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BPS 007: How to Create an Emotional Impact in Your Screenplay with Karl Iglesias

This week we were lucky enough to have as our guest best-selling author Karl Iglesias. He has written award-winning books including The 101 Habits of Highly Successful ScreenwritersWriting for Emotional Impact, and Cut to the Chase(FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

I discovered Karl Iglesias’ work reading Writing for Emotional Impact. It really transformed the way I wrote screenplays and created a bunch of new habits that I still use today.

Karl is a script-doctor, author, award-winning instructor, and story consultant, specializing in the reader’s emotional response to the written page. He helps writers, filmmakers, producers and advertising executives craft better stories that connect emotionally with an audience.

It was a major threat to interview Karl on the show. His work is so specific but yet broad. His one rule that can never be broken,

“Always be interesting.”

I think most films coming out of Hollywood today should take that advice. Keep your audience engaged and emotionally invested. So many filmmakers and screenwriters today don’t understand that basic concept.

I really asked Karl the tough questions so we could fill this episode with amazing content for you. This is one podcast you won’t want to miss. Enjoy!

Right-click here to download the MP3

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Alex Ferrari 0:00
Now today on the show, we have an emotions expert. His name is Carly gliss. Yes, he's a best selling author and master lecturer around the world. And he really focuses on the emotional impact of writing and getting the most emotion out of the words that are being put on the page. I've read all his books and taken a few of his courses. And he's wonderful and really made me start thinking differently about how I write what kind of words you use to just pull out that emotion to really get the reader really excited about what they're reading. So I wanted to bring them on the show. And this episode, I beat him up something fierce. It's literally kind of like a free masterclass on screenwriting, and emotional impact of your characters and story, and even told me afterwards he's like, my god, you really beat me up in this episode. I'm like, yeah, why don't get as much stuff out for screenwriters as humanly possible. So please get ready to take some detailed notes as we dropped some major knowledge bombs in this episode. So without any further ado, enjoy my conversation with Carl Yglesias. Welcome, Carl, thank you so much for being on the show.

Karl Iglesias 3:18
Thank you. My pleasure.

Alex Ferrari 3:19
So we'll jump right into it. So um, what is um, your teachings are focused on the emotional impacts of stories and screenplays? Can you explain this a little bit to the audience?

Karl Iglesias 3:29
Sure. So I was I was a writer, I'm still a writer. And, and I tend to be kind of very left brain. My wife likes to say that I have two left brains. Very, very mostly logical. And the thing that drives me more is, is the trying to understand how things work. So I've always wanted to tell stories, I was wanting to be in filmmaking. And, and I wanted to know why, you know, you read all the books and tells you, okay, you need to do this, you need to do that for structure, character development, character arcs, and everything that being that was being taught, I was wanting to know why. And, and so I started to get more into the effect of storytelling more than the rules. And it really didn't take long to understand why I was loving certain films more than others. And it was basically about the emotional response that I was getting from these films. You know, I tend to get into like, you know, comedies or thrillers and I realize, well, the comedy that doesn't make you laugh is not it's not never going to be your favorite movie, or a horror film that doesn't scare you. It's not going to be your favorite horror film. So it's really all about the emotions and response of the movies. And so I tend to kind of went, you know, with reverse engineering figure out, okay, the effect the end effect is the emotion, the emotional response of the audience. And so how do you get there? How do you do that? And that's what I tend to focus in my studies and In my teaching, you know, it's a kind of, you know, people say it's the kind of book that you always wanted to read, but couldn't find out there. So you wrote it. That's, that's what it is. They also I wrote down. You know, as far as I know, I'm the only one who speaks about this. And I think it's the most important thing. You know, if, you know, when people read your script, if they don't, if they're not engaged by your script, and you lost, that's it, it doesn't even go past the Faster Reader to the executives, let alone two actors and directors and, you know, the studio betting, you know, 100 million dollars to make your film if it doesn't engage them. So the rule number one, and the only rule in storytelling is to engage the audience and not be boring. And that's really, you know, I like to say my classes that there's only, you know, there's there's this 1000s and 1000s of rules, and principles from all the books, but and you can break all of them. Except one, you cannot break this one rule, which is be interesting. And as long as you're interesting, you can break any rule you want. And I think you'll still be a good storyteller. But that's the key, you got to engage your audience. And so So I focus more on the actual specific techniques that generate those emotional responses.

Alex Ferrari 6:15
So with that said, I'm going to I'm going to put you on the spot a little bit and one of my favorite films of all time, and arguably now according to IMDb, the number one film of all time, The Shawshank Redemption.

Karl Iglesias 6:28
Okay, yeah, great film.

Alex Ferrari 6:30
It is. It's absolutely amazing. And I've analyzed that movie so much, because I've, I've wondered what, what is in that story? And in the way that Frank Darabont wrote that story, and also directed, and the characters and the actors and write the whole package? What in that movie that touches so many people, I mean, like, in a way that there's never been another movie that I know. Right now, when it came out. It wasn't like this blowout success. Obviously, it was not a big get nominated for Best Picture, but it didn't win. But but it's one of those movies that kind of grew later. And till now, all of a sudden, it kind of just came up and took over the Godfather, like you know, absolutely. You know, when the Godfather came out, it blew everything out the water everybody knew was the greatest thing ever made it that right? But Shawshank didn't. And I'm curious on your take of why that story hits so beautifully with everybody.

