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How to Rewrite Your Screenplay Like a Hollywood Pro with Paul Chitlik
On the show today veteran screenwriter, director, producer, educator, author, Paul Chitlik. Paul has worked on 80’s show classics like the Twilight Zone, Small Wonder, Who’s the Boss, and Perfect Strangers, among others. He spends his free time as a clinical assistant professor teaching Screenwriting at the Loyola Marymount University in Los Angelos.
Small Wonder follows the zany adventures of a suburban family, their next-door neighbors, and an innovative robot designed to look like a human child.
Chitlik’s best-selling book, Rewrite 2nd Edition: A Step-by-Step Guide to Strengthen Structure, Characters, and Drama in your Screenplay, is a gold mine of expert guidance for every aspiring screenwriter.
Veteran screenwriting instructor and award-winning writer Paul Chitlik presents an easy-to-read, step-by-step process to take your script from first draft to submission draft. He reveals the hidden structure of screenplays, sequences, and scenes, as he guides you through the process of examining your draft, restructuring it, and populating it with believable, complex, and compelling characters.
Along the way he outlines how to make your action leap off the page and your dialogue crackle. While the first edition was widely used in film school rewriting classes, it was also recommended as an introduction to screenwriting craft by a number of professors and professionals. Paul Chitlik has included, for the second edition, more examples, exercises, and applications for television, the web, and other media, using a wide range of citations in film, television, and the Internet to underline his approach.
Paul shared so much of his creative thought process during our conversation and how he approaches cutting his scene. You don’t want to miss it.
Enjoy this conversation with Paul Chitlik.
Learn screenwriting from legendary screenwriter James V. Hart (Hook, Contact, Bram Stroker’s Dracula)
LINKS AND RESOURCES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE
- Paul Chitlik – IMDB
- Rewrite 2nd Edition: A Step-by-Step Guide to Strengthen Structure, Characters, and Drama in your Screenplay
- Bulletproof Screenplay Script Coverage Service – Get Your Screenplay Covered by Industry Pros
- The Foundations of Screenwriting: Writing for Television & Netflix
- BPS Presents: Writing for Emotional Impact (FREE AUDIOBOOK)
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- Storytelling Blueprint: Hero’s Two Journeys
- The Dialogue Series: 38 hours of Lessons from Top Hollywood Screenwriters
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Alex Ferrari 0:12
Well guys Today on the show we have screenwriter and author Paul Chitlik. Now Paul has been in the screenwriting game for a long time. He cut his teeth with at sitcoms like who's the boss, amen. Small wonder Twilight Zone, perfect strangers, and so many more. He is also the best selling author of rewrite a step by step guide to strengthening structure, character and drama in your screenplay. Now I wanted Paul to come on the show to discuss the rewriting process, which is one of my favorite parts because I find it to be much easier to rewrite as opposed to right, because once you've got a nice fat piece of meat, you can start trimming the fat much easier than actually creating the meat. So without any further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Paul Chitlik. I like to welcome the show Paul Chitlik. How you doing Paul?
Paul Chitlik 3:11
Pretty good. How are you?
Alex Ferrari 3:12
I'm as good as we can be in this crazy crazy world that we live in.
Paul Chitlik 3:17
Alex Ferrari 3:19
It's it is it's there's what can that what can be said that hasn't already been said about the times that we're living in. I mean, it's like a really, I keep saying this. It's a bad alternative timeline from Back to the Future. It is just it's it just does not seem real. It hasn't been real. For years now, I think but specifically this last year is been. It's just insane. So I'm waiting. I'm waiting to wake up. And Marty McFly is going to come with me. Come with me. This is the way to go
Paul Chitlik 3:54
back to the DeLorean.
Alex Ferrari 3:55
Let's go back to the future, please. Yeah.
Paul Chitlik 3:59
Alex Ferrari 4:00
So um, thank you so much for doing the show. I truly appreciate it. Before we get started talking about your book rewrite. How did you get into the business?
Paul Chitlik 4:10
Well, that's a that's a funny thing. When I graduated from college, I went to Europe, because I wanted to be a novelist. I had lived in Europe as a junior in college in Madrid. And I thought, well, I think I'll go back there and he'll write a book, right? Because I was 21 years old and stupid. I got there. It was kind of crazy. But I ended up living in London after that for four years, came back here. And I just took whatever job I could get. And that was translating because I was fluent Spanish speaker by that time and teaching English as a second language. And I got stuck in that world for seven years and one day, I became an administrator at Long Beach Community College. One day, I was standing at the board at the blackboard substituting for one of my teachers. And the little voice inside my head said, this is not the plan. And
Alex Ferrari 5:14
he's in your head, too. Got it?
Paul Chitlik 5:16
That same guy. So I decided I wanted to go back to writing and I did some research and found out that novelist, the average novelist makes $750 a year. At that time,
Alex Ferrari 5:29
that's ambitious, actually, that's pretty ambitious.
Paul Chitlik 5:32
Yeah. So I looked into what does a screenwriter make? And I thought, Oh, that's much better. So I started taking classes in screenwriting at UCLA extension. And I wrote a play I had written a play by that time called Casanova Goldberg. and stuff as you had me,
Alex Ferrari 5:52
you had me at Casanova Goldberg,
Paul Chitlik 5:54
yeah, so I send it around to a couple of agents and one agent. Will the Casanova group will tell you very shortly about what it's about. It's about a guy that works in one of those Catskills hotels as the tumour, the guy that, that programs, all the entertainment and stuff like that. And he's an older man, he's like in the 60s or 70s. And he needs he gets a new assistant, and he falls in love with her, even though she's in her 20s. So, alright, the reason I tell you this is because I pitched it to this agent, he read it and it turns out, he was 78 and has an 18 year old girlfriend. So he, he understood exactly what this was like. Anyway, he got me out there, and he got me my first job on something called Guilty or Innocent.
Alex Ferrari 6:44
Paul Chitlik 6:44
which was my first Oh, it was a crazy thing. So anyway, that's how I got in the business. And then one thing led to the other,
Alex Ferrari 6:52
is it isn't it funny that one of my first jobs in the business was a translator as well. I was a Spanish translator for Nickelodeon's global guts. It was a it was kind of like a show of kinda like an obstacle course show like those, like, you know, you know, Double Dare and those kind of things for kids. And they had International, an international wing and, and they came in and I call my, um, my, my listeners know that I'm Cuban. So I, I'm from Miami, and I speak from experience fluent Spanish, but then I now I do much more because my wife is is South American as well. So now my Spanish is much, much better. But then I only spoke Cuban Spanish, which, for people don't know Cuban Spanish. It's not proper, but
Paul Chitlik 7:41
Alex Ferrari 7:42
It's up sometimes, you know, it's like Tony Montana, like really, really bad Tony Montana. But I but I could understand I could defend myself No problem. And I call my parents up and I go, Hey, I got a job at Nickelodeon. Being a translator. I'm like, you, Trent. What are you translating? I'm like Spanish. And they go well, in the in the client of the blind, the one eyed man rules and
Paul Chitlik 8:05
vote of confidence.
Alex Ferrari 8:06
And I'm like, true. And and by the way, it was great. It was it. But that's how I kind of got my way into Nickelodeon when I was PA doing pa work and stuff that
Paul Chitlik 8:16
I've worked in Spanish and I taught in Spanish around the world. Yeah, I've taught in Venezuela, in Chile, Cuba, Spain.
Alex Ferrari 8:25
Paul Chitlik 8:25
So it's been quite a career.
