BPS 028: The Art and Craft of Writing a Comedy with Peter Desberg & Jeffrey Davis

If you ever wanted to know some of the secrets of how to write a comedy then today’s guest might be able to help. Peter Desberg and Jeffrey Davis are the authors of Now That’s Funny!: The Art and Craft of Writing Comedy, a new book that provides an intimate look into the minds of twenty-nine of Hollywood’s funniest comedy writers from movies and TV shows like:

  • Saturday Night Live
  • Frasier
  • The Simpsons
  • Everybody Loves Raymond
  • Monk
  • Modern Family
  • The Honeymooners
  • There’s Something About Mary
  • Dumb and Dumber
  • Cheers
  • Home Improvement

The writers were asked to develop a generic comedy premise created by the authors, giving readers a window into their writing process. There were no rules, no boundaries, and no limits. What emerges is an entertaining look—illuminating and hilarious—at the creative process behind hit comedy TV shows and movies.

Enjoy my conversation with Peter Desberg and Jeffrey Davis.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 0:04
I'd like to welcome to the show Peter Doesburg. And Jeffrey Davis. Thank you guys for doing the show.

Peter Desberg 3:49
Thank you. Our pleasure.

Alex Ferrari 3:51
So let's get started. How did you guys first meet and well first, how did each of you get into the business? And then how did you meet?

Jeffrey Davis 3:59
How did we How did I get into the business either? Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 4:02
both of you guys.

Jeffrey Davis 4:03
Well, Geoffrey got into the business. I love it. When I talked to myself. Third person. I was born into it. I'm three generations. My uncle was a composer. My dad started at MGM in 1947. A lot of the stuff of cm Turner's stuff he wrote, he went into TV in the early 50s, and ended up producing things like The Odd Couple of that girl and, and forward and my stepfather was a producer of television felt movies back in the 70s 80s and 90s when they were going through that golden age of TV movies. And I had a stepmother who was a MGM player and who was one woman named Marilyn Maxwell best movie is champion with Kirk Douglas, which is an independent film you've ever seen it? So I kind of grew up around it. And I've been around it my whole life did go back. I was bi coastal before Peter Allen invented the term so

Alex Ferrari 5:07
Okay, fantastic. How about you, Peter?

Peter Desberg 5:10
Well, for openers since since this is a podcast and you have the power to edit, I'm going to answer the first part of your question about how Jeffrey and I met, okay. Um, I'm sitting up here in my house one day, and Jeffrey is down in his car. Our kids are having a play date. They're eighth graders. And he's waiting for a son to come down, honking the horn, the kid is not coming down. And he's dreading walking in and having another Oh, hi, what do you do? My name is here's what I do. organization. So he comes in, we start talking. And one of the things he tells me he's writer, but now he's working as an academic. Jeffrey is too much to tell you is the current chair of the screenwriting department at Loyola Marymount University. Very cool. So he says, but now they're asking me to do academic writing. Do you do any Well, being that I was a college professor as well. I started laughing, saying that's all I've done forever. And as we continue talking, I told him about a project that I did years and decades ago, that I got started with where I was working with a I'm telling you the long version of the story. If you want, I can edit it. Now. It's fine. Go ahead. So I was working with a some woman calls me up one night and said, I heard you do research on the psychology of humor. I'm doing my master's degree in that area, would you be on my committee? So I said, Well, what are you doing? So I get on, I'm doing a chapter on the psychology of humor, sociology of humor, Anthropology of humor, and I'm interviewing a famous Hollywood comedy writer. I said, Who was it? And she gives me a name of the fellow whose name is on the cornerstone of the Writers Guild building. Its first president. Okay. This fellow wrote a couple of the biggest Bob Hope movies Lemon Drop, kid. I mean, lemondrop kid,

Jeffrey Davis 7:12
obviously, oh, he wrote for Abbott and Costello,

Peter Desberg 7:14
Costello. And so I said, How do you know this guy said he's my dad. So um, his name was Edmund Hartman, for people like to know. And, and so I said, Well, I'll tell you what, I'd be glad to work with you. Let's throw out your three chapters. Could your dad get us some of his friends to interview and say, Oh, no problem. And so we did. For hers, as we started asking these people instead of just, you know, we wanted to avoid interviews, like, well, you know, what got you into comedy? Well, when you're a fat Jewish kid, on the Lower East Side, you got to learn how to fight or be funny. We didn't want that kind of project. So we constructed a bunch of situations and had them solve problems that comedy writers have to solve. So I'm telling Geoffrey the story. And all of a sudden, he said, who were the writers you interviewed. And as I'm telling them, each name, his eyes are lighting up bigger and bigger. Everybody you mentioned, used to play poker around my crib with my dad every week. And he'd literally jumped off the couch and said, Let's do it. So within 20 minutes, I met

Jeffrey Davis 8:23
at Tom Cruise style.

Peter Desberg 8:27
Being a psychology professor, he yelled at me for that. And, and so from, from 20 minutes of just having met, we agreed to write a book together.

And we changed the face of it. Notice we're suddenly shifting into now that's funny, the the book together, where what we did was we wrote a generic comedy premise, gave it to each of the writers we're working with, and we said develop it. And surprisingly, they did. What we were worried about is when you ask somebody, tell us about your creative process, you have no idea if they're telling you anything that's remotely accurate. One of our one of our favorite phrases is the highest form of fiction as the autobiography.

Alex Ferrari 9:16
It's very true. So

Peter Desberg 9:19
we were really lucky. We got these quick. We had show creators show runners, I mean, amazing people. And they did it. We got to give them this premise. And right on the spot, they just started making stuff up in the room while we're sitting there.

Alex Ferrari 9:35
Thomas have an amazing,

Peter Desberg 9:37
unbelievable,

Alex Ferrari 9:38
so you guys wrote this book. So you got that wrote this book, show me the funny and you basically interviewed some of the top and legendary comedy writers in Hollywood. Sorry,

Peter Desberg 9:48
but it's called. Now that's funny. Oh, now

Alex Ferrari 9:50
that's funny. Okay. Oh, that's funny. Okay. And, and you interviewed these amazing creatives. So what was the what was the biggest revelation? you guys found from interviewing so many amazing and talented people. If there's one or two that you can

Jeffrey Davis 10:09
well, there is one common denominator and that is we asked them, was it a story or character that they started? That's a great way to watch them do it. See, that's the great thing about the interviews, is they're really in a way not interviews, because we mostly we asked some questions, but we mostly stepped aside. And they develop the same premise 24 ways. And they all neither, they didn't say character or story, they said conflict. That, for me, that was the biggest revelation. And then also the, the diversity of stories, the how different each story is, and how many lessons there are in that it's kind of, that's kind of cool. I think, you know,

Peter Desberg 10:54
there are so many books on how to write comedy, or just how to write scripts. And yeah, each one makes it sound like, well, here are the steps you have to do. This is the way you write. And it was so nice to see that exploded in real life, where each person is taking a really idiosyncratic view. And we were just fortunate to be in the same room.

Alex Ferrari 11:15
I must have been insane. So which, let me ask you, can you discuss a little bit of a few of the Comedy genres or sub sub genres? Like, you know, fish out of water? Or, you know, is there are there a few of those that you can even discuss for the listeners?

Jeffrey Davis 11:31
I'm sure. In the book, you mean that when they ended up selecting? Yeah. Like that? One? I think that's the best one.

Peter Desberg 11:41
Um, yeah, what? One, what we told him at the beginning was, here's our premise, feel free to change it in any way. You know, our view was, Hey, your comedy writers, you're not going to, you're not going to follow rules anyway. It's not like they're accountants, they're going to do what they want. So we said, we'll just start out by stepping out of your way. And the premise that we we did was basically a 50 ish woman, husband passes. And they've always lived very well. So she assumes that they're going to continue living well. And she didn't know that they spent everything they made. Okay, so the sudden is an early 50s woman with no skills and no work experience. She's left out Nicole with nothing. So she has to move in with her, her young corporate daughter in New York. And one of the one of our favorites was this fellow threw out the daughter, and had the mother get into a work relationship with a man who ends up being a Bernie made off character. And so all of a sudden, she has to expose this horrible thing that he's doing. So I mean, they went all over the place. And, you know, in a number of cases, several male writers said, you know, I've actually never been a mother or a daughter. But I sure know a lot about fathers and sons. So that's what I'm going to do. We said, please go for it. And one of the things that we enjoyed the most, was that a lot of them thought out loud for us. And they actually narrated while they they work. The premise on one of our favorites was Walt Bennett. It's a little tough to use the C word now in any public forum, but he wrote for The Cosby Show, yes. And fair enough. And Walt was so incredible, he said, Okay. So let me see, typically, if somebody says they're coming to visit you, you know when they're coming, so I'm going to have the mother come unannounced, because that's going to create more conflict. So then he says, Okay, so if she's going to come announce, what's the worst time she could possibly select, to make her entrance? Well, it's late afternoon. The boyfriend's over at the apartment. They're in their little bedroom. There's a knock on the door. So it says how can I make this even worse? Well, she lived in a big house in the Midwest. And now she's coming to this little efficiency apartment in New York. And normally a person comes to visit with a couple of suitcases. She's got the moving band downstairs. And as she's walking up the stairs, the cousin is lugging up this huge sofa which will barely fit in the door, and certainly not in the apartment. So at each point, he's constantly saying it was Jeffrey was saying conflict using How can I create the conflict and how can I escalate it? How can I make it worse?

Alex Ferrari 14:46
That's a great that's a great tip for me cuz a lot of people will write comedy in that ad any conflict

Jeffrey Davis 14:52
you can have. I mean, that that's the problem with with comedy even more than drama, which I think We pretty much all know that comedy is harder to write because everybody has an opinion. I mean, there are more agreed upon standards of what makes a Drama Comedy is very much personal taste and what you'd like. I mean, like, I'm sure we would like same things.

Peter Desberg 15:16
Obviously, Jeffrey and I have proven that point. Many times.

Jeffrey Davis 15:19
The other one that I particularly like, is Lou Schneider, who was in the room on everybody writers room on Everybody Loves Raymond. There's grandparents in the premise, but they're kind of off to the side. And it really just says it, he took the grandpa and just says that they don't really understand. They relate more to their granddaughter than their daughter. And he made the whole story between the mother who's kind of a fish out of water with her parents there. And he had a whole wonderful bid, I think, like some of my students have said, I've taught them has taught them a lot about how you can construct character, where he has the 80 year old father teaching the 50 year old mother how to drive. You know what I mean? And how you, you

Peter Desberg 16:11
know, he took he took the standard joke of dad teaches his teenage daughter to drive and he switched it to 80 and 51.

Jeffrey Davis 16:19
One of the things that one of the things that I learned is that, and I've been, as I said, I've been around it, most of my life, but you know, you can help someone get better at comedy, you can give them a lot of techniques. But I think one of the things we learn from these people is comedy writers are different. They think differently. They think, as one of them said, I think Peter Casey said it's not in the book. But he said, he said to us before the interview, it's a matter of thinking to the left. And and drama writers don't have to do that. And I'm not putting down drama, right? It's just a gift. But to

Peter Desberg 17:02
give you an example, we interviewed Eliot Schulman who was the was the show runner for home improvement. And he told us a great story at the beginning. We said my, my father committed suicide. So I went back East. A few years later, got my sister, and we recreated the drive from his office to the bridge where he jumped on this cab and you can't imagine a heavier emotional moment. And I thought my father was a German Jew, and kind of cheap. I wonder how much he tipped the cab driver on the way to his own suicide.

Alex Ferrari 17:45
That is a that's a one. I mean, that's a wonderful line. That's such

Peter Desberg 17:49
and once again, it just shows you as Jeffrey was saying. They see things that a lot of people miss. Um, we had a comedy team, cinco Pauling, Ken Dario, they wrote My Dinner for Schmucks, there are a whole bunch of things. One of the movies they wrote was bubble boy. Oh, I remember bubble boy. So it told us a story that they went to producer with the script, said I really liked the script a lot. But do you think maybe by the first act, we can lose the bubble?

Alex Ferrari 18:20
The movie is called Bubble Boy.

Peter Desberg 18:22
So can turn to the whispered Yeah, we can call it boy.

Alex Ferrari 18:31
That's G. Know You Were talking to you, guys.

Peter Desberg 18:37
I'm just following along with what Jeff was saying about conflict. One of our favorite interviews, we interviewed Bob Meyer, who among other things, was the showrunner for Roseanne for a number of years. And tell him who he mentored. Oh, he

Jeffrey Davis 18:51
went to Chuck Lorre.

