thank you guys for listening, and I'll leave you with this. This is your last chance. After this. There's no turning back. You can take the blue pill and nothing will change in your life and you will stay exactly where you are. And you will not move forward or towards the direction you want. Where you can take the red pill and you can truly see how deep the rabbit hole goes. As always keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.


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BPS 040: Why Screenwriters Are Programmed to Fail

Before we begin I need to reveal a truth to you.

“The Matrix is not a movie, it’s a documentary”

Believe it or not, this is true. Our internal operating system in our mind was programmed years ago when we were children. That programming runs our life through the subconscious. Don’t believe me?

  • Did you drive a car today?
  • Did you brush your teeth?
  • Did you think about walking to the kitchen to make breakfast?
  • Did you think about breathing or making sure your heartbeats?

Probably not. You would be exhaust mentally if you had to think about all of this every day. This is all run by our operating system (aka the subconscious), the problem is many of us are still running Windows 95.

In this episode, I go deep down the rabbit hole and discuss how our subconscious can and does stop us from achieving not only our screenwriting dreams but how it affects all areas of our lives. I discuss how my life changed dramatically when I discovered this and made those upgrades. I also go over the two ways you can upgrade the old operating system in your head.

“This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.” – Morpheus

Let’s all take that Red Pill and see how deep the rabbit-hole goes. Get ready to have your mind blown, literally. Enjoy!

If you find value in this episode please share it with someone who needs to hear it.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 0:00
Before we start today, guys, I just want to lay out something very clearly, is that the matrix is a documentary, not a film, and I'll explain what I mean, in this episode. Now, the title of the episode is why filmmakers are programmed to fail. And I wanted to go deep into this because it is something that is affected my life dramatically. And I really hope that this episodes, clarify some things and bring some things to your conscious mind in a way that hasn't before. I want you to understand something that our lives are ruined by our subconscious mind. And I'll prove it to you. Did you drive a car today to work? Or any time? Did you brush your teeth?

Did you think about walking to the kitchen and making breakfast? All those kinds of mechanical operations? Who's running that? Who's running the code driving the car? Who's running the shop when that was going on? Because your mind was somewhere else you were thinking about problems or stress? Are you thinking about why this movie that I'm working on is not getting made, or I can't find the money, or and this is happening while you're driving a 2000 pound piece of metal down a highway or you're walking down stairs, or you're brushing teeth. Or you're running or jogging, or any of these other kinds of things, even sometimes while you're talking to somebody else, or listening to somebody else for that matter. These operations are run by your subconscious mind. It is not run by your conscious mind, you don't have the mental cognitive energy on a daily basis to run your entire system, if you will. And I'm going to use a lot of computer terminology because I think it really makes things a lot easier to understand. If you had to actually consciously think about getting yourself out of bed, putting your feet on the floor, thinking about lifting yourself up, coordinate how you're going to walk and think about every single step while still watching everything around us and nothing hits you or bump into you then go to the bathroom. All these things all these morning rituals, I'm just talking about the morning rituals, let alone your daily rituals. All of that is run by your subconscious mind. That is all hardwired operating system that is run by your personal operating system. The problem is that many of us are still running Windows 95. And we really should be running that brand new Mac iOS. I don't want to get into a Windows Mac thing. I'm just using it for an example guys, everyone calm the heck down. Now I want to I want you to listen to this very carefully. That same operating system, that same subconscious mind that runs your day to day business your daily operations also keeps you where you are in life and on your filmmaking or screenwriting path. Let me repeat that. Your subconscious that same operating system is What is keeping you from what you are trying to obtain in your life and in in your filmmaking in your screenwriting, I want you to understand that the construct that your subconscious has built, has a need to protect itself in its own mind. Your subconscious does not like change or want change, change is scary. Uncertainty is scary. But understand from an evolutionary perspective, this makes perfect sense. stability and predictability is safe, change is uncertain, change my open you up to be eaten by a tiger, or knocked over the head by a competitor while you're trying to, you know, get food or or survive. But these mental models don't serve you anymore.

And once you understand this, this is really life changing career changing stuff. When you're about to embark on making a movie, let's say, and you haven't done it a million times before, that's scary. And your operating system is not happy about it, and it will kick in to protect you. In its mind, it's there to protect you on an evolutionary level, it's there to protect you in any kind of change, or modification in the code will kick in the agents Agent Smith will come in and start sabotaging you and making things hard, because it doesn't want you to go down that road. Now I'm going to throw another thing at you. Your operating system or programming is installed within the first seven years of your life. Now this is scientifically proven. Hell, the Jesuits have been saying this for over 400 years. They said give me a child for seven years, and then I will show you the man that he will become, because they knew that this seven year period is when all the programming all the O 's is installed into you. Now let me explain. In order to survive on this planet, your brain needs to build an operating system. When you come in your your fresh hard drive. You got nothing in it. You don't have any any beliefs. You don't have anything in it you have you have basic basic basic operating systems, how to breathe, how to cry for food, very basic stuff. But in order to survive in the on the planet, you need to upgrade that operating system. So how do you do it? You watch your surroundings, you watch your parents, your siblings, your community, people that are around you. So whatever is going on around you in those first seven years, that is getting imprinted into your operating system. The ideas that you pick up in those first seven years set you up for life, that is what's going to run you for the rest of your life. If you don't believe you can be successful, if you don't believe that you're worth it. Or if you don't believe that whatever you don't believe on a subconscious level, then you will create habits that will stop you from creating the things that you might want on a conscious level and sabotage yourself. That's what I've seen so many times with filmmakers that I'm like, Why is that guy or that girl? Not moving forward? They're so talented, and they're so experienced, but yet something seems to be stopping them. I don't know what I'm not going to write it off as bad luck. But I'm just curious why that happens. I've seen it so many times, in my experience working with filmmakers, 1000s of filmmakers over the course of my career, that I kept seeing it again and again and again. And I wondered what that was. This simple reason is why poor people stay poor and rich people stay rich. It's because of the programming. Now think about it for a second lottery ticket winners lottery winners, right? How many times have you heard somebody that has never had money in their entire life win $100 million? What happens? The majority of the time they lose the money or they self destruct because they don't have the programming to handle that kind of money. It's just not something that they know or how to deal with or even how to handle. Why is it that 65% of professional athletes lose a lot, if not all of their money within five years of retiring? How many times have you seen athletes at signing table somewhere? Years later when they were making $20 million a year? And years later? They're signing for 50 bucks 150 bucks a signature? Why is that? Not in every case. But in some cases? It's the programming. If you think life is a struggle, if you say this film business is just too hard, they'll never let me in. I'll never be successful. I'll never get my movie made. Guess what? If that's what you're saying to yourself, then you're right. Period. If that's the thoughts that are going in your head, you're programming yourself to fail. For years, I did this. For years, I was the angry, bitter filmmaker, who was so upset at everybody else and looking at everybody else around me, you know, getting a leg up, and I wasn't getting those opportunities. I'm like, why is it? Why is it? Why can't I get my shot? I'm sure many of you listening to now, right now have had that conversation in your head, maybe even this morning? Why am I not getting the shot, I'm good enough, I feel that I can do it. But yet, I was programming myself on spinose. To me, I was programming myself

to fail. And only when I made a change, only when I decided to just completely override my operating system did things change, when I finally got to a place where I could not take it anymore, I decided to make that change. And that's when I made my first feature. This is Meg, or from the moment I said, I'm gonna make the movie, it took me 30 days to shooting that damn thing. And when I did, I didn't give my operating system time to even react. I was there I was in it, I was doing it. And I just said, I'm not going to stop, I'm going to keep going and I overrode my programming. I stopped those horrible mental constructs that I was creating for myself, these limiting beliefs that I kept repeating to myself, again, and again, and the subconscious was listening. And all of my habits, all of the things around me that I was doing, the people that I was attracted to, in the business, meeting people that would bring into my inner circle, all were reinforcing those negative, those bad thoughts that I was putting in my head, that bad programming 95% of our lives comes from these programming in the subconscious. Only 5% of your life is being lived consciously. Even if you think that you're at the driver's seat, you're not in all areas of your life, health, career, love, money, creativity, relationships, every area of your life is run 95% by your subconscious mind, by that Oh s by that operating system that programming. So what is the solution? What can you do to change this? Step one, recognize where you are struggling in life. Just look at your life and ask Where am I struggling? Because if you're struggling in an area that the programmer that Oh, s is not supporting, guess what, you're gonna have a problem, it's gonna fight back at you, the agent Smith's are gonna come at you, and you're trying to be Neo, and you're trying to create new programming, change the system, change the matrix. And I'll give you an example. I've spoken about this a little bit before, but I'm going to talk about a little bit more detail. Now. I've always had issues with my weight. And I know a lot of people out there listening because I've heard you guys message me and you know, and talk to me about this, that I've had issues with my weight all my life. Why? Because of the programming I had when I was a kid. You know, unfortunately, I had family members who were obsessed about their weight. And even though I wasn't when I was born, ask a baby, what its thoughts are on its body fat, or how their weight is or how they look in jeans. They don't think about things like that, that is all implanted. That is all programming based around what's around you. So I was programmed with this, that weight is a struggle. It's going to go up and down. I will never be thin, I will never be in shape. I will never have a six pack. All these thoughts were in my head. And I decided, you know, within the last six months, I said that's it. The same way I changed my mind and change the programming about my filmmaking career. I did the same thing with my health. And I said that's it, I'm going to change. I did the same thing when I was when I went vegan. I said enough's enough. I don't like the way I feel. I don't like what's going on in my body, I'm going to change. And for me, that was a good choice. Not for everybody. But for me it was. So when I decided to change the programming about working out and change my habits. All of a sudden, I was the guy that wakes up at four o'clock in the morning to go work out. I am the guy that works out six days a week and is happy to do it in like jumping out of bed ready to go work out. I'm the one that watches what they eat and how they eat. They make good healthy choices. Am I never gonna eat a piece of cheesecake again? Of course not. I Of course, I'm able to indulge. But the point is that that programming has been shifted. And now it's such a habit that I can't go back, it would hurt, it would actually be very difficult for me to sit down and just pick out like it would be difficult in my head to do it. Because my programming is now shifted. I reprogram myself, I am my own Neo, in the matrix of my life. I'm so sorry, with all the matrix bonds, I apologize, but I'm just using it, I think it's a good, good way to illustrate the point. So that's step one, recognize your struggle

and focus on it. That's step one. Step two, it's time to upgrade your operating system. The conscious mind is creative. And it can learn from an audio book, a podcast, an online course. And you can learn information that way and you can bring information in. But the subconscious mind does not work like that. The subconscious mind does not pick up those things. There's only two ways to program the subconscious mind to change that operating system. The first way is within the first seven years of life. That's one way. The second way is repetition. Practice, practice, practice. You didn't learn to drive a car in the first seven years of your life, but you learned how to drive a car, didn't you? You learned and you practice until it was installed in your operating system. Now you don't even think about the process of driving. Look at any 16 year old driving a car for the first time. One it's hilarious unless you're in the car or around the car. But secondly, all their mental energy is focused on the task. They're a wreck. They're nervous, they're anxious. Why? Because that operating system is going haywire. Their urge their want their desire to drive is overriding their operating system. Their their their desire for freedom in that car is overriding their operating system and their operating system is trying to handle it is trying to deal with it. But they do it so much. That finally becomes hardwired and now it's cool. If you've been driving for years, like I have been driving since I was 16 years old. It I don't even think about driving again in a car and I go there's never nervousness. There's never anxiety about driving. I don't care. It's amazing. It's amazing once you start thinking about it. That's why Michael Phelps, the Olympic swimmer can jump in a pool and just swim without even thinking about it. Why? Because he has done it 1000 times. Do you think that Steven Spielberg or Chris Nolan or David Fincher walk on the set and is nervous about the day? Or is nervous about the people that they're working with? Or about the process? Generally speaking, no. They might be nervous about new elements have been added in like story or actors, or getting the performances that they want specifically about this, but the mechanical processes of directing? Do you think Spielberg gets nervous? They think Scorsese gets nervous. Of course not. That's home for them. That is the pool that Michael Phelps one jumps into, it's their home. So when you jump on a set for the first time, you're a nervous wreck. Because you don't know what's going on. You're trying to figure things out, you haven't done it before. So your operating system is going haywire. It's trying to stop you, but your desire to make that movie, your desire to write that screenplay is overriding your operating system.

So this is where affirmations come into play. If you want to be a successful screenwriter or filmmaker, repeat every day, I'm a great writer. I'm a great filmmaker. I have the abilities needed to tell stories, I have the abilities needed to direct this film. Say it again and again and again to yourself. And the secret sauce to making this really, really transform your life is adding feeling. If you feel what you are saying, if there's an emotion attached to it, it will supercharge what you're doing in your subconscious feeling is so so powerful. Think about a great time in your life and then how that makes you feel in your body. Think about a bad time in your life and see how that makes you feel in your mind and your body. When you add positive feeling when you add real emotion to a thought that really in truly supercharges your transformation that will begin to change your operating system that will begin to change your subconscious mind. Doing this with a combination of educating yourself on what you need to do or be is a game changer. during your life, I'm not saying you're gonna sit there and look in a mirror and go, I'm a great filmmaker and never pick up a book. But if you start to do that, that programming will start kicking in, and then all of a sudden, you're going to notice that other habits are going to start coming in, you're going to want to listen to audiobooks every day, you're gonna want to listen to more podcasts, you might even want to start taking more online courses and start maybe, I know it's crazy, setting up time every day out of your busy day, to educate yourself, to learn your craft, to add those tools in your toolbox. But it all starts with the subconscious, because you could take a thout look how many people here listening? And I know I can't, I can't get any hands up. But I'm sure that many people who are listening have taken an online course, taught by some of the greatest masters of all time, but yet, it hasn't moved the needle. Why is that? Why is that? How many 1000s of podcasts have you listened to? How many online courses have you taken? How many audio books have you listened to? And yet, if you're not moving forward, in what you're trying to do, what's holding you back? Could it be your operating system? Could it be your subconscious mind that is holding you where you need to be because that's where it wants you to be because it's safe and predictable. On an evolutionary level, you've got to break through that mental barrier, you've got to break through that mental construct, it serves you no longer if you want to be happy, repeated again. And again, when your subconscious mind gets it gets that programming update that you won't have to say it anymore. Just like driving a car, just like learning your ABCs How many times did you sing that darn song until you can sing it off the top of your head now, not ever have to think about your ABCs once your subconscious, or operating system gets it, that is when you will start to create habits that will change your life and will change your filmmaking career, and your screenwriting careers in ways that you cannot even imagine. It has in my life. And like everything on this show. As I go through the journey of my filmmaking career as my creative career, my life, I try to share it with the tribe. If I find value in information that I'm finding, I want to share it with you guys. Because these concepts that I've just laid out, have changed my life for the better. I am healthier than I've ever been in my life, I'm in better shape than I've ever been in my life, even when I was in my 20s. And even when I was working out with a trainer back then I'm in better shape. Now. I can do things now that I was never able to do then. And this is less than six months, guys, I haven't been doing this for years, in less than six months, I've been able to drop almost 40 pounds. And I still got about another 15 or so that I want to get rid of. Because I got to get that six pack. Why not because of ego. Because that's where I need to be. On a health standpoint, it allows me to do more for you guys, for my tribe, for my business for what I do with my family in my life. That is what I've changed my programming to be. And it's changed my filmmaking career,

I've done two movies, where the first 40 years of my life, I haven't done any, in the last couple years I don't do and if I really wanted to, I could have probably done four or five movies this last year. But I had other fish to fry I was writing a book we're building up the you know, the podcast doing all the things I had to do. But if I wanted to, I could have easily done that. Because I changed my programming. Now I also don't want you just to write down on a post it note in your bathroom, that I'm a good filmmaker, I'm a better filmmaker I am. I'm happier. Whatever that is, that is a suggestion. You need to repeat it to yourself, in your mind, or out loud every day. So your subconscious gets it and it will make a difference. I promise you it will make a difference in your life. Because it's made a difference in my life. I cannot tell you all the things that have changed in my life because of this bit of knowledge, this knowledge bomb that I got months ago. I want you to understand something that I'm about to release a book. I am a published author. Now, I never in a million years had a program in my head that I was published. I could be a published author. Why? Because I didn't have anybody around me that I knew that was one. I didn't know it was something that somebody else did. But when I decided I'm like I'm going to write a book, and I'm going to do it and it's going to get released and I'm going to get it published. And that's exactly what I did. Now Now all of a sudden, I've got three or four books lined up that I'm writing. Why? Because my programming has changed. My program is now telling me oh, writing books is safe, you can do that. And when I come across new programming that I want to change, I will change it. It's all within your power guys. I want you to understand that the freedom for you to change your life, to change your filmmaking career, to change your screenwriting is all within your own power. It's in side of you. I just did an episode a little bit ago about meditation. It took me years of trying back and forth to be a meditator. Because in my mind, in my programming, I didn't have anybody around me that was a meditator. I didn't have any good role models, I didn't have any, any programming that could reinforce that. So I was like God, something that somebody else does. And I was just talking to a tribe member today, actually, who will remain nameless, but you know who you're who you are, sir. Where when they saw that episode, title, they're like, oh, meditating, that's, that's for somebody else. I'm just gonna keep hustling harder and harder. And I'm gonna just keep working harder and harder. Because their programming told them that meditation, that's, that's something new, that's something scary, I don't want to go into that world. And they just wrote it off. Now, mind you, I am a guy who has a company called indie film, hustle, I wear a hat that has hustle period on it. I'm all about the hustle. I'm all about the work. It's about being smart about it. Using that energy properly, hell just even be able to get energy to do it properly, which starts with your health, and your mind, and your mental health and your spiritual health, all of that stuff. That's where you have to go in order to move forward. Once again, guys, you have the power to change your life. Nobody outside of you, nobody anywhere else. If you're waiting for someone else to make you happy or to make your dreams come true. You're going to be waiting a long time. You're going to be waiting and waiting and waiting. It is a recipe for nothing but pain. Understand that

you need to take control of your life. You need to start making these decisions and these changes in your own life. And you have the information, there's no excuse anymore. The information that I've laid out in this episode can change your life, your filmmaking life, screenwriting life, your creative life, and just your life in general. I really hope that this episode has helped you guys again, a lot of this information has helped me out dramatically in my life. And as I continue to find and discover new things, I will continue to relay them to you guys. I know you guys have been, I mean getting given me so many emails lately, I can't even tell you so many messages about these new series of podcasts that I'm doing that you guys are really digging it. So please, if you love these podcasts, please share them with as many people as you can. I want this information to get out there. I want my community I want the tribe, I want filmmakers and screenwriters, and people at large to get this information because it is just kind of earth shattering kind of stuff. Because when you're able to change your life, then you can change lives around you. And when you can change lives around you, they can change lives, and so on and so on and so on. So I really hope this helped you guys out a lot. I'm going to put a couple of books in the show notes at Indie film hustle.com Ford slash 306 That might help you understand a little bit more about this process. Thank you guys for listening, and I'll leave you with this. This is your last chance. After this. There's no turning back. You can take the blue pill and nothing will change in your life and you will stay exactly where you are. And you will not move forward or towards the direction you want. Where you can take the red pill and you can truly see how deep the rabbit hole goes. As always keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.


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BPS 039: Screenwriting Unchained – Master Story Structure with Emmanuel Oberg

Today on the show we have Emmanuel Oberg. Emmanuel is a screenwriter, author and script consultant with more than twenty years of experience in the Film and TV industry. After selling his first project to Warner Bros as a co-writer, he went on to be commissioned by StudioCanal and Gold Circle before writing solo for Working Title / Universal and Film4.

He has also designed an internationally acclaimed 3-day Advanced Development Workshop – based on the Story-Type Method® – which he delivers with passion to filmmakers all over the world. Emmanuel lives in the UK with his wife and their two daughters. His film agent is Rachel Holroyd at Casarotto in London. He is also the writer of Screenwriting Unchained: Reclaim Your Creative Freedom and Master Story Structure (With The Story-Type Method).

In Screenwriting Unchained, Emmanuel Oberg busts many myths and sets out an innovative method

This practical, no-nonsense guide leaves behind one-size-fits-all story theories and offers a modern approach to story structure, making it a precious resource for anyone involved creatively in the Film and TV industry (or aspiring to be): writers, directors, producers, development execs, showrunners and, more generally, storytellers keen to reach a wide audience at home and abroad.

Having identified three main story-types – plot-led, character-led, theme-led – Oberg reveals in a clear, conversational style how each of these impacts on the structure of any screenplay, and how we can use a single set of tools to develop any movie, from an independent crossover to a studio blockbuster.

This leads to a powerful yet flexible way to handle the script development process: the Story-Type Method®. A new framework that doesn’t tell you what to write and when, but focuses instead on why some tools and principles have stood the test of time and how to use them in the 21st century.

According to readers (see reviews below), Oberg’s new approach is a game-changer.

Here are some of the easy-to-understand concepts explored in Screenwriting Unchained that will help you improve any screenplay:

  • How to identify the story-type of your project to make its development faster, easier and solve most story structure problems.
  • How to leave behind the prescriptive, logistical three-act structure based on page numbers or minutes and replace it with a flexible, dramatic three-act structure that will help you design a rock-solid screenplay.
  • How focusing on emotion, character development and managing information will allow you to go beyond the “protagonist-goal-obstacles-conflict” basic chain of drama.
  • How to use the fractal aspect of structure to design not only the whole story but also its parts in order to avoid the dreaded “sagging middle” syndrome and breathe new life into your script.
  • How to clarify what’s at stake and increase your chances of getting the project made with a new take on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
  • How to use subgoals to Sequence the Action and psychological/emotional steps to Sequence the Evolution of your characters.
  • How to keep the audience engaged using tools like dramatic irony, surprise, mystery, and suspense, adding a third dimension to your story.
  • How to master these tools and principles in scenes through practical exercises before using them in a short film, a feature film, a TV episode or a whole series following hands-on tips and advice.
  • How to design an attention-grabbing opening and a satisfying ending.
  • How to deal with hybrids and exceptions, as story structure isn’t about forcing all narratives into a single formulaic paradigm.
  • The Rewrite Stuff: 12 Ways to a Stronger Screenplay, how to approach a new draft creatively and efficiently.
  • How to make the difference between selling documents – used to raise development or production finance – and story design tools.
  • Once you’ve developed a killer script, how to best pitch your project according to its story-type and get enthusiastic partners on board.
  • …and much, much more!

Using many case studies including films as diverse as Gravity, Silver Linings Playbook, Crash, Billy Elliot, The Intouchables, Birdman, Alien, Groundhog Day, Misery, Edge of Tomorrow, The Secret in Their Eyes, Cloud Atlas, L.A. Confidential and The Lives of Others, Screenwriting Unchainedwill transform the way you write, read, pitch, design, assess and develop screenplays.

Enjoy my conversation with Emmanuel Oberg.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 0:37
I'd like to welcome the show Emmanuel Oberg. Thank you so much for coming on the show.