Alex Ferrari 8:27
Now you you've worked a lot in sitcoms, you were working a lot in the sitcoms in the 80s in the 90s. I have to I have to kind of go through some of my favorites of yours. Because I mean, when I saw them on your, on your filmography, I was like, Well, I have to ask him about this. Small Wonder. I mean, for people not don't know about small wonder, first of all, the most probable and completely acceptable premise for a sitcom ever. It's it's absolutely not ridiculous at all. It's completely acceptable. Almost as acceptable as Alf. I think Alf was a little bit more believable.
But for whatever reason, small wonder, still hold like because there's so many sitcoms in the 80s but that one and it was only a season I think was one or two seasons right?
Paul Chitlik 9:19
Alex Ferrari 9:20
Oh it did run it did run a did run a while. We did 100 shows. Wow, it did. So it kept going. I always thought it was like a quick run. Great. Well, that's even better. So you did a small run on it. Can you tell the audience what Small Wonder was about and And what was your experience doing that show?
Paul Chitlik 9:37
Well, it was a crazy show. We were I was writing with a partner Jeremy merchant Fitch. And we were freelancing at the time. And we pitched small wonder which was a show about a computer expert who invented a I guess you would say a computer driven young girl
Alex Ferrari 9:58
An Android. Like an Android?
Paul Chitlik 10:01
Yeah. A 12 year old Android
Alex Ferrari 10:03
Paul Chitlik 10:05
Alex Ferrari 10:06
physic physically lifelike, not speaking, but physically.
Paul Chitlik 10:10
She spoke with his computer voice was very, very strange. we pitched the show to them. We wrote the show. He said, this is the best one that's ever been written for this show, right in front of all of his staff, which I thought was really strange. Then he said, after they shot that one, he said, we want to do a sequel. He said, Great. So we wrote the sequel. And then he said in front of his staff, guys, what made you think you were professional writers? the complete opposite. So we walked out of there thinking What the hell is going on? Well, we knew some of the staff and they said to us, that's alright. That's his game. So I called my agent I said, You know, I don't know what's going on over there. But once you give a call, she gave him a call. We got three more episodes to do after that. So obviously, we knew something about how to do the show. was really strange. We did we did the last show as well. I think shot.
Alex Ferrari 11:09
Oh, did you did that either the the series finale?
Paul Chitlik 11:11
Yeah, the series finale, which was goodbye Hollywood or something like that. I forget.
Alex Ferrari 11:17
Look, I was I was I don't want to tell you what grade I was in. But I was I was a young man. And I would and I use the word man very loosely. back then. I was a young boy, when I watched that. And it was I loved it. It was like it was such a wonderful 80s stuff. It's just so so so great. And you and you also wrote for Twilight Zone, which is, you know, legendary legendary series.
Paul Chitlik 11:40
Well, as a matter of fact, we got the job on Twilight Zone while we were writing for a small wonder. And we were story at the Twilight Zone, we should have been producers, but it had Canadian contents that we weren't allowed to have the title. But that's what we did. We, we listened to pitches, we rewrote people's work. We wrote several episodes ourselves. And that was really probably the best creative experience ever had in television.
Alex Ferrari 12:08
Yeah, you could just jump in, you could jump to whatever every week was a new adventure. There was no through line, there was no characters, you had to kind of pay homage to every you know, and work with exactly is fresh. And it was a fresh short, every,
Paul Chitlik 12:21
every week, every week was a new thing. And I would come into work, I would say, I would come into work after dreaming and say, I had this dream last night. And it was about a guy who points at a deer and the deer freezes. And from there, we made a show why I had a dream about cave drawings, you know about cave drawings, of course, and they came off the cave and became real became a show. So you could just think about things and bang you wouldn't you made a show.
Alex Ferrari 12:53
And it was in the you can't and you can't have the the EP can't say well, you know, that's not really what the characters would do. That's really not the vibe of the show. It's like, and there's there's I know that we did that. I didn't think we released twilight zone with Jordan Peele. It was Jordan Peele It was a twilight zone. Or was it?
Paul Chitlik 13:11
Yeah. And they did it again on CBS prime or whatever it's called. So they it's been it's had at least four different lives. You know, Rod Serling was first. Then CBS did it again in the 80s. And then they did it in syndication. I was I did one for the CBS in the 80s. But and then I also ran with Joseph Kosinski and Jeremy Bertrand Finch. We ran the show for the late 80s. in syndication. We did 30 episodes. Then they did it again on UPN.
Alex Ferrari 13:46
That was the one with Forest Whitaker wasn't Forest Whitaker once Forest Whitaker crash, right? Yeah.
Paul Chitlik 13:50
And they did it again. I guess. Jordan Peele on CBS.
Alex Ferrari 13:54
The Prime one yeah, the whatever these years
Paul Chitlik 13:56
prime word they're there.
Alex Ferrari 13:58
They're streaming all access all access? Yeah. It's hard to keep it's hard to keep track of all the
Paul Chitlik 14:04
The new names.
And they've changed. Let's see, I think CBS has just changed it to paramount.
Alex Ferrari 14:11
Is that no is CBS, CBS and Paramount. Is that going to be the same? I know Paramount plus just came out.
Paul Chitlik 14:17
Alex Ferrari 14:18
it's just coming out.
Paul Chitlik 14:19
I thought it was CBS.
Alex Ferrari 14:21
It might be another chain to get to something I don't. I don't Who the hell knows. It's just so there's so many streaming services. I think that's all gonna I think there's gonna be a reckoning for that. Eventually. We can't be sure. There has to be there has to be something has to happen because spending this obscene amount of money on content. I mean, it's ridiculous. Yeah, rididulous, listen how much
Paul Chitlik 14:44
it's good time to be a writer.
Alex Ferrari 14:46
Yeah, it is. It is a good time to be a writer, especially this last year where you basically just got to stay home and write. It's pretty amazing. I know you've had you've had a very colorful career in In Hollywood, and you decided to write a book to help to help screenwriters about on the process of rewriting, which is something we've really never discussed heavily on the show. And I wanted to kind of dive into the rewrite, because it's something that we all do. We all have to do the rewrite, I always like the rewriting process, personally, much more than the writing process. Because it's like, I've got meat that I can shape or mold clay that I can shape. It's creating the clay, that's a big pain in the butt. All right, you know, so
Paul Chitlik 15:30
the original idea, that's the hard part. But actually, the craft is in the writing is in the rewriting?
Alex Ferrari 15:35
Paul Chitlik 15:36
And, you know, no film gets done without many rewrites. As a matter of fact, I was at a conference at the Writers Guild once, several years ago. And we're talking about rewriting and they asked the panel, how many rewrites did your script go through before it got to the stage, and the average was 25. That's a lot of rewriting. Now, it doesn't always mean that you do a big rewrite. Sometimes it's just changing place, changing somebody's gender, taking out a character putting into character, whatever, doing a Polish, but 25 rewrites, and I've done several films where I've had to do that 25 rewrites.
Alex Ferrari 16:16
Oh, yeah. And then there's these legendary stories of like Stallone writing rocky in three days. And, and Stallone ends and Stallone Actually, I saw an interview with them. They asked him that, and he's like, no, I wrote it in three days, but I rewrote it for at least another five, six months. But the for that first draft i'd knocked out in three days. So that is true. It's just, that was not what you saw on the screen.
Paul Chitlik 16:40
Exactly, exactly. Never makes it to the screen on the first draft.