Alex Ferrari 18:55
Who's this? Who's this? Chuck? i You speak of? Yes, exactly. So anyway,

Peter Desberg 18:59
he he is such a consummate Pro, that it took him like, you know, some people sort of fumbled around to get started. He said to us, first thing I'm going to do is I'm going to take these characters, and I'm going to cast them so I can see the actors I'm writing for. Okay. And it took him maybe five or six minutes, and he wrote a perfect little sitcom, like a network sitcom version was unbelievable to see how quickly and fluidly he wrote. So Jeffrey looks at him and says, Could you darken it a little? And I'm, I wish that I could transmit the look, he got on his face that sort of impish grin. picture somebody with their hand on a dial saying, how dark Do you want it? Mm hmm. And so within a couple of minutes, he says, Okay, I'm going to kind of lose the mother. And I'm going to take this, this young corporate girl and I'm gonna change her occupation. She's Gonna be a private detective, because that constantly puts her in danger, which will keep a lot of conflict going. And she's very pretty an audience is like pretty people. But I got to give her a problem. So I'm going to give her a pretty serious drug habit, because that makes her an underdog and we like underdog or still, we're still comedy, right? Still comedy got it. And so she's got the big case that she's solving. And she finally has the opportunity to break the case, she's got a secret witness, who is going to reveal everything. So she's got this meeting set up, and she's on pins and needles waiting to go to this meeting. And to calm herself down, says I'm going to stop home and change, which means do some drugs. The minute she opens the door, there's everybody she knows, ready to do an intervention Jesus. And, and literally, and I mean, he was making this up in the room as we were talking to him. And as soon as he finished, he said, You know what, I'm going to pitch this story. You know,

Alex Ferrari 21:01
I was about to say, Why aren't these guys pitching these stories? These brilliant,

Peter Desberg 21:05
several people told us they pitch the ideas that they came up with. We told them everything they come up with is theirs. We just have the right to reprint it. Yes.

Alex Ferrari 21:15
That's awesome. Now you talk a lot about, you know, we're talking a little bit about structure and comedy. Is there. Is there such a thing as like, a comedic hero's journey, if we're gonna cause some sort of structure in regards to just writing either television, or feature films.

Jeffrey Davis 21:35
I'm not aware of one. I'm sure there is I'm sure there are people who try to sell that hero's journey. I'm not a big fan. I'm sorry, I'm not a big fan of the hero's journey. I understand there's valuable things in it. My, my problem is what's happened. And I think we're kind of leaving this period, there was a period in the early 2000s, late 90s, where there were all the gurus, you know, mentioned any other names, we all were they are where it became almost SDN, you know, where you had to follow, you know, I went to one, I remember, a producer sent me to one, I was working on something, I'm not gonna mention the person's name, who I went to, and I think the producer wants to pay $1,000 for my then partner, and I go and, and he got to, he got to a point in it, where he said, Well, now he had it. He had like, a bunch of steps. And he said, you know, he said, When you go to the studio, don't mention my steps. Because I remember calling up my father, who I went to, you know, for advice, because he was a great comedy writer, and he said, call the producer right now and get your money back get his money. Yes, comedy? No, I mean, I think, pretty much, particularly with this generation. I think, you know, they have seen so many movies have read so much television. I think they're starting to read again, hopefully, you know, they have, they have an innate sense of structure. The problem I have is when teachers put structure ahead of character and conflict, character and conflict is where structured comes from, not the other way around. And so often it's easy to teach strut, well, you know, it is easy to teach structure.

Alex Ferrari 23:34
Yeah, it's ABCs. Right?

Jeffrey Davis 23:36
What difference does it make? What happens on page 15? If you don't know who the characters are?

Peter Desberg 23:41
Now, I don't want to be divisive here. But I think we have to divide your question into two parts. Okay. So I'm hoping you'll tell me what they are.

Alex Ferrari 23:52
Okay. The two parts of my question.

Peter Desberg 23:56
Sorry, sorry. I was just messing with you. When you talk about comedy writing comedy, you have to distinguish a bit between writing for TV and movies. And your question really pertained to writing film comedy, where you have a story with an arc. And with it's the opposite in writing, like sitcoms, because although you have arc blitz for every episode, the characters have to kind of remain the same, because you're counting on those characters being there next week, with their same characteristics. And so the arcs of the stories are very different. And they're much smaller because everything has to kind of remain the same.

Alex Ferrari 24:41
Makes perfect sense. Yeah, yeah. Obviously, striding for films and writing for TV is two completely different worlds. And because you have a course of a season to kind of do arcs, but even writing comedies I don't, it's not like Breaking Bad, you know, which I could argue is a comedy, but But but dark. It's a dark, it's dark. Yes. But

Jeffrey Davis 25:04
yeah, I could I agree with that. But I would also point out that comedy off network comedy is more and more serialized. So so, you know, a lot of feature writers are writing for television now. And I remember as a kid, hearing my parents talk about, oh, gosh, we'll never get so and so because they only do movies, they don't want to do television. And that is all flipped now. Oh, it's complete. Everybody wants to do television now?

Alex Ferrari 25:33
Nobody. So what do you guys think of this whole new streaming revolution that we have going on with with the Netflix and the Hulu's? And, and I think

Peter Desberg 25:41
it's wonderful. I

Jeffrey Davis 25:42
think it's great. And I'll tell you why. I think it's great. More work, less money. When you're starting. I have two students who graduated two years ago, and are on the reboot of very successful the reboot of one day at a time, which is a Hispanic, we're gonna Moreno is in it. A lot of you know, an actress who was on six feet under for the whole run is the star of it, Rita Moreno is in it. And these two young writers are the junior writers on the show. And yes, they're making a lot less money than they would make this as us or other network shows. But they're getting the break, which would have been much harder to get before. They're learning their craft from the two showrunners. One is a graduate of LMU, many years ago worked on How I Met Your Mother and a billion other shows. And she and her co creator. It was on everybody loves right. And normally or comes in every day at 93 years old. And he is yeah, he's amazing. He is amazing. And so yeah, it's a wonderful. It's a really good reboot. I mean, I could say some not so great things about some other reboots. I think it's I think it's great. Because I think we have more. It's basically now who's not making pro product. Right?

Alex Ferrari 27:09
There's so much product going on, but it's insane. Yeah, I think last count was like 500 shows, wow, on on scripted shows on television right now are on. You can't even say television anymore. But on your

Peter Desberg 27:23
Jeffrey's comedy history was bad two really, really tightly controlled sitcoms, and six jokes per page.

Jeffrey Davis 27:34
But six to be like six,

Peter Desberg 27:37
you told me was six. Oh, I lied. And I quote.

Jeffrey Davis 27:41
Well, they used to make you put jokes in the head, nothing to do with the story. It

Peter Desberg 27:45
was a joke. Joke per page count.

Alex Ferrari 27:47
Really so so that structure it's

Jeffrey Davis 27:49
really an old school thing. You know, shows like taxi and cheers. And Frasier broke that, you know, and also the Mary Tyler Moore Show broke that because those were what you know, write writers say those were really beaut those were beautifully written shows did go broke fat

Peter Desberg 28:07
when, when we interviewed Peter Casey and he talked about Frasier said, we'd be in the writers room, and somebody will come up with a brilliant joke. And then somebody else would say, You know what, only 10% of our audience is going to understand that. And Peter Casey said, that's why we're keeping it in. We're keeping our 10 percenters the things that made that show so brilliant,

Alex Ferrari 28:29
you right, because there are a lot of jokes like over, you know, people's heads in that show. I remember that show, even when I was younger watching it. I would laugh, but like some things I just wouldn't get. And then as I watch it as an adult, I'm like, Oh, I get that now.

Peter Desberg 28:42
Once it went to cable and beyond, it's everything is unshackled now and you can do pretty much what you want. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 28:50
I was gonna ask you, do you feel like because of these new opportunities for writers, they're really, there are the shackles are off. I mean, the creative freedom on some of these shows, these Netflix shows and Hulu shows, Amazon shows there. There's nothing that would ever go on network television.

Peter Desberg 29:05
I mean, if you go back to the days where, you know if the hero was going to kiss the arrow and one foot had to be on the floor,

Alex Ferrari 29:12
right?

Jeffrey Davis 29:14
Yeah, I'm surprised. The Netflix model is very different. They, they don't interfere in the same way that the network's do. And, you know, they'll give you notes but from what I understand from the people, I know who we're working with Netflix that they just love it. I don't know anything about Hulu. I don't know. I don't I know they, they did a wonderful. They took them out. This is not comedy, but they took the Margaret Atwood book. And they're doing that and she was happy with it. She's letting them do a second season, which was not the novel. So So Handmaid's Tale. Yeah, I think you know, is there always going to be crap? Yes, yes. Always good.

Peter Desberg 30:00
But it's much clearer crap now. Yeah,

Jeffrey Davis 30:02
I think the one thing that, you know, everybody says, Oh, the network's will go away. I do not believe they first of all the networks on a big chunk of basic cable, so they want something. The big hit on the networks right now is the show called this as us which is created by a comedy writer. And it's sort of melodrama has comedy and drama in it out the definition of melodrama, but has that. And I know somebody who is running the Jennifer Lopez show, which is a detective show. And this is the network's what they do, as opposed to, to Netflix and Hulu is they gave this guy who's a very successful guy, they gave him the note, make it make the scenes more like this is us, which is a family show. And he's writing a cop show Jesus was so that still goes on at the network's I think networks did Spartan up a couple of years ago, they put they went back to summer replacement. They realized they had to when I was a kid, you know, I forget someone would go off on the Smothers Brothers would come on or you know, they would be summer shows. Now we're back to that on the network's they have to to keep the ratings up.

Peter Desberg 31:22
But it's interesting and almost every writer that that we interviewed, managed to say something bad about who they had to write for. A number of them said, You know what, I've made enough money as a writer now I'm becoming a playwright. Because nobody can touch a single word in my script unless I permitted, right. And they were just so sick of the idea that somebody is always taking this stuff and rewriting them or reinterpreting them.

Alex Ferrari 31:53
Yeah, do you? Have you guys seen that show Grace and Frankie, that Jane Fonda is great. It's amazing. It's amazing when I saw that show come up. And obviously, it's not aimed at my demographic. I'm a younger guy. But I've had I've had millennials. I know millennials, who are huge fans of that show. Well, they were very

Jeffrey Davis 32:13
smart. And the way they wrote it is that they had they had a younger demographic because of you know, they don't pay attention to demographics. Anyway. For who's watching Sharon, what are they watching? So I can see as a form of demographic, it's not the network. It's not

Alex Ferrari 32:34
the deals. No, no, it's changing the bunch are seeing

Jeffrey Davis 32:36
younger generation in the show. Hmm. All I can say is there are so many shows on television that owe a huge debt to Neil Simon and the odd couple. If Grace and Frankie is not the odd couple of God, you know who created that show? Is a Grayson. Frankie is Martin Kaufman, who created co created friends. sort of see it's a deep version of friends.

Alex Ferrari 33:05
Yeah. And but yeah, the point was greats and Frankie's like that show would never I don't think ever hit network television.

Jeffrey Davis 33:13
Oh, no. Well, it would have during the time of the Golden Girls, The Golden Girls and look at that. You know

Alex Ferrari 33:20
that? You heard how have you heard that there is a monster, like resurgence in the Golden Girls like the fan base is all these millennials. It doesn't surprise me at all. It's great. I was watching it when I was a teenager. Yeah, I was in love with that show. I was just such a wonderful show was so well written. The characters were so well developed.

Jeffrey Davis 33:39
Susan Harris isn't amazing, right?

Alex Ferrari 33:42
I mean, it was wonderful. And you and then you go back and you go Oh, my God. I was a teenager watching The Golden Girls like how is that? But it's amazing. But when

Jeffrey Davis 33:52
again they made sure that the stories were universal. Yep. And then that works didn't want to make a show about older women past 50 You don't want Estelle Getty was doing that. I don't know if you know this when Estelle Getty was playing be Arthur's mother. She was actually younger than Bea Arthur.

Alex Ferrari 34:10
Really? No idea why it was good makeup on her part that

Jeffrey Davis 34:16
you well, you know, the great thing is now that's funny has all of these stories in it to about show business and about the history of showbiz? Peter tell the

Peter Desberg 34:29
one of the interesting things is that everybody practically that we interviewed said, You know what we find that we're telling you stories that we don't normally tell in interviews, because of the difference in format that we've done. And all of these things came up in really interesting ways. One of my favorite stories. You mentioned before you were a fan of Frasier. We asked. We asked Peter Casey about about the chair Yeah. And he said, We treated that chair like a character. Frazier was a spinoff character from cheers. And he was getting a chance to build a new life. He was now gonna be a minor celebrity in a secondary market. He had a building and the the coolest part of Seattle, he hired one of the best decorators and every style and curve of furniture and color matched and was coordinated. And then all of a sudden, at the last minute his dad moves in. And that chair was the reminder that you're never going to have the life you planned. It actually showed you a concrete version of the conflict. He said, we brought in a set designer to find the ugliest fabric that he could find. Then he brought in a swatch book of the every color that you could have of that horrible pattern. It picked the most clashing color. And then they brought it in they they created the chair, and then they they took a utility knife and slashed it, and then put in duct tape all over it. Oh, cheese. And there it was in every show. You said, see.