Emmanuel Oberg 3:01
Hi, Alex. It's, it's a pleasure. Thanks for having me

Alex Ferrari 3:04
know, thanks for taking the time out to hopefully drop some knowledge bombs on the on the tribe today. And I'm really interested to hear about your unique approach to story descriptive, screenwriting in general. And but before we get into that, how did you get into the business in the first place?

Emmanuel Oberg 3:21
Um, well, I, I think one of the best way to learn about screenwriting is to read and so I tried to find ways to read scripts and ideally scripts that were not produced, but had a good chance of getting produced. And so I started as a reader, I, I had followed a workshop a very informal workshop, led by a guy a screenwriter, who had been taught by Frank Daniel at Columbia University. And I just found a job as a reader for StudioCanal on us co productions, which is which was great because I've always loved mainstream American cinema but so the only thing I like, I have versatile days but but I have I'm very fond of with with a good American mainstream cinema so it was a really got a great opportunity for me to read scripts, which were very high level and and to do fairly good chance of getting made so what I find really interesting doing that was to try to make up my own mind before I saw the film and and then see whether I was completely off or whether I you know had had assessed properly you know, the, the qualities and potential problems of the story so I read hundreds of scripts of a few years and that was really really useful

Alex Ferrari 4:42
in very cool and in Where did you develop your method?

Emmanuel Oberg 4:49
Over the years? I, you know, it's always the same thing. I mean, you learn you read a lot you you learn a lot from other people, of course, when you start, and then over the years, I guess you do develop your, your own ways to look at things and I've always been interested in training because for me, the best way to learn is to, is to teach. That's the way the way I look at it, it forces you to clarify your ideas. And also you can see whether, what you, you know, what you come up with is kind of helpful or not. And so, I, I kind of, I did a lot of training over the years as I was, you know, working more and more as a consultant and then as a, as a writer or CO writer. And, and my, my training, gradually, I realized that my current my training was, there was more of a disconnect between what I was teaching or the way I was teaching and the way I was actually practicing screenwriting and, and I, I thought, I need to find a way to put that together. And that's how I decided, try to come up with my own my own theory or my own ways to my own way to put things together and try to make sense of it.

Alex Ferrari 5:59
Now, before we actually get into your method, what after reading so many scripts, I always love asking this of readers and also of screenwriting instructors, is what is the biggest mistake you see first time screenwriters make?

Emmanuel Oberg 6:14
Oh, it's, it's, you see some very, very common problems in in in beginners, screenwriting is screenplays, but I guess the one of the I mean, one of the one of the biggest one I guess is to is to try to write a script without thinking about the way it's going to be read, or been read by someone who has never read it or seen by the audience for the first time. Very often when we write a screenplay, especially when we begin we can be really excited and, and focusing on our protagonist, for example, and see the story from the point of view of the protagonist and exclusively from that point of view, and, and many problems in screenwriting come from that. Because Because sometimes, if you have an antagonist, they're not clever enough, because you're not thinking okay, if I am the antagonist, what would I do in this situation? And, and, you know, things, things like that, I think it's really useful to try to, to think about How will an audience or how will a reader who has never heard anything about my story? How are they going to perceive the story, how we, someone who doesn't know anything about the story is going to perceive it. Because we know if we, I mean, we supposed to know everything about our screenplay. And sometimes we will lose sight of that we don't realize that there is a mystery that we find fascinating, but that's because we know the ending is in the end, but the audience won't. And the audience might be very bored after a while, just because we don't know enough. For example, all these things I think is make, you know, can explain quite a few mistakes in beginner screenplays sticking to a point of view, and not realizing that the audience doesn't know anything and, and might need to know more than than we think they might need, at some point.

Alex Ferrari 7:59
Would you agree that a lot of screenwriters first time or not first time, a lot of times they'll try to get ahead of the marketplace and try to write what's hot right now as opposed to writing what is something that's inside of them? And generally, it rarely works that they

Emmanuel Oberg 8:16
do. I mean, you asked for one, so I tried to pick one. Oh, no, there's probably 1000. Of course, that's give me another one. I mean, it's are you still here? Yeah, I'm sure. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. No, the screen just went? Well, yeah, no, I am. i It's, it's, it's a it's a big issue. Because of course, if you do that, you'll you'll three, four or five years late. Because what's what's hot now was in development three or five years ago. And, and it's just, it's just if you if you do that, you you tend to be out of sync of what, what's actually hot at the moment. The other thing, I think that's wrong when you do that, in that you're you're trying to write what you think the market want. Once what I think you should write what you feel passionate about and really want to write, of course, it has to match. You know, it has to be something that can be that can get made, and that's realistic, and that has an audience and so on. But I think the main thing to be concerned about is, if that's my last screenplay, what do I want to write and not trying to think, Oh, I'm going to write this because that seems to be really hard. And that seems to be what they want. And most, you know, most, most people working in development, they don't know what they want. They want a great screenplay. They will see it when they when they find it on the desk. But although they will save you as demo on this and anyone that and very often they do have brief regarding specific jobs or specific kinds of stories. But regarding beginning you know, where they actually won't. Very often it's like, you know, they find something they like, because it's because it's exciting because it's new because it's original and for me the best advice to to follow when you're writing screenplays to keep that passion keep that Keep what you know, write about something that you're really excited about. Because if you're not no one is going to be it's just, it's just people sense it when when they read a script where the writer has just tried to follow a kind of formula or try to second guess the market, it's just feels either formulaic, or, or, or, you know, it's just not interesting half the time.

Alex Ferrari 10:21
Yeah. And generally speaking films that do kind of explode or go out, you know, that are a little bit different than the norm, are the ones that make it are because the writer and or filmmaker was extremely passionate about what they were doing. And they had a very unique voice. You know, I always use Tarantino as an example. Or Nolan, or, you know, or Sorkin or these guys.

Emmanuel Oberg 10:44
And as you as you can see, these guys, they can be very original, but that doesn't mean they cannot reach a wider audience. I mean, whether it's mainstream or isn't necessarily blockbuster audience, but it's, it's an audience that's definitely big enough to, to recoup the investment in their project. And I think it's, it's, it's, it's not incompatible to write something you feel passionate about, but doing doing it in a way that's that allows you to not, you know, not, you know, reaching an audience and writing something original is not incompatible.

Alex Ferrari 11:18
Now, let's talk a little bit about the story type method, which is the method that you have, yes, let's that you've developed, I'm very interesting to see what this method is. So please tell the audience what this is.

Emmanuel Oberg 11:32
Well, it's, I mean, I guess at first it's, it's, it's a kind of reaction. I'm a screenwriter, so I'd rather write screenplays than write books about screenwriting. But I, I just felt over the years again, I felt frustrated with a lot of of screenwriting theories floating around which I found were quite prescriptive in the way they try to tell you, you have to do this, you have to do that. And that page number is, this is supposed to happen. And I just couldn't find any real justification for that. And some of them are very useful from a kind of productivity point of view, they tell you, Well, you should follow these steps. So if you do this, this and that you have a screenplay. And that's true. If you if you follow these, this, this kind of formula, or that kind of way to come up with the story, you will end up with a screenplay and you know, it will have 100 110 billion pages, and it will tell a story. And the problem is, is that when you when you write a story that way, and you tend to end up with a story that's quite predictable. And you also tend to be much less free in the way you want to tell that story. And, and I was looking around, I was watching films around. And and many of the films that I was watching, you mentioned Christopher Nolan, for example, I'm a big fan of Christopher Nolan. And, and when I watched his films, I don't see any kind of, you know, formula that's being applied. Absolutely. Not dating, they're moving. They work. And, and so what I tried to do that I tried to find a way to approach screenwriting, you know, in in such a way that you would structure your story, but you would be much freer in the way you would approach story structure. That's that's the main motivation for the method. It's not I don't believe I'm right, I don't think there is one way to look at a story structure. I think that as many ways as there are writers, but I wanted to try to come up with a tool that would try to focus on what's what's what's been useful over the years, the kind of the tools and the principles that have been useful without without being prescriptive into the way to use them. I find that approach more, it's something that suits me better, I guess. So then

Alex Ferrari 13:46
what is specifically the story type method?

Emmanuel Oberg 13:50
Well, the the idea that I were the first thing is that I, I just disagreed with the fact that we could, we could apply the same method or the same way to structure a story to old stories. So I try to think okay, if we, if we if you try to be more useful than saying you can do anything you want, because I know rules. I try to think, okay, how can we define what a good story is? And, and I came up with a, you know, with my definition of a good story for a screenplay, which is a metaphor for problem solving process. And that, that, that way to define a story It doesn't it doesn't talk about threat structure, it doesn't talk about anything like that. It's just what is the story? It's it's a metaphor for problem solving process. So we that that means that in any story, which we can follow, there tends to be a main problem, that story that's that's the, that's the focus of the story. And what I find useful as the next step is trying to eat to try to identify where that problem lies in the story. Because I, I find that depending on where the problem lies in the story, You tend to develop it in a slightly different way, you can use the same tools, but you will develop it in this in a slightly different way. For example, if the main preliminary story lies outside of the protagonist, we tend to deal with what I call a plot lead story, which is a story where, which focuses on the main dramatic action, someone wants to achieve a goal, usually a conscious goal. And, you know, it's the kind of it's the most classical form of storytelling. They meet upcycle, they experience conflict, and we tend to identify with with that character because of that. And that, it's, it's kind of, it's a very important part of storytelling, but it's not the only way to tell the story. The second possible location of the problem is when the problem lies within the main problem lies within the protagonist. And in that case, we tend to be dealing with what I call a character lead story, where the the main source of conflict in the story comes from the protagonist themselves. And in that case, what what shapes the story is the main evolution of the protagonist, not the main dramatic action,

Alex Ferrari 16:10
it was it was an example of that.

Emmanuel Oberg 16:13
What it Takes take two fairly recent examples, or if an example for plot lead story, if you take gravity you know, it's surviving, coming back, you know, going back to Earth, that's the main problem lies outside of the protagonist, it's, its space, how to you know how to survive in space, it's like in many disaster movies, where it's, you fight the natural, you know, an antagonist, which is, which is nature, force, which is nature. So the main problem lies outside of the protagonist, there is an internal subplot which is about the death of the daughter, for example. But the main problem, I guess we'll agree on that is that she has to survive, and she has to find a way to get back to Earth. That's the main problem in the story. So it's blood led, because the main problem lies outside. If you take a story like Silver Linings Playbook, that's character in it. He has a goal, he has a very clear conscious goal, which is to get back with this, get back together with his wife, Nikki. And we understand, we understand that goal from minute one in the story. But as soon as we realize that he's actually in a psychiatric hospital, you're kind of forget, hang on, I understand that you want to get back together with your wife. But until I understand why you are centered, that psychiatric hospital, I'm not sure that I want to be with you on that journey. They will be with your wife, you know, so you spend the first 10 to 15 minutes of the film trying to figure out what happened to this character. And why was in psychiatric hospital. And by the end of the first 15 minutes, you I think you understand that, yes, he has a conscious goal as a protagonist, he wants to get back together with his wife. And that's what he's going to try to achieve the muscle the film. But I think the audience understand why telling the story that what he needs, is to move on from his wife. And we actually don't want him to end up with this way. But we want him to end up with Tiffany, who is going to meet a bit later in the story. So we we understand that what's at stake, though what's really at stake in the story is not what the character wants, but where the character needs. And that the main problem in the story actually lies within the protagonist within the within bat, in his example, because he is deluded in a way, he thinks that is fine, that is in control that, that he will get back together with his wife, because he has a positive attitude. And he's, you know, all about finding the silver lining. In reality, we know that Ti is not in control that you need to move on. But you need to it needs to get better. And in that way we have we have an advantage over him. We know more than he does, we feel a bit clever in a way because we we think that we we are more aware of what he needs that he is than he is himself. And for me, that's a character lead story. It's it's when the protagonist might have a goal. But actually, what they need to realize is that they have a more important problem within it within themselves that they need to solve. And very often this problem isn't, then they're not aware of that problem. And in incorrectly so one of the one of the very interesting things about character lead stories and why I think it's interesting to make that difference between, for example, plotline and character lead, is that very often in character lead stories in order to get what they need, the protagonist needs to give up on what they want. Which is, for example, what happens in Silver Linings Playbook, he wants to get back together with his wife, but in order to move on and to end up with the woman that he actually shoots with, he has to give up getting back together with her. And that's his journey that's this is arc to use a kind of, you know, well known concept in the story. So that's an example of from your Have a character that story where the what what shapes the story is not the main dramatic action of what the character wants? But is the main evolution of the character? How is the character going to evolve? Another way to talk about the differences, say in a blood lead story, when the main problem is lies outside of the protagonist? The well most of the conflict tends to come from other characters from outside of the character. But you, you, your your the question that you're going to ask yourself is, will the protagonist of a most of the film is will the protagonist reach the goal or not? What we want to find out is, are they going to be able to survive or to kill the bad guy or to whatever? While character's story, the question we ask ourselves is not will the character get what they want, but will the character find a way to change or not. And because of that, we we will develop will structure the story actually quite differently.

Because Because on the one hand, when you develop a plotline story, you you can you can stick to a single goal over the whole film, you'll have sub goals, different ways for the protagonist to reach the goal, but you can really shape the story. And use as a dramatic backbone, the main main dramatic action of the protagonist of other countries, one of the protagonist, in a, in a character lead story, what you're going to do is a bit different because because you're focusing structurally on the evolution of the character, what you're going to do is you're going to try to generate the conflict in the story that's going to force the character to change. Because that's usually when we change in life is not because we've decided to change but it's because things happen that, that that force us to change, and that tends to be conflict, which is also you know, how, how one of the reasons why confidence is so important in in screenwriting not not, because we're told we have to have conflict in a story. Because if we every time, we want change, or we want evolution in, in a story that tends to happen because of conflict. So so that's that's, that's one of the of the of the biggest differences because between bloodline and character, land

Alex Ferrari 22:14
have a theme and have a theme lead. Well, theme that

Emmanuel Oberg 22:17
is, is is less common, especially in in cinema, I think it's more common in TV, writing, and possibly in documentary. But similar is when, when you will, sometimes you you don't have a main plot in a story. In a product story, the main plot is about the main dramatic action in in a character's story, the main plot is about the main Dramatic Evolution. But sometimes you don't have that kind of main dramatic action or main Dometic evolution, you have different storylines, which are connected with each other. And you cannot really say this one is the main one. And usually what we can usually call this multi stranded narrative. And what tends to happen in these kinds of stories is that the main problem is, is license society. And so all these different storylines, if I take an example, theme, like crash or Magnolia, or even a thing like Dunkirk, another Christopher Nolan film, and when they have these different storylines, which are connected to the same theme, and it can be very interesting story form, because sometimes we handle we try to handle a problem, as as I said, which is in society. And it's very difficult to, to handle that problem in such a way that we can come to a conclusive ending, because it can feel very black and white, to say, yes, pregnant solves the problem, or not the protagonist fails to solve the problem. Because if, if, for example, we're talking about, let's say, drugs, as in traffic, so that x traffic, whether the main problem is in society, it's about drugs, and that how it can threaten you know, Western societies and, and, in, in a story such as this, if you take a single protagonist, okay, you can decide my protagonist will, will, will, will solve that problem will fail. But that doesn't say much about the problem in society because when individual resolving or failing to resolve the problem, you know, doesn't mean much What if you if you handle this such a story, as a theme, that story, you can because you have, I don't know 578 10 different storylines, each of them we need some protagonist and all of them connected to the same problem in in society, then you can have a much more subtle way to approach this the problem that is that you want to, to explore because you can have some of the protagonist of of each strand, succeeding to find a way to deal with the problem others who would fail, and in the end, you don't have to say yes, they they succeed, or yes, they fail, some will succeed, some will fail, and you can still convey some meaning Because we'll understand that problem in society better, we'll think about it after we watch the film and so on. So for me, it's one good way to try to avoid the, the the first, an open ending when it's frustrating. Sometime an open ending can be very satisfying, because you're like, oh, you know what happens and every, every person in the audience can make their own ending

Alex Ferrari 25:21
in a way, kind of like Inception if we might use another conception. Exactly. Inception,

Emmanuel Oberg 25:25
Birdman, there are themes that work with an open ending. Even Thelma and Louise is kind of

Alex Ferrari 25:32
certainly kind of kind of ending. You know,

Emmanuel Oberg 25:35
we kind of know that that guy is not going to stay suspended mid air forever,

Alex Ferrari 25:40
that would be great.

Emmanuel Oberg 25:43
But those that it doesn't show, no,

Alex Ferrari 25:44
let me ask you a question about Thelma Louise, is it I would imagine that's a character led a character led story Correct? Or am I wrong?

Emmanuel Oberg 25:54
It's a it's a very interesting case. Because actually, it's, it's it's one of these of the situations where, and what actually one of the reasons why I didn't stick to solely these three main stereotypes, is because I, you know, I guess three is better than one. But I still don't believe that you can fit all stories in three boxes. So like, it was a fourth box, which is something else, you know, hybrid thing that don't fit into any of these boxes. What I find interesting in the manner is I've not really watched it recently. But what I find interesting in it is that I, one of my frustrations, I love the film, and I really enjoyed watching it, but one of my frustrations in it was that I'm a feminist. And I felt quite frustrated with the fact that two women who wanted to be free, who had not really done anything wrong, I mean, okay, they kill the man, but that's the guy who was trying to rape one of them. So, you know, it's not it's not as if they had, you know, decided to, to murder the guy.

Alex Ferrari 26:56
No, it was it was done. It was done in the heat of the moment. Self Defense,

Emmanuel Oberg 26:59
and the guy was a start. So I was like, okay, these these women, yes, they've committed a crime, but they just wanted to be free. And the way they pay their aspiration for freedom is death, as if there was no way

Alex Ferrari 27:14
to the ultimate, the ultimate freedom.

Emmanuel Oberg 27:18
And from my point of view, as a feminist, that's the only thing that I didn't, I really enjoyed the whole film. But I didn't like the ending, because for me, it is, it's mostly plot lead. Or it could be theme lead, it's not multi stranded, but it could be seamless, because the main problem in that film is not really in them. It's in society, or it's in other characters, but it's not in them. And the fact that they have to show that they die in the end, because they exercise their freedom. And it looks like it's the only way out. It makes it a very memorable, memorable ending, because we didn't, we don't want that. And we don't really see it coming. But it's from a kind of theoretical point of view. It kind of always, as a feminist, it kind of always slightly annoyed me that these women that I that I loved, had to die, I guess, makes the tragedy. And

Alex Ferrari 28:05
by the way, if no one's seen some of Louise we're sorry. Euler? No, no, no. spoiler, spoiler alert.

Emmanuel Oberg 28:12
You have you have to see it now.

Alex Ferrari 28:15
If you haven't seen it, it came out and what 8990 I think it's the spoiler alert pot, it's past. It's your fault at this point.

Emmanuel Oberg 28:24
In the recording 10 minutes, if you can.

Alex Ferrari 28:28
Now, um, let me ask you, so how do you like identify the story type of your project, cuz I just made it See, I thought it was character driven, because those characters were so strong. But further And, you know, the further we analyze it, it was like, No, you're absolutely right. It's not a character. It's not something within them.

Emmanuel Oberg 28:45
I know. But, you know, what you just said is such essential, it's, you, you put your finger on it, it's very often we talk about character driven because we have strong characters. And and that's that's not what I mean by character lead. And maybe it's not different or distinctive enough, but one of the reasons why they didn't say character driven but character led was to try to find a way to to not say character driven. Because for me, a great story has great characters, whether it's blood lead, character, lead or theme lead or or anything, if we don't care about the characters, we, I think we simply won't care about the story. And it's true in a comedy. It's true in a thriller, it's true, you know, you can you can have your characters face a lot of conflict, a lot of difficult situations, if you don't care about them, if you don't understand them, if you don't understand the decisions. You know, we just don't care and and, and what when you said it's, it's it has strong characters, but it's not character driven, because it's not character led, because the main point is that within the characters, and that's, that's the key to the method that I'm I'm trying to suggest is to try to, to go away from okay, it's a lot about the plot or it's character driven, but but to try to really identify ways the main problem in the story and you will see that in some stories we have story which has really strong characters, but is nevertheless blood LED or, or something else. It's it's definitely not correctly connected.

Alex Ferrari 30:12
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor and now back to the show you know, there's an I always love beating up on this film because it deserves to be beaten up. Justice League A Film A film that had which one sorry I did Justice Justice League the the Justice League movie they can't forget Justice League movie though, which was considered a horrible horrible film and I saw it as a horrible horrible film.

Emmanuel Oberg 30:45
Which many it is because I probably have seen it but

Alex Ferrari 30:47
no, it's the one was it's the one with so much like each other. which one it is? No, it's the one that has the Superman in the Batman. It's the one right after Batman vs. Yeah, and it has Wonder Woman in it and it has Aqua Man and all this stuff.

Emmanuel Oberg 31:02
I confuse it with the with the with the Batman Lego Movie.

Alex Ferrari 31:06
By the way, much better film.

Emmanuel Oberg 31:10
I mean, I have seen it so we can talk about okay,

Alex Ferrari 31:12
so that film. You know, what I find fascinating is that all the characters in the movie are extremely well known by the public and has major emotional connections to those characters like Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman. And, and yet, it failed miserably on multiple levels to connect with audiences. Now there was a lot of things happening to the characters. But at the end of the day you really didn't care about I didn't at least I didn't care about that Batman or that Superman or that Wonder Woman. And we hadn't yet I don't think we had a yet seen Wonder Woman the movie I don't think had come out though she was introduced there yet. Yeah, it was or if she had it, you know, she was the only good thing about it. But then oppo man hadn't come out yet. So we hadn't really connected with that character either. As opposed to Nolan's Batman, who no, sorry, I'm

Emmanuel Oberg 32:05
saying I'm making a fusion with Batman vs. Superman. in Justice League sheet. I think it was after

Alex Ferrari 32:11
it was after your right it was after she was like one of the things that you did connect to her. Exactly, exactly. But you didn't connect to Superman, or Ben Affleck's Batman that nearly as much as like you would connect to Chris Nolan's Batman, like that Batman is yes,

Emmanuel Oberg 32:26
but but that I mean, that that's also a very interesting point, which is, which is all about conflict in In fact, it's an it's a big problem that you have with superhero movies. Because if a superhero doesn't have doesn't experience enough conflict, when well, then of course, what the boring? And what what works with when you take a single whether it's Batman, or Wonder Woman or Superman, if you take the single movie, usually, you try to find some ways in that single movie to make it so that, yes, they have a superpower. But either, you know, but Superman has kryptonite, and Batman has dual identity and what his main problem in one in in Batman Begins, he has to find redemption.