Karl Iglesias 7:24
Well, there, I think there's two combinations, first of all, and you're right, when the movie first came out, it wasn't a success at all. And and the thing that makes a movie a success, usually, from the start, which is the beginning is usually the concept. So the concept is like the book cover, right? There's something about the concept that's unique. That drives people to the theaters, not a great concept. Not at all right? It actually kept people away. It's like, okay, a movie about people in prison. Okay, you know, who cares? I mean, I admit, I was one of them, you know, I was like, a movie does not interest me, right? And it was only through word of mouth and reviews and, and then you finally go, Okay, I'll go see it, and then you wild by it. So when you're in the theater, so you know, when you're trying to make a when you try to write a story, I always recommend you know, since since you're not, you know, you're obviously you're, you're a nobody, and you want to interest people you got to do with the concept first. So at least people open your script and read it. But in this case, you had simply word of mouth. So what is it about once you're inside the theater? Once you're committed to watching these two films, this film? What is it that that wow, so the very first thing is always characters that the first thing is a character that you connect with. And the very first thing that it connects you with is is Andy and a character who is unjustly accused of something that he didn't do, and that automatically connects you. So if you're familiar with the, you know, my techniques for, for connecting emotionally with a character, you know, the one of the most powerful one is pity. So feeling sorry for someone, and you automatically feel sorry for him because he didn't do it. You know, he's accused of something. And he's accused for it, I guess his life right? For something that he didn't do so this on undeserved misfortune is one of the biggest, biggest techniques you can use to connect with a character. And so you're automatically connected. So you're already on board. And then you realize, okay, well, you know, what do you do when you're inside of prison? I mean, so, you know, the only thing you can do to survive is hope, and hope is probably one of the most powerful themes and messages in stories. It's true, you know, because all of us in our life so life's our struggle. And, and especially in the

Alex Ferrari 9:46
movie business.

Karl Iglesias 9:47
Yeah, exactly. But if you look at you look at, you know, great stories, and certainly the foundation of most religions is hope. You know, it's one of the most powerful things So you got a character we care about, you know, combined with this message of hope, you know, you know, get busy living, or get busy dying, which is such a powerful line. Right, amazing. And there you go. And then of course, you know, you got to you got to tell a good story. So there's elements of suspense, there's attention, anticipation, surprise, humor, other characters you care about, read, you know, certainly fear. You know, once you're, once you're connected with a character, what what you do as a storyteller, as you're trying to make us worry about that character, you know, you hope that they will be happy, and you hope that they'll survive, or whatever they do whatever they want. The interesting about this, this, this movie, though, is that we didn't know what Andy, you know, his, you know, his goal was secret for 19 years. And so, we didn't really know what the what his main goal was other than surviving. But if you create jeopardy for that character throughout, and they certainly do in this in this film, you're worried all the time. And so you're constantly engaged in this film, so you have you have the character you care about, you have to struggle. And then of course, the the bigger, you know, epiphany and the way everything is resolved, which is very clever, surprising. You know, poetic justice at the end. I mean, it's just in friendship. I mean, this got you know, everything is there you got all the the great ingredients. And and of course, you got to, you know, give kudos to Stephen King for the story and for for Darabont for the adaptation, but it's just one of those. One of those things where everything all the stars are aligned, and, you know, with great characters and performances, and, you know, a great script. I mean, yeah, it's definitely one of the one of the greatest movies out there.

Alex Ferrari 11:51
And then Darabont I heard he literally gave them the script away to get the opportunity to direct it. Yeah, yes, he was, he was offered a few million because people who read it in the business understood that that this was like, Oh, this is serious. This is a good script. Yeah. But he, he they offered him like seven figures like high like mid to high seven figures for it. And he's like, Nope, he finally, Director He wanted to start his career. And I think I think it was a good idea for him.

Karl Iglesias 12:17
Absolutely. Yeah. It's kind of like Sylvester Stallone and raw. Yeah.

Alex Ferrari 12:21
Do you actually believe that Rocky was written in three days? He says he wrote it in three days, it possible

Karl Iglesias 12:29
that you wrote it in three days, but he probably developed it over a longer period of time. Right.

Alex Ferrari 12:34
And that's another great I mean, geez, yeah. Oh, absolutely. That script is the ultimate underdog story. Yeah. So let me ask your question. Why is Hollywood's Why is Hollywood lacking such emotion, true emotion? And its films today? And what are they like? Why do you why do you think because in the 70s, in the 80s, even there was more emotion and character in their movies than today. Today, it just seems to me so flat and so heavily reliant on visual effects and concepts and things that we've, we've seen back from the 70s and 80s, that the rehashing today, why, what what do you think of the bow into business today? In general,

Karl Iglesias 13:10
it's, well, I, you know, the business is always a sign of the times, it's always a, you know, a reflection of the culture. And, you know, our culture in the 60s and 70s was a lot different than it is today. And, you know, you got to understand that the film studios are a business, they're corporations, they're in, they're in the business of making money. So they're not in the business of making art. It's one of those really interesting paradoxes, where, you know, I think in Europe, they're more interested in making art, because there's their films are subsidized by the government, you know, but but in in the United States, it's all you know, it's capitalism. So you basically go, Okay, well, what, who buys our films? Who are films for who is our audience? What do they want? You know, and when you have a huge population of, you know, 1415 year old boys who, who goes into movies, that's why you have so many, you know, superhero movies, and kinda like, you know, video game type movies and horror films and comedies, and, you know, but that's the sign of times. And, you know, once in a while you get, you know, a great movie that goes across all all demographics, you know, the four cue movies, and then, you know, then then try to make the same kind of movie and then people get bored. It's one of those things. I mean, we're, you know, one of the one of the strongest emotions we have as an audience is, is the sense of, we always want something new. And when we get the same thing over and over and over, we eventually get tired of it. And we gravitate and we grab on to this new thing. So you'll always get those in. In movies, you always get that one film that just just just you know, the slit the sleeper hit, basically, right? And then everybody wants to make it, you know, and then they beat it to death and beating to death and then you try something new. The thing that really, really surprises me Still is this, you know, as the superhero movies, keep going on and on about it that have been, you know, slated for release until you know, 2020, which is unbelievable. It just is such a, you know, a high confidence in movies and and I'm kind of surprised that it has, you know, there's so much saturation, I'm surprised that the the audience hasn't heard of it. But

Alex Ferrari 15:22
And now and now Warner Brothers is getting into it. And now they bring all their slates out. So yeah, I'm, I'm wondering about how much longer I'm a comic book geek. So I'm, yeah, I'm happy about it. But right at a certain point. I, you know, now they're going to be doing Star Wars every year. Right. Right. Until foreseeable future, you know, it's so it's,

Karl Iglesias 15:42
well, the thing is, I mean, as long as you tell a good story, that's what can I mean, that's what counts. So so if you guys as you can maintain great storytelling, within that current within that concept and genre, then I think you're okay. I think so far doing okay. You know, I mean, I mean, comic books have been, you know, I've been in business for, you know, over eight years, I think. And so it's like, yeah, and they're still in business. So, you know, as long as in good storytelling and characters. Yeah, absolutely.