Alex Ferrari 36:15
That's brilliant. Now, what are some of the common mistakes you find writers making when they're writing comedy?

Peter Desberg 36:24
Go ahead. You're wrong. Yeah. I think common mistakes. I can I mean, okay, I can give you. One usually is that you create a joke that's too esoteric. Because a joke is based on shattering an assumption. And people don't know enough to make that assumption. It's not going to be funny. If I make a joke about a postal delivery guy, well, we have a whole bunch of reactions we have to the post office. And that's going to work. If I give you a joke about a pastry chef, and how we use the wrong kind of shortening.

Alex Ferrari 37:12
No, not so much. Only the pastry chefs in the audience will get it

Peter Desberg 37:16
exactly. And so that's one thing you're always going to do. Another is there's a level of tension you have to get in order to get a laugh too little and you don't get it too much. And you gross out the audience. So it's it's another place where we're terrible things happen.

Alex Ferrari 37:35
Okay, so So movies like There's Something About Mary, which arguably is a classic.

Peter Desberg 37:42
Well, we have a director who wrote that no wrote it,

Alex Ferrari 37:45
right. And that movie at the time, I mean, for the audience, for members in the audience who weren't around or didn't understand that time when that movie hit. It was a gigantic hit.

Peter Desberg 37:56
And 11 years to get made. Did you know that

Alex Ferrari 38:00
that did not know that. But it doesn't surprise me at least because that movie is

Peter Desberg 38:04
it was a great story that Ed told us that he took it around, couldn't get it made, bumped into one of the Farrelly brothers, who said, how did that move your viewers to reset it never got made? He said, You're kidding. When I give talks to students, I used that script as an example. We got to make that

Alex Ferrari 38:21
movie. And they were hot, hotter than hot at that moment in time.

Jeffrey Davis 38:24
Exactly. And they got it made, I think within months.

Peter Desberg 38:30
Again, you could see, we just talked, for example about how much tension do you put in there? The fact that you're making jokes about a person who has an intellectual deficit is a touchy subject for a lot of dowel movie,

Alex Ferrari 38:45
it was a touchy subject.

Peter Desberg 38:46
That scene where all

Alex Ferrari 38:49
the hair the hair seen?

Peter Desberg 38:51
Yeah, you've got gonna borrow some of that moose, right.

Alex Ferrari 38:55
I mean, in normally they teach you not to kick the dog, but they do more than that.

Jeffrey Davis 39:02
But the trick was that, and John talked a little bit, John and John Strauss wrote that with a director, and they had the script out there forever. But what Ed talked about was the fact that you liked these people so much that you liked everybody in the movie, except maybe not even that Dylan was such a nerd.

Peter Desberg 39:32
No, but they use such a great device. When when we when we interviewed Charlie Peters. He told us that one of the things he loves to use as a device called a third object, he gave us an example of Beauty and the Beast. Were at one point they're having this this lavish dinner outside and they see a wolf and the beauties their heart is pounding and She's frightened and the Beast is salivating looking at dinner. And it showed you immediately, there's their separate reactions to the same object, and you immediately saw their character differentiation. And so, in, There's Something About Mary, the, the, the intellectual deficit boy acted as a third object, where one character was really empathic, and went out of his way to be nice to him. And the other character would kind of kick them and push them around when nobody was looking. So saw their personalities, by the same way they treated the third object in this case, that boy,

Alex Ferrari 40:35
was just as you were talking about that I just think Franken beans just came in Frank impedes fracking, such a great movie.

Jeffrey Davis 40:47
That's my favorite scene, of course, this because, and then the other thing that this is about the stories you learn is that is, is that one of the fair, I think Peter fairly said, we're gonna we're gonna do this, Ben, with you playing yourself at 17. And he said, no one will ever buy that. And of course, we look at the movie now. And we say, it wouldn't work without that. Say it's funny how these decisions get made in comedy. And there's a lot of stories like that in in in the book.

Alex Ferrari 41:21
Now, I've been around and been working with stand up comics, probably for a better part of a decade. And I've, I've been around the sad clowns. Alongside, some of them are my best, some are my best friends. And just from your point of view, because I'm sure a lot of the people you interviewed, or we've talked to do some sort of stand up comedy, in one way, shape, or form. Do comics, in your opinion, need therapy?

Jeffrey Davis 41:51
Like that, because I'm a I'm a, I'm a client, or a patient

Peter Desberg 41:58
as somebody who has done that very thing. Okay. First, going back one of the, we found two interesting things. One is that a number of the people that we wrote, had graduate degrees in math and science. And what's interesting is, in when you're in a writers room, they kind of break down into two groups. They're either story guys or joke guys, and all the ones with math and science backgrounds. We're story, guys. And, uh, I have probably a third to a half of the the writers we interviewed had standup experience. And obviously, they were the joke guys. And it's a very different approach that they took. And you, you may find this interesting that we, one of the questions we asked, after all this was done was, how do you know if your stuff is funny? And, you know, I remember back to a guy interview decades ago, who said, you know, that's a really tough thing for me as a writer, because I sit in my office by myself working on a movie, and I come up with what I think is a good joke. So I walk out to my secretary 14 years and say, Do you think this is funny? And she says, yeah, that's real funny. He says, with stand ups, it's a survival skill, you tell that you tell the bit, you've got a half second to find out if it worked or not. And you learn to survive by getting that instinct of is this gonna work? And interestingly, we had four or five teams of writers. And they said, we find out instantly if something's funny if we make our partner crack up.

Alex Ferrari 43:35
That makes Yeah, that makes perfect sense. They're, they're their own bouncing boards.

Peter Desberg 43:39
And they're always trying to make the other guy laugh, and in their

Alex Ferrari 43:43
heart, and they're probably harder to make laugh than anybody else, because they know each other's techniques.

Peter Desberg 43:47
That's right. It's it's interesting that I worked with a friend of mine named Greg Dean, I don't know if you've run across him, who is a stand up coach in Santa Monica. We wrote a piece of software teaching people how to write jokes. Okay. One of the things we talk about is that basically stand ups rant, that's what they do. They talk about stuff that frustrates them that gets them angry that and so again, you have to find material that other people are also going to find kind of annoying, and then find a take on what you do. And so again, we get this idea that that stand ups are either angry people or they're a lot of people like you know, Louie CK, one of our favorites. mm x about personally painful stories, but makes them funny. Yes, he does. These people are depressed. But I'm telling the Louis black story but

Jeffrey Davis 44:48
Oh, I love Lewis. I mean to. He was, you know, his, his, his persona is he's a very, very angry guy. And I hurt a couple years ago i Some idiot journalist was, you know, who obviously hadn't prepared was asking him a question. It was one of those events and they were, he was probably getting interviewed like 20 times in this one red carpet event and they said, so are you this angry offstage as you are on stage? And he said, I hope this has distorted pewters thinking, Yeah, I'll be in big trouble later. He said, No, obviously not. If I were I would have had a stroke by now. You know? He's gotta be angry that no, he said it's his persona. And he just talked about he actually talked in that same interview about Jack Benny, who I worship and who was actually in real life and incredibly generous person work to with Rubenstein I think to save Carnegie Hall was incredibly generous, he would be helped so many people, but that's not funny.

Alex Ferrari 46:01
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Jeffrey Davis 46:12
Cheap is funny. Generous is not in a so that's what Louis Louis Black was saying. And also, I don't know if you know, Louis black started as a playwright.

Alex Ferrari 46:22
That makes sense. He's he's he so sharp. He went, he went to

Peter Desberg 46:25
Yale Drama.

He has a master's degree in drama.

Alex Ferrari 46:28
Wow. Hey, what

Jeffrey Davis 46:30
the hell no know I lay right next to me school.

Alex Ferrari 46:35
After being around stand up comics for so long. You, you see their stage persona, and then the guys off stage are not generally that very rarely do I see one that's on all the time. And if they are on all the time, they're gonna burn out sooner rather than later. I was

Jeffrey Davis 46:51
thinking about one because he died the other day, Jerry Lewis, Yahoo. God, yeah. Who was on all the time and needed to be the center of attention. And I'm sure that it came from an enormous insecurity and his childhood or something. I mean, don't have to be a psychologist to figure that out. But yeah, I was much sadder about Don Rickles. Because Don, life was a great guy.

Alex Ferrari 47:20
I heard that from people that he was he's just a very sweet man was a great guy. He was a sweet man. He was not nearly as not what's the word I'm looking for?

Jeffrey Davis 47:31
Sona. But if you really look at my I took my son six months before he died, I took my son to see Rickles. And he was still in a wheelchair, but his mind was clear. And he was really funny. And, and the thing is, is that if you really look at it from our perspective of 2017, it wasn't a lot that mean, you know, and it wasn't right. You know, the one thing I wanted to just go back for a second, one of the things that we did in the book is we asked a lot about process. Okay. And one of the things that I've noticed is that what most people say, I don't know, this always got into it, because we did a lot of editing we, the book would have been the Bible, if we have you know, it is once you start writing, don't go back. Keep writing, you know, on the first draft, if there are places missing, keep going. A lot of people liked outliers, but just as many didn't know, in television, I don't know if you're aware of this, but this might be of interest is people don't outline first in comedy. You sit in a room and this is what I thought that the great thing about now that's funny is that is that you actually are going into a writers room. And the thing Peter talked about, that Bob Meyer did is exactly what goes on in writers room. You just keep pitching ideas and stories. And and then you come up with something and you'll be in there 1213 hours in in, in the real world. But one of the things they've all said is yes, you can outline. But in TV, you break a story in a room. I know they did that even on breaking that you sit with the other writers, and you break the story. Then someone goes out and writes the outline, and then I know should madman which had comedic elements. All of the scripts were written. The scripts were written in the room with all the writers together, which I've never heard of before, but it worked. And guess what? All the writers except one on Mad Men had been sitcom writers, including that leader or whiner at an actor announces it. Who was on Golden Girls. That was his big thing. Break. The guy that created madman was a sitcom writer. You know that Alan Ball started as the sitcom writer that I made that makes a lot of sense. Yeah, he was uncivil. Okay, the play right like Sorkin you know, and but the big advice I've gotten over the years and that's in the book is, once you start, Don't stop, keep going to get a crappy first draft. And, you know, because otherwise you'll be on it forever. I, I have a colleague who, who keeps talking to me about a screenplay he's been writing for 20 years. Well, maybe if you're writing a novel, you might take 10 years, a screenplay? No,

Alex Ferrari 50:45
no, I've talked to numerous screenwriters on this show. And, yeah, the professional they're all obviously professional screenwriters. So when when I tell them stories of you know, I've had this guy who's been on a screenplay for three years, they're like, that's, they're not professionals. They're, they're professionals. Don't do that. No, one's there's no, there's no honor. In the struggling writer who took five years to write the movie that there's this, there's that's ridiculous.

Jeffrey Davis 51:13
I think you're writing a novel that is unique. That's

Alex Ferrari 51:18
really different for that's a different form. But as far as screenwriting, or sitcom writing or anything like that, it'll take that long to do IT professionals knock it out. And the best advice?

Jeffrey Davis 51:30
Yeah, and I think the thing you're saying is, and I completely agree with it, is they have to learn to manage the, the feeling that it sucks. They have to deal with that and that professional does,

Peter Desberg 51:45
to give to give a little empirical support to what Jeffrey saying, what's

Jeffrey Davis 51:49
the word empirical mean? I don't think

Alex Ferrari 51:50
that is it. That's a 52 cent word,

Peter Desberg 51:53
sir. Well, I'd like to say I'm bucking the trend, but you'll say that's 100 cent word.

Alex Ferrari 52:01
It's a phrase, sir. That's a phrase. He said you were saying?

Peter Desberg 52:04
Yes. Before I was what? There was a huge study on creativity at Berkeley. And they found two traits that cut across every field. In terms of creativity, the creative people, a have the ability to tolerate ambiguity, and be the important one. They've learned not to judge. They avoid judging, they suspended. And what Jeffrey's always telling me is students will write a draft or two and they say, Oh, this is no good. And they don't want to go on because they haven't created a masterpiece in their first draft. We, we like, we like Hemingway's phrase of right drunk, edit sober.

Alex Ferrari 52:50
That's a that's a great way. It's a great, great saying. And it's so true, is it I know Mamet said it but I think he took it from Hemingway. What writing is easy. All you have to do is sit in front of the typewriter and bleed.