Alex Ferrari 33:12
Redemption is fairly a symptom

Emmanuel Oberg 33:15
of conflict because that if you know he probably feels responsible for the death of his dad and his parents center and all of that. And so you feel for the characters because they do experience a lot of conflict despite the despite that the best superpowers? And also what tends to work well in the first. I mean, the Dark Knight was fantastic. No, but probably at least as much because of the Joker then because of as a character then then because of the Batman instead. But in Batman Begins, you you feel a lot for the character. And also because that it's the construction of the person who's going to become Are you still origin? When I was talking about the Batman Begins? Yes. Yeah, it is the origin. Yeah, you're right, sorry. And so and so there is a dramatic irony because we know that this character is going to become Batman, or is going to become Superman. And so we're interested to finding out how that's going to happen, which is one element of interest in the in the story when it's about one individual superhero, but also, you if you find ways to get humans to understand how this character is a human because of the conflict that they experienced and the emotions that they experience. The superpowers are just one element of the story, which can make some action sequences and set pieces really exciting because of what happens in there. But we do care about the character. And so we do care about the action sequences in the set pieces. If you don't have that, you're in trouble and I think that's what happens in these films where you have you know, the ensemble piece without being properly structured as as, as as a story in itself, like if you take the Justice League, yet they have to save the world But Again,

then that's the thing, but you don't I can't remember what is the main conflict? I mean, the some of them will,

Alex Ferrari 35:07
there is there is none. Like there's like there's, they're they're trying, I think they're trying to create a conflict within the team because they're not really a team, because they're all these huge, you know, they're essentially gods. So you're like having a bunch of Gods fight against each other, like amongst each other. And then the outside force, which is we've seen a million times doesn't really pose a tremendous amount of it does pose a threat to the world, but it doesn't pose a threat. I just, like someone like this, something as simple as the Joker, who arguably is one of the greatest villains I've ever seen on screen that the Heath Ledger Joker, because he he's literally counterbalance to Batman. He's the opposite. You know, you know, it's he's completely opposite in every which way to, to Batman. And he challenges Batman in a way that, you know, it scars him at the end, you know, at the end of that movie, he has to make a choice. You know, that leads us into the Dark Knight Rises. But based on what challenges that character that that villain did to Batman, and that is what makes that movie and it's not a huge, like, the stakes aren't. They're huge, to a certain extent. But they're not like the world's going to end it was much more personal. Like, yeah, we're going to blow up the city. I'm going to blow up a boat, or I'm going to take your girl, those are very small things compared to Well, yeah,

Emmanuel Oberg 36:30
but I mean, well, it's very, very clever. It's from a thematic point of view. Yeah, I think it has a very strong theme, which is, you know, chaos versus order. Yes. Yes. And what's what's really interesting, also, one of the main questions it raises, which I think make the makes the film very interesting thematically is, is it worth it for Batman to risk his life and to fight for Gotham City's people? Yeah. And that's really well illustrated in the, you know, when the two boats and the and the bombs and are they going to make the right decision and these kind of moments in the story that they they're, they're full of suspense, but it's also they're also very interesting thematically, and I think one of the greatest thing about about the Dark Knight is that you established the protagonist in, in, in Batman Begins, and in Batman Begins. As it happens, the protagonist is also the main character is the character we are the most interested in. He's the character who experiences the most conflict. So he's his protagonist, and main character in The Dark Knight. What's really interesting is that Batman and God on I guess, our protagonist, protagonist, but but the Joker is the main character. Oh, absolutely. And that's what makes this story fascinating as well. That is, is a fantastic antagonist is I mean, Heath Ledger was was was remarkable in the past, but but we we have a protagonist in Batman and or CO protagonist with Batman and Gordon who are moving the story forward. And yes, we want them to succeed, and we feel for them because of the conflict and so on. It's full of surprises as well, which, which makes the story very interesting. It's very well written. But the, the conflict with I mean, the the most interesting character, I would say, was Batman in Batman Begins, but in The Dark Knight, the most interesting character is, is the Joker question without question very often the case in in monster, you know, in horror films, in Monster stories, you have protagonist that we identify, we want them to survive, we want them to succeed, we become them during the film at an emotional point of view. But the most fascinating character, the most interesting character, it tends to be the antagonist in these industries when they work that that and I think that's, that's the way the data the Dark Knight works with a really good protagonist antagonist situation.

Alex Ferrari 38:45
Yeah, and the thing is that we spend so much time with the villain, like you generally don't spend so much time with a villain in a movie, you see them come in and out, and they, they twirl their moustache a little bit, you know, but

Emmanuel Oberg 38:58
that's, that's when the movies is boring, correct? Correct. It's, it's when it becomes predictable. I mean, saving the world is the most, you know, cliche, goal that you can give an antagonist. So sometimes it can, it can be, it can make an interesting film, but you need other things to make it interesting. If it's just about a bunch of superheroes get together to set the world it.

Alex Ferrari 39:22
It falls flat, as falls flat. And the thing I also love about the character of the Joker is that his unpredictability is what keeps you on the edge of your seat because you really have no idea what he's going to do from moment to moment.

Emmanuel Oberg 39:37
But that's, that's also what happens when you have a really good match between the strength of the protagonist and the strength of the antagonist. That's when superhero movies become boring. It's when we we know that they're so strong that actually we can answer that we know the answer to the movie before the end with a dark knight who actually we don't know the answer to the movie until the end and even the end manages to surprise us. Absolutely. So that's that's that's one of the The things in a way, and that's, that's something that you that's really important to, to understand when we write a screenplay is that, yes, conflict is important, but you only, you only generate conflict through the difference between the strength of the protagonist and the strength of the obstacles that they face. And when you have a really strong protagonist, as in a superhero movie, where you either need to find an antagonist who is at least as strong, and sometimes even look stronger. I'm thinking about some some scenes, for example, in, in, in Boone supremacy where Boone is fighting one of the other agents who was trained just like him. And you're like, yeah, that works, because we know that they had the same training. So when they fight, you feel conflict for bone because he's fighting someone else who is who has had the same training and is just as strong as him. And you need to do that when you have strong protagonists, you need to find ways to make them face some characters or situations which actually generate conflict, because otherwise just have a kind of conceptual antagonist. But if they're weaker, they're not original. Or if they don't generate obstacles that we're not expecting. Well, then it's just, it's just boring. It's too predictable. And it feels easy. Yeah. And

Alex Ferrari 41:15
I think that is one of the big mistakes a lot of screenwriters make when they're writing their antagonist is that they're, they're weak, they're weak. They don't they don't they don't do exactly what you just said. They have to be as powerful, if not just a bit more either. If it's not as strong, they have to be extremely much smarter or something along those lines. That's why Lex Luthor versus Superman to a certain extent now it's so boring to watch.

Emmanuel Oberg 41:40
It's a bit outdated, but at the time watching, but if you're not watching it, the first one, the first one, yeah, yeah, the first one. Yeah, I'm that old.

Alex Ferrari 41:50
I am that old, too. I saw it too. I saw it at school, it was great. But that was like the now and like it, I don't want to keep going on this superhero kick, I apologize. But I find it fascinating because it's something that a lot of us can kind of connect to. And it's a good illustration of what we're trying to say, oh, what you're trying to say with with your method is, if you look like a movie like Superman to where he's fighting, three super people. At the same time, one extremely smart, one's extremely strong, much stronger. And one's a lot more cunning. He's literally fighting three, very top and antagonist. And that movie, it was so brilliant, because it wasn't just Three versus one. He was suffering. Like he was dealing with things internally where he gave up his powers to be with the woman he loved and, and then like, oh my god, what am I gonna do? I can't find this all this kind of drama that went around with it was so brilliant for I mean, for its time, it's, it's absolutely stunning. Would you would you agree?

Emmanuel Oberg 42:55
I would agree. I'm not going to agree too much only because I don't have a very, you know, vivid memory of it. I've seen it. Yeah. But I, I don't have a memory of it as strong as I have for the darkness. Sample. Gotcha. But I agree with what you just said. I mean, it's, it's it's one of the things that that made it work the fact that you you have three strong antagonists.

Alex Ferrari 43:20
Now I wanted to I wanted to talk a little bit about Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which is something that you have in your book, how can you incorporate Maslow first of all, explain to the audience that they don't know, what is Maslow's hierarchy of needs? And it also how can you incorporate that into the writing? Well,

Emmanuel Oberg 43:37
Maslow, I mean, Maslow was a psychologist, a Russian, I think psychology is from the 1940s. And he came up with this theory, which was at the time quite groundbreaking in psychology called the key of needs. And you need in this theory, what he did was breaking down human needs into five different layers or categories, from the most basic ones that absolutely every single human beings go through and can relate to and understand, which is about remaining alive. It's the physiological layer. And it's usually represented in a pyramid with the with the the layer, the base of the pyramid being the one that most people can relate to. So that that first layer is physiological so it's about breathing. It's about food. It's about water. Sex not not as in having sex but as in if if as a species we don't have sex this species dies sleep homeostasis, which is the you know, keeping your the integrity of your body to make sure that you don't lose blood or don't lose up a normal fruit. Don't get any wound, you know, physical wounds, expression, which, which is a very basic human need, but if you you know, it can be trouble if you cannot fulfill it in Yes. So these this kind of first layer, it's, it's, it's true for, you know, every human being will relate to that because if you're a human being you, you need to fulfill these basic needs to stay alive. And as you go up the pyramid, you have different layers. So, safety is very, a very important layer, which is about security of body of employment, resources, morality, family, property, all the things you need to have to once you're alive physically, how can you stay alive, so you need a buddy have a roof over your head, you need to have a job to keep, you know, being able to pay your rent or feed your family and so on. So that's safety, which is very, again, understood by almost everyone on the planet. And then you have a board that a third layer, that equals love of belonging, which is about friendship, family, sexual intimacy. And above that, is team which is about confidence, achievement, respect of others, or by others. And the the layer, the very top of the pyramid, which, according to Maslow, you can only relate to if you found a way to fulfill all the other levels, which we could discuss. But it's self actualization, which is all about morality, creativity, spontaneity, problem solving, lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts, which are quite conceptual things. And that's why they are at the top of the pyramid, the idea is that through life, you go from focusing primarily on physiological, and then you grow through the pyramid. So you then become more attuned to safety than love belonging. And the idea from investor's point of view is that as you as you fulfill one level, you can start focusing on the next one. So and, and it's true that it's very, very difficult, for example, to focus on self actualization, when everything else in your life is, well, usually, if your life is in danger, you focus just on staying alive, I think. You know, if you lose your job, or if you, if your house gets destroyed, you know, something as basic as that, it must supersede everything else like your, you know, again, once you physically safe, the next thing that you need is protection from from the cold and from from, you know, lack of money and stuff like that. So if you have problems at lower layers of the of the pyramid, it's quite difficult to concentrate on the on the layers above it. And, for example, we know that if we lose our job, or things can happen in life, that can make relationships, for example, more difficult, because we might not have the time to dedicate to them because we dedicated more time to what's going wrong in other parts of our lives and stuff like that. So

the original Maslow theory is, is this idea that you have a different hierarchy in human needs, and that some of them are much more universal than others. And that you tend to be able to focus or to relate to the ones at the top of the pyramid, once you fulfilled the ones before. And I've always been fascinated with that, with that theory, because I, it kind of it felt to in many ways, I think, from a psychological point of view. I mean, in the psychology field, it's been superseded by the other theories seen. So I don't think it's seen as accurate in in that field. But it, it kind of took to me and I thought there is a way to use this in screenwriting, and one of the first one of the most useful ways I found was to think okay, if we agree with the idea that a story, good story is a metaphor for problem solving process, and that we have one main problem in in every stories. How, where would you place that problem in the pyramid? That main problem in the pyramid? Because I think that can tell you a lot regarding the audience regarding the show of the film, even its story type and, and other things like that. So for example, if you take we use gravity as an example. Yeah, so let's stick to that. If the gravity it's a to just a movie to thriller. And the main problem in in gravity, I think we'll agree is about survival, right. As another space station is hit, she's trying to survive with Kovaleski to start with and then on her own, but the main problem is, how is she going to survive and find a way to get back to Earth and this survival is at the very bottom of the Batman problem is at the very bottom of the pyramid. It's about breathing because in space if Something goes very wrong, you can breathe. And it's about homeostasis. How do you keep your the integrity of your body? I mean, that's that's what she's trying to protect and to, to address in gravity primarily. And one of the, one of the the interesting things when you when you think about that is that when the main problem in your story is, lies, at the very bottom of Maslow's pyramid, what it means is that the potential audience for the film is the widest possible audience, because every single human being on the planet can relate to that problem, because they can understand that problem of survival. Okay. And what's also very interesting that because it's the first layer of the pyramid, and because it's about every single human being on the planet, it doesn't matter that you know, which language which culture, normally the protagonist is from, but the members of the audience are from because they share that problem. It's a problem that affects every single human being. And, and I think that when you start looking at the method that I'm suggesting, in that way, what is the main problem in the story? And where does it lie in Maslow, it can, you can get a lot of benefit from that. Because you can get a sense of the potential audience you don't, it's not going to tell you whether you will have a bigger audience or not. Because if your script is bad, it's bad. Fair enough. And even a bad script doesn't mean that you can get a wider audience anyway. But what it can give you an indication of, of the potential audience of the film, if you don't, if you're not aware of it, and if you don't do something about it, take an example at the opposite side of that. If you if you think about a story, like crash, for example, which is the main point in the story is racism in LA, okay, it's how how, how are people in LA? CO, you know, dealing with with the problem of racism in society, in society, it's a problem in society. And that's one of the reasons why triggers what I call a theme that story and multi story narrative. So you have like 810, whatever different depending on the way you you count strands and in crash, you, you won't come up with the same number, but that doesn't really matter. What matters is that you have different strands in the story, which are connected to the same theme of, you know, racial tension in LA.

And if you think about that, that problem is, is sits right at the top of the pyramid, because it's about morality, it's about lack of prejudice, acceptance of facts. And the main problem in the story, the one that sits in society lies at the very top of the pyramid. But if you look at each strand in the so you could think, okay, because it's at the top, then it has a very limited audience, because very few people are going to be able to relate to, to this, despite the fact that thematically it's appalling that that everyone can relate to. But what happens is that in the way the story is designed, although the main problem lies at the top of the pyramid, if you look at each strand, it the problem in each strand in that story actually lies much lower in the pyramid. It's not about you know, solving racism or it's not about lack of prejudice. Very often, the main problem is about protecting your family protecting your business. You know, if you think about the locksmith, for example, in in Crash is trying to protect his family, the person shop owner is trying to protect his business. At some point, it's even going to be about survival when when one of these characters is going to have his life in danger. And because the main problem in his strand lies lower in the pyramid that widens the potential of the audience of the story. And that's, that's, that's one of the things that can that can make a difference between two multistrike narratives. One of them could have a main problem that lies at the top so theoretically, could only reach a very limited audience. And that stays at the top every strand is kind of very intellectual, very abstract, and so its chances of reaching a wider audience is actually quite limited. While if you take a story like crash where yes, you have a main problem, which is which lies at the top of the pyramid. But each problem in each strand actually reaches much lower down the pyramid that widens its potential audience and I think that's one of the reasons why why quassia met an audience which was bigger than probably what even the filmmakers were expecting

Alex Ferrari 54:30
a very much very much I didn't expect to win the Oscar either.

Emmanuel Oberg 54:34
No but but it's it's it's a very well crafted and very well designed story from from from any point of view but but but especially from from that one, from the idea of trying to find elements in when your main problem sits at the top trying to find elements in your story that which lower to widen your potential audience. It's also something that can be useful when we think about about story design.

Alex Ferrari 54:59
Now I'm I'm going to ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Emmanuel Oberg 55:09
I would say, I think for me, it's three things. It's about craft. It's about ideas, and it's about connections. So I would say, you know, work on all three. I mean, there are more than that. But that's the first three that that come to mind. I think, I think if you I think if you if you work on, on your on your craft, you will, you will be able to design better stories. So that that will give you an asset. And if you if you work on, on, on networking and relationship that that's going to help you to put that to future to fruition. It's It's always difficult to give advice to new writers, but I said three things I kind of forgot the third one.

Alex Ferrari 56:01
So no, I don't remember I wasn't. But those first two were good. Those first who were very good. Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career?

Emmanuel Oberg 56:16
Wet book had the biggest impact on my life or career. I need to get that one right.

Alex Ferrari 56:28
No worries.

Emmanuel Oberg 56:29
No, I would say that might surprise you. But I would say Cyrano de Bergerac

Alex Ferrari 56:34
that's a great book to play.

Emmanuel Oberg 56:37
Because it's just, I guess, I, I find it amazingly written. And maybe it's because I have a French origin. But I, I find the the way it's written very poetic. And at the same time, the way the story is designed is just amazing. And so if you look beyond the surface, which is the dialogue, and you know, the poetry and the way the lines are written, and if you look at the design of the story, it's just really amazing. And I just love the character of siano. I just, I really identified with him, and I can read that, that that play 10 times. And I would cry, you know, just the same. And that's sad. It's beautiful.

Alex Ferrari 57:14
It's a beautiful, beautiful film, a beautiful film and also an amazing book. Now what lesson took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Emmanuel Oberg 57:26
Oh, he life will be so many. But in the film business, I guess it's not one it's to the first one was it took me a very long time to forget about my my conscious training. Forget about, you know, it's probably contradict what I just said. But I guess that's that's you mean, but it took me I was lucky enough to get a lot of formal training about, you know, craft and story theory, and so on. And for a long time, I thought that that knowledge was the most important. And I know that the most important, I thought that it was really not necessarily the most important thing in a screenplay, but knowing these things, actually gave me an edge. 10 years to realize that I had to forget them, in a way and to stop thinking about them. And it took me probably 10 more years to succeed in doing that. But it's, it's just this idea that craft is the most important thing. Yes. What's important is master craft, but it's not to think about the craft of to have a conscious knowledge of the craft. What's important is mastery. So and mastery is when you when you when you do it without thinking about it. And it's like the like the cycle in, in, in learning, you know, first you you don't know you don't know. So you you can be in trouble, then you know, that you don't know. So you start to learn about something. And then and then you know, you know, which is very dangerous. And then and then you it's just about moving to a stage where you you your conscious knowledge is not important anymore. And I find that interesting because if you think about it a lot of fantastic writers they never read a book on screenwriting, they never went to a screenwriting workshop and they were fantastic writers. And yes, they worked a lot but they they didn't work they read lots of scripts, they probably worked with another writer because there was a lot of apprenticeship going on and you will learn from from directly from the Masters you know without having to read a book or going through a must to to workshop. But but that that learning was by doing and it was not necessary formalized and I find it fascinating when I when I listened to interviews from even you know someone who was an absolute master of the craft like Billy Wilder, or even Alfred Hitchcock, I mean, they take just to example they had a fantastic mastery of the art, but not from a conceptual point of view. And and so you the idea that either you you Find a way to master it unconsciously. And it doesn't matter if you're not able to, to say how it works and how you use it. Or if you do learn consciously to try to improve what you're doing, then finding find a way to forget about that and to realize that it's not the most important that you have to go back to kind of unconscious state where you where you do it without, without thinking. Yeah, I

Alex Ferrari 1:00:22
mean, I was listening, I read the book on writing with Stephen King. And, and he was one of those guys is like, Look, you the craft is the craft, you know, you first need to learn English if you're writing in English, and you need to learn grammar. But you're not consciously thinking of grammar, because you either know it, or you don't. There's no middle ground. And if you're thinking about grammar, as you're writing about that's bad. I mean, you could think about it when you're editing. But not in the creation process. And and as I was I use the example of like a carpenter carpenters not thinking about how he's cutting the wood or, or sanding the wood. He's just doing it because he's done it 1000 times he has mastery over that skill. And I think that is a very difficult place to be in the creative arts, for filmmaking and for screenwriting, but it's where you need to get to.

Emmanuel Oberg 1:01:15
Yeah, ideally, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:17
Now, three of your favorite films of all time. Oh, yes. The toughest question of all times

Emmanuel Oberg 1:01:23
of all

Alex Ferrari 1:01:24
time, the whole this will be on your tombstone. So make account.

Emmanuel Oberg 1:01:29
I'm going to take one, which really is one of my favorite films of all damage Jaws, those doors, because I just I think it's fantastic characters. It's full of suspense. It's just

Alex Ferrari 1:01:41
in holes to this day it holds. Yeah, absolutely. You can watch it right now. And with the mechanical shark with everything, it's still a It's a masterpiece.

Emmanuel Oberg 1:01:53
It is. So that's the first one that comes to mind. One of my very recent, fairly recent, fairly recent one is Birdman. But I, I just loved Birdman was surprised by it, because I was not, you know, I try to read and and find out as little as possible about films, especially films that I want to watch. I never read reviews, I just go, that's a filmmaker I'm interested in I want to watch that film. So I was I was I was just completely taken by it. And as always, it's very subjective. You know, it's, it's, it's depends on who you are, at what point you are in your life and how you can relate to characters and you know, whether you connect with a theme and stuff like that, well, I thought it was an amazing film. So that would make it to my list as well. One last one. I love thrillers and I would put I will be really tough called between the silence of the lambs and

Alex Ferrari 1:02:58
the fugitive. Excellent films, they can both be on your list. They're amazing. I would

Emmanuel Oberg 1:03:03
I would put one of these on it because I just I love the kind of psychological fillers that that were made in that era of the 90s we still make great thrillers, but these kind of thrillers I'm thinking about the especially The Silence of the Lambs becomes more difficult to see. And I would I'm not going to talk about the ending like we did about about dutse If you've not watched The Silence of the Lambs, definitely watch it if you if you lost feelers it's, it's

Alex Ferrari 1:03:32
it's one of the it's actually one of the few horror films they call it a horror even though it's a thriller. But or they call it a thriller, but it's really kind of a horror.

Emmanuel Oberg 1:03:42
It's a Thriller Horror. I mean, it's it's, it's both,

Alex Ferrari 1:03:45
but it won the Oscar, it won the Oscar, it won all four big awards that year. I remember it is amazing, amazing film now, where can people find you and you're writing your book, all that kind of good stuff?

Emmanuel Oberg 1:03:58
Well, they can find me on on our website, which is a screenplay unlimited. That's the name of my company. And I have a special link for for your listeners. Oh, awesome. Yes, which is a link where they can find some information about the book that I wrote, which is called screenwriting and unchained. And it's, they will be able to download a free sample of the book, which is the first 50 pages, which is most of the first chapter on the introduction where there's an explanation of the method and and so if they like it, they can purchase the book and if they don't like it, they save some money.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:41
Thank you so much for that. I appreciate it.

Emmanuel Oberg 1:04:43
Give you the link. Thing The link is spin. Screenplay. unlimited.com forward slash indie, what is it?

Alex Ferrari 1:04:54
Yeah, yes. Yeah, I'll put that in the show notes as well. Emmanuel, thank you so much for taking the time to come and talk. Arkansas.