Alex Ferrari 16:11
So what are the biggest mistakes you see in first time screenwriters? Oh, I know, it's a short, it's a short show. But

Karl Iglesias 16:22
a lot of you have probably the biggest mistake Do you have? Well, the biggest mistake is is I think over relying on plot over character. That's one. And so you didn't have flat characters. And the big mistake I see, you know, dialogue usually is pretty crappy. And that's usually the one thing that we kind of read most of, in a script, okay, we're trying to get the story from the characters, you know, and good dialogue usually reflects the character's personality. So you know, and the fact that the script, the scripts don't really amount to anything, they don't really go anywhere, see go anywhere, or they don't say anything, they don't have any meaning. We don't know what the characters, what the author wanted to really say, you know, which is usually reflected in the character arcs. So, you know, there's always a reason for everything, you know, when they say, like, a, you know, structure is another thing, too, we everybody talks about structure, but I don't think anybody understands what that means, you know, they think well, three up structure, beginning, middle, and end, but they don't understand that the turning points that create that structure are more about character than actually plot points, you know, they could, you know, sit for years to come plot points, but so people think, well, it's got to be something big, and that changes the story. It's not really that it's more about the character, and the character decisions, and the character changes, you know, and the epiphany of the character and what that means to the overall story. That's what that's what we can so we're talking about, I think, mostly a, you know, kind of, like, there's a lot of, there's a lot of education out there for stress, but I don't think it goes deep enough, or I think people most most people don't really understand kind of like the deep, deep, deep principles of story and how it relates to us as human beings which I think once you really understand that that's kind of like a it's mostly what my focus is at this, at this stage of my career is really kind of going deeper into story and understanding what what it means and why we why we like stories or why we why story has such an effect on us emotionally. It's good to say well, you know, we enjoy stories and we you know, like to feel suspense but why is that and I think once you understand that it kind of teaches you that how to do it teaches you why you should do it and to you know, kind of makes you see when you don't have it in a script to kind of really focus on it. You know,

Alex Ferrari 18:58
not did you have you happen to see straight out of Compton yet? I haven't seen it yet. No. And I saw it I saw it this last weekend and it's I heard it was good. It's my it's so far this year is probably the best film I've seen, which says a lot about the industry today like a thriller about a good storyteller a good story about you know, gangsta rap is like the best story out there right now, which Wow, that's which fascinates me. But it was good. Even my wife who had no idea about gangsta rap. She sat there. So that was a really good movie. So the character in the story, which leads me to my next, my next question, no, there has been great debate about this question for many years, and I'd love to hear your thoughts about it. What in your opinion is more important plot or character?

Karl Iglesias 19:46
Well, that is a very good question. Well, you probably heard I mean, you heard this before. You know, right. You get both ends, right. But most people tend to lean toward character. And the reason for that is because you will, you will hear that character creates plot. You know, the more since since we need to connect with character and since we tend to appreciate more three dimensional characters, you know, you can't really kind of have just a plot that's already ready made, and trying to fit characters in it because the end result will be flat characters. So characters tend to have the edge. But here's my point on it. My here's my view on it. Stories are neither plot driven nor character driven. Okay, okay. So that that's going to be probably kind of the controversial thing to say you think it's one of the but it's neither. What I like to say is that stories are tension driven. So it's not part of character, it's tension, that grabs an audience that makes you appreciate a story. And tension is really, you know, a problem that needs to be solved. Or a character that needs to change. Okay. Um, so, you know, you could have unique tension at the story level, to keep us it's the only thing that keeps us engaged. Basically, when when I talk about all the emotions of story and talking about the audience, emotion is not the character emotion. So you have, for example, you have character emotions, like you know, you know, sadness and joy and fear. When I'm talking about the audience emotions, the emotions you pay money to go see in the theaters. We talked about curiosity, anticipation, tension, hope, worry, surprise, laughter. Right. Those are the emotions you like to feel in as an audience. And all of these can be incompetent, like into that one umbrella of tension. In other words, when you feeling tension in a story, there's no way you're bored. You're completely engaged when you feel intention. So that's really the key emotions you want to feel

Alex Ferrari 21:54
now tension and tension. And what's it like tension, any kind of tension or comedic tension or

Karl Iglesias 22:00
tension? It's attention, intention, basically, me it's basically to me, it's the opposite of boredom, basically, okay, you know, you'd like if you're passively sitting back in your seat, and you're going through, you know, you think about something else. When you're feeling for example, if somebody creates a question on this, you see a character enter a room, the very first thing that goes in your mind is Who is this character? Right? So why are they in the room? What are they doing? Where are we? So all these questions when you first start a movie, that creates curiosity? Right? So curiosity, that sense of curiosity in your brain is tension. Right? Because you have this question, when that question gets answered, you have tension relief. Okay, and everything, you know, everything that's enjoyable about life, is tension relief, basically. Right? I mean, when you're, you know, when you're when you're having you know, you want to have sex with someone, you have this, you know, you have tension and it gets it gets released. At the end, when you have, you know, when you're hungry, that's tension you eat, you know, you have to feel satisfied, right? You're tired, that's tension, you go to sleep, you feel relief. So it's all about tension relief, excuse me for so. And so, so it's all about tension. So all these you know, when you feel anticipation, you know, like, the character says, Okay, I'm going to go and, you know, to, I need to go to Europe to catch a killer, right? So when you say, I'm going to Europe, so you're anticipate the arrival to or, you know, meet me meet me in the parking lot. So I'm going to beat you up later after school. That's anticipation. So that's tension. Anticipation is tension. Curiosity is tension. You know, and

Alex Ferrari 23:43
if you're gonna kiss me, you're not exactly

Karl Iglesias 23:45
in a scene. So even so when you go deeper, right? Y'all know that, you know, storytelling is or filmmaking is all scenes, right? So at the scene level, that's another thing too, that when you're talking about what's really doesn't work in scripts, it's mostly seen. So I tend to teach a lot of classes on scene writing, because I think it's at the scene level, you know, that that counts. And scenes are really mini stories. So you have a character who wants something in the scene, and is having difficulty getting it. And that's what creates tension in the scene, because you're well, will they get it? And that's what drives the scene. That's what drives the whole story. If you have a main tension in the story. And really all when you think about all stories are just tension until they are relief until you have a resolution. Right? Yeah, you know, the three extraction people create structure, people have to say that it's you know, beginning middle and end, but I like to say it's mostly, you know, set up struggle and resolution, right. And a struggle is that middle act too, which is the struggle to get what they want. And in a lot of scripts, you see characters first, that you don't know what they want, that hasn't been thought of so that's already broken right there. And if we know what they want, usually it's it's not that difficult. So So it's not that interesting. So there's no struggle. And so, there you go. That's, that's my answer. So it's all about attention.