Peter Desberg 53:04
Yeah, watch the blood spots appear on your forehead.

Alex Ferrari 53:07
I'm not sure who said it. But I don't Mamet said it. But I think he took it from me.

Peter Desberg 53:10
Right? It was Hemingway. It was it was anyway. Yeah. No, the

Alex Ferrari 53:14
best advice I ever got for screenwriting, or writing in general, was from and I say this story all the time on the show, but I'm gonna say it again. Jim Uhls, the writer fightclub Sure. He said, If you're going to begin writing, sit down, write a screenplay. Do not stop. Go all the way through, do not edit, just write it out. When you're done, put it in a drawer. Sit down, start writing the second screenplay, and then do the same thing. And then start writing a third screenplay. When you're done with the third screenplay, pick up the first screenplay and then start rewriting that because by now you're a better writer than you were when you first started. That's great advice. Isn't that amazing?

Jeffrey Davis 53:51
It's amazing. We had Pedro Almodovar to the University last year, and I love his process. He's amazing. He will write three things at once. And he'll have different desks which I think Freud was the one who started that he only has two. So he'll he'll have different desks. So if he gets blocked on one project, he'll go to the other he doesn't stop and and I think that's kind of what you're what you're saying is is if if you get frozen on something, rather than suffering over it, go to another project and problem will probably be solved when you come back. I always recommend even though it's not a screenwriting book, I always think the Anne Lamott book Bird by Bird, any writer should read

Peter Desberg 54:42
that before free go past this point. An old comedy writer that I interviewed, and this was before the days of computers we was writing on a typewriter said whenever I find myself blocked, what I do is I go back and I take the last two pages I wrote and I tear them up Oh God, I don't care how clever it was it got me into this corner.

Alex Ferrari 55:05
Yeah, that's so you purposely delete what you just wrote in order to get you to start writing again.

Peter Desberg 55:12
And you may not realize that you box yourself in but you did.

Alex Ferrari 55:16
No, of course. Of course. That's Oh, that's, that's brutal, but yet very effective.

Jeffrey Davis 55:21
Yeah. That's a good Yep. Peter, I don't think you've ever shared that with me.

Peter Desberg 55:25
But I have, but you don't pay attention when we talk.

Alex Ferrari 55:28
I'm glad. I'm glad I could bring you two together a little way. And

Peter Desberg 55:32
it'll be gone for lunch.

Alex Ferrari 55:35
All right, so I have a few more questions to ask you. What advice would you give a writer wanting to break into writing for television and today's world?

Jeffrey Davis 55:44
Well, my advice is going to be coming from my now 14 years at Loyola. And nine years. Oh, good. God is coming up on nine years as chair of screenwriting. I'm not talking about the grad students. Now I'm talking about undergrads are very well come out at you know, anywhere between 22 and 24. You take any job you can get some of them come out, and they say, Well, I want to be a writer's assistant in the writers room, because I want to write well, you got to earn that. That doesn't, it would vary what the story I told you about my two students who are on who were on one day at a time now they had one of them was Jeff Carlin's assistant for a year and a half, almost two years, and then worked on the TV show he's on now. And the other one made independent films and shorts and did temp jobs. And then this producer, a Creator, who had been their teacher at school, brought them together as a team and brought them on the show. But you take any job you can get as long as it's in the business. All of my seniors from last year are working.

Alex Ferrari 57:04
Let me see.

Peter Desberg 57:05
Let me just add something to what Jeffrey said, by using the N word networking. The number of jobs you know the number of people that get into a room because a friend of ours, you know, friend of his said, Hey, there's a vacancy in the room, come on in numbers, the people that get in because they're so wonderful. And so you know, meet as many people as you can work with as many people as you can. And be pleasant while you're doing it.

Jeffrey Davis 57:32
Yeah, I think the days when you could be a spoiled entitle person, or over, I'll tell you, JJ Abrams, who some of you know this, but JJ is like we're best buddies. JJ Abrams, dad was a big producer. AJ is not first generation, his dad was a TV movie producer. And so he was raised inside the business. And he, he says that the minute someone who comes to work for he and his wife looks entitled, they're out. They don't give them a second chance. Because there's too many people who want that chance. I couldn't be spoiled and entitled and difficult. I'm very proud of the students at LMU. Because they don't come out with that entitle level, they are willing to start at the bottom and pay their dues. The odds of I mean, aside from what happened to the two students I mentioned, that's mostly going to happen to grad students. And even then it's going to take a couple of years, you have to be prepared. If you want to be a writer in television, I can't speak to movies, because movies are entirely different business now. And and the majors don't make that many movies, right. But television, you have to be prepared to give it a minimum of five years. So you're where you think you want to be.

Peter Desberg 58:58
I moonlight as a clinical psychologist, and I only work with people who have stage fright. And I remember one actor coming in to see me. And his first words are, I'm an actor. I don't do commercials and I don't do soaps for suck now. That lie and I said oh, when you forgot and I don't work.

Jeffrey Davis 59:20
Absolutely say that or, you know,

Alex Ferrari 59:22
I did it well. Yeah, no, no, it's that that that kind of mentality is the I don't want to do this or I don't want to do that is that the worry the business will beat them out of that. Eventually, you know, because you're someone who never

Jeffrey Davis 59:37
says that. That's why everybody loves her except Donald Trump.

Alex Ferrari 59:42
Mm hmm.

Jeffrey Davis 59:43
Meryl Streep does not even today. Have that attitude. And she certainly could if she wanted to. Her attitude is she doesn't want to do something is she's very gentle. And she's very loving and she sometimes will even wear commend someone she thinks is more right for something. But that's why she's Meryl Streep is not just because she's a brilliant actress. You know, there is never a reason to be unkind to other people that you were. And you will be remembered for that. Other than Peter being unkind to me on a daily basis, which I've gotten used to,

Peter Desberg 1:00:22
if you have three or four hours, I can give you a couple of really good stories.

Jeffrey Davis 1:00:27
But he's unkind to me. Exactly. Yeah.

Peter Desberg 1:00:31
We've barely scratched the surface, I

Jeffrey Davis 1:00:33
think I think it's a really important thing for young writers to remember is you got to earn it, you've got to earn it. And even when you get into the room, if you get the room to sit, oh, I'll give you an example. I'm trying to think how can I not make myself the hero of the story? No. I had a student listen, because this is the first the best undergraduate joke writer, um, character that I've ever had in the 14 years of being there. She was 21. I mean, this is how good she was, she could look at somebody else. Because I run my I run my classes, like a writers room, particularly the upper division class. And because that's how I was taught, and, and she could look at somebody else's script and come up with like, eight jokes that fit the characters. She had studied their script, so much knew their scripts so well. And that's what you want in a writers room. And she said to me, I'm going to go out, and I'm going to get in a writers room right after I graduate. And I said, Diona, I don't think that's going to happen. And if it did, I think it would be a really bad thing for you. 22, you'll be looked at as the baby writer and baby renters are usually between 25 and 30. And you'll be you will be out of the business by the time you're 25. What about grad school. And so she on her own, looked up some grad programs. And they had just started the Harold Ramis Second City master program. That's where she is now she's finishing out I told you, it didn't work. I'm still the hero of the story.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:25
But giving her that that given her that extra time

Jeffrey Davis 1:02:27
with her in April when she was in town, because it's in Chicago, the program. And they you know, they were trying to honor her ramus and by naming it after, and she's a different person. She's calm. She's loving school. She loved being an undergrad.

Alex Ferrari 1:02:46
Well look at the instructor, she I mean seriously. And of course, she

Peter Desberg 1:02:49
is an instructor. So

Alex Ferrari 1:02:52
by giving that little extra time for nurturing, and just time to kind of develop a little bit even as talented as she might have been. It's kind of like it's kind of like throwing Michael Jordan or LeBron James into playing basketball when they're 15. They're really talented, but just give it a couple years. You know,

Peter Desberg 1:03:09
I told you the story before about wall Bennett. He told us a story that when he was a new guy in a room, he you pitched a joke. And it was like the wind was blowing. Nobody heard anything. 20 minutes later, one of the more seasoned writers told the same joke just pitched the same joke and everybody cracked up. And Walt said, Wait a minute. I just pitched that joke. They looked at him said Come on. Don't be like that. Oh, wow. And you know, it's interesting that Jeffrey talked about Lou Schneider before who told a great story that they're in the room. And the writer next to him, grabs them and pulls them down below the table and says pitch this joke for me it yourself because you did stand up your pitcher better

Alex Ferrari 1:04:00
Wow.

Peter Desberg 1:04:00
The nice thing about Lowe is he gave her credit.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:03
That's nice ever that's that's rare in this this

Jeffrey Davis 1:04:07
aliens are not

Peter Desberg 1:04:08
and it only took him four months to get around to it.

Jeffrey Davis 1:04:10
We interviewed someone that we have not yet found the book for but a stand up named Carrie snow is an old friend of mine. And when they she was she got a one afternoon she got a letter with a check for $500 in it from Robin Williams and he said I was doing stand up. This is maybe like 1020 years ago, and I inadvertently use one of your jokes so I felt I had to pay for it.

Alex Ferrari 1:04:41
Wow. Yeah,

Peter Desberg 1:04:43
such a sweet guy. Uh, he

Alex Ferrari 1:04:44
was I had I had the pleasure of meeting him once and he's, I did the thing with Robin when I met him is that have never met another human being whose energy you could literally feel the vibration off of him. And he wasn't on. He was calm. He was with his wife. You know, as his comments gonna be, he was not cracking jokes. He was just a normal human being. But you can sense that energy off of him. And I've never met another human being like that.

Jeffrey Davis 1:05:14
You know, his mentor was like that, because I grew up around Jonathan Winters. I knew him pretty well.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:20
I heard about that with Jonathan. He

Jeffrey Davis 1:05:22
was close friends with his close friends with my stepfather and I, I and I hope you weren't planning to use that piece of paper. You should never put blank paper in front of me. I'm going to write, you're gonna have to do some editing here, my friend.

Alex Ferrari 1:05:38
It's fine. We just let it go.

Peter Desberg 1:05:43
So did you have some I guess

Alex Ferrari 1:05:45
I have to have two more questions. I wanted to ask you guys. What is the lesson that took you guys the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Peter Desberg 1:05:55
Oh, that's an easy one. You can give yours first and then I'll steal it.

I give me an answer. And Jeffrey will say me too. As far as life lessons are concerned,

he hasn't learned and he

says I'm still a student, huh? That's, that's a really tough one. Um, well, I I'm good at answering narrower questions. Uh huh. But, you know, the other day I did a podcast and somebody said, this was a screenwriter and she said, What's your favorite sitcom, your favorite comedy movie of all time? And I looked at her and I said, tell me your favorite movie? And she laughed and said, I can't answer that one either.

Alex Ferrari 1:06:41
That was gonna be my next question. So is there any lessons life lessons that you can think of that kind of really, that took you really long time to figure out do you like, Oh, my God,

Jeffrey Davis 1:06:54
so learning, Peter will back me up in this, but if he has any class, he won't say anything?

Alex Ferrari 1:06:59
Well, apparently no class,

Peter Desberg 1:07:03
easy. It's easy to keep learning when you have so much to learn.

Yeah, exactly. You ruined it. Okay.

He never takes notes when I talked to him, which is

Jeffrey Davis 1:07:13
really, it's really hard to study for a test when you don't know what the answers are gonna be. My entire college and grad school career. I got a new people got me the answers. But no, I think it is the same lesson. I think that the lesson in writing that you never stopped learning is the same lesson in life is you have to constantly teach yourself to listen, it's hard. It doesn't come naturally. Man, anybody most people love to talk. And listening is hard. And if you're going to be a writer, you have to listen and observe and that's true of any kind of writing any kind of acting any kind of stand up

Peter Desberg 1:07:49
is a great phrase. The opposite of talking isn't listening. It's waiting.

I tell you what, I'm

telling you. I'll leave you with my answer to that one before those experiences a lousy teacher it gives the exams before the lessons.

Alex Ferrari 1:08:04
Yeah, that's great.

Peter Desberg 1:08:06
Is it regular walking Bartlett's home quotation is

Alex Ferrari 1:08:12
alright, so name if you can't. Both you guys, one of your favorite sitcoms and one of your favorite comedy movies, or movies in general.

Peter Desberg 1:08:22
Well, I can't give you my favorite sitcom, but I can give you my favorite current sitcom. Fair enough. I'm a sound like I echo alien when I say I'm a big Big Bang Theory fan. But there have been so many great sitcoms, you know again, cheers Frasier, taxi Seinfeld. They just they're too many. And they go all the way back to I Love Lucy and just it'd be easier to tell you the ones I haven't liked. With there been so many great movie comedies yours. Where do you start?