Emmanuel Oberg 1:05:01
Thank you very much for inviting me.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:03
I want to thank Emmanuelle for coming in and dropping some knowledge bombs on the tribe. Thank you so, so much Emanuelle if you want to get a link to the book, or any of the other things that a manual has to offer, please head over to the show notes at Indie film hustle.com forward slash BPS 039 And if you haven't already, please head over to screenwriting podcast comm and leave a good review on iTunes for the show. It really, really, really helps us out a lot. I seen a lot of great reviews coming out lately. So thank you. Thank you so much, guys. For all the support I truly truly truly appreciate it. And that's it for another episode of The Bulletproof screenplay podcast. As always keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon. Thanks for listening to the bulletproof screenplay podcast at bulletproof screenplay calm that's b u ll e t e r o f s CR e en PLA y.com


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BPS 038: The Idea – How to Come Up with a Story with Erik Bork

Today on the show we have screenwriter and producer Erik Bork. Erik Bork is a screenwriter best known for his work on the HBO miniseries Band of BrothersFrom the Earth to the Moon, for which he wrote multiple episodes, and won two Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards as part of the producing team.

Erik has also sold series pitches (and written pilots) at NBC and FOX, worked on the writing staff for two primetime dramas, and written feature screenplays on assignment for companies like Universal, HBO, TNT, and Playtone. He teaches screenwriting for UCLA Extension, National University, and The Writers Store, and offers one-on-one consulting to writers.

Why don’t most scripts have the kind of success their writers’ dream of? Because of problems with the basic idea for their story. Which the writer is usually unaware of. While story structure and scene writing choices do need to be top-notch, writers tend to rush into those parts of the writing process too quickly, without vetting their basic concept.

This is a mistake professional rarely make because their agents and managers insist that ideas be run past them first. And this usually leads to serious notes and development before the outlining process even starts.

The Idea: The Seven Elements of a Viable Story for Screen, Stage or Fiction form an acronym for the word PROBLEM, since every story is really about one, at its core. Each chapter focuses on one of these seven deceptively simple-looking aspects of a strong story, which are anything but easy to master. Mr. Bork highlights his own struggles as a writer and his arrival at an understanding of how each of these elements works — and how to know if one’s idea really succeeds at each of them. A special section devoted to television writing (and its unique attributes) ends each chapter.

Whatever your education and background in writing or story, this book and its unique focus contribute foundationally useful information not covered elsewhere — which may be the missing piece that leads to greater results, both on the page and in the marketplace.

Enjoy my conversation with Erik Bork.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 0:06
Today on the show, we have Erik Bork, screenwriter, producer and author of the new book The idea the seven elements of a viable story for screen stage or fiction. Now Erik, it has a very unique story in how he got into Hollywood, working his way as runners on studio sets and, and in the back lots as well, but, but his real break came when he was assigned to Tom Hanks, his production company as a runner. And from that point on, he became an assistant then moved on from there and was able to work with Tom Hanks on some amazing miniseries like HBOs Band of Brothers, as well as from Earth to the Moon. We talk all about the craft, how to hone that idea that actually creates a good story and screenplay, and many, many other things. So please enjoy my conversation with Eric Bork. I'd like to welcome the show Eric Bork. Man, thank you so much for being on the show, brother. I appreciate it.

Erik Bork 2:49
Thanks for having me. It's great to be here.

Alex Ferrari 2:52
Thank you, man. So you you've you've lived a very interesting career in Hollyweird. And your story is quite interesting from what I've been able to pick up online. So first off, how did you get into the business?

Erik Bork 3:07
Well, I moved to LA from Ohio, where I grown up and gone to film school got a bachelor's degree and motion picture production BFA right State University in Dayton, Ohio, moved out to LA started working as an assistant versus a temp worked around the fox lot for a couple of years, including a writer's assistant job on the show picket fences. Yeah, Kelly drama which won the Emmy for Best Drama that year, and the next year. And eventually I kind of had paid my dues in the temp pool at Fox, the in house temple where I'd be assigned to different sort of offices every day or every week or every month, whatever. And they assigned me to Tom Hanks, his production company. Tom had just moved on to the fox lot his deal a bit at Disney. He only had his his his like main assistant, and then me as the tamp helping get the office set up. I thought I'd be there a month at most, and then turn into a full time assistant position and eventually led to my you know, big break.

Alex Ferrari 4:03
Nice and that that must have been a fun, boss.

Erik Bork 4:08
It was amazing. Yeah, I mean, I you know, I idolized him, you know, big was one of my favorite movies. And when I started working for him the week I started temping for him was the week that Sleepless in Seattle premiered. Oh, wow. Philadelphia was already in the can and he was about to go shoot Forrest Gump. So during the during the two years that I worked as his like second assistant, he won the back to back Oscars. And it was like my job the day after the Oscars to take the statuette to the academy building and have his nameplate put on because they don't do that the night. At least they didn't then so I'm driving my beat up Toyota Celica to the academy building with Tom Hanks Oscar in the passenger seat because stuff I got to do. So it was cool being on the you know, on the in the Inner Inner sort of circle as a as an employee to him when he was at, you know, reached this incredible height. Oh, yeah, he's already Probably never, you know, never gone down from that height, because then it led to producing and all these other things which I got to be involved in.

Alex Ferrari 5:06
Yeah, I mean, that must have been a you were you were there at like a really fun part of his career. I mean, he was like, pow, pow, pow, pow, like, everything he touched was gold. And is it true that he is as nice as they say he is.

Erik Bork 5:19
Yeah, he's very nice. He's very funny. Can be cutting in his in his humor, but in a way that's entertaining. Like, he would always make me laugh. And he's extremely generous. The the opportunity he gives people is amazing, including me. And he sticks with people. And he's, he's just like a fun, easygoing guy for a big star like that, you know, you would think there'd be you know, tons of ego and insecurity and need to prove oneself or whatever kind of stuff we might think that big actors might have. He doesn't seem to have any of that. He's just like a happy go lucky guy that loves making things loves acting and, and producing and, you know, just just into it.

Alex Ferrari 6:06
That's awesome. Now, how did you get involved with Ben and brothers?

Erik Bork 6:10
Well, first there was from the Earth to the Moon, which was the miniseries that that Tom executive produced for HBO, in the late 90s. That's where my big break came in, which is that he gave me this promotion that enabled me to help him kind of ultimately write and produce that miniseries. There were steps along the way to that, but at the end of the day, I had a co producer credit, I'd been involved in every aspect of it, I had multiple writing credits on the scripts. So Banda brothers was kind of like a reteaming of a lot of the same people, plus adding Steven Spielberg as an executive producer. So so I was kind of already had done that sort of two to three year project with him before and so Band of Brothers was like, here's another one kind of, well, let's like

Alex Ferrari 6:55
so then let's go back to four from Earth to the Moon, which is one of my favorite miniseries. It was kind of like, I guess it was the beginning of miniseries. But it was kind of this kind of beginning, if I remember correctly, kind of the beginning of this, like HBO, high production value, kind of mini series. Is that Is that fair to say? Yeah,

Erik Bork 7:13
I think it was the first one. Yeah. And they spent like 70 million and it was way over the top amount of money for them to spend at that time right.

Alex Ferrari 7:21
Now. Now, that's an episode of Game of Thrones. I mean, I'm sure they weren't nervous, but that that turned out to be a huge monster hit for HBO.

Erik Bork 7:32
Well, you know, HBO it's not so much about ratings of course, it's about subscribers and how do you get subscribers if you win awards? And you have critics love it and have people think you got to have HBO in order to get this kind of programming and so we won the all the Emmys and the big awards for many series which I think was the most important thing at the end and enabled them to go okay, let's do more of these and advanta brothers was like the next one,

Alex Ferrari 7:55
and and then on from Earth to the Moon, you were a writer, and a producer just read it.

Erik Bork 8:01
My ultimate credit was co producer on all of it and writer on multiple episodes, some I didn't get credit on some I've shared credits when I have sole credit. So yeah, I was there at the beginning, you know, when it was just an idea and a book that we had the rights to that Tom had sold a pitch to HBO and I in the meantime, while working as his second assistant, I was writing all the time, and eventually turned from feature film writing to sitcom writing, believe it or not, and had written three spec episodes of sitcoms of that of that day. Three NBC shows actually, Frasier Mad About You and Friends. And eventually Tom ended up reading one or two of those because his first assistant kind of, I guess, knew I got an agent and was you know, I kind of became part of the inner circle by then and she suggested that he read one or that I give him one which I was never going to be my idea to do that had to be somebody else right? So he did and pronounced me talented and and and then a few months later said how would you like to stop being an assistant and like, have your own assistant and, you know, like this life changing thing, and helped me figure out this mini series. So that led to us. This is from the Earth to the Moon that led to us like kind of meeting for breakfasts over the course of weeks and going over ideas for each episode and me kind of helping draft this like 50 Page Bible for what the miniseries was going to be, which HBO approved, and then we use that to go get writers and, and it was also my job to help find writers like established writers to write episodes of this. And along the way of doing that, one of the other producers that I was working with suggested maybe I should write one of the episodes again, not gonna be me asking for it, but if someone else does, yes, please. So that was assigned or I chose one of the episodes that had not been signed anybody and wrote up a zillion drafts of that which were terrible for a long time because I was really in over my head and never tried to write historical drama. You know, I mean, trying to do justice To the real events and have everything be accurate, I was overly obsessed with the research and all that stuff, a lot of lessons I learned along the way. And, but eventually under the tutelage of Tony tau, who was our CO exec producer was like the day to day producer who kind of ran everything and oversaw the writers, the directors, everything hasn't like non writing producer, I found my way and my script became considered a decent one. And then I was asked to rewrite some of the other ones, which is how I have shared credit on some of the other ones. And also, I started working under Tony I became his kind of like apprentice producer like his, you know, Shadow everywhere he went. So I got to be in all the big meetings and I'll be on set in the editing room, be involved in every aspect and because I was also Tom's point person, or the first kind of like employee one in a way, not really, but close to that on the miniseries, I sort of had access and had to be dealt with to some extent. So I can be on on the set. whispering and Lily zanic or John turtle tab, or Sally Fields ear, saying, I don't know if Tom would like this really annoying, you know, inexperienced young jerk.

Alex Ferrari 11:10
I can imagine the ego might run away with you at that at that young young age, especially when given that sort of power or access. Now, then you went into BANA brothers after that. Right. Right. And now

Erik Bork 11:25
To your words, right, some other things. But then yeah,

Alex Ferrari 11:28
So Band of Brothers, which is another monster hit for HBO. That thing is a legendary miniseries on a band of brothers during World War Two. This is before Private Ryan or after Private Ryan. It was

Erik Bork 11:40
after you know, Tom, it kind of became a tradition for him. He made Apollo 13. And they decided to a miniseries about space program and he made Saving Private Ryan and he and Steven Steven Spielberg, I call them Steven, but

Alex Ferrari 11:51
to us. Yes, yes, Mr. Spielberg

Erik Bork 11:54
decided to make Band of Brothers. First they were going to do something with citizen soldiers, which is another Steven Ambrose book about World War Two. That was really just citizens who became soldiers from all over America. And then they widely decided, you know, Band of Brothers is a more one group. We're gonna stay with this one group and follow their whole story. So it's a more contained subject.

Alex Ferrari 12:14
And when working with Mr. Spielberg, how did you did you work with him? How was that process? And I imagine that that must have been overwhelming just meeting him or if you if you did meet with him and work with him on this it must have been it Steven Spielberg, you know, I mean it but you're the more you work with Tom Hanks, which is great. But now you're just like, this is a whole nother level of in different vit flavor of crazy.

Erik Bork 12:42
Yeah, and I don't think I ever fully got over the That's Tom Hanks right there. And we're in the same meeting. Like there's a certain like, thing that never fully goes away. So yeah, so Steven was, was like, there with Tom to kind of oversee, like, all the big decisions he was he didn't direct any episodes, he wasn't like on set every day or anything like that. He would strategically come and visit or be involved in certain meetings, you know, looking at all the cuts and giving notes on the cuts. So I was, you know, I had quite a few experiences where I was like a group of us in a meeting, including Steven. And, you know, he was just like this infectious kid with this love for filmmaking who couldn't wait to tell you how they got that shot inside Saving Private Ryan from like, the steeple or whatever, you know, like, here's what we did, you know, like it was he's just like, kind of similar Tom in a way kind of boyish. Just infectious enthusiasm. And love for love for the craft. But yeah, it's, it's, it's certainly certainly a little overwhelming to be, you know, to be in his presence as well.

Alex Ferrari 13:47
And you and you were many of those meetings, I'm assuming?

Erik Bork 13:50
Yeah. Yeah, there were quite a few. And I got to ride on a private jet once where it was just me and Tom and Steven, from London to LA, because we shot it all in in England. And, and that was pretty cool. Just the three of us the three bros.

Alex Ferrari 14:06
Just chillin, just hanging out. You know, talking about stuff. I would love to have been a fly in the wall on that. Now, so can you give a one tip that you would get what is the one tip that you would give a writer that wants to break into TV? And once it can't try to get a TV kick?

Erik Bork 14:25
Wow, that's a quite a big segue. The one tip well, you know, keep at it. I mean, it's a persistence thing that was a tip somebody gave me when I was first starting out some established greenware just like don't give up and keep doing it and keep learning as you go getting feedback, learning and growing and understanding it's a marathon. And it's, you know, it's rare to achieve something and to write something that would allow you to break in and, and there's usually a long learning curve So you got to see it as an education and ongoing. I mean, I still feel like every script I'm writing, I'm learning and I'm, I'm like a small child grappling in the dark with something that's beyond me. You know, it's always that way and have this sort of open mind of I'm learning and I'm and I'm, and I recognize that I am a kind of a neophyte, maybe always, every new project, I'm a neophyte again, and embrace that and just be about I'm going to learn and grow and improve.

Alex Ferrari 15:29
Now, let's, now let's talk about your book, the idea the seven elements of a viable story screens for screen stage and or fiction. That's a mouthful. Can you talk about the idea? And what made you write the book?

Erik Bork 15:43
Yeah. So I've been teaching screenwriting coaching and mentoring writers for the last 10 years, as well as writing my own stuff and doing my own projects. And, and what that's taught me is something I kind of already knew, but became even more clear, which is that it all lives or dies with the basic idea that so much of what makes a project viable is contained within the basic premise, you could pitch somebody in a paragraph or you know, 30 seconds or whatever. And that most of the time, we writers want to jump into the actual writing of the script, without really vetting the idea without spending enough time trying to arrive at an idea worth writing. And so when I give notes to a writer who sends me their scripts, like 90%, plus of the most important notes I have on their script, the modes that most determine whether it's going to succeed or not, are notes that would have had on that 32nd Pit, if only the idea before they wrote any of the scenes or even outlined it, or even did a sort of structure, you know, document. So and also, in my own career, like, there was a period where I was pitching ideas for series to the network's like drama series, and my agents would send me out to all these producers and studios and networks and, and, and I would have to get, you know, get an idea for a series pass them. First, I'd get past my agents, which was the hardest part almost, because they were very tough on, you know, we're not gonna send you out with some idea that we don't really believe in it. So I kind of had to learn for my own sort of making a living at that, what makes it viable ideas become this, like ongoing obsession. And so I kind of figured out based on as a writer, as, as a producer, and as a coach and teacher, what makes an idea worth writing, what are really the elements. So and I've been blogging about the craft for close to a decade now. And so some of this originated my blog was like, Well, I really figured I really kind of worked it out that there's this acronym of seven elements using the word problem as the acronym because every story is really about a problem that takes the whole story to solve, essentially. So the problem needs to have these seven characteristics. And each one gets a chapter where I go into great depth on the pitfalls and how to make that element really come out in your work, whether it's film TV, or you know, I think it applies to fiction and other kinds of stories as well.

Alex Ferrari 18:08
So what are this? Do you mind telling us the seven key elements?

Erik Bork 18:11
Yeah, so it's punishing, punishing the problem, says a punishing problem. Right, so PRL BLM, so punishing, relatable, and these things describe not just the story, but the problem at the heart of the story, because that's really what you're pitching. When you're pitching a story, you're pitching a problem that takes the whole story to solve. So what does that problem have to look like? It has to be punishing to the main character, which means just defies being solved. And even though they're actively trying to solve it throughout the story, mostly, they're failing, and they're losing. And it's just getting more complicated and difficult and important all the way through. I liken it to watching your favorite sports team and a championship game where they're the underdog, and they're behind. It's exciting to watch that. And hopefully, they'll come from behind at the end and win the game at the final moment. But prior to that, there's a lot of things going wrong and you're on the edge of your seat. So punishing. The second one is relatable, which has to do with caring about the main character or characters and whatever the outcome of the story is. That's that's in play. You want the audience to invest emotionally in that it's not as easy to earn that investment as it might seem investment and both the main character which most movies have a single main character. Most TV episodes have multiple characters that get stories, investing in them, and also investing in whatever it is they're trying to achieve or solve. The third is original. Before fourth is believable. I should say just original. It's like fresh twist on a familiar genre due to the way to go in my view, as opposed to I've got to do something totally different from how anyone's ever done anything before, which usually means you're not observing these other six elements, because you're all focused on being different. So it's really about building on the shoulders of things that have worked but with some intriguing fresh element your brain to it. believable, that's obvious, but so many scripts and even premise For scripts fail, when the audience is just like, I don't know that I buy this, right? I don't believe these people would do this or this situation, it's very complicated and arbitrary that you've set up and I'm not sure I'm with you. So believability is a bigger one than it seems that L is for life altering, which means the stakes of what's going on have to really matter. He is entertaining, which means don't forget your job, really bring your audience to some emotional state they've paid to be in because they want this kind of genre to do something for them, whether it's Action, Comedy, Romance, whatever. What is the entertainment? How do you achieve entertainment? How do you make sure that's part of what you're doing. And then the last one is meaningful, which has to do with theme, and making sure that what you're writing has some resonance beyond the surface events of your story. So people feel like, you know, you've kind of it sticks to their ribs in terms of what it's really about, and and the human condition and life issues and challenges that we can all identify with.

Alex Ferrari 21:03
So it says you've been teaching so long, and mentoring and you've obviously read a bunch of scripts over your course of your career. What is the biggest mistake you see first time screenwriters make?

Erik Bork 21:18
Well, when you're first time screenwriter, you know you're learning the craft. So there's a lot of things that you don't know how to do well yet. But if we just talk on the concept level, I mean, the biggest mistake really is the one I already said, which is trying to jump too quickly into writing without getting the concept. But if we put that one aside, one of the really most common ones is issues with point of view, and that's covered in the relatable chapter, which means not understanding that you have to tell the story subjectively, from the point of view of a character that the audience is meant to kind of become one with almost like it's happening to them. And that's not easy to achieve. And there are specific practices and things to avoid in the achievement of that. And writers tend to either not realize that or not do that effectively. And so the first goal I think, is you know, you want to suck the reader into caring. And you usually do it through a specific individual character by by not telling it objectively but telling it subjectively and it's not just first time screenwriters though, I mean, we all struggle with that making the audience care and, and, and making them feel like they're inside the story is, you know, always important and often difficult.

Alex Ferrari 22:27
Now, can you name a given example of a protagonist, an interesting protagonist, and why we connect with those that protagonist anywhere in cinema?

Erik Bork 22:39
Well, for some reason, Forrest Gump just you know, Michael Hague, in his book, writing screenplays itself is a great section on empathy and the different techniques for gaining empathy. And a lot of it when you really look at it is a manipulation on the part of the writer, a very conscious manipulation of giving a character certain elements that make you care about them save the cat talked about, they have to save a cat in the first pages, which is kind of a joke, but it's actually true. They have to do something that makes us sympathize, and feel like that's a good person. I like that person. You know, there's this real vote, invoke thing of unlikable main characters and anti heroes and people point to shows like Breaking Bad and say, Look what a dark figure he was. And I always say look at the pilot of Breaking Bad, and he was the most lovable, relatable average every man you could ever possibly meet, who had all of these undeserved misfortunes, which is a phrase Michael Haig uses when you give a character undeserved misfortune, like Forrest Gump didn't ask to be mentally handicapped and have those things on his legs and have people make fun of them. It's not fair. You immediately side with the poor, lovable nice kid who's got these unfair things about his life. He didn't ask to not have a father. You know, he didn't ask to be picked on and chased all these things that are just totally not fair. And in his simplicity, there's a goodness and a love ability that just makes you feel like he's your kid. Like you just want to protect them. So you know, the the Africa is gonna say about the undeserved misfortune, but another thing is when you put a character in jeopardy, so that so that we're worried about the character, which they do that with Forrest Gump, as well. And Michael has this whole list of things that are really genius that he's observed in movies over the years, but so much of the time you'll be reading a script and it's like, yeah, I don't have a strong pull to this person.

Alex Ferrari 24:35
I don't care.

Erik Bork 24:36
Oh, I was gonna say Breaking Bad there all these elements of undeserved misfortune. It's like he's a chemistry teacher who's passionate and good and his students couldn't care less. He doesn't make enough money siesta moonlight at a car wash where his students see him and make fun of them. Yep, he finds out he's dying. He doesn't have enough money to leave his family after his death. This poor schmuck, right so You need to do all that for the audience to then accept when you start cooking math that okay, this is only option and we get why he's doing it and we still love him and he's still in way over his head once he starts cooking math way over his head, you know, there's dangerous people everywhere and he's gonna get arrested and it's like are killed yeah are killed. It takes a very long time for him to become the kind of like, you know, heavy the kind of like, top of his Eisenberg scary guy of Heisenberg. Yeah. So I just think it's a mistake to just say, Oh, you can make your character really unlikable. And it's fine. I don't even worry about it. It's not you can't get away with that as easily as it might seem. So I've always explained to people well, here, this character that you think is unlikable. In this thing that really work. Let's look at all the things that actually make them likable. And usually, there's quite a few of them that people didn't even notice.

Alex Ferrari 25:51
So if you look at someone like Wolverine, or Logan, you know, who is an anti hero, quote, unquote, there's things in his backstory that, you know, it's unfortunate he didn't want he didn't end up he didn't want to become over and it was forced upon him. He lives in a constant cycle of always healing, not really aging, so he could live for hundreds of years and see people die. Like there's a lot of things that from luck, if you go back to like even the Vampire Lestat, you know, who's a very unlikable, he's a villain, he's a villain, but you kind of go with him a little bit. And you see his from his point of view what he has to go with. So even the most unlikable characters in history, and literature, they all have this kind of thing you're talking about, like Breaking Bad, I still say is one of the best series ever written, ever shot and ever created it. It's just it's perfection in my edit, from the beginning, from the best pilot I've ever seen to the one of the best endings I've ever seen. And how they took that one beautiful, lovable guy and turned him into Heisenberg, who was you know, was spoiler alert, a murder? Ego maniacal maniac he turned him into essentially, but there was always those little clips of, of the of the teacher of the chemistry teacher always sparkle in his eye every once in a while. Would you agree?

Erik Bork 27:11
Yeah, for sure. And I would say the other key with like, if somebody is unlikable, if you really pile the problems on top of them, big problems that makes a big difference, because the audience can't help but relate to the character with the big problems like Scarface, pretty unlikable character, but he's got he's facing death around every corner, essentially, right? And if the character gets really beaten up by the events of the story that helps you forgive unlikable qualities, but don't forget Life and Death type stuff.

Alex Ferrari 27:38
Right? And also, don't forget where you came from, though. He was you know, right. Refugee, your dog.