Alex Ferrari 25:10
There it is that yeah, we've put that we put the end of the debate right now. Yes.

Karl Iglesias 25:15
This is just according to me. Oh,

Alex Ferrari 25:17
of course. Yeah. So um, in your opinion, what is the functions of dialogue?

Karl Iglesias 25:23
The function was dialogue. Boy, you had like, really big, big questions here. I lasted to answer those.

Alex Ferrari 25:31
I'm sorry, I'll start throwing some more softer.

Karl Iglesias 25:35
Well, the functions of dialogue, I mean, there's only two ways you can tell a story really, you can, you can, you know, you can describe something, right? So, and then you can, you can have characters talking about it, right. So the difference between the two is that, traditionally, the narrative part of it is more passive. And the dialogue is more active, meaning that when characters speak in dialogue, you are immersed in the experience, you're, you're there with them, you're like a fly on the wall, like really, kind of being part of the conversation. And that's usually in your brain, that's usually more interesting than just reading. You know, if I told you, you know, Bob entered the room and said to Susie, that he loved her, and that he couldn't live without her. So I'm just kind of describing something, right. So I'm just telling you a little story. But if I say, you know, Bob came into the room. And so and he goes, Susie, I love you, I can't, I can't live without you. And Susie says, well, sorry, I don't love you back, I'm seeing your, your best friend or whatever. Right. So, you know, by, by actually having the character speak, you're, you're a lot more immersive to lead, it's more of an active experience than just description. And usually readers, you know, when they read scripts, and the returns of scripts, they usually tend to just read dialogue, only, they try to grasp the story, because I have to read a script so fast. So they like to say that they read the burden areas vertically, most, most readers, at least, you know, the ones that I know of from experience, because they have to read scripts very fast. And so they usually get the story from the dialog. So, you know, when you see scripts with a lot of description, they usually don't tend to like that takes them longer to read, it takes them longer to understand the story. And also, the great thing about dialogue is that not only you can communicate the story, you can also communicate the characters personalities and attitudes. So you have to get to really get to learn the characters. And also dialogue tends to be the joy of of the, you know, the wit and cleverness and sarcasm and have a story, you know, characters.

Alex Ferrari 27:59
Now, with dialogue, I would argue to say one of the greatest dialogue writers alive today is Quentin Tarantino. What? What is your take on his style, which is so unique that I mean, I've still I tell people all the time, like, there's certain directors, certain writers that might have not made it in this market this time or that time. But honestly, I think if Tarantino shows up today, with Reservoir Dogs, it, it would it would create a revolution just because of who he is and his talent. What is what is your take on his technique and how he does his things? Because they are, it's such a unique person, I always tell filmmakers, if you want to learn how to write dialogue, listen to his dial, don't try to write his dialogue, but you'll never be able to write. Right but

Karl Iglesias 28:46
well, there's well the thing about Tarantino, I mean, first of all, he he is a extremely knowledgeable about film. He used to work as a in a video store. And he used to like pretty much immerse himself in movies and even really obscure and will be, you know, in foreign films and Hong Kong films and crime films. So he's very knowledgeable. So he's able to ask, actually, you know, my belief in of art or creativity is really creativity is really a way of combining old things into something new. And this is what he does. So the more old things you know, the more you're the more resources you have, which is this knowledge of film, the more you can combine them into something unique. And that's what he does very well. So that's that, too, is that he's not afraid to break the rules. Oh, yeah. And like I said, like, I use Turnitin all the time and examples of when I say that you can break every rule except one. And be interesting. And that's that's the one that he that's what he does. I mean, he breaks every single rule except one. He's always interesting, and that's why he's successful because people people gravitate to his films because they know they're not going to be bored.

Alex Ferrari 29:57
Right and so if you watch this, if you watch Pulp Fiction, which The structure of that film was is non obviously not standard. Right. But if you look at the plot points, they actually hit. Yeah, well, you know, which is kind of weird. We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.

Karl Iglesias 30:25
Absolutely, well, yeah, well, it's like, you know, the, the French filmmaker, genre Equador is known, it's known for to have said, you know, every, every film has a beginning, middle and end, not necessarily in that order. Right. So, you want to if you don't put Pulp Fiction in the order of the stories just would be decided to tell it in a in a just nonlinear way. You know, you just played with time a little bit. You know,

Alex Ferrari 30:51
and, and it just Yeah, and obviously, yeah, it

Karl Iglesias 30:53
was very unique. Absolutely. And entertaining, which is the most important thing. I mean, you know, you know, I've seen films where people tried experimenting with things, but they were just boring as hell, you know, right. In this case, he experimented, and it turned out, okay, because it was interesting. You know, he still told the story with interesting characters, and surprises.

Alex Ferrari 31:14
So, um, you wrote a book called 101 Habits of Highly Successful screenwriters. Can you share a few of those habits with the audience, some of the some of the top ones that you think are really important?