Alex Ferrari 16:43
Paul Chitlik 16:44
Like the first job. Actually, even even when I worked on real stories of the Highway Patrol, which was a crazy show. I sometimes wrote two or three segments a day. But I always rewrote them in the same day, so at least once, but then I would hand them off to the director and then shoot it. So it only went through one rewrite
Alex Ferrari 17:06
that Yeah, and that was because that show was God if I remember correctly, like I remember the show vaguely in my head. But it was one of those shows that just it was a syndicated show, right. It just kind of
Paul Chitlik 17:14
was syndicated show, and it had two kinds of segments. One was right along, where they just had a guy with a video camera like cops. Yeah, like cops. And then we did recreations of of special things that the highway patrol had done, you know, special hold ups, or bank robberies, or pullovers or shoot outs or whatever. And I wrote 265 of those,
Alex Ferrari 17:39
Jesus. So that's Yeah, that was Yeah, it was, you got to do what you got
Paul Chitlik 17:47
What could I do. I had a family to support in private school, and you know, that to happen.
Alex Ferrari 17:53
I know, I know the feeling my friend. I know that feeling. Alright, so how do you approach a rewrite? Well,
Paul Chitlik 17:59
that's a good question. There's a lot of ways to do it. But the first way, I usually do it in eight steps. And the first step is you got to read it over again, after putting it aside for a couple of weeks and letting it cool off. Because you're not really objective enough, if you just start the rewrite the next day, so read it after a couple of weeks. And then the first thing you need to do is read it for structure. And there are there is a structure that we use in Hollywood, that's used around the world, really, and most people know it, but I'll just you give you a quick review of it. And it's a seven point structure, that is the ordinary life of the character, the inciting incident, the end of Act One goal and plan, the mid point where it's a turning point, the low point, the final challenge, which sometimes it's called the climax, and the return to normal life. So you make sure that your script has all those points. And then you have the connecting tissue for all those points as well. And you make sure all your scenes have those points, because that's the way a good scene is constructed. And make sure that your scenes have conflict. And then you read it over again. And you make sure that your protagonist stands out, and that your protagonist has his or her own language, that we can differentiate that person's language from everybody else's. And we make sure that your protagonist has a flaw, because if he doesn't have a flaw, there's no development, your character has to change from the beginning to the end, or it's not going to happen. Michael Caine used to say, I would read a script, the first five pages of the script and the last five pages of the script. And if the character didn't change, I wouldn't do the show. Yeah, it's a good thing if your character must change. So that's their, your antagonist also has to have a goal. Your protagonist has a goal. Your antagonist has to have goals. To, otherwise they're not in conflict. And those goals have to be in conflict. So you have to make sure about that. And the antagonist has a voice as well, then you have to check to see what is the story of the central emotional relationship. That is to say the person, sometimes called the love relationship. But it's not necessarily that it's not necessarily a romantic love. It could be two brothers, it could be friends, it could be a father and a son, a father and a daughter, whatever. But you have to make sure that there is a story there, too. So there's three stories going on. There's the plot that use your action plot that you see, there's the story that's going inside your character's head, as he's developing from whoever he was at the beginning to wherever he's going to be at the end. And then there's the story of the central emotional relationship. So you have to check for all those stories. And you have to check to see that the dialogue for all those people fits those people and those stories.
Alex Ferrari 21:02
So you're kind of going in as a almost as a doctor and doing a diagnostic on the story. When you're starting to rewrite, you're going in and checking. Okay, is this here? is this here? is this here? How's the heartbeat? Is the flow going? How's your cholesterol? Do you have to reflect this?
Paul Chitlik 21:18
I've never heard it described like that. But that is exactly what it is. We first we examined the patient, we make a diagnosis. And then we make a plan on how to fix it. And the plan is make sure that you have structure, make sure that every scene has conflict, make sure that every scene has structure as well. Make sure that all the dialogue is appropriate to the characters. Make sure that the action rises and falls where you're supposed to rise and fall. And make sure that it's fun to read. So you also have to go over the description. Make sure all the description is terse, and fun, cuz you don't want to have a lot of stuff. You know, you described writing as a haiku. Yeah, we
Alex Ferrari 22:04
were talking about that earlier. Like we were saying writing is arguably very difficult, just good writing period. But writing screenwriter screenwriting is arguably the most difficult form of writing, in my opinion, other than a haiku, because you can write a poem and then you can write a haiku and Haiku has to be so much more every single word has to have meaning so that the construction of Haiku is so much more complicated and harder than just a poem. Same way writing a novel and writing a screenplay are complete, you could tell the same story, but it has to be done so differently. So there's so much it's such a more technical writing, it's a skill set. That is, it's not for everybody. You could be a fantastic writer. I know. There's I mean, perfect example. So many great novelists. I mean, I don't think Stephen King has ever written an amazing screenplay.
Paul Chitlik 22:54
I don't know. Yeah, I mean,
Alex Ferrari 22:56
Paul Chitlik 22:56
his stories have been the basis of amazing he
Alex Ferrari 22:59
is he is arguably one of the most prolific and best known and best selling authors of all time, definitely, of our generation, without question, but yet when he's tackled a screenplay, I don't remember. And he has written a few of them. But he's, they're not Oscar winners. And they're. So it's tough.
Paul Chitlik 23:21
Yeah, it's a it's a hard thing to do. I mean, there are there are steps you have to take in there things you have to keep in mind. But as I was saying about description, you know, it has to be like a haiku. It has to be very succinct. But it also has to create an image in your mind. So when people are reading it, and you, you're going to have somewhere between 150 and 5000, people working on your screenplay, they all have to have a document that they can look at, and see the same thing in their head. So that requires you to be very succinct, very clear, and you're writing, but not writing too much, but still writing enough. So it is a very hard technique to learn, but it's not impossible to learn. So that's what I get out of my book, there's, there are steps to take that you can do to improve your screenplay at any stage. And as a matter of fact, as I recommended my book, once you've done your first rewrite, set it aside again, and do another rewrite.
Alex Ferrari 24:26
Now can we touch upon just quickly structure because and I've talked about this on the show before but I just want people listening to really get understanding of this a lot of people's like, Oh, I don't, I don't go through like you know those seven steps that's going to block me in that's not creative. You're, you're not you know, it needs to flow and needs to go in like and be a lot of screenwriters arguably not professional ones, because I've talked to a lot of professional screenwriters at all of them. They might not follow the the, you know, Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey or they might They might not do it. And some of them might not even thinking about it. But when they write, they're such craftsmen and grass women, that they are doing it instinctively. And they've said that they've said, they've said that to me. They're like, I don't think about I don't like sit on page 20 this happens. But I go, but on page 20, that happened, he goes, Yeah, but I didn't think about it. I just, that's just the way it came out. Can you talk just a slight bit about structure and the importance of it? Sure.
Paul Chitlik 25:26
Well, I understand the idea that you want to be free to create what you want to create. But we all understand that most automobiles have four wheels, a transmission, a motor, a steering wheel, brake, pipe, and an accelerator pedal, even electric ones. So we all understand that and how many forms of automobile so we seen 1000s 1000s I mean, a Ferrari is not a Fiat. They all look different. They all have different purposes. And indifference 500 cars different, the same thing with movies, but you still have to have the steering wheel, the four wheels, the brake, the accelerator, the motor. And so that applies to screenwriting. And there are certain things that work. And it's not always the same thing. And it doesn't always have to be in the same exact order, you can have the 12 steps of the hero's journey, but they can be in slightly different order, or slightly more emphasis on one step in another step. Same thing for the seven steps that seven points that I talked about. This is the way a Hollywood movie is formed. And even when, before this paradigm was set out, before Syd field wrote, you know, here's the three act structure, the Wizard of Oz has it. All the other movies that were made at those time had it because you just instinctively if you're a good writer, you know that this is what has to happen. Now we've made it more of a science, so that more people can access this kind of art. But you still have to follow it. Now, that doesn't mean that there are other ways to make a movie. I mean, you make a German movie, or a French movie or a Greek movie, they're different. I mean, in a French movie, everybody commit suicide, if you hadn't, you know, it's in a German movie. Everybody suffers, you know, from
Alex Ferrari 27:20
Italy, Fellini definitely didn't work with with the standard structure.