Alex Ferrari 1:08:58
One that comes into your mind? Or do you start

Peter Desberg 1:09:00
I can tell you Jeffrey's favorite comedy was Porky's. Yeah, right?

I actually never saw Porky's, believe it or that? He's lived it?

Alex Ferrari 1:09:12
How about you, Jeffrey, Eddie answers?

Jeffrey Davis 1:09:14
Well, I guess my favorite classic comedy would have been married John Moore Show. I just love that show. I can watch it over and over and over again. I think one of the more recent it's off the air now three years, but I just thought it was much better than friends. And I'm sure it owes something to friends and is doing very well in syndication and on Netflix now ran nine seasons, and was written by two theatre guys and then they went on to work for David Letterman before they created How I Met Your Mother. I just think it's a brilliant show. I think it's so beautifully written and imaginative and risky for a network show just the way they did it going in and out of satire, double points of view and then I guess Chuck Lori's show. The only one that I watch. I'm not saying because Peter loves the Big Bang, and I like it too, is it's just not my kind of humor, but I like it. I appreciate it. But I love mom, which and I level Grace and Frankie. I think Grace and Frankie is amazing. And there's also there's, they're going backward to the shows that I unfortunately wrote in the early 90s. There's a show called the ranch on Netflix. Yeah, a new one with Kathy Bates. Yes. And, and I don't find either them remotely funny. They're like, it's the old three jokes a page thing. They're going back to her premises a woman who owns opens up what? Six years? Six jokes three jokes. But I don't I don't remember that rule. I only remember 340

Peter Desberg 1:10:56
years of old talks when you said that.

Jeffrey Davis 1:10:58
I lied.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:00
You guys could discuss it afterward.

Peter Desberg 1:11:03
Oh, no. during,

Jeffrey Davis 1:11:04
during Of course. We're a lot more entertaining when we're arguing. I think I get

Alex Ferrari 1:11:09
but yeah, I've heard both those shows are not doing very well. And that's probably good reason why.

Jeffrey Davis 1:11:15
And yet one day at a time is doing really well. Because the ghosts are all from character.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:24
Where are the where's that show playing?

Jeffrey Davis 1:11:26
Netflix?

Alex Ferrari 1:11:27
Is that Netflix? Second season? Yeah. Okay, I gotta look that up. I haven't even I didn't even hear about it.

Jeffrey Davis 1:11:32
Hey, Gemma here, Rita Moreno isn't anything I'm there. She's

Alex Ferrari 1:11:36
wonderful. She's wonderful. Now where can where can people find you guys online?

Peter Desberg 1:11:41
If you go to let's see now. That's funny dot lol. You can find us.

Alex Ferrari 1:11:50
Okay, fantastic. And then the name of your books. Now that's funny, though, which is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all the fine. All

Peter Desberg 1:11:58
this bad or bad taste. I will plug my most recent joke book, go for it, which is the bad sex manual. I wrote my friend Tom, who wrote and directed Friday the 13th part six as big as you want. It's like, okay, but before we finish, can I just quickly say you have made this so easy for us? Yeah. Right. You asked great questions you wrote up with a lot. You're really good listeners. Well,

Alex Ferrari 1:12:28
thank you so much. I appreciate that.

Peter Desberg 1:12:30
So you've made this enormously fun and easy for so we appreciate that. Oh,

thank you. Oh, so when you when you turn off,

he wants to tell you what he really thinks once you turn.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:42
So once I turn once I stopped the recording, then you can tell me what you really think. Well, I appreciate it. Guys, thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to me in the in the in the indie film hustle tribe, I truly appreciate it. Thank you,

Jeffrey Davis 1:12:55
thank you, you made this really fun.

Alex Ferrari 1:12:58
Peter and Jeffrey, were an absolute riot. And I hope you guys have a better understanding of what it takes to make people laugh. And what it's like to actually write a comedy. I know when I was working on this as mag, which is a drama, drama, comedy. There are a lot of comedic elements in this as mag. And, you know, I just sat back and watch some of these amazing actors that were in the cast. Just come up with this humor and sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn't we figured it out in the editing room. But it was just such a wonderful thing to be on a set where you're laughing almost all the time. It was just an a very enjoyable process. And I hope you guys can bring some comedy into your into your work whether even if it's the if a drama, you know some sometimes a little joke here or there brings the audience in and just and keeps them going in your story and in your journey. So I hope this was a benefit in value to you guys. And if you want to link to Peter and Jeffrey's book now that's funny the art and craft of writing comedy. Just head over to the show notes at Indie film hustle.com forward slash BPS zero 28. And guys, we will be launching indie film hustle TV next week. And I'm so so so excited to share everything I've got in store for you. We've got interviews with some of the biggest screenwriters in Hollywood talking about billion dollar screenwriters. We have the dialogue which is a series that does in depth interviews with Jim Uhls are at our fight club, David Goyer, the CO writer of the dark night and just you know, Paul Haggis Academy Award winning Paul Haggis, there's so many just like literally so many screenwriters and that that show alone, let alone a list screenwriting lectures, as well as Writers Guild sponsored lectures that are only available through ifH TV or at another places are extremely expensive if you want to rent or buy But here, they're part of the service. And I've got so many more things coming up courses by Linda shear is going to be on there the legendary script doctor, her courses on here, as well as documentaries like dream on spec, which is a documentary, specifically about screenwriters trying to get their screen screenplays produced, while being a while interviewing some of the top screenwriters in Hollywood. I mean, there's just so much stuff, guys, I can't even go into it. We've got hundreds of hours of content for screenwriters, filmmakers, and content creators. So if you want to sign up early again, head over to ifH tv.com to get early access. I'm going to be releasing and send you guys a private email with a private link to get in early if you want to jump in and explore before anyone else. So that's ifH tv.com. And that does 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.com That's B u ll e t e r o f s CR e n PLA y.com


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BPS 027: How to Story Map Your Screenplay with Daniel Calvisi

Today’s guest is author Daniel Calvisi. Dan wrote the book Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay. He breaks down stories and shows you how to map out your own by analyzing how the masters construct their screenplays. Here’s a bit more on today’s guest.

Daniel Calvisi is a story analyst, speaker, screenwriter and author of STORY MAPS: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay, STORY MAPS: TV Drama: The Structure of the One-Hour Television Pilot, and Story Maps: 12 Great Screenplays (Raiders of the Lost Ark, Up, Rocky, Sex and the City, X-Men, Black Swan, Juno, The Matrix)

He is a former Story Analyst for major studios like Twentieth Century Fox, Miramax Films,and New Line Cinema. He coaches writers, teaches webinars on writing for film and television with The Writers Store and speaks at writing conferences and book signings. He holds a degree in Film and Television from the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. 

So stop reading this and listen to the podcast already. Enjoy my conversation with Daniel Calvisi.

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 0:00
I'd like to welcome to the show Dan Cal VC, man, thank you so much for being on the show.

Daniel Calvisi 3:15
Thanks for having me.

Alex Ferrari 3:15
I appreciate it, man. So I wanted to first get into how'd you get into this crazy business?

Daniel Calvisi 3:21
Well, I went to NYU film school and like everyone there I wanted to be a writer director. And but I really got into screenwriting there, I really found that the screenplay was was really where my heart was. And I took a script analysis class that I really liked. So that was kind of the first time I ever really took apart like professional scripts, their structure and everything we studied, you know, Sunset Boulevard, and the silence of the lambs and really a wide swath of scripts and movies. So that really turned me on and I heard about this job of being a reader. So when I got out of college, I found my way to becoming a reader for various companies like Miramax, and Fox 2000, and I worked for Jonathan Demi's company, clinic estetico, and new line and other things. So that was freelance reader work that I was doing. But I was working for enough companies where I was supporting myself and I learned on the job, you know, quickly, I had to because they give you a bunch of scripts, and you have to return them two days, or maybe the next day, you know, maybe do an overnight job. So I had to do written analysis of all of these scripts and a lot of books as well. And so I really learned under fire and I started course finding patterns and similarities and the bad scripts and the good scripts and seeing what worked and what didn't, especially structure. And that's how I started to develop my story maps structural method as well. So

Alex Ferrari 4:55
so how how does a young screenwriter break into Hollywood? As a script reader, like, What's that process like? Well,

Daniel Calvisi 5:03
I think these days probably hone your craft a little bit, get your feet wet with contests. With contests and film festivals. They probably won't pay you at first. So I would say do some free reader work, you know, reviewing the first round of submissions to, you know, the Austin screenwriting conference or something like that, or the final draft contest. So contact them directly. Say you want to volunteer to be a reader. Hopefully, they'll give you a test script to do test notes on and confirm that you do know what you're doing. Then from there, I would say it'll either be word of mouth, you'll hear about an opening or contact directly agencies, management companies, production companies and studios. And if you contact enough and you send them in sample coverages, hopefully eventually there will be an opening and they will hire you for that I got my one of my first jobs, the way I got into Miramax Films was through their genre unit Dimension Films.

Alex Ferrari 6:12
This is and then you got in at a time when Miramax was at the height of its powers.

Daniel Calvisi 6:16
Yeah, they were absolutely at their peak, they were winning Best Picture. And I this was Dimension Films, they had the Spy Kids franchise, the screen franchise, they were huge. Yeah, they were huge. And it was funny, because I was told by a friend that he had been a reader there, he knew a guy there. But he said don't call them because I know for a fact that they don't have any openings. And so I call them anyway, the guy dimension and the first thing he said was, we have an opening for a reader Do you want to test for it? So the lesson there is be persistent. You know, somebody tells you not to do something as long as you're not a jerk about it. Go ahead and try and get your foot in the door. It doesn't hurt to make a phone call. That's one thing I always tell people is, you know, people still make phone calls in this town. Mm hmm. So cold calling can work. You know, it's it's

Alex Ferrari 7:09
pretty remarkable. You know, doing this show for so long. I cold. I don't cold call cold tweets. Or I cold email like I did to you. And it's amazing. You know, you ask and people will like Yeah, sure. I'll come on. Yeah, for sure. I'd like to have a meeting. Sure. It's, it's fascinating when you ask what happens?

Daniel Calvisi 7:28
Yeah, yeah. So what I find one thing, it's hard to do. But if you can give them something like a piece of information they may not have had. Or if you can stroke their ego to maybe in a unique way, like let's say, you're contacting a company that makes a lot of big blockbuster movies. But you're talking to an executive who happened to have made this really small indie film 10 years ago. And you tell them, hey, oh, my gosh, I saw that film. I really loved it. You know, I'd love to learn more about it. Because you're, you know, you're kind of appealing to them to their passion, you know, not just their their latest superhero movie, which they may not have had anything to do with, you know,

Alex Ferrari 8:11
yeah, that's something and now with IMDb, you can literally do that research fairly quickly. Mm hmm. Yeah. And do you agree that when you are reaching out to to gatekeepers or or people that you're trying to work with in one way, shape, or form, providing value of some sort is or, like you said, stroking the ego is one way in, but also providing some sort of value in whatever that might be? Whether that be free work, whether that be anything? Do you think that's a good rule of thumb?

Daniel Calvisi 8:41
Yeah, yeah, totally, totally, if you can offer them something, because Because I mean, really, they get, if they're getting 20 scripts a day, they don't really need your script, you know, or your whatever you're trying to send to them, you know, they don't need to give you your break. So if you can somehow offer them something of value, you know, a piece of information or I don't know anything, maybe a bottle of their, their favorite barbecue sauce from Brooklyn. You know,

Alex Ferrari 9:10
if you do that kind of research, I guarantee you if you do that kind of research, and you hit up an executive, and that they you that you found the favorite barbecue sauce, and you're like, Hey, I heard this was your favorite. It could be a little creepy, but yet it opened the door. Yeah, totally,

Daniel Calvisi 9:23
totally. I also find if you if you see them talk on a panel. Mm hmm. It helps to say Hey, I saw you talk on this panel. And I really liked what you had to say, you know, space and then given a specific example, because you know, people go to talk on panels because they want to be listened to, you know, and they want to be adored, and they want to, you know, feel like they made a difference in somebody's life. So they may not have actually taught maybe they had to leave quickly. So they didn't talk to anyone in the audience or maybe they were only approached by annoying people after their Talk, you know, God. So you guys, we all know there's there's always that person in the front row who just has the most inane questions, right? Una

Alex Ferrari 10:09
Yeah, like, how do you get $100 million? To make my first feature? I'm like, Oh,

Daniel Calvisi 10:12
yes, yeah. So you can show, you know, say something really smart and say, you know, you got some value out of their thing, then that sounds really nice to them, you know, they're glad that they did it.

Alex Ferrari 10:22
So what's the big difference between a script reader and a story analyst in regard? Are they the same thing in the studio system?