Karl Iglesias 31:25
Well, the very, very top one is the one that started that's that led to the rain for emotional impact, which was Habit number 69, which was evoking emotion on the page. And so one of those habits was, you know, it, successful writers are so set six are successful, because they're able to evoke an emotion on the page consistently. Write so they're able to create that emotional response in the reader. They're always entertaining. So they're masters of their craft. And and when I started teaching, because of that book, at the time, I was just a writer, and I was no interest in teaching, I was just a writer, I just wanted to be alone in my room, right. So I started completely terrified. But I was invited to the very first screenwriting Expo and because of that, those habits book, the book, and the thing that most people wanted to know was, was, of course, this particular habit, which is a craft or wanting to know about the craft. So I started teaching about the back part of it. And then people eventually wanted to want to have a book. And that's the reason why the second book was written, because people just kept asking, you know, from after my presentation, so is there a book with all that information that I was giving? So, but in terms of habits there, so that that's the number one, by far, I mean, you could you, you could, like I said, you could ignore any other habit, if you if you consistently are able to create an emotional response in the reader, from your words, you're guaranteed success. Because, you know, you can just, you know, you can drop your script in the middle of a Beverly Hills Park, and, you know, an agent will pick that up and read it. And if they're totally wowed by the script, there's no way he's not going to pick up the phone and call you. But that's the key, they have to be wowed by the script and 99% of the scripts out, there are not that, you know, that great, unfortunately. So that's, that's why there's so much problems. But the other thing too, and this is more about the business aspect of it is that one of the habits is that you're you, you, you have to have, you have to develop a really thick skin in Hollywood, because most of the businesses rejections, so you have to be able to be able to take rejection, and be able to live with it and be able to persevere and keep writing and keep getting better. And keep having hope. You know,

Alex Ferrari 33:54
I'll tear and tear and it took forever. For Yeah, do you think

Karl Iglesias 33:59
one of the one of the, you know, surprising things when I was interviewing all those writers was that their very first script that they sold was usually their 10th or more, you know, that they kept they kept writing, even though they kept being rejected and not selling anything and having to, you know, work crappy jobs, or even not having any money in the bank and struggling, but they just kept at it. And I think a lot of writers, even very talented writers, who could be great writers, usually because of life and family and usually give up because because of the realities of life and don't have that persistence and that passion to to keep writing. You know,

Alex Ferrari 34:39
I think writers are one of the most undervalued parts of the filmmaking process. Oh, absolutely. Yeah, it is all part that I mean, it starts on the page.

Karl Iglesias 34:49
Uh huh. Yeah, yeah, it started they're really the most important element. I mean, when you think about it without the writer if there's no script, nobody in this town has a job. Right? Right. I think about all the jobs in this industry right this Over 200 300 jobs that are related to making a film, if not more, right, if not more, and, and we're not talking about just the film we're talking about, you know, the business agents and producers and and accountants and lawyers. I mean, if without a script, nobody has a job.

Alex Ferrari 35:16
As as, as Hollywood realizes every time there's a Writers Guild strike Exactly. All of a sudden, everyone goes, Oh, wait a minute, we need these guys. Right, exactly. Maybe we should pay them a little bit

Karl Iglesias 35:26
here. But that's the that's that is the paradox that they, you know, they they know secretly that they're the most important, but they think that they could do it. They think that it's not that hard that anybody can do it.

Alex Ferrari 35:39
Well, that's the thing. And if I've seen a movie, so I could write one. It's kind of like, everyone says that. And then I'm like, Well, you could also listen to a symphony, doesn't mean you can write one. It's exactly yeah, it's a lot more than just that.

Karl Iglesias 35:54
So this is all jokes that I like to say about this guy who's who goes to a piano store and he goes inside the piano stores his old man, he sits down and starts playing the piano, and he's awful. And, and the sales because what's going on? What are you thinking? I can't understand this. I've been listening to music my whole life.

Alex Ferrari 36:16
Why doesn't work? I don't know. Exactly. Right.

Karl Iglesias 36:19
So that's the thing. People think that you know, because they because we immerse in films, because we see movies all the time. We know how they work and everything. It's like telling a joke to some people. You know, some people, everybody understands jokes and appreciate jokes, but nobody can be a comedian. You know,

Alex Ferrari 36:34
it's, it's rough to be up on that stage. No question about it. Yeah. So what are some of the mistakes you see in indie film stories? And in their screenplays in general? Because no, they're very kind of different than your mainstream movies. So yes, indie films, I find a lot of times when they hit, they're wonderful. But the majority of them are, you know, a little rough sometimes. Yeah. What's your experience with that?

Karl Iglesias 36:58
My experience with them is that it is, it's not gonna be surprising me, for me to say it's, it's, again, the emotional response. So you know, when you say if an indie film doesn't hit it, that's basically what it means. It means it just didn't grab the audience, the audience was mostly bored by it. So, you know, there's always good elements in an indie film that, that, that mates, the people on board to commit to it and make it and usually it's about characters. The thing about indie hits is that most of them, as far from my experience, don't really have a concept. You know, it's mostly a very soft concept. And it's really kind of relies on character in the drama of characters. And so, you know, great, the characters are great, but, but ultimately, if the audience is bored throughout, in other words, if the other elements, the other emotions are ignored, you know, like, like, tension, or surprise, or twists, or, you know, something unique about it, you know, they just don't to grab the audience, you know, or maybe it's the maybe it's the statement that the, you know, the filmmaker wants to make, maybe it's a statement that we just don't care about. Right? Yeah. That there's a lot of things you know,

Alex Ferrari 38:14
so can you give an example of a few indie films that blew your way and why they blew you away? Oh,

Karl Iglesias 38:21
it's been

Alex Ferrari 38:22
it's been a while it's been a while. You can go back and go back to the early 90s. Go back to the early 90s. If Yeah,

Karl Iglesias 38:29
for me, I mean, the type of movies that I tend to, like, more I like, you know, more thought provoking films, so I tend to gravitate towards the you know, sci fi and futuristic not necessarily fantasy but but so the movies like you know, Stranger Than Fiction, for example. Yeah. So anything that has a really kind of like a really very unique concept to it, but it definitely an indie film. You know, I usually tend to like it because I'm because I'm more intellectually challenged or, you know, like, my mind is constantly working in thinking and, you know, I tend to have more of a philosophical kind of mind thing, so anything that has a really kind of high concept within the indie film, then I tend to like I'm trying to think of the last the last woman Memento was a pretty old Memento Absolutely yeah,

Alex Ferrari 39:19
that was one of those ones obviously Reservoir Dogs and write fiction fiction was kind of an indie but yeah,

Karl Iglesias 39:26
yeah, yeah you know very very old film but a mariachi with Robert Rodriguez, you know that he made the very end right only made it only $7,000. But there was something really unique about it, and it was entertaining. So so high concept good characters, but also great, you know, a good story that really keeps you engaged from start to finish one, one film I

Alex Ferrari 39:52
think that I don't know if you liked it, and I think you might have adaptation.

Karl Iglesias 39:57
Ah, yeah, yeah, um,

Alex Ferrari 39:59
that was Very interesting.