Paul Chitlik 27:25
Exactly. And those are fine. And those those are great, but you know, those stand up? On the other hand, how well do they do worldwide, not the same as avatar, which has 1007 point actually pops the 12 point structure, not the same as Star Wars, which follows the 12 point structure. But also you can leave that seven point structure right on top of that, and it works perfectly. So yeah, there are other ways to go about things. But you know, how many people see Chinese movies? You don't they don't do well around the world. They do well in China, but they don't do in the United States. It's not just because they're in Chinese. Because we have seen some films out here in Chinese with subtitles. It's because everybody's expecting be told in a certain way. Because we've been expecting that for the last 2500 years. Right? You know, when Aristotle outlined how a story goes, in the days of Greek theater, he was he didn't invent it. He was laying his structure on top of Europe at ease and Sophocles and all those guys. And just saying, Well, here's how it goes. His poetics is not something that he just invented. It's something that he saw the structure of and just presented the three act structure to the rest of the world. So we're used to hearing stories that way. And that seems to be the best way to tell a story. There are other ways to help tell a story and find if you can make that work. Like, I'm just thinking of Koyaanisqatsi. Have you ever seen that movie? It was a documentary, kind of a documentary. And it told a story visually never used any words.
Alex Ferrari 29:05
Oh, yes, yes, yes. Yes. I remember that one. Yeah,
Paul Chitlik 29:07
yeah. Crazy, crazy story. But it didn't follow the seven point structure, but doesn't matter.
Alex Ferrari 29:13
It's art. But it's art. There's a difference between art and commerce. And if you want, if you're spending $200 million for a movie, you got to get a return on investment. And you can't you can't create a $200 million art project.
Paul Chitlik 29:27
Well, it can be an art, it can be artistic. Absolutely. But it's not an art film. Right. You know, so there's, there's room for every kind of film. As a matter of fact, this week I I'm I recommend to my class to read a script, one of my classes to read a script every week. So last week, they read Deadpool, which is a kind of a crazy,
Alex Ferrari 29:49
amazing, crazy, crazy,
Paul Chitlik 29:51
crazy movie and it's really big and it's very action adventure and it's very sarcastic and, and it's very clever. This week, they're going to read Side Ways completely different kinds of
Alex Ferrari 30:03
very much, right? So
Paul Chitlik 30:05
because you There are all kinds of films, there's room for all kinds of films. But if you look at those films, they both Deadpool and Sideways both have seven point structure. And if you follow that structure, you have the ability to freelance, you know, all kinds of ideas into just what I call greenlight thinking. You can think about all kinds of things within that structure, just like you can think of all kinds of different form for an automobile to take.
Alex Ferrari 30:43
What advice would you give killing your darlings, as they say, which is the most one of the most difficult things for a writer to do? And also, I mean, honestly, for a director in the editing room? Oh, yeah. Like you got to cut out a whole scene that took you three days to shoot or it costs x, but it's not working and all of this stuff. What advice do you have, when you have to kill those darlings in your script?
Paul Chitlik 31:08
Well, you have to look at your script. From a realistic point of view, there's, you have to look at every scene and understand what the purpose is of every scene. And there are only two purposes first scene. Purpose number one is to move the story forward. If it doesn't move the story forward, you don't need that scene, it can be the funniest fucking scene that you've ever thought of. But it doesn't move the story, take it out. second purpose to tell us more about the character. If you don't tell us something new about your characters, we don't need that scene. So it has to tell us more something new about the characters and move the story forward, one or the other. If it doesn't do that, you have to take it out. So how do you do that? How do you do that? Well, you you read your script and you ask yourself at the end of every scene, does this scene move the story forward? Is there conflict in the scene? Do we see something new? Do we learn something new about the character? If you can't answer yes to those questions, you have to take it out. And if you want to shorten your scene, there's another way to if it's an important scene, and it does move the story forward. And it does tell something new about the character. But it's too long. Well, there's there ways to cut it. First way you can cut the heads of the tails. So that means enter early, enter later, and exit earlier. So that's a way to cut down your scene. Another way to cut down your scene is to look at every word of view of dialogue, and make sure that every word of dialogue is necessary. Have you repeated dialogue. Do you need to do that? Sometimes some characters repeat themselves on purpose if you've done it on purpose, okay? Is every word in your description necessary? And I'm talking about every uh, every the every is? Are they all necessary? If they're not take them out. So you can shoot. I've never read a script I couldn't cut by 10%.
Alex Ferrari 33:04
Wow. You've never you've never I mean, depending on where they are the rewriting process, obviously, but but Fat Fat script? Yes. I get what you say. If it's Yeah, you're right. And I've gone through my scripts before in the past. And I've literally just started because it's like, oh, it's too many pages. I've got to cut this down. And then you start going to the descriptions and and you get down to that that kind of minute level of, of the thoughts and the A's. And can I shorten this sentence somehow as opposed to kind of kill those three words? It's it's just this honing in. It's It's, um, it's masonry, your brush, chiseling and scolding the corners.
Paul Chitlik 33:44
The other analogy I use is sometimes sculpting. Yeah. So you cut a piece of marble out of the mountain, you have a block. Now, where do you go? Well, you cut away as somebody asked Michelangelo? How he did the PA top? Yeah, I said, I just took away everything that wasn't the Pi top? Well, yeah, that's easy. No, first you carve up kind of a rough copy of the shape that you want. And then you start carving it down and down and down in it. And then you polish it and you polish it a little bit more. And you smooth it and it just it's a process. You don't do it on the first cut.
As the PA top.
Alex Ferrari 34:27
It doesn't it doesn't you can't even though even a master like like Michelangelo could not do that. Because it's not. It's just not the process. It's not the process of any art form. Almost you can't. There's Oh, you could always go back and tighten and
Paul Chitlik 34:43
tweak. You have to go through the process.
Alex Ferrari 34:45
Paul Chitlik 34:45
you have to respect the process.
Alex Ferrari 34:47
And I think that's something that a lot of screenwriters don't do especially young young screenwriters who are new to the craft. They don't understand the the amount of work that is needed to really hone a screenplay to a place Where it's good enough to even be read. And, and then I'm not even talking about the idea. I'm not even talking about if it's marketable, I'm not even talking just the craft of a good, well written screenplay. That's why a lot of agents and please correct me wrong, like agents and managers will read a script and like, yeah, this will never get made. But I see the talent here. Now let's put them on a project or get them into a writers room, because he or she will be able to do really well. Even though this this script is crap. As far as Mark ability is concerned, it will never ever, ever get made. But I see that they have, they have an understanding of the craft.
Paul Chitlik 35:40
Sure. And that's what a spec, a good spec script should have. Not necessarily a makeup script or shootable script. But it should be crafted, it should be well crafted, we can see not only well crafted, it should have something different about it, it should have that particular writers voice. And that's what really sets it off something that speaks directly to the person, but it also speaks of the person so that we're talking person to person, and you can see in your head, what I was seeing in my head
Alex Ferrari 36:16
when I was writing story. Now, um, can you talk a little bit about that central emotional relationship with those characters, you kind of go deeper into that?
Paul Chitlik 36:27
Sure. Every film that you see has a central emotional relationship, every good film, then not every film is good, but every good. And romantic comedies are more complicated, because that is about the central emotional relationship. But there is there's always something else going on at the same time. Like you've got mail had something else going on at the same time, the bookstore story that was going on it besides the romance. So the central emotional relationship is something that people could in movies to see they go to the movies to see people and their relationships with other people, not just action, but their relationships with other people. Even fast, the Fast and Furious franchise, which is I don't know what they're
Alex Ferrari 37:16
nine or nine, there are nine right now. But as Vin Diesel says also many times in the movie, it's about family.