Daniel Calvisi 10:30
They're the same thing in the studio system. outside the studio system, I would say, a story analyst is probably more of a consultant like me, a writing coach. And also someone who feels comfortable analyzing any kind of narrative, whether it's a book, a movie, a TV show, or a video game, you know, or a myth or something like that. So that's something I like that term story analysts because it's kind of a universal thing, saying, I have years of experience analyzing narratives and you know, taking apart the structural differences between let's say, a fairy tale and a studio feature film, you know, so I analyze story.

Alex Ferrari 11:13
What are some of the common traits? You see, since you've read so many? Since you've read so many stories in screenplays? What are some of the common traits you see of successful screenplays?

Daniel Calvisi 11:25
Wow, well, um, well, I always say you got to come right out of the gate and suck in the reader. So your opening has to be great. Open with something unique, ideally, something we haven't seen before, or something that really endears us to your main characters. They need to have really strong motivation that we identify with them, and they have a really strong need. That's one thing that you just don't see enough in scripts and in movies as well. You know, someone, an actor, being a movie star is not enough, anymore game by Yeah, and not just at the box office, just when you're watching a film to gain my interest in following them. If their character is a total jerk, and just an immoral person. They still need a code of ethics that we believe in, they still we still need to believe in their goal. And root for them, you know, and so that can be tough to generate that rooting interest in the reader or the audience.

Alex Ferrari 12:27
Can you give an example of a movie that did it right? Like that opening? I mean, I'm thinking off the top of my head like Shawshank or diehard or lethal weapon or these kind of characters. Do you Do you know of a can you come up with a movie that has that kind of opening? Like you really just fall in love with that character? And that character, that leading character has that need? Mm

Daniel Calvisi 12:48
hmm. Wow. I mean, I mean, there's so many. The classic example is Raiders of the Lost Ark. You know, we see this guy do this amazing thing where he rescues this, you know, golden idol from from this temple. And then it's, and then it's taken from him by by this evil guy, so we really, we really, you know, feel for him, and then he makes this dashing escape so So and I think that that was necessary in that opening to have a Balog, the villain, you know, so we don't just think okay, this is just a random archaeologist who's just trying to get this golden idol because it's worth a lot of money. You know, you needed the villain to come in there and say, hey, you know, I'm, I'm the evil guy who, who wants this for myself, you know, where's your your the pure one. But trying to think of a more a more modern film, I would say, Well, let's look at this summer there was the Spider Man homecoming, you know, we do feel for Peter Parker because he's a kid. And he doesn't really know what he's doing. And he's struggling with, you know, kids stuff like he likes the pretty girl. And she won't give him the time of day. Although she does kind of like him too much. That was one thing about it. I thought it was kind of too easy for him to get the girl kind of already liked him. But um, so and that's something with like superhero movies, you still have to endear us to the character, especially even more because they have these superpowers. Right so they could be just a superhero. Not a regular person. But so in Spider Man. He wasn't normal kid with normal problems. Yeah, I thought that was really intentional on their part.

Alex Ferrari 14:36
I think they did it. I mean, out of all the Spider Man movies, I think they nailed and I do like to Tobey Maguire first and second one but I felt that that in Spider Man homecoming they nailed the comic book spider man there. He was a kid with me. It literally almost turned into a John Hughes movie. When you're watching it, you just feel like this really emotional attachment to his kid problems. By the way, he's also fighting villains and dealing with his form of puberty, which is superpowers.

Daniel Calvisi 15:07
Yeah, and he's not, he's not that powerful yet, you know, he's still figuring out his superpowers and making mistakes. So right,

Alex Ferrari 15:13
which was endearing. So you know, he doesn't just come out and he's perfect right away, especially with the character we have such history with, I think they did a fantastic job. But that's a really good, a really good example. Now, what are some of the common mistakes you see screenwriters make? Again and again?

Daniel Calvisi 15:31
Well, speaking of openings, you have a slow opening. Mm hmm. That just doesn't suck in the reader, it starts with maybe too much exposition. That's one description that explains too much. And it's too wordy. Those, you know, canyons of description, that black ink on the page, those super big paragraphs, that's just death to a reader, you know, that's a reason why they're going to stop reading the description and start reading only the dialogue, which I always tried not to do. But it's your job as the screenwriter to make them want to read the description, you know, to come out of the gate, because they're going to read everything, let's say the first few pages, you know, there's that bleary eyed reader who's up at 4am. And they've already read three scripts that day, and they're cracking your script. And they don't, the last thing they want to do is read another script, right. So firstly, you don't want it to be 127 pages, because they don't want to read that much. They're getting paid the same amount of money to read the 127 page script as they are to read the 95 page script. So if you can keep it lean and mean, that's great. Keep it in that 95 to 110 page range. And then if you there, so no matter the length, they're hopefully going to read at least the first two to five pages, you know, description, and dialogue. So it's your job in those opening pages that have such great, lean, terse, descriptive description that really captures tone and mood, and really makes them want to enter this world and explore this world with your lead character. And then endear us to their character. I hate to say it, but that save the cat moment. Blake Snyder was brilliant and identifying that, you know, that moment where we really do connect with the main character. And we really do root for them that rooting interest. So if you can nail that in the opening pages, that's great. That overall length is huge, having a really strong midpoint halfway through that, really ups the the stakes and the conflict and launches and new, through line unforeseen through line that's going to push to the end of the script, you know, a disaster that we didn't see coming, right? And then of course, hitting all hitting all those those great signpost speeds, you know, along the way.

Alex Ferrari 17:58
Right. And those are that what leads me to my next question, what is the structure that professional screenwriters use as a general statement?

Daniel Calvisi 18:06
Well, I call it the story map. And it's my estimation is 95% of commercial movies use this structure. Because pretty much 100% of movies that I study, and I've studied a wide swath of, and read a lot of professional scripts use this structure. It's always in the same order. So I'm not, you know, mixing and matching and placing beats all over the place. But to just mention the titles, excuse me, the titles of my beachy, my story map specsheet, it would be the opening, inciting incident, strong movement forward, end of Act One turn and decision, first trial, first casualty midpoint, declaration of war slash assumption of power, end of Act Two, turn and decision. And it's important to end those acts on a turn and direction and a decision that propels us and the main character into the next act. And then now we're in Act Three. And we have the true point of no return the climax and the epilogue, and you want to end as soon after that climax as possible. So obviously, there's a lot of lot of characteristics that go with those beats. But those are just the rough titles just to you know, get you thinking in that direction.

Alex Ferrari 19:23
Now, and this and this is the structure that you found that most professional scripts about 95% of the scripts written in Hollywood use

Daniel Calvisi 19:30
good ones, yes, professional, good ones. And there, there are professional bad ones as well. So then,

Alex Ferrari 19:35
so and I always like using this when I have when I have a screenwriting expert or story analyst on the show, I always like to bring up the script of Pulp Fiction. And what a genius script that was. And a lot of people feel that that script was not in the conventional beats. But because the story was thrown all over the place out of order but from From my understanding, it did actually hit all those beats in a weird way. And that was the genius of that script. Do you agree with that? And what's your? What's your analysis of that script?

Daniel Calvisi 20:10
Well, I haven't seen in a long time, right? I don't know. I'm guessing that it does hit every one of the beats. But the the overriding point to make is that even if a story is told, nonlinear out of narrative order, it still should hit the beats, you know, so an example I know better would be momento. No, I broke down memento, in my book story maps the films of Christopher Nolan, because I'm obsessed with Christopher Nolan, as you should be, as I should be. Yes. And so in Memento, obviously, it's told in this crazy backward structure, it's not quite backward, it's uh, it you know, it has its own unique thing going on. It's kind of a horseshoe structures is what he called it. But even though it's told backwards, quote backwards, it still hits all of those beats, you know, the inciting incident and the strong movement forward in the end of Act One and all those things. It's just the order that it's told it hits those beats. That makes sense. It makes

Alex Ferrari 21:20
perfect sense. And that that movie is, I mean, if you're a young screenwriter, he I mean, to watch to try to break down or try to analyze that movie with Will will screw with your head. Yeah, I think you should break

Daniel Calvisi 21:31
it off. It almost killed us. When we when we were doing that.

Alex Ferrari 21:34
It's it's just such a well, he's such an amazing filmmaker, and screenwriter and storyteller that he's on a different level playing field than the rest of us. Well, he's,

Daniel Calvisi 21:46
you know, he's saying, How can I make this different? You know, like, he just he just had Dunkirk this summer. And instead of telling an absolutely straightforward, historical epic biopic war film, he said, How can I make this different so he did a triptych structure where he was telling the sea air and land story. And he decided for better or worse that he was not going to give any real context to the battle, he was going to throw us into it and give us that you know, ground level view of the grant the troop, the troops view of the situation. So if they didn't know much, we didn't know much either. And he told us out of order, there was that moment where you realize that came together where you realize that it was told, slightly nonlinear, you know, because you had the the boat, the boat sequence was one day, the sequence on the beach with the Mole was one week and then the aerial sequence with with Tom Hardy and the plains was one hour, but they all did converge at a certain point, I think probably

Alex Ferrari 22:56
done 75 minute mark, and no support. Yes.

Daniel Calvisi 22:59
Okay. No problem. But anyway, you did. Without any spoilers. It's you realize the true structure. Well into the film. You know what I mean?

Alex Ferrari 23:09
It since we're on since we're on Christopher Nolan, I'm such a huge fan of his as well. What do you feel is his best screenplay and film? Wow, you had to pick one.

Daniel Calvisi 23:22
That's really tough. It's tough, but it would be between Memento the prestige. And I would have to say inception over the dark night. That dark nights amazing, but he wrote and directed inception. Right. He wrote and directed momento.

Alex Ferrari 23:45
Wow, Inception is it's such a unique film. It Yeah. It's basically the biggest budget. Independent Film. Oh, you think so? Yeah. Because of the concept. I mean, look at that, look, what he's trying to do. It does take big, broad strokes, you need big, you need a big brush. With that movie. You can't do that on an independent level. But to tell that story inside of a studio system is pretty remarkable on the last person I could even think of ever doing something like that would be Kubrick, you know, and what he used to do constantly with every one of his movies inside the studio system. And I think Nolan is one of those guys right now. That is probably the closest thing to a Kubrick we have currently in cinema Do you Would you agree with that statement?

Daniel Calvisi 24:32
I would say well, I like to say he's our modern day Spielberg just because he works with big budgets. He makes popular films with universal themes, but with incredible directing and visuals, you know? But yeah, he's a little bit more I guess cerebral than Spielberg was in his in his period when he was you know, in his 40s as as Christopher and also basically

Alex Ferrari 24:56
Kubrick and Spielberg had a kid and it's it's Nolan.

Daniel Calvisi 24:59
Yeah. He's British. He always wears dashing clothing and he looks very dapper.

Alex Ferrari 25:05
Yes, he does. Actually, I actually met him once at the powwow, I met him in the back lot of Warner Brothers. And he is he's always got a suit on. He now has no phone does not care to have. He's not on any he doesn't have email. Yeah, that's crazy. He does everything through his wife, and who's his producing partner, and she is he she's like, Look, if something's important, it'll get to me. And that's, and he goes, that way, I have more time to work. And more time to tell stories. I was like, Wow, that's so amazing. But he's in a different he's in a different world than the rest of us. In many ways. Yeah. So I'm back back to our interview. What is the what's more important in your opinion, structure or character? Which is the ultimate question in screen Wow. Or are they both combined? The same? What do you think? Well,

Daniel Calvisi 25:58
it's funny? Well, the great structure doesn't really matter if we don't believe in and root for your character and want to follow them, you know, right. So I like to say character equals action, because characters are defined by action. And then of course, the structure is the form in which you put their actions into it's not formula, its form. It's the shape of the story. So I don't know, I guess I would say, if I had to say I would say structure. If you're talking about unforeseen actions taken by characters surprise, you know, surprising us within the traditional classic structure. We don't want to be able to predict the beats you know, we don't want to be able to protect predict the turns that has to still be surprising. And that's good writing. Guy, but you know, character? Well, I guess it means you can't you can't root for

Alex Ferrari 27:03
structure.

Daniel Calvisi 27:04
you root for character. Yeah, yeah. But I if I really was pressed, I would say structure because that would mean an intriguing, surprising story that's compelling. You know, God,

Alex Ferrari 27:16
probably feel that I would probably feel that they're both without the structure. You you. I mean, can you have a movie with great characters and very loose loosey goosey structure and still be successful?

Daniel Calvisi 27:28
Yeah, I think you could, you know, if if we want to turn the page if we if we just really want to follow these characters. I mean, Paul fiction's a good example, Pulp Fiction. If you really want it to get nitty gritty, you could probably cut 10 to 20 minutes from it, you know, and still have the same story. It's definitely an hour or two or film that was made by a director who loved his dialogue and loved his characters and was willing to, to spend time with them, you know, just sit and hang out with them. But the editor in me and the script analyst, and he would like to cut time from that and pretty much cut time from almost every Tarantino film.