Karl Iglesias 40:01
I liked it. Yeah. It wasn't interesting. And of course, we all enjoyed it because we're writers and we could. We could identify. Oh, bad goodly. Yeah. But you know what I didn't I didn't like it as much as I enjoyed Eternal Sunshine because Oh, yeah, you know, Eternal Sunshine had this really high concept. So there's a good example from the very same filmmaker,

Alex Ferrari 40:20
a very unique filmmaker. Exactly.

Karl Iglesias 40:21
Yeah. Charlie Kaufman.

Alex Ferrari 40:23
Yeah,

Karl Iglesias 40:24
yeah. Although, if you're talking about the Spike Jones as the director, yeah. Speaking of Spike Jones, her to was it was a good indie film. Yeah,

Alex Ferrari 40:32
very, very nice film. I like that one a lot as well, right? Um, is there any any advice you can give indie filmmakers on writing their first script, other than what we've already kind of discussed any specific like techniques or tools that maybe that could help them to kind of get off the ground.

Karl Iglesias 40:48
Just Just learn more about story. And we're not talking about just the you know, the usual the usual suspects, box and Mikey and Syd field, we're talking about just go deeper into into story and how to tell a really good one, I think there's, there's still a lot of people that don't know how to tell a good story. And of course, it starts with the emotion. So obviously, I would tell people go read my book, or, you know, of course, of course, and learn that it's really about the emotions, and that you could break every single rule as long as people feel those emotions. So learning, learning how to write scenes, there'll be another aspect to it learn how to write a good scene. I always tell writers to take acting classes, because even if they're interested in being an actor, because you get to learn how to write good scenes from from actors, because that's, you know, they're all they're all, you know, their main thing is, what do I want in the scene and the different beats in the scene? And that's really how you write a good scene.

Alex Ferrari 41:50
That's interesting. That's a really good, that's a really good tip. Yeah.

Karl Iglesias 41:54
And, yeah, and that they learn how to how to create that feeling London, really knowing what an audience wants out of a story. You know, so we definitely want something new. So we want something so probably a thought provoking concept we want characters we can connect with emotionally so that there's actually techniques for that talk in the book. And then once once we connect with a character, you know, give us give us a, you know, a, a goal that that is worthy, you know, a lot of times, you know, a character goes after something that we, you know, it's it's tends to be more of a selfish goal. And we don't really connect with that. This is this is something that I also speak about, about the paradox of the goals we have in life, which is to you know, to be rich, right? We all try to make money and survive. But you never see that in films. You never see that as a goal in

Alex Ferrari 42:53
film. So say that again. See, this isn't your so Okay, so

Karl Iglesias 42:57
there's this paradox, okay. If you if you think about if you ask people in real life, what their what do they aspire to? Right, that's usually aspired to have a good job to be rich to be happy to have things to have material things a big house a good car, Scarface. Exactly. Right. Yeah, exactly. Power. Right. Well, power you see, like the film, but usually it's the in the, in the cautionary tales, right. But about in films, when you think about what is it that people aspire to and films, like what their goals are, it's usually about love a family about saving the village about doing something for another about finding their child. You know, it's more about what's really important in life that people kind of still trying to learn on their own. So there's a there's a connection between stories and the meaning of stories and why we like stories, and what is the the power of stories in our life?

Alex Ferrari 43:53
But do you think do you think that story that had the goal of being just rich or successful or comfortable and having a good family and which are most of the goals of real life people,

Karl Iglesias 44:04
right, yeah.

Alex Ferrari 44:05
Do you think a story like that? Or do you have an example of a story? Well,

Karl Iglesias 44:08
no, we don't I mean, other than I mean, somebody brings the example of how to succeed in business and never trying, which is a famous play. But but you never see that or, or you see that in a character that originally goes after that goal, but then learns, that's not the you know, usually midpoint that the, it's not the solution. So yeah, and there's a reason for that is because it doesn't work. You know, it doesn't, you know, and and to go back to your question about the common errors I see in film is that usually the goals that characters have in a story are usually not what I call worthy goals, right? So there's worthy goals and, you know, flat goals or whatever, unworthy goals. They're mostly unworthy like they're I just don't care, or I just I can't really connect with a character who goes after that, you know, I just don't care. And so that's important. One of the things that I teach about connecting with characters that not only you have to use this, these techniques to make us, you know, feel sorry for him, show their humanity and show their admirable traits to just so you care about them, right? But the second part of that equation is what do they go after and why? And so in the movie, what do they go after, is very important, because if we don't care what they go after, we're just not going to care, we're gonna just go through the motions, and struggle, but we're not going to care. And that's why one of the things that I teach a lot about is Pixar, because Pixar knows how to tell great stories. And, and so and I go through this whole list of the entire movies, and I go and show them what the characters are after. And if you see what they're after, it's always about you know, saving a friend, saving a child falling in love saving the village, it's all these things that are considered, you know, that goes deeper into our humanity and our, our sense of being social with, you know, peered part of this group, as opposed to being a selfish single a person that goes after what they want just to be happy. And you never see that, you know, if talk about structure and redemption, you know, his goal was to not to not to die. But not to be Yeah, not to be stuck in this prison. Right? So he was for 19 years ago, he pointed to escape and he finally escaped. But if you look at what is the thing that really makes us completely fall in love with that movie is is the last, you know, 30 seconds. Oh, no, not not the choice of him escaping. Oh, was decided right? About It. Remember, it's not in the story. It's read story. That's that. It's very true. It is. So if you think about the way the movie ends, the movie doesn't end with Andy escaping it ends with red connecting as a friend with Andy on that beach.

Alex Ferrari 47:03
And right, and

Karl Iglesias 47:05
did you get that is the moment that that makes us go? Oh,

Unknown Speaker 47:09
it's done?