Paul Chitlik 37:26
Okay, so it's about family. It's not about cars and racing, right? It's about family, it's what we see the relationship between those characters. That's what's important. And so every film has got a central emotional relationship, the relationship that your central character your protagonist has with another character. Usually, as I said before, it could be a romantic relationship. It can be a familiar relationship, a father and a son, a mother and a daughter, sisters, brothers, whatever, it doesn't really matter,
But it's always about people. So that relationship also follows a seven point structure. So there's an ordinary life that, let me back up a little bit. That relationship has to either be created or resuscitated in the film, because a lot of times, you'll start off with a film where there's a bad relationship between two people. And they have to fix that relationship along the course of the film,
Alex Ferrari 38:32
like rain man would be a great example of that
Paul Chitlik 38:35
there's a good one, very good, he has to establish a relationship there. And he has to fix the relationship. So we have the ordinary life where they first meet, or we see them individually, then they first meet, and that would be the inciting incident. At the end of that one, your central character has to think about forming that relationship. I want to be with this person, I want to fix this relationship, whichever one it is, if it's a romantic comedy, I want to be with this person. Or if it's one romantic comedy about divorce people, so I want to fix this relationship. His golf, his girl Friday is about that. That's a no film, but he wanted to fix that relationship. That's what that was, that movie was really about. There's a midpoint where that relationship goes to another level. So it doesn't always have to be a sexual level, but can be just as friends, they go to another level. But if it's a romantic movie, they go to another level, usually physically, they kiss for the first time, or they make love for the first time. Something happens that's different than what's happened before that. But then they screw up, because people screw up. And it's because of their flaw that we talked about earlier that every character every protagonist has to have a flaw and they screw up because of that flaw and they screw up that relationship at the low point in the film. And now they have to fix that relationship. Before they can get into the climax of the actual plot of the film, so they have to fix that relationship, they have to overcome their flaw, then they can go into the climax, or the final challenge, as I call and, and come out victorious. And then there's the return to ordinary life with your central character, and his or her central emotional relationship, and we see them enjoying the fruits of their labors.
Alex Ferrari 40:28
Right, then, so as you were talking, I'm just running Rain Man in my head, as you know, the relationship in the, in the seven points in that relationship, where I think that that that next level where they they start with Tom Cruise, and Dustin Hoffman Finally, changed the relationship is when he gets dressed up to go to the to the casino. And all of a sudden, they're working together as opposed to being completely at each other on each other's throat. I mean, Tom Cruise is just that doesn't doesn't happen does not change. He's, you know, Raman is Raman. But, but then it's followed right afterwards, with the low point, one of the low points is that he's like, Oh, my God, this relationship has changed, we're finally going to be brothers. He goes to hug them. And he has a complete meltdown. Because he can't handle that, because. And that's I felt that was like, one of the lowest parts of that it was such a powerful secret. Am I right in analyzing that?
Paul Chitlik 41:30
Exactly. And you see that the part of the film that you remember the most. And you remember the relationship between those two men? That's what that film is about?
Alex Ferrari 41:41
Paul Chitlik 41:42
So it's all about just, it's such a movie like that wouldn't ever get made in the studio today. It just wouldn't, unfortunately, but the transformation of Tom Cruise's character throughout from being that just arrogant cocky in it for myself only selfish character to the end, literally willing to give up everything for his brother, sorry, spoiler alert, guys, but it's on you if you haven't seen the movie. And being able to give give of himself, even though at the end, he just he what, what doesn't have to need he can't give him. It's true.
But the Tom Cruise character did change, remember, very much. So huge character arc, he changes from the beginning to the end, he starts with the fly, he ends up a better person. And that's what we go to movies to see.
Alex Ferrari 42:32
Yeah. And that's why it was such a huge hit, because it was just, there's no action. Now. There's no explosions, there's nothing. I think that's one of the things that Hollywood sometimes forgets, depending on politics and other things, is they'll make a movie like battleship. And they through every single visual effect monster action, which was all executed beautifully on a technical standpoint. But it's shallow, because there's no character development. There's no connection, where then you can watch something like Titanic, which is as action packed as you can get is a very action packed film. But the emotion that movie is all about no one talks about Oh, did you see when Titanic when when the Titanic broke in half? Did you see that scene where the water was rushing? No. It's all about why didn't she just hold on to jack there was room for both of them on that damn plank.
Paul Chitlik 43:28
You know, and it's a Romeo and Juliet story that story has been told. Yeah. Oh, and it's the central emotional relationship that makes us want to go to the movies. As we want to see explosions, we want to see fun buildings and all that stuff. But what we remember is what the central emotional relationship was all about. And that has its own structure, just like the the structure of the plot, the central plot,
Alex Ferrari 43:57
I bring up Marvel often on the show, because it's arguably one of the most one of the best examples of storytelling in the last decade done at such a high level. Regardless, if you'd like superheroes don't like superhero movies, there is something they're doing right. And arguably one of the characters since we're talking about emotional, central emotional relationship, the character of Iron Man, from the very first time we see him being this arrogant, selfish, self involved character, from the very moment we meet him to the end of endgame, where he gives the ultimate sacrifice to save the entire universe. Talk about what a complete change and they did that over 10 films and or 10 years and, and he you know, how many films was he and but he was always part of so many different, but that character arc is there in that 10 years that they were making films and it was an emotional is absolutely an emotional journey for that's why people just ball at the end of endgame people who are invested in these characters which just Yeah, oh my god it's just offered. It's it's, it's remarkable.
Paul Chitlik 45:13
Yeah, well people go to films to experience emotions. This is what Aristotle was talking about 2500 years ago, people go to cleanse themselves, to cry, to laugh, to take themselves out. To entertain in Spanish, you know the word in Spanish. It means internet, internet. Yeah, to hold yourself in the middle to add to hold, you know, it's between things. It's to get out of yourself for a moment, and to cleanse yourself and to be a different person when you walk out of it. You know, it? It, we need entertainment. We need entertainment, and we need entertainment. That's emotional. And emotional doesn't always mean crying can mean laughing, scared shouting, it could be anger, whatever it is, we don't.
Alex Ferrari 46:05
Yeah, and. And that's the safe way. And that's why during the pandemic, Netflix has exploded and streaming services exploded and we're all just clamoring to for stories. It was remarkable. It was a human experiment on a global scale of like, sorry, guys. There's barely any real big news movies out for this not last year, we've been been being promised these films, but they don't come out because of the pandemic. And that's why people like I mean, personally, I've, I've binged so many shows, I've gone into shows and just watch shows and shows and shows. And it's because that need of going through that and it is a need, it's an absolute human need to get to it love the word juice cleanse, to cleanse yourself through. Because sometimes when you're feeling down, you go to a funny movie to help you come up. If you want it, you want that thrill of a horror movie, if you're into that, like you really want that kind of like, Oh my god, I'm gonna die, that adrenaline rush, but I know nothing is gonna happen to me. It's really, it's not saying that we do important work, but we kind of want to saving lives. Let's just put ourselves in this in the scope of what we're doing here. But it is a very important job. It's very important job.
Paul Chitlik 47:21
I mean, I'm just trying to think of gfrc sylvans. Travel travels.
Alex Ferrari 47:26
Yeah, of course. Yeah. Yeah. persisters.
Paul Chitlik 47:29
Southern travels is about the importance of film. Yeah. Yeah, you're right. So it is important. A television is important. But what will we be doing without television right now? I mean, good. luck, I would be stuck. So we were killing each
Alex Ferrari 47:46
other. Yeah, people will be reading a lot more I would imagine. We were reading a lot more. You talk about life support for your protagonist in your book, and you kind of dive into that a bit?