Erik Bork 27:43
Yeah, completely thought his body killed with a chainsaw in front of them, you know? And that one scene? I mean, it's like,

Alex Ferrari 27:50
yeah, it's insane. Now, on the other side of that, what is an amazing antagonist? And why do people like Because? Because a lot of people, right? I've read so many scripts, horrible villains, and in movies, horrible antagonists. And I always use my favorite antagonist, one of my favorite cinematic antagonists of all time is the Joker and Dark Knight, who's just as perfect of an antagonist, because he mirrored Batman in every way. He was the opposite. You know, and I love that what is your What, in your opinion, what makes a great antagonist and if you have an example of that,

Erik Bork 28:27
well, the three dimensionality, you know that they're the human being that we can understand why they are the way they are, and they're not. People. They're not the same as every bad guy we've ever seen. They're not a one dimensional mustache twirling villain read my mind. Yeah, but they're also not just the standard version of their villain who talks in a nice and cultured way like they're your friend, but they're really, you know, not one that comes to mind is you know, Christoph Waltz and Inglorious Basterds, right? I mean, he that opening sequence, oh, he's just, I mean, he is kind of he is on one level, he is that version of pure evil, pretending to be super friendly, and have a sense of humor and be cultured, and I'm working with you. And we're friends, which we've seen a million times, but this but this that's where the Oh, and the originality comes in the specific way he's written. And the way he performs it somehow transcends even that kind of that cliche

Alex Ferrari 29:26
terrifying. It was terrifying that that seven minutes scene is one of the Oscar I believe that's first seven minutes, just like well, that's just give it to him. Yeah. There's no There's no, look, no question. And someone like Hannibal Lecter, who is an amazing anti hero, like you are literally rooting for a serial killer who eats people?

Erik Bork 29:47
Well, and I would point out, he's not the antagonist in that movie, right? He's the helper of the protagonist. Right? And he's, yeah, he's super interesting. You understand what he wants and what gets in the way of that. So it kind of has his own story but both a Buffalo Bill shaped by Ted Levine, who was the star of the first thing I ever wrote professionally, which was an episode of from the Earth to the Moon. He played Alan Shepard. He's such

Alex Ferrari 30:11
a he's an amazing actor. He, to me

Erik Bork 30:15
Buffalo Bill is what makes that movies people never talk about him. But those few scenes of him being creepy alone are so real and feel so just like not like other serial killer things in movies where the because even Hannibal Lecter is kind of glamorized look at what a genius he is, or whatever she was find. I mean, Anthony Hopkins obviously transcended this, but I always find that I don't love it. When serial killers are portrayed as these like incredible geniuses, they're outsmarting everybody. Somehow Buffalo Bill. Yeah, he's outsmarting on one level, he knows how to like kidnap women and keep them hidden and all that stuff and not be found. But he's just this twisted, sick two days just to see that felt very real.

Alex Ferrari 31:01
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Erik Bork 31:12
And as a major threat feel very real. So whenever you cut to him, to me that you don't get to know him that well, but talk about an antagonist that just powers the whole movie, you just want to see that girl saved and, and you really believe in the reality of Buffalo Bill,

Alex Ferrari 31:28
she puts the lotion on the skin. Yeah, she gets the hose again. I mean, that was a brutal. I mean, it's such a brutal performance, wonderful performance. But then later on, as the series continued, then the hero is Hannibal Lecter, and Hannibal and oh, right, Red Dragon and these kind of films, which is kind of like what, like you're rooting for syrup, like you're rooting for Scarface, or you're rooting for Heisenberg. And you're like, does that say something about me as a viewer? Or does it say something about the writer who wrote that's

Erik Bork 32:03
the manipulation that the writer is doing to make you see things through the perspective of somebody that you otherwise would recoil from? And to give them problems that you want to see them solve, despite not liking certain things about what who they are?

Alex Ferrari 32:19
What is your feeling on the Joker? Like, if we could just dive in a little bit on that character? Because I know, I don't know what your feeling of that movie is. Or if him but I've always found them very interesting. And I think he's a great case study of what an antagonist should do for the protagonist.

Erik Bork 32:37
Yeah, I mean, Heath Ledger was amazing. I'm not a huge dark night person myself, which might be sacrilege to you and all

Alex Ferrari 32:45
viewers, it was a great interview. It's a fantastic interview, it's actually

Erik Bork 32:48
not my genre, I'm actually more of a like, romantic comedy type of guy to believe it or not, I mean, people see Band of Brothers, and they think, oh, high testosterone, guys with guns. He also writes about astronauts. So I was very much you know, after those two people were always trying to put me on cop shows and stuff like that, which was the antithesis of who I am as a writer what I aspire to be so. So a lot of my favorite stuff doesn't have a villain doesn't have that antagonist, because not every genre or every kind of movie has to have sure that's straight up evil person with life and death stakes. Most of my favorite movies don't have life and death stakes. They have important life stakes, but it's not someone's gonna kill me kind of stakes. Right? So I'm probably not the best person to analyze the Joker or the Dark Knight too deeply. So I'm trying to say it

Alex Ferrari 33:35
Fair enough. Fair enough. So okay, so then that's, that's a good segue, though. So then, let's pick one of your favorite romantic comedies, and see what is the the conflict? And how do we get to those? Those Eric, can we break that down? A little bit? Sure.

Erik Bork 33:51
Well, 40 Year Old Virgin is a great one. Yeah, it is. That, you know, I think people think is great writing and was, you know, successful on every level. So we could talk about that if you wanted. Yeah, sure. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, so um, doesn't have a villain, you know, just has a guy who you fall in love with, because he's got this really big problem.

Alex Ferrari 34:13
He's a 40 year old virgin.

Erik Bork 34:15
Well, the problem and now everybody knows, right, like the catalyst of that movie is that they find out the poker game that he's a virgin. And now, he already had a problem. But now he has a pressing crisis problem, which I think all the great main characters have that, you know, in the beginning of that movie, he hasn't necessarily experienced life as problematic prior to that moment, right. He's just going along living his compromised life without necessarily seeing it as compromised. You know, save the cat talks about the main character should have six things that need fixing that we need that we learn about the setup or the first 10 pages. So he's got all these things like you're sort of like looking at his life. going, Wow, this is like, huh, but he doesn't know it, right? No, he's happy. He's happy. Dealing with crisis happens. And then the whole rest of the movie is going to push him and force him and pressure him in the most uncomfortable under siege kind of way to fix those things that needed fixing that he didn't acknowledge. Which means overcome your virginity and figure out love and relationships and and move forward as an adult man who doesn't have life size Yoda is sitting behind him. And that's

Alex Ferrari 35:27
for everyone listening. I do have a life sized Yoda have small Yodas

Erik Bork 35:31
other action figures, they

Alex Ferrari 35:32
seem to be a Wolverine and some hawks in the background. I'm fine. I'm very, I'm very comfortable in my adulthood. And in my own manhood, sir. Thank you. I appreciate that. You know what, 3040 years ago, this would have been an issue but now I'm just one of the guys.

Erik Bork 35:50
Well, you see a Bill Maher's new rule thing about Stanley No, as you know, he got his big trouble because recently Yeah, so he taught us so he talked about on his show last week in his like, new rule that he does at the end. And he really went after it about how people are, you know, people that are obsessed with like, you know, fanboy culture need to grow up and all that kind of stuff. In his view. He was like, he's like, he said, I'm not I'm not happy, Stanley's dead. I'm upset that you're alive. Everybody who reveres comic books as as like high art and culture, whatever. That's his point of view. I'm not saying I agree with it. It was funny. It's

Alex Ferrari 36:30
Yoda up, I'm gonna have to defend Yoda for a second. I bought Yoda in 1999. The conversation would not be as clean today with my wife. I said, Hey, babe, I need to buy a $500 life size Yoda. Oh, I know the girls. I know my kids need, you know, summer school, or you know, or summer camp or after schools. But conversations that have been had today. Same thing goes for all the statues? Or different times of their artifacts of my earlier life. I can't get rid of just yet.

Erik Bork 37:04
To do that while you could because never again.

Alex Ferrari 37:07
No, no. Just note for everyone listening. If you're going to buy a life size Yoda or a giant I have a giant alien egg to if you're going to do things like that. Do it when you're single. Or do it before the kids come? Yeah, that the conversation changes. Yeah. Anyway, back to what you were talking about as to Virgin, but he finally did finally leave he did become a man and had sex and, you know, had a relationship and sold his toys and built up a you know, he said he just changed his life. But that's very interesting that so many writers and understand that is the that the protagonist should not know that he or she needs to change. And they are there.

Erik Bork 37:50
Yeah. Yeah. Michael Haig is great on this too. I sound like I'm promoting Michael,

Alex Ferrari 37:53
who's my friend Michael. I'm great friends with Michael too. And he's Michael actually wrote

Erik Bork 37:57
a blurb on the back of my book that said something like don't read any other screenwriting book, including mine, until you've read Eric Bork the idea so this guy is a match,

Alex Ferrari 38:06
you need to you need you owe him at least a royalty or two.

Erik Bork 38:09
And We team teach a class once in a while for this screenwriting program in Sweden that we're both kind of adjunct professors where we do it all in line from here. But anyway, he talks about his one of his big specialties is the whole character arc stuff. And he talks about how the main character most of the time in most movies is living in what he calls their his identity instead of his essence. And his identity is this compromised version of himself that is the result of like childhood experiences, and pain and issues that that caused the character to become something that's a sort of limited, protected version of themselves that they project to the world, not their full, best self and they don't believe that full best self as possible. They don't even try to access it. They just are comfortable, somewhat in that identity. He uses like the example of LA Confidential, Russell Crowe's character who saw his like, Mother beaten to death by his father while I was tied to radiate or something like that. He says in this like bedroom scene with Kim Basinger. And, you know, he always thought of himself as dumb, and just as muscle and that's how he's been treated. He's just a muscle guy. But he wants to be something more than that. And in the movie, thanks to the relationship with her, he starts to see the possibility of that because she believes in the essence, which is what a great love interest should do. They should see the essence. This is like just quoting Michael Haig, right and you might want him sitting here.

Alex Ferrari 39:33
He's been on the show too many times. I can't keep bringing them back.

Erik Bork 39:36
So they see beyond the he's probably said this already then he they see beyond the identity and they see the essence and they help you become the person that you want to be or you know, the as Jerry Maguire that line I love the man he wants to be in the man he almost is

Alex Ferrari 39:51
Oh, great. Oh, yeah. No, that's an amazing romantic comedy, but it's not. It's kind of a romantic comedy, but it has its own

Erik Bork 40:00
Well, lever. It's got two stories and one and one is the story of Jerry and his sports agent in problem his career. And the second is the love story. Right? So, I mean, those are my favorite kind of movies usually aren't just about, well, these two people be together, but there's something else one or both of them is trying to do that isn't going to affect their future life. And that's really important and entertaining to watch as well. So yeah, that's a great example of that. And the love story is kind of told more from her point of view, which is interesting, usually the main character, you know that they have an a story problem, which is I lost my career and I'm trying to get it back, then they have a BS story. Often it's a relationship conflict or challenge, which is I've met this person, but there's a problem and is it going to work out or not. And while he has some scenes, about his point of view of the relationship, there's more scenes of her point of view on the relationship and you see that she has more to lose and more to gain. She's the one who we're seeing really is in love with him and wants him whereas he's more like on the fence can't really commit while his careers in upheaval, like men often are. And so I just think that's an interesting lesson when you start looking at a story and B story and point of view that it flips how it's usually done, where it gives the B story love interest, kind of like a story from their point of view. So we're really telling two stories in one which is often the case in romantic movies where you're kind of following both people in the couple and their life problems and point of view and what this relationship means to them as opposed to movies that aren't about a romantic relationship primarily are usually we fall in one person and they might have a love interest as the B story but we're always just with them. You know, Chris Pratt and Guardians of the Galaxy he has this like minor B story love interest with you know, Zoe cell, Donna. But it's all from his point of view. It's never from her point of view,

Alex Ferrari 41:52
right? You never hear her how she feels about any of that. And on a Jerry Maguire note, did you know about Jerry Maguire? Did you ever visit the Jerry Maguire video store?

Erik Bork 42:05
In LA? What is that? No,

Alex Ferrari 42:07
there was a there was an installation done. This is these guys are insane. They're VHS heads like they just all they do is collect old VHS. And they collected they have the world record for collecting every Jerry Maguire VHS they could get their hands on and they built a video store out of Jerry Maguire VHS is and the only thing you could rent or buy is Jerry Maguire VHS. And then after the installation, they're like, Well, what are we going to do with all these Jerry Maguire? VHS? They're building a pyramid in the desert somewhere out of I'm not joking. I've seen this if they're trying to get like, the right like it's all being crowdfunded. So they're like getting the money and they're like having an actual architect how they're going to do it, how they're going to seal it. And they're going to build like this pyramid where you could walk into the, to the temple require all made out of Jerry Maguire. VHS is it's

Erik Bork 43:05
baffling. Now is this an irony thing? Are they true fans?

Alex Ferrari 43:09
No. I think it's an I think it's I think it's a well they're obviously they're fans that movie. I mean, who isn't if if you don't like Jerry Maguire you're dead inside. But I mean seriously. I agree. There's like Shawshank Redemption, you know, like Shawshank Redemption, you're dead inside. I'm sorry. I can't talk to you. But do you electronic redemption? Yeah. Okay, good. We could continue this conversation. No, but I think it's a little bit of both to try to do like an artistic irony to like, a commit message or statement. But they are like they've said very much we love Jerry Maguire. Not it's not like we live Jerry Maguire but we just thought wouldn't it be amazing to have a video store that was just built out of Jerry Maguire? VHS is our

Erik Bork 43:51
I got to look that up. I think I have it Jerry Maguire VHS. I also have

Alex Ferrari 43:55
people who send them. People when they put the word out and people would send them from everywhere around the world, they would just send boxes of German because there's only so many thrift shops in LA that you can get them from so he got them they come from internationally. It's it's an insane process project. But anyway, I just thought that would be a nice antidote.

Erik Bork 44:16
Yeah, I'm gonna look that up when we're done here. You see you learn something pictures, you learn something

Alex Ferrari 44:21
new every day. Now, what is one thing? And I know you probably get this question a lot. And since you are a screenwriter in Hollywood and and have had, you know success as a screenwriter, what does screenwriters do to stand out of the crowd? Because there's so much more competition even when you were doing from Earth to the Moon. It's a massive different business than it was then.

Erik Bork 44:46
Well, I mean, I'll say something that buyers will often say like producers, when you're pitching something or like executives at Studio or network or whatever, which is that they love it when a writer comes in with something that only They could have written, right? That's really their voice their personal obsession in some way. Now, not every script can be 100%, your personal obsession, how many personal questions do we all have, but your particular point of view on the world and on the story, and the characters that is different from how anyone else would have done it? I mean, it takes time to cultivate a voice. And that's really like at a mastery level when you have that kind of voice that people go wow, that's, you know, that's, that's Joey Lachman. That's Charlie Kaufman or, you know, Tarantino, parents, you know, Woody Allen, you know, I mean, sort of, yeah. Sorkin for sure. Yeah. It's so it's like cultivating who you uniquely are. So that what you're doing isn't trying to stand out. It's just being organically you as a unique individual that's unlike anyone else than any other writer. And you're applying that to whatever you're writing

Alex Ferrari 45:55
there. And that is a that is a rarity. If you start thinking about how many writers can we name off the top of our head that their writing style is so distinctive, just by like, you read a few lines, you're like, Oh, that's a Toronto script. Or that's a Sorkin script, or that's Shane Black script, or that's a cop Kaufman script, or Woody Allen script. Like, they're just so specific.

Erik Bork 46:17
I don't know that it needs to be so distinctive that anyone could tell right away. But it's just like, I mean, Vince Gilligan same. Yeah, you got a very particular voice he had on The X Files he had, he had on Breaking Bad. And, and so it doesn't have to be so crazy specific that you're like no other writer on Earth, it just has to be you, fully you. And if you're fully you, you're going to be unique. And if you fully can somehow follow what interests you, and what you think is good. I believe that's the path just standing out. Rather than trying to sort of like game the system and make yourself standing. Certainly, there's marketing tricks and people like, you know, get scripts to people in weird ways or whatever. But in terms of the work actually holding up and staying on its own. That's what I would say,

Alex Ferrari 47:03
Yeah, I always tell people that if you if you are yourself, there is no competition. Yeah, because you can't compete against you just can't, it's just this. I'll never be Kaufmann. I'll never write like Sorkin that that's that. And as much as you try to be them, you're never going to outsource and spark never

Erik Bork 47:24
to have them anyway. Exactly. One view.

Alex Ferrari 47:27
Exactly. No, real quick, what any advice on pitching? Because you've been in a couple pitches, I'm assuming in life?

Erik Bork 47:34
Quite a few. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 47:36
Any advice?

Erik Bork 47:37
Um, well, one of the things that are that you're always told when you're pitching this similar, what I just said is that you want to start with why you why this? What is your personal experience, and the more you have an anecdote, that's its own story from your own life that is engaging to people and gets them starting to be on your side, almost like you want them on your main character side, as the writer who came to this and want to do this for certain reasons, that's a great way to begin. And that's part of how you establish that only you could have written this the the way you're writing this and you have reasons for doing so that come from somewhere really genuine within you. So that's one thing. That's certainly one thing. But another thing I would say is like, what's really hard for writers often is to learn to look at their story and their basic idea for their story from kind of 30,000 feet zoomed way out just the concept level or like the logline level when you're pitching, unless you're really in a formal pitch setting where someone's going to sit there in an office and let you have 15 minutes. Any other situation, you're going to bore people to death and irritate them. If you try to explain your whole movie and go into great detail about everything that happens. And writers often make that mistake. Nobody wants to hear that. At most. They might want just the basic concept like a logline. And then if from the logline, they go, Oh, well, that's interesting, tell me more about whatever, then you're free to go further. But writers tend to bore and alienate people a lot. On the business side, it's like you're at a panel and you're talking to some producer manager. If you go up and say, Hi, I have this script, and it's about this and this happens. And this happens. There's evidence of that. And then this happened. And the reason they do this is because the person is just like someone shoot me in the head while they're listening to that they you know, it's uninvited sort of like pitch rape, you know, like

Alex Ferrari 49:26
I'm so gonna steal that my friend. I apologize. I'm telling you right now. Ah,

Erik Bork 49:31
I don't think it's very appropriate thing to say, but it is sort of like that. You're just Why are you hitting pitch violation, pitch violation and act interested in this thing that I have you you know, but I understand because writers are desperate and they want to like they just think if they talk about their story to the right person, they hear all the cool details, that person's gonna love it, but it doesn't really tend to work that way.

Alex Ferrari 49:53
Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. Ask all my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Erik Bork 50:03
Good things that I haven't said already. You can review. We talked about TV a little bit, we talked about film I guess you know, don't expect a white knight who's going to make it all happen for you. And this probably fits your ethos,

Alex Ferrari 50:26
Calvary, the Calvary is not coming.

Erik Bork 50:30
Yeah. And just be be about, you know, be about. It's kind of counterintuitive in a way. But it's like writers who focus all on the marketing and the trying to get their stuff to the right people. It's, it's a frustrating truth that you're probably not going to ever find them, but they will find you when the work is ready. But when the work is ready, you're not desperate for them anymore. Because somehow, you've just gotten to a place where the whole gestalt of you and your writing has elevated to a level that it's the next logical step. Like everything that happened in my career was the next logical step from where I was just prior to that it wasn't like some, even though like Tom Hanks gave me that big promotion, which was a huge thing. But a lot of things happen on the way to that. And a lot of that was in my own kind of consciousness and my own building up of self belief, which came from doing a lot of work, getting a lot of feedback, doing all the things that you do as a writer, to you know, learn and grow and get your stuff out there. But mostly failing, you know, so understand that it's a failure process. Like you're mostly going to have rejection and failure and people that have no interest in you. And try not to get bitter, and blame those people, and have more of an attitude of I'm just going to be always learning and growing. And it's about the work. And what it's really about is the audience. The work I'm doing is supposed to delight an audience. So how do I serve them? As opposed to how do I get served by an industry that seems to not care about me? The more you focus on what you're giving, the more you're going to create stuff that actually people will then want like any business

Alex Ferrari 52:08
That's amazing and also in life the more you give the more you receive. Yeah, very very cool. Can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career

Erik Bork 52:22
probably The Catcher in the Rye

Alex Ferrari 52:23
it's been on the show many times what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life? Oh,

Erik Bork 52:33
good one well, probably the one that I just said because I feel like I'm still having tried to learn every day the whole idea of Don't Be about what you can get be about what you can give and be kind of sort of selfless in that way. It's like a daily challenge

Alex Ferrari 52:47
fair and especially in this business.

Erik Bork 52:51
And the War of Art is a great book all the way up before to hear about you know how to get the right mindset about you know, what you're doing and how to fight through resistance then the part of you that doesn't want to do the work and doesn't believe in it. I did

Alex Ferrari 53:05
an entire episode on The War of Art because it was such an amazing it's really an amazing book and Steven I couldn't get Stephen on the show but he sent me I think boxes of books to give away to my audience like insane amounts of books that he gave all of his books all of his books and he's that that one and then do the work which is another great one the sequel I think to war of art

Erik Bork 53:27
which was a turning pro turning pro and then do the work and then do the work okay, I haven't read do the work but I read turning

Alex Ferrari 53:33
pro Yeah, turning pro isn't a great one. And then the toughest question of all three of your favorite films of all

Erik Bork 53:38
time. The World According to Garp great movie um I think the one that I haven't said already well, the godfather and Austin Powers International Man of Mystery. It's great movie the top 20 For sure.

Alex Ferrari 54:00
It's awesome and and to go back to finish it off the book and the interview with with Tom again. I remember watching Tom Tom Hanks, talk about godfather and how all problems in life can be solved by watching the Godfather all the answers to life are in The Godfather. If you have a deep problem watch The Godfather The answer will appear.

Erik Bork 54:27
I don't know if I ever heard him say that. That's funny though. I thought he would say

Alex Ferrari 54:31
I saw it in the like one of the behind the scenes documentaries on the Godfather like the 13th and 14th anniversary, whatever it was. And then where can people find you and your book? The idea?

Erik Bork 54:41
Yeah, so the book is on Amazon. I have a website that has info about the book and all my coaching and consulting and a million blog posts that are that are helpful for writers. It's called Flying wrestler and why. So flying rescue dragon ball back to World According to Garp when I was looking for sort of like I don't know why I just wanted like so a catchy name for my blog that rather than just Eric Bork blog, or some kind of like screenwriting advice.com, or whatever. And that movie was a real inspiration to me as a teenager I saw in the theater and it kind of changed my trajectory in life in a way as far as wanting to be a writer and even a screenwriter. And it's about a wrestler who's, who's obsessed with flying. But I also thought that that was a kind of metaphor for writing, that you're, there's a transcendent quality that there can be where you're like flying, but there's also a wrestling with the material like a day to day sort of struggle and wrestle. So I like this sort of opposite pneus of that, and how they're both contained in one thing.