Alex Ferrari 28:11
Yes, he does. He does talk a bit sometimes

Daniel Calvisi 28:13
he does enjoy, you know, his his dialogue and storytelling a little bit too much. It's sometimes you know,

Alex Ferrari 28:21
I would I would I would agree with you as a critique of Tarantino if there's anything sometimes he just goes a little too far. And I think he's gotten worse over the years, like Hateful Eight. I thought he really let that go a little too much. In my opinion, but but he's still I mean, he's a once in a generation kind of filmmaker.

Daniel Calvisi 28:38
Yeah, yeah, he's still absolutely unique and and you're not gonna see anyone who's like him. You know, I didn't see Hateful Eight I was to the point where I'm to the point where I almost feel like I don't want to be tricked by him anymore into watching, you know, ridiculously long dialogue scenes and overly violent scenes. You know, I just I think he he almost is gleeful and his violence and it goes past. Like what it really needs to be you know, but he's got millions of fans and they love them. So

Alex Ferrari 29:15
yeah, and I'm looking forward to seeing his his Chuck Manson film. That should be interesting.

Daniel Calvisi 29:20
Yeah. Wow. That's interesting. So I say I will say one thing about Tarantino, which is a good exam, which is a good lesson to screenwriters is he he usually makes movies about movies or straight genre films that don't necessarily give us a lot of insight into the human condition. And that's my main problem with his him is I don't really know what he cares about in the world. You know, I don't really know who Quentin Tarantino is. I don't really get universal themes from him, other than making you You know, like, let's say the Kill Bill movies for example, I really enjoy the Kill Bill movies and they're really cool kung fu operas, you know. But I'm not taking away much about the human condition. I'm not really that invested beyond watching a cool revenge story.

Alex Ferrari 30:19
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show. But I think you know, I think that Tarantino in this is just my humble opinion, I think Aaron Tinos point of view is that he his movies are a complete reflection of who he is, which is that video store guy who loves movies and thinks he thinks of cinema as a religion. And he's not really interested in delving into the human condition. He's more interested in delving into cinema, and his his pure of a cinema, cinematic director as I've ever seen in the history of cinema. Because he you're right, he does all his films, you know, after you watch Django Unchained, there's really not a lot to discuss a little bit maybe about the human condition, but generally, you know, Kill Bill, Hateful Eight, these are all cinematic operas. Yeah, about cinema, or about the making of cinema. So I think that's Are

Daniel Calvisi 31:19
you say, I mean, are you saying, not in a bad way that he's a shallow person who only cares about movies? Because that's probably accurate, right?

Alex Ferrari 31:26
I mean, no, I think, look, I think his entire world revolves around cinema. I mean, everything in his life his cinema has been for since he was a child. And so ever since I've definitely since he was in Tibet, in that video store. Me being a video store clerk for four years, I feel him. I understand. I understand that completely. But I think that that is his religion, that honestly cinema is his religion, and whether it's shallow or not, it's his point of view. And it's such a unique point of view that there is literally no one else out there on the planet on planet Earth, that has Tarantino's perspective on anything. So whether it's shallow or not, that's that's opinion, but that he really lives for cinema completely. He will die with celluloid, wrapped around him. But that's but that's who he is. And that's what he wants to me. He owns the Beverly here, theater that only shows 35 millimeter here in LA he has an insane 35 millimeter print collection. Like who has. I mean, I know Scorsese does, but you know, but like, who has the collection, like his collection will be on archive? Because there's movies that he has, uh, nobody else has. I remember listen to a story that it was a or I forget who it was. I think it was from Wu Tang. When he was scoring Kill Bill told them. Oh, man, I got this kung fu movie. I just got it on VHS is super rare. He's like, Yeah, that's nice. I got the 35 print. And he's like, whoa, okay, so I'm on a different playing field. But that's who he is, I think that think about

Daniel Calvisi 33:11
and this is I know, this is we're getting off in it. No, no, no, no, it's

Alex Ferrari 33:14
Coco. Coco.

Daniel Calvisi 33:15
What if you had a painter who only painted referential works to other painters? At one point, wouldn't you want to say well, what's what's your what is it about you that you want to put into these paintings? Or what are you saying, really about the world? I agree with that not matter because there's already a million other painters that are doing that? Well,

Alex Ferrari 33:40
there's a difference between painting and cinema cinema has so many more elements involved with just painting. So if I had a painter that, I mean, if you had a painter that would just kept rehashing any Hall on any nanny Hall on Warhol and Basquiat and Van Gogh, and all these guys, and just kept putting his that wouldn't be as interesting. It might be for a little bit, it wouldn't be that interesting. But the wealth of cinema that there is and the the masters of different masters of art, that you need to be master of the different kinds of art forms that you have to be a master of to be a filmmaker is so so vast and deep that for someone like him, he could continue to make movies forever, and never get boring because of that, that debt and then he also has that knowledge. I mean, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of every movie he's ever seen it

Daniel Calvisi 34:33
Okay, well, here's okay. Then here's my conclusion. Yes. I want to see him do other genres. I want to see him do a character drama. I want to see a comedy. I'd love to see romantic comedy, you know,

Alex Ferrari 34:46
can you imagine?

Daniel Calvisi 34:48
If he truly is a student of all cinema, not just action films, thrillers, exploitation films, you know, I want to see him go on to try some really different things, you know, I would think that would be really fascinating.

Alex Ferrari 35:02
I would agree with you. And I think he has kind of, he has stuck to a little bit of of same genre films and but he has in recent years kind of moved on to me he did the Western, he loved the Western so much that he did Hateful Eight. And you can argue Django obviously is a form of Western but more blaxploitation. So he is going to different genres within the genre world within his likes and dislikes. I'm really curious to see what he does with the Manson murders like that is insane. I can't I mean, and he wants Brad Pitt to pay Manson. You know, so I'm really curious to see where he goes. But that's the thing that how many filmmakers, can you say I'm curious to see what he does next? There's very few filmmakers out there like that, in today's world, and he's one of those guys. So I'm glad that we've gone on a complete Tarantino tangent. But I think it's

Daniel Calvisi 35:59
I would say to bring it back to screenwriting. A good thing that he does is he does focus mostly on genre films, you know, yes. The thriller to action, Kung Fu westerns, exploitation, at least for exploitation, at least for his last like, you know, three or four films. And for a screenwriter, if you're looking to break in by selling spec screenplays, it's good to focus on genre, you know, you're the thriller guy, you're the horror guy, you're the romantic comedy, woman, you know, whoever, whatever your genre is, write five or six scripts in that genre. And maybe by the time you get to the fourth or fifth, you have something that's really, really ready for submission, and could really establish you and get your foot in the door, you know, so you

Alex Ferrari 36:46
do suggest that screenwriters stick within a genre at the beginning. So they could because if you got a and I know, that's, that's like, the common mistake a lot of screenwriters make is in there. They write five screenplays, but they're a comedy, a drama, horror thriller to show range. And that's wonderful, but that's very difficult for an agent to sell.

Daniel Calvisi 37:04
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, definitely. I would say, right, you know, be willing to write different genres to find yours that you're best at, you know, but if you're, if you come out of the box, and like you love horror, that's your passion. And that's pretty much all that you want to write. It's okay to stick to horror, you know,

Alex Ferrari 37:26
right, and MB. And then eventually, you either get locked into that horror, or you move into something else, but at least you're in the picture. You're in, you're in the business at this point, you're making a living. And then if you want to go off and make something else, you can go off and make something else later, but like, you know, Sorkin and, and all these big screenwriters that, you know, they were in one form, but then they started to branch out into, you know, like Charlie Kaufman, for God's sakes. Did you ever read? I mean, I'm sure you've studied Charlie's work, right?

Daniel Calvisi 37:56
Oh, yeah. Yeah, I've definitely seen his films. And I'm trying to think if I read any of his scripts, the the beast casually I didn't read any on the job. But I did. You know, I have read them.

Alex Ferrari 38:07
He's, he's pretty amazing. He's a pretty, pretty amazing screenwriter. Now, what is the difference between protect a protagonist in a film a feature film versus a television pilot?

Daniel Calvisi 38:20
Hmm, well, a feature film, the big difference between a feature film and a TV show is that closed ending that a feature film has a closed ending. So it's that it's that beginning, middle and end, and it does end. And it's a satisfying story unto itself. Whereas a TV pilot has to have some kind of open ending, some kind of cliffhanger that makes you want to come back for more, you know, as far as the main character goes, I would say probably the, the TV main character has more emotional baggage, which may not be, we may not and probably shouldn't see all of it in the pilot. So there's still stuff left to come that you can explore in the rest of season one, and then season 234, etc. So there's going to be more complexity and emotional baggage that will come out over time. I would say a nice sense of mystery also about your main character really, really helps. You know, even if there's something that you know, like, let's say in scandal, we know that she had a lie. We know that she had a an affair with the President, the United States, he actually says that he's still in love with her. But we don't know the particulars. We don't know Well, how did they meet? You know? How far did their relationship go? Where are they at at this point? Did they break up at some point? Does the wife actually know? Does anyone else know? So we're just hinting at that. And that's a pretty fascinating thing to find out. Okay. Well, she had an affair with the president United States. He's still in love with her. Wow, I really want to tune in to episode two and see see what this is all about. And then in season one they do explore when she was an intern at the White House and, or a new new hire, and you know how they actually develop their relationship? So yeah, so there's kind of more of a sense of mystery more to explore about them. That makes us curious about them. But it doesn't give us everything.

Alex Ferrari 40:26
So then would you say, like, one of my favorite television shows of all time is Breaking Bad, which on paper is the worst pitch ever? For a television show?

Daniel Calvisi 40:37
It's the best long term pitch long term pitch by Mr. Chips to Scarface, which Okay, over time, yeah, this is going to be a massive character arc.

Alex Ferrari 40:46
Right. So So can you kind of break down Walter White and how that because that pilot, honestly, I was listening to Vince Gilligan, talk about it. And they said, if you just change a few things that's in release, that's at Sundance, it's probably one of the greatest independent films of all time coming out, because it's just so brilliantly done. It was so wonderfully done. Can you can you talk a little bit about that? Or do you have enough knowledge about breaking bad to discuss it a little bit?

Daniel Calvisi 41:17
Yeah, yeah, well, I break down the pile. And in my book, story, maps, TV drama, so I have a full beat sheet of that. And I mentioned it a lot. So I'm definitely well versed on Breaking Bad. So that the famous pitch was for the show was Mr. Chips to Scarface, so basic, boring guy ends up becoming this incredible drug lord, who will kill at a moment's notice, you know? And we begin with, he's a high school chemistry teacher. And one of the great things is that motivation that he has cancer, so and, and the decision to keep it from his family at first, right? And he needs money, because he has, I think he had $7,000 in the bank, and he used all of that to buy this RV, which they're going to use to cook the method. So we know he has no money. He has cancer, he needs money. He's a family man. He has a son who has, is it cerebral palsy or something? Yes, yes. So I'm sure that that costs a lot of money. So he has a credible amount of motivation. And to the outside world, he's the nicest guy in the world, and the biggest just kind of wimp nebbish Mm hmm. And you say, Wow, this guy's going to become Scarface. That's, that's a journey I want to go on. Now, it's a risk because the executive say, Well, wait, he doesn't get there for another three, four seasons. And he's not going to get fully into, you know, murder or mode until Season five or six? Well, that's a big investment, you know. So it took someone coming off of a couple of hits shows like then scale again, in order to sell that, you know, I don't know if a completely new writer who just has one pilot is going to be able to sell that pitch, but it's still a great pitch, you know?

Alex Ferrari 43:14
Right. Right. And it's, it took it took a brave company, it took a great studio to do it, it took a very and it took them a while to find the audience. It took them a little bit, it took them a couple seasons before it started to pick up. So I didn't pick I didn't grab on to it to probably runs season four. Season Four is when I first like I'd heard about him, like let me just sit down and start watching and I binged it. And I actually got all the way to like half of season five, the last season left. And so I watched the last five or six episodes like everybody else did, but I binged everything up until that it was such an amazing script. And it says something to study, because it's such a remarkable footnote in, in television history, I think.

Daniel Calvisi 43:58
Yeah, yeah. For me, it was just the show that came on. It was either before or after, I think was after madman. Excuse me, because I was such a huge madman fan. It was Oh, what's this show? And I just started watching it and got sucked into it, you know,

Alex Ferrari 44:15
and it doesn't work without Cranston. I mean, he just was amazing in that character. Now what I'm

Daniel Calvisi 44:23
right there, the casting, excuse me. One second. Excuse me. The casting was perfect because they cast it a guy who was previously known for playing a dorky dad. Yes. Yes. So we can't imagine him becoming this heartless murderer, you know, right. That was the genius of the casting.