Paul Chitlik 48:00
Yeah, when I say life support, that means you protect this test to have people around him. or her. I say him or her. Sometimes I just say her sometimes they just say him, but it's always him or her. or non binary. If you want to get into what we do know that the people around your your protagonist, have to have a reason to be around your protagonist. Why is this person in this film? Does this person bring out something in your central character that we need to see? Does this person tell your central character something that he or she needs to hear? So those supporting characters are really important in films? And we remember the supporting characters if they're good, and so it's something to think about when you're writing supporting characters. Number one, why are they in this scene? How are they helping move the story? are they helping our protagonist understand what he or she needs to do? How are they hindering what your protagonist needs to do so that the antagonist is a supporting character in most films. So these are people that lend reality to films, they lend depth to films, and they give the opportunity to the to the protagonist to develop as a person within the film. So the central emotional relationship is a supporting character. The antagonist is a supporting character. Even the guy in the in the clothing shop that makes the espresso in the Eddie Murphy film Beverly Hills Cop. Do you remember? Oh, of course.
Alex Ferrari 49:39
Yes. Yes. Yes. The Yeah. With Perfect Strangers guy.
Paul Chitlik 49:42
I forgot his name. Exactly. And I forgotten his name, though. Right to pachow Oh, god,
Alex Ferrari 49:46
I'm hot. Not hot. Was it hands or search? Search? Search? Search? Yes. sighs we remember him. Yeah,
Paul Chitlik 49:55
from that film.
Alex Ferrari 49:56
We do. You stands out and
Paul Chitlik 49:59
if you have characters like that, it gives a mix a wider, more interesting tapestry in your film, so that we have much more to look at much more to see much more to remember.
Alex Ferrari 50:12
Now something like surge. Let's dive into that. Just real quickly surge is a relationship with Axel Foley in that movie. I think he came back a couple times. And it wasn't just was he only in one scene or
Paul Chitlik 50:27
Alex Ferrari 50:28
He's interesting. I think he came in and out. But it was a funny scene, obviously. And it was it was that was a purpose of his character. But I think it was also just a I mean it, can you I'm just trying to think the reasoning why they were put to that other than just being funny that that scene, if I remember correctly, it's been a year since I've seen that movie. But that scene was moving the story very much more because it was very crucial part of who killed who and you know what that where the money was in the drugs and all that kind of stuff. And surge was kind of like a tapestry in that. But at the same time, it kind of also was another fish out of water scene because Axl had never run into a character like surge ever in his life. So it was a learning experience for for Axl, as well. As for Serge.
Paul Chitlik 51:10
It taught us something about Axl. And that's what that seems, therefore, was to open axos eyes to the possibility that there are different kinds of people in the world and that they're valuable. And even if they're strange, and they rub you the wrong way. They're valuable. So or the right way. I've never seen a person like that. So what the hell, what else is going on here? It opens his eyes. And that's the point of that person. So supporting characters can help your central character and it can help your audience to to appreciate your central character.
Alex Ferrari 51:44
Have you been watching shits Creek? Have you ever seen that show? Oh, God. It is. I just finished benching that show a little while ago. Oh my god, such a great cry. It just the characters are so wonderful. The whole town talk about supporting characters, I mean, that town, every from the from the diner, the owner of the diner to the boyfriend, that garage that they're all just so wonderfully written and performed
Paul Chitlik 52:16
by the central characters in that story changed. Oh, it was so selfish and self centered at the beginning. Yeah. And they all opened up. It's all about love. That series five epic five seasons of love.
Alex Ferrari 52:30
Yeah, it you're absolutely right. It was about and it's slowly and it was a slow process. They took that they took their time carving and chiseling those characters into who they became at the end, where when they first got there, they just want to leave. But at the end, like I don't want to go. Even when given the opportunities to go back to their lives. It's even the most self centered.
Paul Chitlik 52:55
We're open to sharing their lives with other people to helping other people to sacrifice self sacrificing. Yes.
Alex Ferrari 53:04
Yeah, it was. It was a beautifully, beautifully done. Now in the rewriting process, we were talking about descriptions. descriptions, arguably are one of the two big difficult parts of writing a screenplay dialogue and description, obviously, are the two major parts of a screenplay. Sometimes, and I heard this from one of my former guests, you want producers and readers want to see a sea of white, a sea of white on the page, as you know, as little they have to read as possible. And that's a sign of really tight, good screenwriting, as they say, how that's arguably depends on who you're talking to. Because if you look at a Tarantino script, I mean,
Paul Chitlik 53:49
it's different. It's true. But there's a problem there. Because you want to make them see the film in their heads, how you going to make them see it if you don't describe the situation. Now, a lot of people do skip over that. And some directors even cross that stuff out. And just go into the dialogue and say, well walk or create the scene using this dialogue. But you have to have some description. Now, the trick is to spread it out. So you don't have paragraphs that are 10 lines long, because people are not going to read it, it's too black. So you have a paragraph that's two or three lines long, or maybe one line long, or maybe one word long. You can do that. And that's a good idea. And then some dialog and then sometimes you don't want to have page after page after page of nothing but dialog either because that will say Well, what's going on what's happening?
Alex Ferrari 54:44
Unless Unless your name is Tarantino then you can do whatever
Paul Chitlik 54:46
well. You can have, you know 15 minutes seems to be exactly the scene in the downstairs in the restaurant where
Alex Ferrari 54:56
they're all glorious bastards. Yeah. Oh
Paul Chitlik 54:58
yeah. Glorious bastard. I mean, oh my God, what a long 22 minutes I believe
Alex Ferrari 55:04
the opening starts opening just the opening sequence at that movie is a masterclass. I mean, yes. Oh, Jesus. All right.
Paul Chitlik 55:13
And the page, here's the difficult thing you have to create, you have to write visually. And they tell you this all the time. And they looking for this all the time. So that means you have to have description. But on the other hand, people don't like to read description. So what do you do, right? So you have to write it, you have to sneak it in there. That's why I tell my people not to write more than four lines at a time in description, six at the most, if you have to, you have to break it up into shops to make it look wide to make it easier to read, so that your eyes go down the page faster. So if you break it into shots, for example, if I'm writing about your, your office right here, I might do a wide shot on the office. And I would say Alex is sitting in his office, I don't have to describe every part of your office. But if I want to do something specific about your office, I would say, well, there's a figure of Yoda wearing a cap in the corner. But I would say I put that on its own line, Yoda and I would capitalize it, Yoda. And then I would skip a line is standing wearing an overcoat and a cap. So we would direct the readers eye to that. So we would direct the reader to see that in his or her head. And then we would do some dialogue. And then we will get back to some other part of the room.
Alex Ferrari 56:36
Isn't that a lot of a lot of times screenwriters, when they're writing screenplays, they try to do it like a novel. So novelists extremely, you know, writing about my office, let's say as an example, can go into the detail of Yoda and the Lord like the the lanyards around his neck and, and the posters on the wall and the, the sculptures in the back and, and they could go into this. They could write a page just on this office if they felt like but a lot of screenwriters do that. And I've seen screenplays do that, that they write 6789 lines explaining this room, unless the room itself is the central character. And even then you wouldn't do that. You just don't do that? No,
Paul Chitlik 57:21
I tell my students, for example, if you're writing about a college classroom, all you have to say is his college classroom. That's all you have to say. People are gonna figure it out. Yeah,
Alex Ferrari 57:31
unless it's a specific unless it's a specific thing that you need to do. So like in goodwill hunting, I doubt that they went into a great amount of detail in the in the hallway that that will does. The thing is there's a chalkboard on it. I'm sure it was just very simple. And it wasn't like this long, like in use in what is it MIT, the hallways are really built, you know, they drip with, with brick on the wall and no one cares. It's a whole it's a it's a hallway, guys. It's a hallway.