Alex Ferrari 55:44
It's a very, it's very deep, sir. It's very deep. Thank you. Eric, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to the tribe today. I truly appreciate it, man. Thanks again.

Erik Bork 55:54
Thank you for having me. Totally. My pleasure.

Alex Ferrari 55:58
I want to thank Erik for coming on and sharing his time his experience and his knowledge with the tribe today. If you want links to his any of his books, or things that he's talking about, please head over to indiefilmhustle.com/bps038. And if you haven't already, please head over to indiefilmhustle.com/mob and buy my new book, shooting for the mob the story of how I was a 26 year old film director hired to direct a $20 million feature film for a mobster. And it was crazy and the story is nuts. And I go to Hollywood, I mean big producers to actors, as well as dealing with a bipolar, ego maniacal gangster as a producer slash subject of the movie, so is really crazy. So if you want to take a read of it, please head over to indiefilmhustle.com/mob. And that's it for another episode of The Bulletproof screenplay podcast. As always keep on writing no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.


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BPS 037: The Toxic Screenwriter Mindset and How You Can Change It

Today we will tackle the toxic screenwriter mindset. That screenwriting mindset. That artist mindset. We discuss the mindset. How the beliefs we have stop and derail our dreams and life. So many of us have belief systems that limit us. Today we are going to break this down and give you some tools to reprogram yourself into the person and screenwriter you want to be.

“To have results that very few people have you have to start doing things that very few people do.”

Please share this episode with anyone you think needs to hear it. Listen to this often. Enjoy and keep on hustling.

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Alex Ferrari 0:00
Welcome to the bulletproof screenplay podcast episode number 37. To have results that very few people have, you have to start doing things that very few people do. Anonymous. Broadcasting from a dark windowless room in Hollywood when we really should be working on that next draft. It's the bulletproof screenplay podcast showing you the craft and business of screenwriting, while teaching you how to make your screenplay bulletproof. And here's your host, Alex Ferrari. Welcome to another episode of The Bulletproof screenplay podcast. I am your humble host, Alex Ferrari. Now today's show is sponsored by bulletproof script coverage. Now, unlike other script coverage services, bulletproof script coverage actually focuses on the kind of project you are and the goals of the project you are. So we actually break it down by three categories micro budget, indie film market and studio film. There's no reason to get coverage from a reader that used to reading tentpole movies when your movies gonna be done for $100,000 and we wanted to focus on that at bulletproof script coverage. Our readers have worked with Marvel Studios CAA, WM E, NBC, HBO, Disney, Scott free Warner Brothers, the blacklist and many many more. So if you need your screenplay or TV script covered by professional readers, head on over to cover my screenplay.com and today's show is also sponsored by indie film hustle TV, the world's first streaming service dedicated to filmmakers, screenwriters, and content creators. If you want access to filmmaking documentaries feature films about filmmaking, interviews with some of the top screenwriters and filmmakers in Hollywood, as well as educational online courses all in one place. ifH. TV is for you. Just head over to indie film hustle.tv. Now guys, today, I want to talk about mindset, and the power of what you believe you can or cannot do. I've been getting a lot of reactions from the last few episodes that I've done, starting with all filmmakers are marketers, and how bad do you want it? Now, if you've been listening to me for a while, you know that I do these kinds of podcasts every once in a blue moon. I didn't do these as often. But nowadays, I don't know guys, I'm just inspired to do so. So I want to put this out into the tribe. And I hope it does some good. So let's talk about your mindset. Let's talk about what you believe now. What you believe is what you will achieve. And that I can promise you, I'm going to tell you a little story about something that happened to me. I don't know if many of you know or not. But I've always struggled with my weight. I have been struggling with my weight. For years, I'm talking about probably 40 years, I've been I've gone up and down with my weight been very thin been extremely heavy, you know, 5060 pounds, difference in every time I do it. And I've tried every diet, everything, every thing, everything I could possibly do to lose weight, and to gain muscle and to do everything I can read books, took courses everything, and never ever seemed to change no matter what I did. And recently, I decided to change my mindset to change what I believe I could do with my own body. Because you know, as you get older, especially us guys listening out there girls listening out there who are in their 40s You know, you're like, Oh, I'm not 22 anymore, I'm never gonna have I'm never going to be in good shape. I you know, I

but those days are gone. I'm you know, it's my body's just too old. I have injuries and blah, blah, blah, all sorts of excuses come up, right? Well, I decided to change my belief system, my mindset of what I could do with my body. And I haven't mentioned this before, because I generally don't like to talk about this, because it's just really it doesn't it's not applicable to what we talk about here on any film, hustle, but I think it is today. Because what I decided to do is I changed my mind to say you know what, I am capable of losing weight and I'm going to do it in the right way. I'm going to do it healthy. And I'm going to do it as slow or as fast as needs to be done. And you don't look at the 60 pounds that I want to try to lose. I'm going to look at the first pound, then the second and then the third. And I'm proud to say that I've lost over 30 pounds and almost 10% body fat within three months. I changed my habits. I changed my routine completely and it has changed my life dramatically. And I want to use this story to illustrate what you guys listening to this are capable of the mind it is one of the most powerful things in the universe. Billions of dollars have tried to replicate what the mind can do. And they haven't yet to achieve this thing they might one day, but not just yet. And by changing my belief system, in my mind truly wholeheartedly by just changing my belief system, and then changing the habit of believing myself to be able to lose a pound at a time, two pounds at a time, a pound a week, now was my goal, pound a week, then I would lose two or three pounds, I'm like, great, my goal is still pound a week. And I would just keep going. till finally I started gaining momentum. And by changing those habits, changing my routines, I was able to start achieving things that I had never been able to achieve with, with my body. Now I've gotten to the place where I'm in probably better shape than I've ever been in my life. And it took three months. It didn't take a lot of time. But I dedicated myself every day waking up at four 430 in the morning, to go work out eating, well changing my diet, changing my habits, and it's paid off. That's what it was so amazing to me that I was able to do this. So quickly. By just changing my mindset. If you change those mile markers in your mind, those beliefs, those kind of boxes that your mind puts on you, and I'll talk about why it does that in a minute. But you can change those those those mile markers, and move them just a little bit forward. Every day. Magical miraculous things will happen in your life. I'm living proof of it. Now, I'm gonna talk about like, let's say for example, income, a lot of us have beliefs of what we can make, financially every year, whether that be $10,000 $100,000, or a million dollars, it doesn't matter the number, but you have that kind of number in your head. And that's your mindset, that's your mile marker, that's the box that you've put yourself in. And then you once you're in that box, and by the way, this box or this mile marker could be for your entire life. I know you know these people, these people who believe that they will never get farther than where they are right now in their life. Because this is their belief system and your brain will do everything in its power to keep you in that belief system.

But once you're in that box, then you start behaving in the way you need to and feel the way you need to feel to make that kind of money every year. After a while the programming becomes hard wired in your brain. So if you believe that you're only going to make $10,000 a year, you're probably going to get a job that's going to support that belief. And you're going to just scrape on by and not actually achieve what you want to achieve. Because that's the way your mind thinks that's the way your mind thinks it is all that's capable of doing. So you will dress the part you will hang out with the people that are around this same belief because you need support for that belief. That's what people always say, and I did a whole episode about it is that you are the sum total of the people that you're around? Why is it that some of the greatest most successful people in history all say you need to find people who are doing what you're doing at a higher level and hang out with them. Because when you do that you're reprogramming yourself, you're reprogramming your mind to believe that you're capable of doing it because now you see examples. Now you see what they're doing. And all of a sudden the programming starts to change. You need to reprogram your mindset for whatever you're trying to do in life. Whether that be writing that screenplay, becoming a professional writer, becoming a professional filmmaker, going into television, acting, I'm using all the stuff for film business, but it works in any thing you're trying to do in life, that could be relationships, romantic relationships, relationships with other people, kind of job offers, you're getting kind of businesses you can build. You need to reprogram that mindset. If on a conscious level, you begin to believe in these thoughts, these new ideas, these new thoughts that are better for you that are going to get you to your goal to your dream, they will begin to go to your subconscious and then they will start to reprogram you little by little, but you got to keep those ideas coming you got to believe and the easiest way to do that is surround yourself with people. start educating yourself, start listening to books, start reading books, start taking courses, start watching things ingesting consuming content that will move you towards that direction and I promise you, your subconscious will begin to reprogram itself because it's a new mindset. You have to treat your mind like a computer. There is hard wired programming operating systems that you need to update Every once in a while, but most people go through their life, not reprogramming themselves angry, bitter, because they don't understand their own computer, they don't understand their own programming. Once I changed my mindset, my belief system, my mile markers in my brain, I was able to break through walls that have been with me throughout my life. It was just just miraculous. I mean, I can't tell you how my life has changed so dramatically. By doing this. And everything I go through, I try to share with you guys because I want to help you through my journey, and share everything I'm learning along the way. Understand that we follow through on what we believe we are, that is the programming of our mind. If you understand that, that little negative voice in your head, that little critic that we all have. And when that voice says you aren't good enough, that dream that you want, that's never gonna happen. Things like that don't happen to you. You're you are who you are, you're the best that you can be in just be happy with that. When he says these kinds of things, that little voice is there to try to keep you in the current state to protect the beliefs you already have in place. It is a defense mechanism by the brain. It does not like change, it doesn't want change. It is something that we as humans have brought back with us throughout our evolution when we were still in caves.

It is something that saved us before but now is something that is hurting us. We don't need it anymore. We need to understand the mind the brain and have it work for us and not have it hinder us or stop us from what we are trying to achieve. Whether in the film business or in life. Changing this mindset, changing your belief in what you can do, will change your life and career. I promise you, I am living proof. If you believe that you can't, then you won't. If you believe that you can make that movie, or write that script, or learn that new skill or get to that goal. Then you will you see the brain will have you eat the same foods every day dressed the same way hang out with the same people do the same things you do day in and day out to maintain that image you have of yourself because it's safe. Your brain is trying to protect you it wants to keep you there. It doesn't want you from it doesn't want you to get hurt Lifetime's are wasted because of this faulty programming in your mind. You need to reprogram yourself to change that mindset. Now I know a lot of you saying But Alex, how about fear? I'm afraid I'm afraid of doing that of making that movie of putting myself out there? Well, let's take an example for a minute. How do firefighters run into a burning buildings every day around the world? They have this insane amount of adrenaline pumping through them. Everything in their body is telling them no. Why would you run into a burning building? You're gonna die. But yet, every day, millions of firefighters around the world do it? Are they all fearless? Are they all Superman or Superwoman? No know, they all have that same fear. They all are afraid. The difference is that they have learned to identify that feeling or that fear. And understand that is a normal thing. No normal human being sane human being is going to run into a building that's on fire and not feel fear. When I started this podcast, I was afraid when I launched indie film hustle, I was afraid when I made my first feature film publicly, I was afraid. But just like all those examples, firefighters rely on the skills, knowledge and preparation they have done to deal with the danger that they're running into, to deal with the circumstances that they're running into. They understand the fear in a safe way, and they go in and do their job. And that's how you need to look at whatever you're trying to achieve. You're trying to lose weight. It is a job you do it. You go in every day. I don't want to hear about fear. I don't want to hear about pain. You just do it. You run a write a script, you set yourself up new habits. You write a page a day, every day. Don't stop. You want to make a movie, do things every day, small, incremental steps that move you forward. If I would have looked at 60 pounds that I want to lose. At the beginning of my journey, I would have never done it, I would have never done it. But because I focused on small, incremental goals, I was able to achieve a larger goal. Same thing happen with this as Meg. Okay, my first feature film, it took me I was 41, when I made my first feature film, when I was more than capable of making my first feature film 15 years earlier, easily, I could have done it, I had the skill, experience, talent to do it. Let's stop me, I did. I created a monster of this. This this first feature film, I created so much out of it, that I held myself down. And I just was petrified to move. But something finally happened that made me change my mindset, change my beliefs and what I was capable of doing. And was I afraid, oh, my God was i i was scared to death. And I just said, I'm not going to do this anymore. I can't, and I moved forward. And I did it every day. I did it very quickly. But I did it every day, and I got the movie made. And all and you know, you guys know the rest of what happened with that. You have to learn to identify the mindset of fear in your life, you have to understand that it's normal. And that feeling is there to protect you, your mind your brain is trying to protect you. It is terrifying for change, it doesn't want to change, it's happy where it is. Because it's again, going back to that programming we had when we were, you know, in the caves.

I'm going to give you some techniques to help you get through the fear. Okay, anytime you're afraid in life, and it's worked for me really, really well. When you're afraid, you're fearful, you're stressed, you're angry. Anytime that happens in your life. Take to stop for a second, close your eyes and take six to eight deep breaths. This is not fufu stuff, just try it. This will deactivate the stress response center in your brain, then you will be able to think through the problem. Clearly. When you activate the stress center of the of your brain, the blood rushes to the area of your brain that is responsible for fear for stress for anger, adrenaline, all that kind of stuff. To get you out of whatever situation you're in, it is just trying to protect you. It is the programming, and it's fantastic programming for survival. In life, when you're out in the caves, when you're out, you know not when you're trying to make a movie, not when you're trying to write a script, not when you're trying to have a relationship or get to a goal or a dream. It's very horrible at that point. But if you know, if you have a lion chasing you, it's a pretty good, pretty good program to have. When you want to take on a new goal in life, you have to take it one step at a time. Because if you take these small increments, it will not activate the stress fear response in your brain. That's what was happening to me with my first feature film every time I thought about it. My brain just went into overdrive, like you know, you can't do that. No, you got to stay right where you are. Because I was thinking of this monster thing. And now if I just didn't same thing with my weight, I would think about all the weight I would have to lose. And then I wouldn't move. Or I would do something kind of half assed just kind of I don't know. And that's what would happen. If you look at the end game at the end goal, whether that be the screenplay, whether that be the big movie, whether that'd be losing 60 pounds, or getting that job or whatever it is. Your brain will activate the fear response and keep you where you are physically and mentally in life. Your mind creates the standards that you live up to you, by your beliefs create the standards that you live up to. If your standard is to write one screenplay, work on one screenplay, let's say right, let's say you're working on one screenplay for three years, and then you complain, Oh my No one's giving you a chance or Hollywood is such a bastard place and it's everything so hard, then that's what you're going to be. That's what you will live up to. I promise you because I've lived it. So many years of my life I wasted because of that crap. Habits are a tool to change this. They are the biggest, most powerful tool you have on this journey, creating good habits and releasing bad ones. I changed my mind I changed my habits so so effortlessly after I decided to believe differently. I never work that come I'm waking up at four o'clock in the morning to go work out. Who does this? I do? Because that's what I believe I need Do that's what I want to do to get to where I want to be. And once you do it what the first first four or five, six weeks rough. But now, my body wakes up at four o'clock in the morning without even the alarm clock. Why? Because it's a new habit, because my mind has been programmed to love it to want it. I read two, three books a week, I never used to do that. But now it's a habit. I can't be anywhere without having a book playing in the background or podcast, or something, or watching a video on YouTube or taking a course online. These are the habits I've changed, and it's changed my life. And I want that same change to happen in your lives. Because the power of belief, the power of mindset, it is that powerful. I promise you. Desire is not enough. Wanting it bad is not enough. You need to change your mind, your mindset, your belief system, your mile markers in your brain, what you're capable or not capable of doing. You need to change those things. And once you start changing, and I'm not until not telling you to change them all at once, or make big huge leaps. Little by little, I believe that I can get up in the morning at four o'clock every day, and go work out like a beast and get into the best shape of my life. I am in better shape now than I was when I was in my 20s.

Why? Because I believe that I can. And I'm proving it. Other things in my life are changing, because I believe that they can change. I believe that I can create a streaming service for filmmakers. And create a Netflix no one's done. No one's doing this. No one's ever done it. But I believe that could do it. And I believe that it can create more value for my tribe. And I did. I never written a book before. But I believed that I could. And because I believed I could. And I started taking small incremental goals, which were 1000 words a day was my goal. Sometimes I hit it. Sometimes I didn't. Sometimes I exceeded it. But every day I worked on it one way or another. And within months, I was able to have a rough draft done. Not years, but months, I had never written a book in my life. And look what happened just because I believed that I could do it. Why? Because I did small incremental steps because I changed my beliefs. Don't let anyone friends, family, acquaintances, teachers, whoever it is, tell you what you are dreaming about for yourself or for your family is not possible. Because I'm here to tell you it is possible. And the power for that dream lies within you. The door to success swings inward, not outward, that power lives within you, and no one else to have the results that very few people have. You have to start doing things that very few people do. Let me repeat that to have results that very few people have, you have to start doing things that very few people do. There's a reason I used that quote at the beginning of this episode, because it's so true. It's actually scary how true that statement is. And I want to say one other thing before I let you guys go today. These are beliefs that I have about everyone who's listening about everyone in the indie film hustle tribe. And I want you to think about these beliefs. And see if we can start reprogramming you right now. All the members of the ifH tribe are doers, not talkers. They have strong minds. They are aware of what's going on now. And they will create systems to help them get to where they want to go. They will write down their goals. And most importantly, they will all hustle. I hope this episode helps you guys out a lot. I've got a few books, I'll recommend in the show notes at Indie film hustle.com, forward slash BPS 037 that will help you on your path, if you will. Again, now that I'm reading all these books, I'm sharing I want to share with you guys so parcher I put more and more of these out for you guys, and probably create a couple more top 10 lists for you guys to check out. But I really do believe what I'm saying here guys, and I really hope that this helps you on your path. It really is all about your mindset. It really is about your belief in what you Can cannot do. So believe and you will achieve whatever you want. Thanks for listening guys. And don't forget that my book shooting for the mob is out for pre order on Amazon just head over to indie film hustle.com forward slash m OB just indie film hustle.com forward slash mob. And it'll take you right to the Amazon link, please preorder. And if you read the book, if you're part of my launch team, please on February 22, go and leave a review on Amazon. The more reviews I get, the higher we can get ranked and we can get that book out to as many people again as possible in the world so I we really, really appreciate that guys. So as always, keep on writing, no matter what. I'll talk to you soon. Thanks for listening to the bulletproof screenplay podcast at bulletproof screenplay.com That's B u ll e t e r o f s CR e n PLA y.com


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BPS 036: What is Maximum Screenwriting with Jeff Schimmel

Today on the show we have screenwriter and author Jeff Schimmel. Jeff wrote Maximum Screenwriting: 25 Commonly Asked Questions and Straight Answers.

Jeff Schimmel began his Writing/Producing career in the 1980s while attending law school in Los Angeles. When not studying for the bar exam, Jeff wrote and sold his original Cold War spy thriller, Archangel, to Phoenix Entertainment Group. Soon after, Jeff was chosen by comedy legend Rodney Dangerfield and award-winning Writer/Director Harold Ramis to co-write the full-length Warner Brothers animated film, Rover Dangerfield. This led to a sports comedy screenplay assignment from Orion Pictures and 20th Century Fox, and Jeff’s first TV writing job as Story Editor on ABC’s top ten sitcoms, Full House.

Next, Jeff co-wrote and produced The Schimmel Papers, a series of several short films for Fox TV’s Sunday Comics, then went on to write for the groundbreaking, Emmy Award-winning sketch comedy series, In Living Color, worked as Story Editor on the WB network’s first-ever sitcom, then served as Writer and Producer on Laughing With The Presidents, NBC TV’s final comedy special starring Bob Hope, with appearances by Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, actors Tom Selleck, Don Johnson, Tony Danza, Ann-Margret, Naomi Judd, and many more.

In 2016, Jeff took over as Executive Producer of Fuse network’s music intensive Skee TV series, working with hip hop artists like Snoop Dogg, Tyler the Creator, Post Malone, and T.I.  Also in the rap world, Jeff was credited as a producer on three multi-platinum selling CDs by Busta Rhymes. In 2017, Jeff’s book, “Maximum Screenwriting,” was released and has earned Amazon’s five-star rating. Jeff has appeared as a guest lecturer at L.A.’s famed Screenwriting Expo, is a popular speaker at prestigious universities and film schools, and has worked closely with the Writers Guild of America to protect the best interests of writers.

Jeff-Schimmel, Maximum Screenwriting, Screenwriter, Screenwriting

25 COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS AND STRAIGHT ANSWERS

The entertainment industry is the toughest business around. To achieve success as a professional screenwriter, you will need every advantage you can get. A writer who faces readers, agents, producers, and creative executives are no different than a soldier going into combat. To have the best chance of survival, both would be wise to bring every weapon they can carry into the fight.

This book is ammunition for the battles every screenwriter will face as it teaches: How to create a bulletproof outline, How to build and breathe life into compelling characters, How to defeat crippling procrastination, How to avoid being ripped off, and How to deal with a myriad of situations other books never mention.

The one thing this book will not do is tell you what the proper margins are for a screenplay, where to place a parenthetical in dialogue or what is supposed to happen on page 30. There are dozens of books and free online lectures for that. Maximum Screenwriting was written for one reason only: to teach you what other books don’t and to tell you what other writers won’t.

Enjoy my conversation with Jeff Schimmel.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 0:37
I'd like to welcome the show Jeff Schimmel. Man, thank you so much for taking the time out to be on the show today.

Jeff Schimmel 2:46
Thanks for having me, Alex.

Alex Ferrari 2:47
I appreciate it. And we're gonna get into the weeds of screenwriting and in your book, amazing book, maximum screenwriting. So first and foremost, how did you get into this crazy business?

Jeff Schimmel 2:59
Okay, it's really a story that I don't think anyone will ever duplicate. I was in law school out in LA and I was trying to finish up in one night I had a dream, I actually dreamed a movie. And I woke up in the morning and said, Wow, I would pay to see that that was such a cool story. It was a cold war spy movie. And I was thinking this was in the in the late 80s. So I was thinking, wow, Charles Bronson could play the Russian spy and Clint Eastwood could play the American spy. And as I was sitting in class, for the next few days, I was just writing notes and trying to remember as much of the dream as I could, through a really bizarre chain of events. I ended up pitching the idea. I didn't even know what pitching was. I ended up pitching the idea for the movie to JJ Abrams, Father, Jerry Abrams. He was a partner in a company called Phoenix Entertainment Group. So it was Jerry Abrams and Jerry Eisenberg. I think they were the two Jerry's. And as a result of that, I sold the story to them, I got an agent. And then I went back to school and I was just doing my work. I never thought I would have another idea worth talking about. But all of a sudden, I had an agent. It was crazy.

Alex Ferrari 4:15
That that's not generally that's not the way it's done.