Alex Ferrari 44:45
They actually fit they actually said that Malcolm in the Middle was the I think it was the prequel to Breaking Bad and then that Breaking Bad was a bad dream. That he wakes up and he's like, what? I thought it was amazing. pin or something like that, and they actually shot it, they actually shot that scene like that, that Bob Newhart. It was all through the whole, the whole, the whole series was a dream. And he wakes up in bed with his old life from Malcolm in the Middle. Like I had this dream, I was a drug kingpin, and I killed people. He's like, just go back to sleep. Now, can you tell me a little bit about story maps and what you're doing with story maps?

Daniel Calvisi 45:24
Well, story maps is my structural method that I've written a number of books about. And a story map itself is a really powerful outlining tool that breaks down your narrative into its most crucial basic dramatic elements. And then the, the four to six main story engines. And the 10 to 15 major story beats those signpost beats in your plot. And you can use the story map to construct a new story, a new screenplay, TV, pilot, or even even a novel or short story. And you can use it to deconstruct an existing narrative like, you know, your favorite movie or a bunch of movies from your genre of choice to see how they were done by those professionals, or a bunch of TV pilots to help you learn how to write a TV pilot. The great thing that I always suggest that people say, okay, so structure is so important form is so important. Again, it's formula form, not formula doesn't dictate your choices. It just gives you a shape and a form to put your choices into that's based on years and years of successful structure of films and TV. Excuse me. Wow, okay, sorry about that yours. And so you can not only deconstruct your favorite films and stuff, but you can use them as structural templates. So let's say you want to write a crime John crime drama pilot, and you want your main character is going to be a guy from quote, the normal world, you can use the Breaking Bad pilot as your structural template. So you start with breaking it down into a story map, or you get my book story maps, TV drama, the structure of the one hour television pilot, and you look at that beachy for Breaking Bad. And you use that as a template to write your own script, at least the first draft, and then you can deviate from that as your story demands that allows, you know, so such a starting point, it's a great starting point. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 47:37
I'm a big I'm a big, a big proponent of, of structure, because I feel it, it's like a roadmap for you to kind of like start tossing your characters into and start moving them around. Yeah, it just gives you, you know, posts along the way as your journey makes life a little easier.

Daniel Calvisi 47:53
Yeah, and being and having come from the world of being a reader on the job for for studios and production companies and, and, you know, professional companies, I was looking for those structural signposts, you know, I was looking for an act one that was around 30 pages now, a lot of act ones, and exactly on 30 pages. And that's great. And I would give them a standing ovation for that. And that would make me feel really great. Because that was familiar, but it could end on page 29, or 28, or 31, or 32. And that would be okay, you know, as long as it was working, and in every other way. So it doesn't have to exactly be, you know, a 30 page Act One, but you want to have those story beats in there that are the classic story beats that are in 95% of movies. And the thing is that the reader is looking for that. So if you have a 47 page, act one, then that reader is going to know their red flags is going to go up and they're going to say, okay, maybe this person doesn't understand structure. Maybe they are overriding because they're in love with their, with their words, you know.

Alex Ferrari 49:07
And that's when that's when story maps or structural guy kind of helps you along the way.

Daniel Calvisi 49:13
Yeah, cuz you can look at these other examples from so many other films and you can map out your own favorite films and say, Okay, well, they had a they had an exactly 30 minute Act One. Well, there's must be something there. You know, if Christopher Nolan and Steven Spielberg and and Darren Aronofsky had an exact 30 minute Act One, and every one of them was working in a different genre, there must be something about that 30 minute or 30 Page Act One, so maybe I should stick within that structure.

Alex Ferrari 49:45
And then once you get three or four or five or 10 or 20 screenplays and you want to start playing around with structure and making a little bit more artistic that's that's your prerogative but I think you need to learn the rules before you break them.

Daniel Calvisi 49:56
Yeah, yeah. And and even in in mapping popular films and scripts, you do find little anomalies and things that are interesting. Like I just mapped lala land I gave that out as a freebie to my newsletter subscribers. And if you want to sign up for that it's on its act for screenplays calm.

Alex Ferrari 50:17
I'll put it in the show notes. Okay, cool.

Daniel Calvisi 50:21
So, I mapped out lala land and I originally had the turn the end of that one turn coming right at 30 minutes, because that that 30 minute arc is when they're at the party. And she she's marked him because she sees him in the 80s, the 80s cover band, right. And he had previously always thought he was such a serious musician, and she sees him in this cheesy 80s cover band. And he confronts her, they argue, and he says, Alright, I'll see you in the movies. And he stalks off, and that's like, exactly 30 minutes. And so I thought, Okay, well, that's the end of Act One. But I ended up changing the end of Act One to 25 minutes. And I'm trying to remember what was the moment I don't quite remember what the moment was, but it was. It was an earlier moment, which I felt really capped off at one it was them. Oh, it was the moment when she we we seek we finally realize the fruition of what she was looking at when she heard that and chanting, jazz music, piano music and she comes into the club. And we originally had to see her eyes looking off camera, you know, really in trance, and then we cut away. So now we come back 10 minutes later, and we see what she was looking at. And it's him at the piano. So it's that big moment where they already had their quote, meet cute, which was her flipping them off, you know, in the traffic

Alex Ferrari 51:49
and lovely LA traffic. Yes, yeah,

Daniel Calvisi 51:51
yeah, but, but this was really the fruition of them, the first moment of them romantically coming together. So I said, You know what, this was a 25 minute hack one, which may not sound like that big of a deal. But when 90 95% of act one's around 30 minutes to change that by five minutes, it can actually kind of be a big deal sometimes,

Alex Ferrari 52:16
depending on the story, depending on the story. So now I'm going to talk ask you a couple questions. I asked all of my, all of my guests. So what advice would you give a screenwriter wanting to break into the business?

Daniel Calvisi 52:30
Okay? Does it have to be one piece of advice, you can get two or three, go for it. Okay? Well read as many scripts as possible that you can get your hands on, you can download a lot of them online, you probably have friends that can send you the PDFs, read as many scripts as possible professional scripts, and break down or StoryMap as many films as possible, to really see how the professionals do it. You know, use those as templates. Don't just watch movies and think about them do written analysis of the movies, even do your own coverage reports, you know, do do a page or two of actual notes, commentary critique of an actual film. And maybe you want to take that professionally and become a reader, you know, but do written analysis, whether it's a beat sheet, or your own little essay about film, because it forces you to really take it apart, you know, to really think about that. Okay, where is the end of Act One? Is it 25 minutes? Or is it 30 minutes. And if you force yourself to decide on that and map it out, then you're really going to see how how these things work and really take them apart and see how they run.

Alex Ferrari 53:51
Perfect. Now, can you tell me? Can you tell me what book had the biggest impact on your life or career besides story maps? Of course.

Daniel Calvisi 54:00
Yes. Um, you know, I have to go back to Syd field screenplay, because I got that. I can't remember I think it was my senior year of high school actually. I think my mom found it or something and and that just was my the first time I even learned about feature film screenplay structure, you know, so that just really blew the doors open for me.

Alex Ferrari 54:24
Same here. When I read that book in college, I was just my mind was blown. Like what? Every movie is the same what it just it kind of blew my mind as well. What is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film business or in life?

Daniel Calvisi 54:39
Wow. Well, it's funny, I will say something that I'm learning now is I'm pursuing more the independent route with my own scripts and pilots. I'm working with friends to ideally produce my own work, you know, we're just Still in the development stage, but because it is really hard to if you only have a script to convince that studio production company, network, agency, whatever to take a chance on you, because it's just a script, you know, you don't have actors attached, you don't have financing behind you, you don't have a director attached audience, an audience built up anything an audience built up a track record. So I think I'm coming to the point where I'm just like, you know, what, got to do it yourself. You know, and I've been getting that note for the past 10 years. Even more, you know, especially with the dawn of YouTube, and all these streaming streaming services. Everyone keeps saying, do it yourself, do it yourself, you know, you, you can get your hands on a camera, that's, that's cinema quality. If an iPhone can shoot a movie, Now, anybody can shoot a movie, you know. Now, the problem with that is anybody can shoot a bad movie that's unprofessional and never sells, you know, and maybe goes to 10 film festivals, and you have to pay to travel to 10 film festivals. And before you're done, you're $20,000 in debt. But you know, let's look on the bright side. And say you're going to make a good movie, you know, that is going to go somewhere, or is just going to become your, your sizzle reel or resume to get you a good manager and a good agent and really get you moving. But I would say it's the do it yourself thing, you know, a script. A single great, awesome script should be enough. But the reality is, it's so competitive, that isn't always enough.

Alex Ferrari 56:43
I mean, the block, the blacklist is a good example of that how many amazing scripts are on the blacklist? And it's still hard?

Daniel Calvisi 56:49
Yeah, it's still hard for them to get produced, you know. But the only thing that you have, the only thing you need, the requirement you need to start is a great script. Okay. So if you're going to produce it yourself, for $10,000 and shoot it with your iPhone, you still need a great script. If you're going to sell it to Warner Brothers for $100,000, you still need a great script. You know, if you're going to attach an indie producer who has a track record, who won Sundance, you still need a great script. And that means you're going to have to spend years developing your craft, you know,

Alex Ferrari 57:26
Hmm. Well said, sir, well said. Now, what are three of your favorite films of all time?

Daniel Calvisi 57:33
Well, that's interesting, because I have, I always say, my two favorites, I can't choose which is my, I can't choose which is my number one favorite film. So I actually have three favorite films. They are Raiders of the Lost star, Goodfellas, and the Wizard of Oz

Alex Ferrari 57:52
great combo.

Daniel Calvisi 57:53
They're incredibly different films. I mean, you can't get any more different. You think, but, but they're so different. You know, I mean, they're so amazing that those are kind of my top three spots. And depending on how I'm feeling at the moment, one of them may be number one, or they may all three be number one, but yeah, got it. They're amazing.

Alex Ferrari 58:15
Now where can people find you and your work?

Daniel Calvisi 58:18
Well, you can find me at act for screenplays.com That's my homepage and that is a CT fo you are screenplays.com and you can learn about my consulting and you can get my books and you can get a lot of free advice and downloads and things like that. You can also sign up for my newsletter there, and I give out exclusive articles sometimes leads from producers, and sometimes free story maps through my newsletter. So you can learn about that. You can also learn about my story maps masterclass, which is an eight week program that begins with an eight week program where you develop a TV pilot or feature from the ground up from concept and logline straight through to a finished draft. You probably won't finish the eight weeks with a finished draft, but you'll definitely be on your way you'll probably finish with a rock solid story map, a great scene list, you know, comprehensive scene list and the first 10 to 30 pages of your screenplay. So then from there, you're armed to, to you're well on your way to creating a great script. And what's unique about a masterclass is that I bring in channels to actually give advice on your loglines and to actually do q&a conference calls with my writers to give them career advice as well. That's awesome. So let's say you're workshopping to log lines. You're not sure which one you're going to write. I'm going to give you notes. If it's a group class, your peers will give you notes and then these two industry professionals like right now I have a Former studio executive who was at the studio level, he was involved with films like Groundhog Day, great movie, Lord of the Rings, you know, so he was really top like President of Marketing at big companies like newline and MGM. And then I have a very successful screenwriter Jeffrey Radek, who is responsible for the final destination franchise. He's big in thrillers and horror. So these guys are going to give notes on concepts from my writers for my next for my next class. Awesome. So you get this feedback from these people who are executives, managers, assistants to agents, screenwriters, they've been in the business for a long time and they say you know what, this first logline sounds interesting, but this is more of a passion piece. This is not something that in the current marketplace from a newbie is really gonna go anywhere. But this second logline feels more commercial to me, although you maybe don't have all the elements worked out yet. So then you have this information, and you're going to decide whether you want to go with the first concept or the second concept. Very cool.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:06
That really helps. Well, Dan, man, thank you so much for being on the show. You've dropped a bunch of knowledge bombs on the indie film hustle tribe, so I truly appreciate your time.

Daniel Calvisi 1:01:16
Well, thank you. Thanks for having me on. My goal was to drop knowledge bombs.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:19
And you did sir.

Daniel Calvisi 1:01:22
That was achieved.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:24
I want to thank Dan for coming on and dropping those knowledge bombs on us and I hope you guys got something out of it, you know, after he's been reading just 1000s of screenplays. Over the course of his career. I think he has a decent grasp on story. And if you guys want to check out his books, just head over to the show notes at Indie film hustle.com forward slash BPS zero 27 for all the links to all of his work, and that does it for another episode. 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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