Karl Iglesias 47:10
It's done? Exactly. Exactly. There's actually a very, you know, who Lindsey Doran is the producer? Yes. Yes. So she she's, she's known for talking about story, too. There's, there's, I think there's a couple of videos online, some TED Talks that she did, about the ending of films and how the thing that people really, really care about about a film is not the achievement of the of the character's goal. It's what happens afterwards, which is the ability to share that feeling with people they love. So she mentions Rocky, for example, think that rocky, you know, a lot of people think he won the fight, which he did. He doesn't know, but, but they remember that thing when he goes like, yeah, you know, ADRIAN Adrian, but that, you know, they think it ends on the fight, but that ends up ends with him and her at the end, and saying, I love you, I love you. Right. And she mentioned Dirty Dancing to about the fact that it doesn't end with with with the girl leaping in the arms of Patrick Swayze. It ends with her reconciling with her father. So there's all these, you know, what's really important, I think film and stories talk about what's really important in life, you know, they kind of like they're teaching us how to live there. The I like to say that stories are kind of like the how to manual for life. And, and they're kind of like, they're coded in this in this entertainment form. Because, you know, I mean, people's stories, and yeah, exactly, people can actually tell you how to live but that's usually what you know, like documentaries, or nonfiction or documentaries. But stories are a lot more powerful. Because they're there, they're entertaining, but the messages in there the message that you know, they're kind of like suddenly telling you how to live by entertaining you. It's like a sugar coated pill,

Alex Ferrari 49:01
like like myths and legends. Essentially, that's how exactly the meat and potatoes of our society is passed along. Right? Exactly. So an interesting note, though, on that Shawshank Redemption, that last scene from what I understand was added by the studio.

Karl Iglesias 49:17
The scene about the Mexican

Alex Ferrari 49:19
Yeah, from what I studied the movie a lot, right? And I've watched every documentary ever made. And originally, the original script did not have that scene and how this original script and you remember it ends with him driving in the bus going towards Andy. Oh, okay.

Karl Iglesias 49:35
Okay, but it's still it was fun. It was still as powerful I think.

Alex Ferrari 49:39
I mean, well, but the beach was like we needed to see it. Yeah. And it was

Karl Iglesias 49:43
as long as it's not that it doesn't focus on Andy because it wasn't any story that was read

Alex Ferrari 49:47
on this on the on the bus and he just drove off. And then if you notice that in the helicopter, I think there was a helicopter shot that kind of goes off into the ocean, right and then it dissolves into that because that was the end. That was the last shot. And then they put in that dissolve on Andy on the beach afterwards, which I think with studios notes go, I think that's probably one of the best ones.

Karl Iglesias 50:11
That's true. I think that was very powerful.

Alex Ferrari 50:13
So I have a couple more questions for if you have time. Um, one can you explain and I know this might be a big question. So if you don't have enough time can you explain to the audience what is subtext? And why is it so important? Oh, I'm sorry, cough I'm asking.

Karl Iglesias 50:34
Because you're, you're you're hitting on the on the questions that I have a whole course about, you know, I mean, like, I teach a whole course on test subjects. So right, so this is the I'll give you the 32nd.

Alex Ferrari 50:44
Exam. Yeah, that's all we ask. Okay, so,

Karl Iglesias 50:47
so subjects, okay, so I'll give you an example. So if I, if I said to you, three plus two equals five. And you, your mind will go? Okay, yeah, I got that. It's pretty obvious, right? But if I said to you, or showed you a piece of paper, and I showed on the board said, three plus x equals five, okay, your brain would automatically start solving X? Sure, because you're challenged by it. Right? You go, oh, there's a challenge. Oh, ah, x equals two. I got it. I solved this, right. So that's a good example of the difference between obvious. Sure, dialog are an obvious thing you see, right where it's just obvious. And on the nose, we call that right. And subtext because so subtext makes you an active participant in the scene by making your brain work a little bit. So when somebody says, like in the famous scene in When Harry Met Sally, when at the end to connect, and she says, I hate you, Harry, I hate you. And she kisses him. Right? Right. We all know what she really means and feels. Right? We know she loves him. So the line I hate you is really subtext for I love you, but she really feels right. So I hate you plus the case equals subtext. And that's really more interesting than a character saying, I love you and kissing him because then you go, Okay, it's obvious. It's just there. So the obvious and that's another by the way, that's another thing that you see a lot of in terms of problematic scripts. And there's tends to be very lack of subtext throughout, it's mostly on the nose throughout and obvious. It tends to be a passive experience, you kind of mostly bored by it, because you're not challenged, you're not challenged by it. Whereas when you subtext you go, you're like, completely engaged, because your brain is working. You're like, they're trying to figure this out. Oh, I know what she's really feeling. Like you're actually working a little bit. You're

Alex Ferrari 52:52
ahead of your head of the audience a bit. Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. As a writer, as a writer, as a writer,

Karl Iglesias 52:57
yeah. Well, you want the audience to feel to be an active participant versus a passive one. So So and there's actually techniques for that and, and really, the good writers, the ones that get higher all the time, especially in dialogue, you know, you get the writers who are hired for two weeks to, to, to rewrite the dialogue. It's usually to take the dialogue, they're just flat and obvious and on the nose, and give it some life. And the life is usually give it some time. subtext.

Alex Ferrari 53:22
Got it? Got it. Alright, so one last one last big question that this is just a geek question. This is just something I want the answer to. Because I know you're, you know, you're, you're who you are, and you've studied so many stories. I'm a huge fan of Breaking Bad. Okay. And it is one of those stories that it's obviously in a screenplay, but in the scope of the story and the arc of that character and the arc of the show. There's never been a television show ever to do what he did. What's your thoughts on how Gillean Vince Gilligan, Gilligan, Gilligan Gilligan, Vince Gilligan actually was able to create, like, what are the key moments or points that made that makes that story so good? Because unlike like, very much like Shawshank Redemption, in the film, we're breaking bad is one of those shows that I can't say universally everyone loves, but it is pretty well respected. And well,

Karl Iglesias 54:21
Breaking Bad is not the only one. I mean, the sopranos did that too. And the wire also did that too. I mean, we've talked about in madman, I mean, we talked about shows that just that great storytelling, it's just great storytelling, you know, if you have a show that has great storytelling with great characters and interesting scenes and surprises, and I mean, I, you know, and I'm a big fan of Breaking Bad too. It was just just a big novel. It was just this novel that took five seasons, and I don't know how many episodes to tell a story and it was a complete story. It was about a character that was very interesting. It wasn't your typical good guy. It was Ark. And it just kept us engaged because we wanted to know how that would turn out. And that's really kind of like the key question of stories. Good stories, I think, always make you think. And make you wonder what's going to happen next. You know if you can have that, that sense of kind of mystery, or you know, JJ Abrams calls it the mystery box, you know? Yeah. Just Yeah. Of constantly making the audience want to know what's going to happen next. They're constantly tuned, they're gonna keep watching scene after scene after scene. In the case of Breaking Bad, they just watch episode after episode after episode,

Alex Ferrari 55:39
except that one episode with the fly. Yeah. Except that one episode with

Karl Iglesias 55:46
the that was entertaining. You know,

Alex Ferrari 55:48
everybody says, like, what the hell with it? The writers just take the day off. They just like, well, we could do it the

Karl Iglesias 55:55
right way. I bet he still kept you engaged, though. Right?