Jeff Schimmel 4:18
No. And you know, had I known that JJ Abrams was gonna turn out to be who he is, I would have been a lot nicer to Jerry Abrams, I probably would have tried to babysit JJ or something. So that happened, and then right after that, every now and then I would call my agent and I would say is there something I should be doing? And he said, Yeah, study for the bar exam. You know, you're not a writer. You're not really in this business. And my brother, who was a stand up comic did Rodney Dangerfield, young comedian special for HBO, and I was going up to Las Vegas to meet Rodney with my brother. And I called my agent and told him Hey, you know, I'm going out of town to meet Rodney Dangerfield. And he said, You're not going to believe this. I just got the script to Ronnie's new movie, his next movie. I just got it delivered to me. It's on my desk. So if you want to read it, come by pick it up. So I read it in the car on the way to Las Vegas. And when I met Rodney at the craps table at Caesar's Palace, I said, I just read the script to your next movie, and it's not funny. And he was stunned by that. And he invited me to his to his show that night, he invited me to dinner afterwards. And we just sat in his hotel room. And he had a joint one hand, the glass of vodka and the other hand, and I just sat at the way at the other end of the dining table, just telling him why. I thought it wasn't a funny movie.

Alex Ferrari 5:48
And how and where did that go?

Jeff Schimmel 5:51
Um, he listened. And I told him, I said, Look, I'm a big fan. I'm a big fan of yours. And I'm a big fan of comedy. And you know, I grew up watching you on Ed Sullivan and the Tonight Show and I've seen all your movies, and I just can't believe you're doing this. And he took my name and number down, he put it in his row pocket. And I thought for sure he won't remember that. What he did with my number. But two weeks later, he called me he left me a message and he was and he was like Jeff Rodney, you know, I I prepaid a ticket for you. Okay, you know, he invited me to come to New York and stay in a hotel for the weekend. And I ended up moving in with him for a year. Wow. And that's how I that's how I really got started. And it was such a crazy thing because I had no idea what I was doing. He didn't know that I really had no idea. And then one day, there was a knock at the door on Harold Ramis showed up Jesus and Rodney and Harold and I sat in Ronnie's kitchen writing a movie together. And it was so nerve wracking. Because I just didn't have a clue. I love movies. I don't know anybody that's into movies more than I am. But I didn't know what I was doing. And I would have to wait till three in the morning until Rodney went to sleep to sneak into my bedroom in his apartment and read. You know, Syd field? Sid fields? Yeah. Exactly.

Alex Ferrari 7:20
Holy cow, it's you literally got thrown into this business.

Jeff Schimmel 7:25
Yeah, it was nuts. And then as a result of that happening, I came back to LA after living with Rodney and my agent called me and said, How would you like to work on a sitcom? And I said I wouldn't. I'm a big movie writer now. You know, why would I stoop to that? And that's just so dumb. And you know what, that's why that's one of the reasons why I wrote the book, and teach the classes is because no one told me anything. When I was starting out, they never gave me advice. They didn't warn me about the dumb stuff. You know, here's what to say. Here's what to never say, Oh, I've tried to warn people about these things. And you know, some people take it. And some people just think no, you know, that won't happen to me. But

Alex Ferrari 8:17
of course it does it. Of course it doesn't. It doesn't matter what that was that happened in the 80s. That wouldn't happen like that now. Yeah, would. Yeah, of course. So that's the reason why you came up with the book. Yes. And so tell us a little bit about maximum screenwriting.

Jeff Schimmel 8:32
Okay, so I'm gonna show it to you. Here it is. It's beautiful. It's a

Alex Ferrari 8:36
stunning. It's cool. It's stunning.

Jeff Schimmel 8:40
You can get it on Amazon. It has it has a five star rating, which I'm really proud of, especially considering it's higher rated than the Bible. But fair enough.

Alex Ferrari 8:50
I'm gonna use that one of my new book.

Jeff Schimmel 8:53
Okay, so I teach classes across the country. And invariably, this is so interesting, at least to me, it doesn't matter where I go. People have the same questions. And usually the first question they'll ask is, How do I get an agent? And my answer immediately is, why is your script done? And usually they'll say, Well, no. And then I'll tell them Well, then don't worry about getting an agent, you're not ready. And the last thing you want to do is annoy an agent or try to get their attention and then you know, you win the booby prize, they are willing to read and then you don't have your script. But I started noticing that the same questions would come up, like I said, no matter where I would be, and no matter you know, male, female, young, old experience, no experience, they always asked me the same question. So I wrote this book. That's 25 of those questions and my answers, but they're long questions and very long answers.

Alex Ferrari 9:58
Fair enough, free long. So, um, what is one tip that you would give a writer who wants to start right? Right going to try to get a writing gig and TV, or as a feature film and a feature film?

Jeff Schimmel 10:10
Well, you can't get one of those things, you're not going to get a TV job. Oh, by the way, I sound very absolute, don't i You're not. But you're not going to get a job on TV writing for TV, unless you have a great sample, you're not going to get anywhere in the feature world, if you don't have a great sample, or two or three. And you're not going to have a great sample, if you don't outline the hell out of whatever it is you're writing. And that's my biggest thing outlining and, and following through and staying true to your outline and not going off on these crazy tangents. Because if you do, I can pretty much predict you're going to quit at about page 55. A lot of people have have written screenplays all over. Oh, yeah. You know, but they don't finish because they get lost in their own story because they didn't have a good outline. So that's a long answer to a short question.

Alex Ferrari 11:08
You know, I'm when I write I always outline as well, when I wrote my book, when I write screenplays, I always, because it's just, it's a, it's a, what is a roadmap for you on your story, because you will get lost in the weeds, you will get lost in the weeds of the story and the character and the plot and things like that. But if you have these kind of markers on the road, at least you can go back and it doesn't. A lot of people always say that. They feel that, that outline stifle creativity, and I say the opposite. It's just gives you a structure. Like we wouldn't be walking without the structure of our bones, you need a structure,

Jeff Schimmel 11:43
right? And without the structure you might be creating, but you're not creating anything that you previously thought, you need it right? Oh, all of a sudden, you're going off on something else. And it might be great. And that's awesome. But I think if you stay true to the outline, you will eventually finish and then you can always go back and rewrite. And that's another word of advice I have for people don't hate rewriting. No, if it make rewriting fun, and for me that I love rewriting more than I like writing the first draft.

Alex Ferrari 12:16
And also rewriting it, I always find myself in a bad habit. And I try not to do it is rewriting while you're writing. And that's a horrible, horrible thing. It's so many young writers will spend a month on one page, because they're rewriting it and rewriting it.

Jeff Schimmel 12:33
Okay, so do you want me to tell you why writers do that? Yes, it's a symptom of a couple of different kinds of fear that are going on. But look at it this way. If you never finish, you never have to find out if your script is any good, fair enough. So it's, it's much easier to just say, you know, I'm going to go back to page one, and I'm going to right, up to this point, well, let's say I'm on page 15, I'm going to keep going back and honing it and paring it down and punching it up and changing some words and Okay, that's great. But you're going to end up with a solid 15 pages and nothing more than that. Because you're probably afraid that you're going to end up with something that's just not up to snuff. And then you don't want to hear that. And it's all subconscious. It's not like you're sitting there saying, Oh, my God, what if this is no good? No, you're you're not thinking that you don't know why you're doing it. You're just you just continue to keep going back?

Alex Ferrari 13:32
Well, let's talk on that on that subject for a second fear. Fear. You know, there's a great book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, which is amazing book on how to conquer your fear as a as a writer. What are your techniques on trying to conquer that fear? Because it is really I mean, looking at that white screen with the blinking cursor is terrifying. For for most writers, even the most skilled writers in the world, it's for that one second, it is pretty terrifying. So what do you what are some tips on how to break through that fear?

Jeff Schimmel 14:04
Okay, well, I can tell you where this comes from, because I'm not a genius. But I used to sit at my computer and watch the cursor blink for hours, even if I had a deadline that was imposed externally, and I needed to turn something in, I would sit there and stare at it. And it got to the point where I wanted to find out what was wrong with me if I mean, if I could tell people I'm passionate about a script, but I can't seem to start working on it. There's got to be something wrong somewhere. So I went to a therapist, who had just graduated from college, she was doing her a certain number of hours that you need, you know, as a requirement before you can get your license like a residency almost right. So I went to her she was brand new, and I told her what my problem was. And she just like that just answered it. And she explained fear to me and she said, You know, there's a couple of different kinds of fear that fear of success and fear of failure. And I said, Well, I can't possibly have a fear of success. Because I mean, I want to make it and I want to get rich, and I want to have a big house in the hills and you know, have people over and you know, all that. And she said, okay, but you're looking at success in the wrong way. You're looking at it very superficially. But there's a lot more to it than that. I mean, if you're, if you write a script, and you're successful with it, guess what? You have to duplicate that? And what if your fear is that you can't live up to it? What if you can't do it again, you caught lightning in a bottle, but it really wasn't you some things came together, and you got it done, and you sold it, but that may never happen again. So that's a fear. A fear of failure is similar in some ways that what if I write something and it never pans out, and no one likes it, and I get exposed, oh, my God, I got found out, I don't have any talent, blah, blah, blah, whatever imposter syndrome. It's enough to stop you cold. I mean, like, you won't do anything, because you don't want to hear those words. So you have those things happening. And if you're really unlucky, and a very creative by the way, this occurs to more intelligent people, like people that are dumb, don't have this problem. They're not sitting there worrying about whether or not they have enough talent to pull something off. They're, they're basically sitting there contemplating lame stuff that has nothing to do with anything. But if you're a little bit intelligent, or a lot, and and you've got some talent, that is what you're worried about. So you will sit there and watch the cursor blank, because you don't want to end up in one being, you know, having one fear or the other play out in your life. But there is a cure to that. And it's one of the things that I actually teach in my class, I do an hour lecture on how to kill procrastination. And it's actually very simple. And if I tell you here, no one will come to my class.

Alex Ferrari 17:06
You can tell me after we cut the recording, sir.

Jeff Schimmel 17:09
Not gonna get suckered into that.

Alex Ferrari 17:12
Fair enough. Fair enough. Well, before we keep going, I wanted to ask you about your time and in living color, because that that show is, you know, I love that show. And it was such a landmarks series. How did you get involved with UN What was it like, writing for a show that that it seemed from at least from the outside, so crazy, they had no rules, almost like, you know, where Saturn at live might have had some sort of like, you know, rains in living color seemed to me at least had none, you know, at least in the heyday of living color. So what did you think?

Jeff Schimmel 17:48
I think the climate at that time had to allow for, you know, Kenan to stretch out more and do more. And it was really an experiment. If you remember that was right after like Hollywood shuffle. Yeah. Amen. Yeah. And Hollywood was forced all of a sudden to look at different things. I mean, other stuff was happening boys and other it was happening. And there was a lot of stuff that was making people pay attention to different stuff for the first time. So Kanan created the show, and I tried to get a writing job, the first season that it was on. And now I had done two TV shows before that, and I was actually working on a comedy show called Sunday comics that Fox was doing, which was a lot of fun. It was great. I did a series of short films for for that show. And then I went and I pitched to in living color. I didn't make the cut. But the second season, then I did. So I got on the show. And it was crazy. I can tell you that seeing Jim Carrey and what I consider to be as infancy. Yeah. And people like David Allen Greer. I saw David Alan Grier not long ago, and I can't even look at him without laughing because he's so funny. My favorite thing on the show was watching him in rehearsals because he, you know, he's a Yale trained actor. And he would turn the most ridiculous stuff into really funny stuff in a rehearsal, but they wouldn't do that on the show, but I just used to sit there and laugh until it hurt. He was great. There was a day that Jim Carrey pissed Keenan off so much that he was pretty much fired from the show and then rehired later in the day.

Alex Ferrari 19:41
Can you tell us about it? Can you tell us what it was? He gets it?

Jeff Schimmel 19:44
Yeah, of course. He we were in a table read. And I guess there was a sketch that Jim didn't want to do. And he stood up and he did that thing where he bends over and hooks out of his butt. Yeah. Right. Yeah, he did that kind of of pointing his his ass at Kenan and it didn't go over. So I was I had an office upstairs. And I was the only one I think that had a couch in their office. And so Jim Carrey was laying on my couch that day, wondering about whether or not he was going to have a job. And now I, you know, when I think back on it, it's like, wow, that that was wild. Kenan had his own way of doing things. He created his own template for writing sketches. So you couldn't just take a standard or, you know, some kind of pre existing format and use that. So we had to all learn that. And he made every buddy take a crack at pretty much every sketch. So if you pitched something, and he picked it, you would write the first draft, but then it would get passed around to 20 other writers and by the time it got back to you, it was unrecognizable.

Alex Ferrari 21:02
Right. So, you know, being there during Jim's infancy. I imagine he was one of the breakout stars during that time. And I know before Ace Ventura that really blew him up. He was he was the white guy on the Living Color. That's what everyone knew him as his you know, and pharma, martial bill and all of his great characters. That must have been insane to be front row to that.

Jeff Schimmel 21:24
Yeah, it was. And, you know, I think a lot of people probably didn't realize the staying power that what we were doing had, you know, not just within a matter of weeks, months, whatever, but over the years I It's ridiculous. It's on several times a night on, I don't even remember what channel it is. But every now and then I'll see it in the channel guide. And I'll watch it for a few minutes. And it's it's just, you know, silly. But I remember the night actually, Jim was the only cast member that had a an office up on the second floor where the writers were. And one night I was leaving, we used to leave very late at night. And one night, I was leaving probably two in the morning. And Jim was in his office with another guy. And they were writing something and I kind of just walked in and sat there and I was introduced to Tom Shadyac. He was the other guy that was in there. And Tom Shadyac ended up directing Ace Ventura, and I remember them telling me about the script. And I walked out to the parking garage, and I was like, okay, no pet detective. Sure. Why not? Yeah, of course. And when it came out, I don't know if you remember when the book came out Hollywood reporter and a lot of other publications just killed the movie. Oh, yeah. This is a D minus this is garbage. And it was such a huge hit. It really launched Jim, you know, Anton, actually beyond, you know, in living color. But yeah, I remember that night meeting him and Tom Shadyac. And I had something in common. We both wrote for Bob Hope now. And I think I know for a fact, I was a writer and like associate producer on the last special he ever did for NBC. Which was another crazy story that was just rude. I got fired off of that job for caring too much about Bob Hope.

Alex Ferrari 23:26
It sounds like it sounds like you could read at least two or three more books. Just on your stories alone.

Jeff Schimmel 23:31
Yeah, yeah. I love Bob Hope. I mean, I grew up watching him on TV. And in the movies. He did some movies that I thought were funny. I mean, he and Bing Crosby pretty much invented the the buddy comedy. Oh, yeah. Yeah, that question wrote movies. And when I met Bob Hope, I think he was 94 years old. I went to his house and I met him and he would start to talk and fall asleep in the middle of a sentence. So his daughter would wake him up and so he could finish the story. And I was like, wait a minute, we're putting him on TV like this. You know, he's going to be trying to recount his his, you know, performances for presidents and stuff like that. And he's gonna, you know, stay, you know, Yeah, boy, I was with JFK in the South Pacific. Yeah. So I told his daughter who was the executive producer of the show, I love your dad. He's one of my idols. And he he doesn't look good, you know, his, his. His eyes are droopy. Yeah, he's all mad. And, you know, let's not do this to him. And she was like, wow, you know, I'm impressed with the fact that you care so much. And then I got fired. So then more or less story is don't tell the truth. This is not the business, but tell the truth

Alex Ferrari 24:56
to shatzer. Now, what are some Some of the most commonly seen mistakes or issues you see with with first time screenwriters or screenwriters in general that there were their teleplays or their screenplays.

Jeff Schimmel 25:09
Okay, I would say one thing is that a lot of people think the rules don't apply to them. And there are rules, as you know, and I know and everyone knows, there are certain things you have to conform to. And, you know, you could have a great idea for a movie, but you're not going to write it on a cop cocktail napkin and get an executive to read it. So there are certain rules and but there are people that think no, no, my story is so great. transcends Yes. I don't have to follow that. Okay, great. Go for it. A lot of people don't believe that. Stories lay out pretty much the way they have always laid out. Since you know, ancient Greeks were telling each other stories, you know, stories feel a certain way to us, you know, from that when we're laying in bed when we're little kids and our parents are telling us stories or reading us books, we start to learn about how stories lay out. And you don't want to Yes, okay, so someone you probably heard this too. I don't remember where I learned this, but you want to know how a story ends. You just don't want to know how you get there. You know, the the the fun part is the roller coaster ride, you know, the twists and turns that you can't really anticipate. But it does have to pay off in a certain way. And people think no, no, no, that doesn't apply to me. You know, I don't have to do things that way. My script can be 200 pages long. Because it's so the story so good at nothing can be cut. You know, and when I hear like, okay,

Alex Ferrari 26:51
yes, yes. So unless your last name is Sorkin or black, it's really you can't really get away with a 200 page script.

Jeff Schimmel 26:59
No, and and even if you do get away, even if you're someone else, and you do get away with it, at some point, they are going to say, unless you're directing it, you better pare it down. I mean, if you're directing it, you know what you want to get out of it. Right? Do you know Do you know who Ed louder was? No. Okay. By the way, am I ruining your flow here? Please go for it. Okay, so Ed louder was the actor in the original Longest Yard. He played a half an hour the the, you know, the main prison guard. And he was in a lot of great movies. So one day back in the late 80s, early 90s, probably no later than 90, when people when we used to go and print our scripts out at the copy place, bring a little floppy disk. I was in there waiting for a script to be printed. And Ed Lauder walked in. And I started telling him his movie credits, you know, as if he needed to know about own career. And he had a floppy disk. And he gave it to the girl that worked there. And he said, Please print out my script. So he was telling me he wrote a script I'll never forget, it was called Oh, no, Roberta. Okay. And he said, I've been working on this for years. And finally, I'm done with it. And the girl came back with a stack of pages like this. So he said, I only wanted one copy. And she said, this is one. It was a 400 page screenplay.

Alex Ferrari 28:30
He didn't realize it was a

Jeff Schimmel 28:33
no, because do you remember something called Warren script applications? Yeah, that was a precursor to like final draft and movie magic and all that. So he wrote this. I don't know how, but it was 400 pages. And he said, I don't know what I'm gonna do. I can't cut this down. So I said, Give it to me. And I started flipping through the pages. And I said, if you get rid of all the Moors and continues, that you're going to probably be able to cut 50 pages. Like that, right? You know, why don't you maybe do this and do that. And we have this really nice conversation. But I mean, I've seen it in real life. I've seen people write monsters. How do you fix a 400 page script?

Alex Ferrari 29:20
You can make it into a trilogy like like Lucas did?

Jeff Schimmel 29:26
Right? Yeah. But I mean, the things the things that come up are ridiculous. I mean, there's people that say, You know what I want to do I want to be the guy to write the next Iron Man movie. What okay, what probably probably not going to happen unless you can convince the studio based on your previous work that you have the chops necessary to do that. You know, DC Comics and Marvel are gigantic franchises. A studio is not going to look at a brand new writer who has nothing to show and say We want you it's a

Alex Ferrari 30:01
very ignorant way of looking at things. I mean, you could you could argue with what's his name? Kugler? Ryan Coogler, who did Black Panther, he had already done one or two features prior to that. And then they gave him $200 million to write co write and do that. And he did very well with it. Yeah, but you know, that's a that's a rarity. And he's also the director. Right? Yeah. Well, that helps. That always helps. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Jeff Schimmel 30:40
I believe, first of all, at my age, it's so weird when I see myself like, I look like Moses, right? I believe and I tell people, you should probably aim at the bullseye. Like, if you're trying to get somewhere aim at the bullseye, don't try to aim at the edges, and try to be the one in a million person that's going to get away with it. Look, the odds are it's not gonna it's not gonna work. Can I say that? You know, for sure. And you it will never pan out? No, I can't say that. But what I can say is, if you're writing a comedy, let's say you're writing a broad comedy, try to keep it within the realm of successful broad comedies. If you're inventing some other thing, you know, good luck to you. I just don't see it. I can't coach someone and say yes, go for it. Right. You know, and you know, something else that goes along with it is if you're going to write a comedy, make it funny, please.

Alex Ferrari 31:44
Just it's just a small thing, just a small thing. Just a little thing, make it funny. Now, this is a this is a lost art or an art that's never been actually created as an art. But how should screenwriters talk to executives, you know, like, it is a very, you know, it's one thing learning the craft and this and that, but when you get in that room, if you don't know what to do, it's, it's kind of like you didn't even write anything, you really don't need to understand that process.

Jeff Schimmel 32:10
Right? Well, okay, so, a Be confident. Mm hmm. Um, they need you as much as you need them. Without writers, there's, there's nothing to shoot, there's no TV, and there's no films, right. So they do need you even if you're a fledgling writer, you're there for a reason. But you remember in the beginning of Raging Bull, when, when Robert DeNiro, as Jake LaMotta was in his dressing rooms about to go out and perform, and he kept on repeating, you're the boss, you're the boss, you're the boss. That's not a bad idea. I mean, if you're a new writer, and you're and you're, you're not used to going into these meetings, it wouldn't be a bad thing to stand or sit out in the waiting area and just think I'm the boss. I'm running this meeting. I mean, they might be behind the desk, and they may be the one asking the questions, but they're not gonna push me around. At least not too much. You need to have that in your head first. Another thing and I know this sounds really crazy. But you asked me so I'm going to tell Sure. Okay. If you walk into an executives office, and you've never been there before, take a split second to look around the office. Yes. If they've got a Boston Celtics jersey, signed by framed on the wall, talk about it. If they have some unique piece of furniture that a lot of other people wouldn't have, or you would never expect to see that and executives office. Ask them about it. Talk about it, because now you're talking to them about something, you know, they like don't have to just make small talk like this inane, you know, talk, that doesn't mean anything. How are you? You know, what's new? What are you working on? Okay, whatever, you know. But if you can talk to them about something they get excited about? Well, they probably already like you by the time you're getting around to talking business and what's wrong with that.

Alex Ferrari 34:13
That is something that writers and filmmakers underestimate is that power to connect with them as a human being? Right, and you know, all things being equal, you're talented, you got a good script. Everything being equal, they're always going to pick the person that has some sort of human connection with even if it's as superficial as I love Larry Bird to I've got a signed autograph Jersey in my house, right out alone is it goes so long, and they don't teach that anywhere.

Jeff Schimmel 34:43
No, they don't. I do in my life. Of course

Alex Ferrari 34:46
you do in your class or in my class, but like at film schools or you know, or big institutions, they don't teach stuff like that. No, it is unwritten rules.