Paul Chitlik 58:02
Now, if there's something important in that hallway for something important in the classroom, it's a classroom setup for COVID 919. Yeah, so then we would see a different hallway. I mean, we different classroom. If it's a classroom set up for people with wheelchairs, we will see a different classroom. So if it's important you write it, you have to remember that everything that you want to see in the screen. That's important. You have to write in your screenplay, write everything that's not important that ever the people deal with it. And they'll fill it out. Same thing goes for the wardrobe.
Alex Ferrari 58:35
Oh, yeah, took it,
Paul Chitlik 58:36
you don't have to describe all the wardrobe. I can, I can just say, college students. And I don't have to describe what they're wearing. Everybody knows what college student wears. However, if I describe a college student who's non binary, and is wearing sweatshirt, and green, tennis shoes, and has purple hair, then that's important. I want to write that
Alex Ferrari 58:58
it's a characters like this characters dressed like he stuck in the 80s. That's all you need to know.
Paul Chitlik 59:03
That's exactly it. You don't have to say big here, big, big shoulder.
Alex Ferrari 59:08
Because that's not because I promise you, whatever you write will not be on the screen. If you go into great detail in what that person is wearing on your script, I promise you wardrobe and the director and the actor will all have their say on how that actors is I mean, unless this is a completely central part of the story, or the character or something in the wardrobe is magical. That case carries the story forward, then write it like you said, if it's important to the story, write it If not, you automatically get like all that out of a scene from the 90s out if they look like they just walked off the front set. You're done. You know exactly where that you are.
Paul Chitlik 59:45
Yeah, it's all about being very specific, and letting people create the image in their own head.
Alex Ferrari 59:51
Now, one of the things you talked about in your book, which I found interesting is that you discuss how to surprise the reader by Going outside the rules? Do you have any advice on how to do that? Because it's very similar to like, like we were saying, with Michelangelo, I just took away the stuff that wasn't supposed to be there. It's it's easy to say that said, Yeah, just work around the rules and surprise your character. How do you do that? We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Paul Chitlik 1:00:25
Well, that is that is a tough question. Because that has, you have to surprise yourself. Right? When you're writing, you have to say, what would this character do? That I wouldn't expect? But that, once I see it makes sense, because I know who that character is. So that's a hard thing to do. For example, let's say that your character is a police officer. And you would expect that character to enter a crime scene and do something, you know, examine the the body, look at the where the bullets are, see the blood, but you wouldn't expect that person to go down and put their finger in the blood. That would make sense, if they want to smell it, do something that's a little bit out of the ordinary. But that makes sense from this character's point of view. So that's harder to say, here's what you have to do. There's no,
Alex Ferrari 1:01:25
it's case by case. Yeah, it's a case by case basis, but something like arguably one of the best written shows in history, in my opinion, Breaking Bad. What Vince Gilligan did, I remember the character of Hank, the, the DEA agent, who had the biggest kingpin under his nose his entire time, he had a collection of rocks like he collected he was, I forgot what the term is when you collect rocks, like, Yeah, but anyway, he was really into rocks. And just like, that's really interesting. And then you start digging into that in your mind, like, why did he? Like, why did they throw that in there? But it keeps it interesting. It completely is outside of what you think of as a DEA agent.
Paul Chitlik 1:02:09
Right? It's something to give the character more depth.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:11
Paul Chitlik 1:02:12
yeah, we don't want to have a two dimensional character. So every characters got something a little bit different. I mean, I've never met a person that didn't have something unusual about them. One of the questions I asked about my students in the first day of classes, what is your secret talent, and they, they almost always come up with something weird. And it's very, it could be, you know, they can make their bed, they can bend their finger back to their elbow, or they can touch their nose with their tongue. Or they can play the violin. And, or they can do a magic trick. I had them do it in the class. And that gives us depth, but it's also something I do in class to teach people how to write a character. characters will have these things.
Alex Ferrari 1:02:57
That's why that's why a lot of my listeners, always freak out. When I tell when I've mentioned that a few times on my shows. I was like, Yeah, I used to own an olive oil and vinegar gourmet shop in Los Angeles. And they're like, what, like, Where did that come from? I'm like, Oh, yeah, if you need to know about olive oil, I can tell you how to pick a proper olive oil, how to sip it, how to taste it, how to buy it, you know, what's a good 18 year aged balsamic? And they're like, what is that about? Like? It's so that's like a little like, nobody would ever think that I owned the largest olive oil and vinegar tasting shop in Los Angeles in Studio City. For three years.
Paul Chitlik 1:03:35
I think I was there.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:37
Which one was it was in studio sitting right by Laurel Canyon. Yeah.
Paul Chitlik 1:03:40
Alex Ferrari 1:03:40
that was my shop.
Paul Chitlik 1:03:41
I can't remember that. But yeah. I don't know if you can see this in my I'm trying to see if you see that. No, not there. Look at it. I've got a circuit. I have a poster on the wall of circus Vargas. Here's a little background.
Alex Ferrari 1:03:59
I see I
Paul Chitlik 1:03:59
see it in the reflection. Right behind you see reflection. I worked as a as a Rasht about in circus Vargas. What's the rest about? Rest about is the kind of guy that does everything. If I set up to 10 I put in the seat so you work you ran away with the circus is what you saw, I ran away with the circus. And there you go. Alright, so that's a part of me that most people don't know. But there's a little bit of an interesting thing. Now why would I bring that up in a movie? Maybe to show that I'm, I'm a small person. But by small I mean, I'm five foot six. But I'm strong. That was the hardest work I've ever done in my life. The first day I did it, I had blisters all over my hands. The second day I did it. I was wearing gloves, leather gloves that tour. That's how strong that's how tough the work is. So and I can describe stuff about the circus. Now that leads me to something else I we haven't talked about. And that's research. Hmm, yes. And I see this all the time. In my Didn't my students do? One of my students is writing about San Francisco in the 60s. Now I was there. So I know it. And I know what they said. And I know what they did. And they don't know. And I also had a student once, who was writing about Spain in the 1600s. And she was having a messenger, come to the door of a noble woman. Now, first of all, the noble woman answered the door, that would never happen. Second of all, the messenger was delivering a telegram in the 16th century, now they would,
Alex Ferrari 1:05:36
not so much, yeah, didn't get an email. They didn't get text. No, I didn't get that.
Paul Chitlik 1:05:41
So I have my people do research. And research gives depth to the depth to the characters. So it's an important part of your writing. If you're writing about something that you're not completely familiar with, you have to do the research. You can't
Alex Ferrari 1:05:58
write about what you don't know. It's so funny, because when I wrote a script that I had a short film that I wrote about a current carnivals, Carnival workers carnies, and I interviewed a carny. And I got a got what a carny actually didn't in my if you watch my film, you see things you've never seen him. Because no one had gone that deep into like the after hours of what a carny does and things like that. And it was fascinating as well. I'm just writing down I was like, Oh, this is all gold. He's just giving me gold, gold gold as I was interviewing them. And it's, it's amazing. If you look at some of it, like Michael Mann, I know does and it's sane amount of research. Oh, he writes, I mean, he's legendary for his research. Like he handed Jamie Foxx for collateral, like a binder, like this is where your character lives. This is his history. This is where he went to school stuff that will never ever, ever see the screen. But it gives so much depth to those characters. It's remarkable.