Alex Ferrari 55:58
To a certain extent.

Karl Iglesias 55:59
Yeah. Um, so yeah, as long as it makes you wonder, you know, what the hell's going on? What did what is the meaning of this? Or keeps you engaged? But that was a you know, and it's funny, because I get that question all the time, especially in the sense of, you know, writers are told all the time to make sure your character is likable. You know, it's the biggest note and you know, and they always mentioned Breaking Bad because, you know, here's, here's a character you really connect with who you don't really agree with, in terms of his moral that moral part of it, is doing something as

Alex Ferrari 56:32
illegal. But the thing that's brilliant about him is at the beginning, you did he was just at the beginning? You did right. And that's the brilliance of you. into him. Yeah. And then he turns into Scarface.

Karl Iglesias 56:41
Right. But the thing is, is why do we keep Why do we keep loving? Yeah, because I mean, if you if you it's almost like, you know, if you had a friend, and then you and then your friends started killing people and enjoying it, you certainly wouldn't become his friend anymore. He didn't want anything to do with him. But if you bet if you cared about him, right, you know, that's the thing. So the thing is, is this the lesson in there, but making sure you care about that character? And you worry about them? Yeah, about what's going to happen, then you then you could tell a good story. That's really the basis of telling a good story in creating a character you care about. And it doesn't have to be it doesn't have to be likable, but you have to care.

Alex Ferrari 57:20
And I was I was lucky enough to binge watch most of it up until the last eight episodes. Uh huh. And it was I have every day, my wife and I would just sit and watch three or four episodes. Wow.

Karl Iglesias 57:33
I know. Thank God for binge watching.

Alex Ferrari 57:34
Right. All right, great.

Karl Iglesias 57:35
I think it's a better way to enjoy story because it's a lot more immediate. And you don't have to wait a week. You know, it's all fresh in your mind.

Alex Ferrari 57:42
Thank you Netflix. Yeah. So where can people find more about you and more about your work?

Karl Iglesias 57:48
Very simple. They just saw you have to do is Google my name or just put Carla glaces calm and it takes you to my website and you just get to see all my work there. Yeah, I you know, when anytime somebody asked me for a business card, I don't have business cards, I always tell them just just go to my website. You know, that's my, that's my business card right there. Just my name.com.

Alex Ferrari 58:08
And you have you have a bunch of books you've written you have a DVD course as well that you sell.

Karl Iglesias 58:13
Yeah, well, I don't really sell it. It's mostly the writer store and creative, screenwriting magazine, they have the DVDs, I just basically, you know, they asked me to do something, I don't like to say no. So I do something and then they sell it. Same with the teaching. I teach at screeners University and at UCLA extensions, writers program, both online so people can take courses with me, I also consult so if anybody wants consultation, there's the details on my website. And then I appear on, you know, writers conferences, sometimes, you know, there's this year I'm going to be actually in a few weeks, I'll be at the, at a Writers Conference in San Luis Obispo, where I'll be delivering a keynote address there. And next year, I've been invited to a script conference in Poland, and then an Animation Festival in South Africa. So I'm becoming kind of international now.

Alex Ferrari 59:05
That's awesome. Yeah. So um, one last question. I asked this question for my guests. And it's a tough question. What are your top three films of all time? Wow. And everybody says the same thing. Oh, really? Wow. Wow. Oh, wow. Yeah. Well,

Karl Iglesias 59:24
that's that's a very big question. It

Alex Ferrari 59:26
doesn't have to be an order just three films. Yeah. In the moment that you can remember.

Karl Iglesias 59:30
Well, you know, it's a Blade Runner is right up there. Silence of the Lambs, Shawshank Redemption, the godfather. Anything by Pixar, except maybe cars and cars too. Those are the I know the two weakest films but in terms of story. You know, we just I just watched up last night with my kids. So you know, and I've seen it 100 times so it's gonna you know it always get to you. They just know what to tell. Great story. So anything by Pixar. And and it's one movie too. It's a kind of an Well, I won't say obscure because it's a classic movie, but a lot of people don't know because it's, it tends to be an old film. And that's Charlie Chaplin's city lights for city lights, where he falls in love with a blind girl. And that's one of the you know, it's probably one of the earliest romantic comedies, but but very, very moving, especially the last, if I remember, right, it's silent. Yeah. But it's known for the very last scene in the movie, which is one of the most powerfully emotional filters you know, scenes in the world and the history of cinema. And they always show that they will show that clip or that moment in every every Oscar telecast about, you know, the, you know, the history of films and stuff like that. So, very, very powerful and pretty entertaining film. So I would say that's, that's right up there with my top favorite movies.

Alex Ferrari 1:00:57
Very good, good list.

Karl Iglesias 1:00:58
A good thank you.

Alex Ferrari 1:01:00
Carl, thank you so much for being on the show. We really appreciate you gave us a lot of great gems. So hopefully, to do it was my pleasure. As promised, Carl brought the thunder and brought some amazing knowledge bombs. So Carl, thank you so much again for being on the show, and dropping some major knowledge on this episode. Now if you want links to any of Carl's books, courses, anything about we talked about in this episode, just head over to indie film hustle.com, forward slash BPS 007 That's bulletproof screenplay BPS 007. And guys, if you're enjoying the show, please don't forget to subscribe on iTunes and leave us a good review and give us a five star review. If you really like it really helps us out a lot and gets the word out to help other screenwriters on their journeys. So just head over to screenwriting podcast.com And that is a end of another episode of The Bulletproof screenplay podcast. Thank you so much for listening. And as always, keep on writing no matter what. Talk to you soon.


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