Jeff Schimmel 34:55
Yeah, I went to him and like I said before, you know, no one told me anything when I was starting out, because for some reason writers, maybe they still do it. But at that time for sure. Everyone looked at each other like competition. Yeah. But how was I as a new writer competition to someone that had a ton of credits and we weren't going up for the same jobs? Why would you not give me some helpful hints along the way? I mean, I'm not preventing you from working, you know, but but that's the way it was. But I like to tell people these things. And again, a lot of them people think like, ah, that's baloney that, you know, that can't be true. No, if I'm telling you, then it's true. I mean, no, I don't get anything out of lying to

Alex Ferrari 35:39
you. Exactly. And that's,

Jeff Schimmel 35:42
I mean, I didn't go to a meeting once and I met a guy. Okay, I'll tell you a great one and a horrible one. Okay. I met a guy who mentioned Myrna Loy. So, Myrna Loy was an actress from way back in the 40s 30s. And 40s. I'm pretty sure. And he mentioned Myrna Loy. And I think he thought I wouldn't know who that was. And I immediately started talking about Myrna Loy and then said, By the way, you know, I used to have an office on the Sony lot, and I was in the Myrna Loy building. Well, we connected on Myrna Loy. And all of a sudden, the meeting just became like two pals sitting in a bar talking to each other. We're still friends that had to have been 10 or 11 years ago. And we're, we're friends as a result of Myrna Loy. Write the bad meeting, I can tell you, this is such a great one. That's probably a better story. I went yeah, but I see. The other one, though, serves a purpose, because I know that you talk about something. Sure. Okay. Something important. So I went to this meeting once at Fox, and I walk in and the executive is sitting there, I sit on the couch, and he's playing those electronic drumsticks on his desk, you know, they're not plugged into anything. They're just like, wireless

Alex Ferrari 37:03
and batter fairly, fairly douchey, fairly douchey. Yes, he's

Jeff Schimmel 37:07
playing the drums on his desk. And he's like, Hey, how you doing? And I said, Great. And so he was like, so your agent sent Jan, and he's still playing the drums. He put the drumsticks down, and I thought, well, now we're gonna get to business. And I'm not kidding, this is real. He picked up a little like remote control thing. And he started flying, a helicopter took off from his desk, and was making this really high pitched sound like he right, it took off from the desk, and he was flying in around the office. While I'm trying to talk to him about the project, what he was allegedly interested in. And he's making, he made it land on the coffee table in front of me. And then it took off and flew around. And it landed on his desk. And I started noticing as if that wasn't enough. He had a bunch of scripts thrown around that were open to the middle and like laid down. He never read anything all the way through. It looked like he just had a bunch of half read scripts. And nothing. That meeting went nowhere. I mean, it was just him playing with stuff. And I just stopped talking. And when I stopped talking, the meeting was over because again, nothing to say, Wow. That was the second worst meeting I've ever had.

Alex Ferrari 38:30
Well, you have to tell us now what the first worst meeting was obviously, the first

Jeff Schimmel 38:33
meeting was so bad that I was thrown out of the office so fast that the valet didn't have a chance to park my car yet. When I came down the valet said, oh, did you leave something in your car? And I said, No, I'm done. And I gave him the valet ticket in the tip and I drove

Alex Ferrari 38:54
away. What? So what happened at that meeting?

Jeff Schimmel 38:57
i This was back in 2008. I had just come back from overseas. I was gone for a while. And my agent said you know because of the strike. Yeah, right. There's very few jobs out there that you can get. So if I were you I would start really paying attention to unscripted television. And I think at that time at that by then I hadn't watched too much reality television, maybe with my wife, I'd lost like a slur or something. But I really didn't know anything about it. And I was so heartbroken to hear that but I started watching shows, and I came up with an idea for a show that was very much like the bachelor. But it was about a guy who met 25 women and he was trying to find the perfect girl for him. The only difference was that he was currently married or was the adulterer. Oh, this was a guy who was ready to file for divorce. Right? Just looking for A soft place to land, like when I get out of my marriage, who's who am I going to view is

Alex Ferrari 40:05
fairly brutal?

Jeff Schimmel 40:08
Well see, I told him, I didn't want to really come up with these ideas. So what I didn't know was that the woman I was pitching the idea to was going through a horrible divorce, right? And apparently cheated on her. And she really, she kicked me out. I was probably about a minute into the pitch, maybe a minute and a half. Right. And she stood up and said, the meetings over. And that was it.

Alex Ferrari 40:37
He's please get out. Wow. That's just bad timing, sir.

Jeff Schimmel 40:43
You know what I think that show could I still think it could work?

Alex Ferrari 40:48
I could, I'll see that on VH. One, or Bravo.

Jeff Schimmel 40:51
I mean, these the people that are on the bachelor in the Bachelorette, they just want to win. Yeah, like at a certain point. I don't think they care who the person is. They just want to be the last one standing. Yeah, of course. Of course. So yeah, I think and by the way, the that they don't know that he's married until you're like 10 episodes. And it's like Joe

Alex Ferrari 41:09
millionaire back in the day. Yeah, I'd love that show. I thought that was a great show.

Jeff Schimmel 41:17
I didn't know I think it could work. I think we're

Alex Ferrari 41:19
now back to your book. A lot of a lot of writers have this fantastic book. A lot of writers have what we like to call the writer's block. What do you suggest about breaking through that kind of like, you know, procrastination, or I am blocked? I personally don't believe in writer's block. I do believe that there's, there's things that stop you. But there are techniques that you can use to get that flow going again, personally. What do you what's your? What's your vibe on it?

Jeff Schimmel 41:50
Okay, well, first of all, I forgot to tell you this, that the my cure for procrastination is in the book. Okay. It's in here. Okay. So go to Amazon and get it. Yes. But as far as writer's block goes, to a certain extent, I agree with you, I think it's a it's like a defense mechanism. Or it's kind of a, you know, it's a it's a creation out of some need for something. But this is what I suggest, go to a movie. That's, that's what I would say, if you have writer's block, if you're sitting there going, I can't think my way out of this. Or it's not just I can't get going. I just can't think my way out of this. Well, I would say this, go to a movie, take it easy, relax, forget about your thing that you're writing. Go watch a movie, sit in the theater for a couple of hours in the dark with strangers, and watch a movie and get lost in it. If you're writing. Let's say you're writing a romantic comedy, why don't you like go on Netflix and watch a couple of romantic comedies? Because you'll start to see how other people figure it out what they were trying to do. Right. And it might spur something, you know, you might go Oh, yeah, you know, I? I could do that. Not that but I could I could see a way out of where I'm stuck right now. I don't think it's that big of a deal. I mean, I guess I agree with you, you know?

Alex Ferrari 43:19
Yeah, I mean, you there are moments where you just like Man, where am I gonna go with this? And I'll either watch a movie or I'll read something or, uh, you know, just kind of get other, get outside of what you're doing whatever that might be. Even if it's going to a park and watching people watch. That alone could spark ideas. Yeah. And there's, yeah, just different ways. You can go back into your own past and your own stories, people, you know, and start thinking about those kinds of things. And it'll just come. But

Jeff Schimmel 43:50
yeah, no, I agree. And when people tell me, for example, another thing that I have similar advice for when they say, You know what, I finished my script yesterday. And I'm already rewriting it, I tell them, you know, what, don't put it in a drawer. And don't think about it for two weeks. This is what I usually say, don't even think about it. Now, that doesn't mean start working on something else. It just means leave it alone. Because if you come back to it with fresh eyes, you'll notice things on your own with that you've never seen before. Yep, you'll see things that you were so used to reading and rereading while you were writing that they just became whatever automatic in your head. But after you haven't looked at it for a while, it'll seem different. And you might spot things that you like more or like a lot less. So before you rewrite, get away from it, and then come back and look at it and also, you know if you're going to give it to your parents and your friend's wife and all that just let them say what they want to say about it, but you know, unless they're giving you the money to make it like people or people don't read scripts, even a lot of writers don't read scripts. So if you're going to give it to your parents and hope to get notes, what are your parents gonna say? Well, if they're Jewish parents, then they're gonna say, oh my god, this is fantastic. I'm Jewish, by the way. Being anti Jewish, I'm the opposite. Saying is like, if I gave a script to my parents, if they bothered to read it, they would have said, Oh, my God, this is fantastic. We're going to show our friends. Sure,

Alex Ferrari 45:28
sure, sure, no question.

Jeff Schimmel 45:29
They get real, a real critique from anybody that likes you. What are they going to say? This is horrible.

Alex Ferrari 45:35
Yeah, it's a rough place to be if you put in that position, generally, if you know the person unless they really truly are good friends. And you really do have your an educated reader, let's say and give really good notes, then that's a different conversation. What advice do you have for screenwriters to help them stand outside of this insane crowd of competition, if you will? Or just product? I wouldn't say competition because I truly don't believe that. I can compete against Aaron Sorkin and or Shane Black, acquit and Tarantino because they have such unique voices. But But how do filmmaker? How do screenwriters generally, in your opinion, try to stand out of the crowd? How can they make an agent or manager or producer an executive take notice?

Jeff Schimmel 46:22
Write something good. Next question.

Alex Ferrari 46:27
Next question. Writers only really, really good but

Jeff Schimmel 46:29
something really good? No, I mean, look, if you're faking your voice, you can't, then it's gonna be tough to reproduce that. Like, God forbid they love it. And then they want you to do the second one. And you're like, Ah, I can't, you know, I don't know how to get back into that. You got to be yourself, speak the way. I mean, I'm not saying speak the way you speak. But you have your creative voice, you have your style, style is really important. Don't copy someone else's, because it's pretty obvious, right? Doing that, you know, but be yourself and be put your energy, your creativity, your view of things, you know, your perception of things, and you live or die with that. Try it. And if people respond to it, then you're on the right track. And if they don't, you might still be on the right track, and they just don't see it. There's, it's tough.

Alex Ferrari 47:27
The whole the whole process is tough, to say the least. Now, what are your feelings on festivals and contests?

Jeff Schimmel 47:37
Probably that they're the worst thing ever created.

Alex Ferrari 47:41
For screenwriters.

Jeff Schimmel 47:43
Yeah. And I know that there are some people that are not going to like me for saying that, but I'm still right. Look, it's math. And sometimes when I teach a class, I actually do the math on the dry erase board. And I'll show them, you know, if this many people sign up, and they pay this much, and there's this many weeks of judging that goes on, and blah, blah, blah, whatever. It's a money making factory. That's what it is for the people that run the contest. They can't guarantee you even if you win, even if you're lucky enough to win, you're gonna get a giant cardboard check for X amount of dollars, they're gonna put it on their website, that picture of you holding it, can they get you an agent now? Can they get you a deal? No, they can make a lot of money. And by the way, you won. But let's say there's 5000 other people that didn't win? Well, they're going to get bombarded with emails saying, you know, you came so close, you were a quarter finalist or semi finalists or whatever, buy this book, take this class, do this webinar series with us. And maybe next year, you know, you'll win, and people are going to buy that stuff. But here's something that, I think is really the most important thing I can say. If you do the math, and you figure out how many scripts they get, how much time they have to read them and get notes on them. And you know, get them get them analyzed before they can pick winners. The math is impossible, unless they're hiring, just schmucks off the street, pretty much to do it. And that's what they do. And I can tell you, I know for a fact that some people I know have taken part or participated in contests, where high school kids with no experience reading scripts whatsoever, were paid minimum wage, to read scripts and write notes, cheeses, and that's real. That's true. That's a true story. So and by the way, I've been invited to be a judge in screenwriting contests. I've always turned them down because I'm not going to be hypocritical and say, Yes, I'll be a judge. But you The what they would tell me the invitation would say, you know, you don't really have to read the scripts, read a few pages. If it looks like it's going somewhere, finish it if it doesn't just say so. Well, I would hate to be the guy that paid 125 bucks to enter that contest and find out nobody's reading it. Oh, yeah. Brutal. It's brutal.

Alex Ferrari 50:24
Brutal, brutal. Yeah. And, finally, I'm going to ask you a few questions. I ask all my guests. But this one last question. Is there anything that you can say as far as creating a daily winning routine for writers so they can actually get their scripts written in a timely fashion? Which is that that's the key point timely fashion, because you can write one sentence a day, and that's a routine, you know, but that's not really going to help you out. So what would you suggest?

Jeff Schimmel 50:53
Okay, well, I would suggest doing something other than what a lot of people in my classes have done before I've met them. And that is that they, it takes them years to write a script up not months, years. And all yes, I'll meet someone, let's say, I'll meet someone in, you know, New York, they, they come to my class, and they tell me I wrote this script, it took me three years to get it to this point, and blah, blah, blah, whatever. And I'm almost done. I'm almost done with it. And I'll see them again the following year at a class. And I'll say, How did it turn out? I'm almost done.

Alex Ferrari 51:36
I have, I've interviewed enough professional screenwriters. And I've spoken to enough and I've done enough writing myself to know that professionals don't do that. Professionals just do the work. They take three to six months tops, to write a screenplay, most of the times even faster than that. And they just go and it's just a machine and you just keep writing. And you're and you just keep going this whole like, this is the only script I'm working on for three years, you're done. You're just not done. Well. What

Jeff Schimmel 52:08
are you going to do next time? I

Alex Ferrari 52:09
mean, right now the three years like,

Jeff Schimmel 52:11
let's say it turns out great. You go to a studio, they love it as a sample. They say we're not going to buy we're not going to make this movie, but we love it. We think you're unbelievably talented. We want you to take a crack at this project. The next Iron Man. Yes. What do you do? Tell them? Well, let's see. It's 2019. Now, what are you doing in 2022? When I have the first draft done, they're gonna throw you out. Right, so. Okay. To answer your question, staying on track is a function of having a fantastic outline. Yes, if you create that outline, and you have it, it's increments that are manageable. You know, I don't think outlining in your head is great thinking is great. Put it down in some form, either, you know, look, a program like Final Draft, has the index card function. Yes, it's great. Why index cards you can. And that's what I suggest people do. I actually like the physical cards, because there's something about writing out a card, holding it and tacking it up on the wall. But if that's what you're gonna do, then write a card at a time. Look at the wall and say, you know, the next thing in my outline was this chase scene. I'm going to write that chasing right now. And if it takes me all day to do it, well, I can go to sleep tonight looking at myself in the mirror when I'm brushing my teeth, and I can say, I did what I set out to do today, I did accomplish that thing. It might be two cards, it might be five, it might be one, I don't know what it is for you. But if you have a great outline, and you stay on that plan, you cannot help but get to the end. Just don't go back. Right. Oh, go back to the previous pages go forward. You have plenty of time to rewrite it later.

Alex Ferrari 54:06
Now I'm gonna ask these questions ask all my guests all my guests. What advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business today?

Jeff Schimmel 54:17
Wow, I had so many thoughts fly through like

Alex Ferrari 54:19
your second Secondly, right?

Jeff Schimmel 54:21
Yeah. Um, read a lot of scripts. And make sure you understand what how they tell a story. A lot of people write way too much dialogue. A lot of people write too much, you know, action description. And you know, if you have too much action description on the page, nobody's gonna read it. They're gonna I've seen people do it professional readers like and just beaters. They'll flip through and and if that stuff's important, well, you made sure they would never see it right? overriding it. So don't do that. So I would say read a lot of scripts until you're comfortable with the idea of how scripts exist. And the other thing I would say is watch a lot of movies. If you're going to write movies, you better watch movies. And it's funny, because I'll have friends tell me, I mean, people that are they're not as old as I am. But let's say they're 4035. And they want to write the next great western, which there's not a huge market for that. But let's say they want to write the next great western. I'll start talking to them just you know so excitedly about the original 310 to Yuma, or, you know, Once Upon a Time in the West course, or something like that, and I just watched them gloss over. Oh, I've seen either one of those movies. Oh, yeah. I've never seen The Magnificent Seven, even though that's not really a Western. But how in the world? Are you going to write a Western if you haven't seen westerns?

Alex Ferrari 56:05
If you ever seen Sergio Leone, work? Like how can you sing it? Or cleanse work? Like how can you?

Jeff Schimmel 56:11
Yeah, and I'll just start naming I'll just start rattling off movies. And they're like, no, no, never saw it. I'm not saying see it, so you can copy them. I'm just gonna see what it's done. You got to see it. You got to see how it's done. Right?

Alex Ferrari 56:26
No question. And it was funny. I was actually doing this is years ago, I was a colorist doing a music video. And this hot, big time hot, you know, young director who's like 20, you know, to 23?

Jeff Schimmel 56:37
I know it is, but

Alex Ferrari 56:38
and he was. And I'm like, Hey, so do you want me to do kind of like a Blade Runner thing here? And he's like, I don't know what you're talking. Like. You're a music video director. And you haven't studied Tony and Ridley Scott's work? Like, are you kidding me?

Jeff Schimmel 56:54
Yeah, no, they're not. You know, there's a lot of executives that have never seen the movies classic movies that their studio

Alex Ferrari 57:02
owns that Godfather, or?

Jeff Schimmel 57:05
Yeah, I want to tell them go in the vault. You know, and and get it for free? I'm sure you could watch it for free. Yeah, I mean, come on it. But you've got to know you have to watch movies and you have to read scripts, I would say best. Absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 57:20
Now, can you tell me what book had the biggest impact in your life or career?

Jeff Schimmel 57:25
About this stuff? Anything

Alex Ferrari 57:27
life or career?

Jeff Schimmel 57:30
Okay, it's not technically not. Wow. I don't want to paint myself into a corner with this. Okay, how about this? How about I tell you a script, I read that change things for me. Okay. Okay. I don't know where I was. I know that I read the screenplay to the firm. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Great movie. And yeah, it was a good movie. I I remember one night I read that script. And when I got done with it, I was so impressed. And I just thought wow, the movies the movie, but this graft if I could ever write something this tight. Yeah. You read with my tight? Yeah, man. If I could do that. I'm going to be really happy. Another script I read. I read the script for Hannah and Her Sisters. Oh, yeah. I wanted to jump out the window when I read that because I was like, Damn this. There is no fat in this. There's no wasted word. Yeah, you know, and Woody Allen's dialogue he's writing stammering it's not it's just it's unbelievable. I wrote to him I wrote after I read that script, I wrote a letter to Woody Allen and I said, if I could ever write anything that comes anywhere close to the worst thing you would ever write, then I can be happy and I can quit and he wrote back to me and he said wow, thanks I'm glad you like my movies. So he took the time to write back to me but he No encouragement just thanks. Thank you, thanks for recognizing that

Alex Ferrari 59:03
um, what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life

Jeff Schimmel 59:11
keep your mouth shut.

Alex Ferrari 59:14
Very good.

Jeff Schimmel 59:16
So basically, Ash don't tell the truth. Because really doesn't matter. I mean,

Alex Ferrari 59:24
in certain scenarios, I would agree with you Yes. Don't tell the truth in certain scenarios, especially when you're dealing in in a creative art in the film business with studios and executives that I get completely

Jeff Schimmel 59:33
Yeah, they you know what they want a as this sounds, I don't know people are probably if they ever watched this, you're gonna be like, God, you should have kept your mouth shut them. Okay. But But look, here's the thing. What's most important to higher ups in the entertainment industry is is that you're a team player. Yeah. They want you to be a team player. They really don't care what your opinion is, especially if it's different than theirs. Right? So really, they just want to be a team player. They want to know I can count on this person to back me up. So that's why I'm saying like, keep your mouth shut or you know, say the right things. But listen more

Alex Ferrari 1:00:13
talk less. Yeah. And three of your favorite films of all time.

Jeff Schimmel 1:00:19
Wow. Okay. Well, Casablanca

Alex Ferrari 1:00:22
Yeah. And that comes up quite often on the show has to

Jeff Schimmel 1:00:24
it has to I had a neighbor that hated it and photo was one of the worst movies ever made. And then I forced him to watch it with me. And I would start it and stop it every 30 seconds. And by the end of it, he got it. He understood why it was so great.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:39
He's also dead inside. But that's another story.

Jeff Schimmel 1:00:43
But but here's the thing. His idea of a good movie was Dude, Where's My Car?

Alex Ferrari 1:00:48
Well, hey, you know, hey, look, when I was in high school, John Claude Van Damme was the greatest actor of all time, you know, so

Jeff Schimmel 1:00:55
I get it. So. So anyway, yeah. All right. So that the Godfather, of course, and Godfather two, but I think those are so great that they don't even really belong on the list because they're beyond a list. They've transcended the list. Right? So but I could just I mean, Once Upon a Time in the West is gray. You know, The Wild Bunch for certain reasons is great. Anything with William Holden, where he plays a real smart ass American like Stalag 17 is great or executive suite is great. Pretty much almost anything with Montgomery Clift is great. Almost anything was Steve McQueen is Nash and say almost anything but like bullet

Alex Ferrari 1:01:42
not bullets. Insane. Yeah, bullet. They would

Jeff Schimmel 1:01:46
never make that movie now. Because the scope was complicated enough to where I think executives would think that the audience couldn't follow it now.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:55
Yeah. And let alone trying to do all I mean, all that well, Mo be all CG now. It wouldn't be right, isn't it kid? Yeah. Great. Great. Well, that going down that line, the sting? I mean, staying?

Jeff Schimmel 1:02:06
Yes. Fantastic. I mean, when you get Robert Redford and Paul Newman, yeah, either. I just remember sitting there in a theater looking at them thinking, why can I be as cool as either one of them? And then of course, Butch Cassidy which, you know, I loved William Goldman, like as a person. Yeah, of course, his movies are just ridiculously fantastic. But I remember reading an interview with him where he said he hated Butch Cassidy. Why didn't he hated it? Why? He said he thought it was too cute. Like, the characters were too

Alex Ferrari 1:02:43
funny, and everyone's a critic.

Jeff Schimmel 1:02:47
And I would, I would have loved to sit with him and talk to him about it and convince him that he was wrong.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:53
That would have been a good interview, that would have been a good conversation with Azalia. And then where can people find you in the work that you're doing?

Jeff Schimmel 1:03:00
Okay, so the work that I'm doing right now, I never talk about. But the work that I've done, or about me and what I'm doing as far as teaching and stuff. Yeah, yeah. Okay, they should go to my website. It's called Maximum screenwriting.com. It's got a lot of stuff in there. There's one like video lesson that's in there. It's like eight minutes long. And it will tell people about things they've probably not considered when they're writing. But I set up classes around the country for writers groups, and I usually teach weekend classes I pack so much in and it's eight hours, Saturday, eight hours Sunday, and if they read the testimonials on the website, they'll understand what happens during during those classes. I'm really happy. I've had screenwriting professors from universities and film schools come and take the class. All kinds of creative executives have taken it. Obviously writers take it all the time. But that's what I do. And I love doing that. More than anything right now. Because I like to see the light go on. You know, when I tell someone something and boom, I see the flicker.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:10
Fair enough, man, Jeff, thank you for dropping some major knowledge bombs today and also some amazing stories along the way too. So thanks for taking the time out. Okay, Alex, thanks. Thank you, Jeff, for coming on and dropping those knowledge bombs on the tribe today. If you want to get links anything we talked about in this episode, as well as links to his books and to his seminars, just head over to indie film hustle.com forward slash BPS 036 for the show notes. And if you haven't already, please head over to indie film hustle.com forward slash mob to pre order my new book shooting for the mob, a story of how a young 26 year old Alex almost made a $20 million movie for a mobster as well as running through Hollywood meeting big movie stars. studio heads, billion dollar producers and so on while constantly dealing with a bipolar, ego maniacal gangster. So again, go over to any film hustle.com Ford slash mob to go to the Amazon or you could just type in shooting for the mob anywhere on Google and it will come up and you can buy it there. So I really appreciate the support guys. And that is it for another episode of The Bulletproof screenplay podcast. As always, keep on writing no matter what. I'll see you next time. Thanks for listening to the bulletproof screenplay podcast at bulletproof screenplay.com That's B u ll e t e r o f s CR e en PLA y.com


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