Paul Chitlik 1:06:55
That's one of the first steps I do have my students do is to write biographies of the main characters. And in those biographies, we go into depth where they were born, how many people were in their family, what kind of a family was it? what language they speak, what what school? Did they go to? How many years did they go to school, when they study what the Father do for a living with their mother do with their, maybe they had two fathers, maybe they had to mothers, maybe they were brought up by the grandchildren of their grandparents. All these things are important, the deeper you get into the character, the better you're going to write to character. The deeper you get into a situation, the better you can write that situation. So research of your character development and character is important in research into the media that your characters in is extremely important.
Alex Ferrari 1:07:45
And if you're in the rewriting process, and you go into a scene or you see a character's, you know, arc and stuff, like it's not working, maybe even during the rewriting process, you will go You know what, let me let me go into what like whatever they're, let's say, they're Carnival workers. And you're like, you know what I there's, it seems were way too one dimensional. You go do research, and then you go back into the rewriting process. And then you start adding all the nuance, as well. So research can be at the beginning, and could also be there for life support or helping revive the the patient if you will.
Paul Chitlik 1:08:18
Exactly, exactly. Now, we're getting back to the doctor analogy, what we're doing with the script,
Alex Ferrari 1:08:24
right, exactly, exactly. Now, I'm gonna ask you a few questions. I asked all of my guests. What are three screenplays every screenwriter should read? Well, I
Paul Chitlik 1:08:36
think every screenwriter should read
Alex Ferrari 1:08:40
Day. For one masterpiece.
Paul Chitlik 1:08:43
It's a masterpiece. Shakespeare in Love is another one great script. Shakespearean love was good. There's an interesting structure. You can lay the seven points on top of that, but it's a 5x structure. Because Shakespeare's plays were five acts now. If you look at that screenplay, you'll see five acts. And I think that's very important. Um, let me see what else what I would do I would recommend I find Inglorious Basterds was a good one.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:10
But like, even so, just to touch on Tarantino, for a second, if you look at Pulp Fiction, which is completely all over the place, story wise, the storylines it's not, it's not a coherent story when you know from beginning to end, if you still lay the points down, um, they're there. They're there. And that's the brilliance of that script. Because even though the character is in a completely different place in the timeline of the story, in the timeline of the script, it's still following that structure. And that is the brilliance of, of pulp fiction. Am I correct?
Paul Chitlik 1:09:44
Yes, I'm trying to remember this another screenplay I recommend and suddenly I can't remember the name of it. It's
What is the one it starts backwards? Oh,
Alex Ferrari 1:09:55
momento momento. momento. Noland Norman's momento. Yeah, yeah.
Paul Chitlik 1:10:00
Also, that's very interesting screenplay because it's told in reverse order. But, but the the color, the thing that's in color is in reverse order, the stuff that's in black and white is in forward order. Both of those stories have seven points.
Alex Ferrari 1:10:17
It's the same. Now that's another. That's another script that you just him and his brother wrote that and you're just sitting there like, I just, you know, that's but that's Nolan. I mean, now, Nolan is who he is. But I mean, just absolutely brilliant. Great, great, great scripts. Now, what advice would you give a screenwriter trying to break into the business today?
Paul Chitlik 1:10:37
That's the hardest question there is, I would say, write and then write some more. And I would say, then write some more and rewrite it. So you have to have, at least if you're a screenwriter or a television writer, you have to have at least three original screenplays ready to go in preferably in three different genres, I would say, because you never know what people are going to be looking for. And right from your heart, right? Something you really know, don't write something about 17th century Spain, if you don't know it, because it's not going to work, right? Something you really know. And put your heart into it. And then rewrite it a couple of times, and then rewrite it a couple more times. And then start asking around and going to events. Well, when when we can virtual virtual events, virtual virtual, good, as many virtual events as you can. But as soon as we can go to real live events, go to real live events and start talking to people. And it doesn't matter who it is. You can go to a Screen Actors Guild event and talk to a screen actor. You can go to the Directors Guild event and talk to a costumer, you can go to a Writers Guild event and talk to somebody that is a first ad. They all know people you know who the best people to talk to our makeup and wardrobe people. Because the best thing to do for a new screenwriter is to get a star attached to it. And who talks to stars more than wardrobe people and makeup people. Nobody. So if you can talk to a makeup person and say so what do you been working on? And I'll tell you what, I've been working on shits Creek. Really? What? Would you be comfortable reading a script I have that I think Daniel lovies be really good for? Well, yeah, sure, why not? And they read it and then say, yeah, I think that'd be great in this.
Alex Ferrari 1:12:39
Then McCollum wrote to me. Yeah, I'll call him real quick. Yeah,
Paul Chitlik 1:12:42
I call because they're the people that know that can call them. Now you can talk to agents and managers and do the same thing. But I think talk to the craftspeople you can even call the cinematographer and talk to cinematographer or talk to a props person. Props persons know that the actors too.
Alex Ferrari 1:13:01
Oh, yeah. Yeah, some of my first big I got an academy nominated actor because my dp worked with them on a film. And he just called them up. And that's how it works. It works. It was it was it's pretty, it's you're absolutely right. One of the best pieces of advice on screenwriting I ever got was from a screenwriter, the screenwriter of Fight Club, when I asked him that question, and he said, All the best, here's what you need to do sit down, you write a script. When you're done with that script. Don't rewrite it, take it put another drawer, start writing a script number two, when you're done with that script, take it put in a drawer, start writing script number three. When you're done with script number three, go back to script one, number one, and start rewriting it. Because at that time you have already you've already become a much better writer.
Paul Chitlik 1:13:45
Exactly. He's totally right. He's totally right.
Alex Ferrari 1:13:48
The more you write, the better you write. Absolutely. Now what is the lesson that took you the longest to learn whether in the film industry or in life?
Paul Chitlik 1:13:57
Wow, film industry or life on film industry is when you keep my mouth shut when you talk.
Alex Ferrari 1:14:04
Paul Chitlik 1:14:07
And in life that applies. Oh, yeah, preach
Alex Ferrari 1:14:10
my friend preach. Absolutely true. Absolutely. God, the stuff that came out of my mouth when I was in my 20s, I would just be like to shut just shut up. It's not about you. It's not about you. Please just shut up. And
Paul Chitlik 1:14:26
it's about making the product.
Alex Ferrari 1:14:29
Yeah, it's about making it's about making that that show that movie, whatever you're working, making it better. Absolutely. That's your job. And where can people find out more about you and your work and your book?
Paul Chitlik 1:14:41
Well, I'm over Google, you can always Google me. imdb. You can go to WP comm which is Michael we see productions.com they have all the books that I've written on screenwriting that's only two but they also have a ton of books. about making films. I think it's the best film publishing house there is. And they work with people. So if you have an idea for a book, those are people to talk to. To find out more about me, I just go on the web. I'm there. I'm all over the place,
Alex Ferrari 1:15:19
not hard to find not hard to find. And I'll put all that information in the show notes. But it is thank you so much for being on the show. It's been an absolute pleasure talking to you, my friend.
Paul Chitlik 1:15:27
It's really been fun. I enjoyed it. Thank you.
Alex Ferrari 1:15:31
I want to thank Paul for coming on the show and dropping those knowledge bombs on the tribe. Thank you again, Paul. If you want to get links to anything we spoke about in this episode, including how to get his his book rewrite a step by step guide to strengthening structure, characters, and drama in your screenplay, head over to the show notes at bulletproof screenwriting.tv forward slash 113. And guys, if you haven't already, head over to screenwriting podcast comm subscribe and leave a good review for the show. It really helps us out a lot. Thank you again for listening guys. As always, keep on writing, no matter what. I'll talk to you soon.
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