Chris Soth developed the “Mini-Movie Method” after years of success as a Hollywood screenwriter. Chris has multiple projects in development at major Hollywood studios. This master storyteller is also an expert in pitching and selling – necessary tools for a screenwriter in Hollywood.
Chris holds an MFA in screenwriting and a BA in Dramatic Literature. He is the only seminar instructor whose work has been produced by a major Hollywood studio.
MILLION-DOLLAR SCREENWRITING presents a method of story design that is easy to understand and easy to do, The Mini Movie Method! This is the key to unlocking your future as a working screenwriter in Hollywood. It turns writing into an effortless, step-by-step process and makes beginners into experts and experts into masters of the craft. The secret to successful screenwriting has finally arrived: The Mini-Movie Method!
-THE MINI-MOVIE METHOD WAS INVENTED FOR MOVIES!-
When the film was born story changed forever. Traditional “Three-Act Structure” was invented for the theater, but movies are shot, edited, and projected on “reels.” Each reel contains its own piece of the story, like chapters of a novel called “sequences” or “Mini-Movies.” The Mini-Movie Method is a way of “sequencing” your story that is specifically designed for movies, tailored to movies, and unique to movies because The Mini-Movie Method was CREATED for movies.
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- Audible– Get a Free Screenwriting Audiobook
Alex Ferrari 0:21
Enjoy today's episode with guest host, Jason Buff.
Jason Buff 0:57
Today, we are talking with Chris Soth the author of million dollar screenwriting and the mini movie method and we're going to talk a little bit later about what the mini movie method is and how you can use it to help you with your screenplays. I'm not going to go into that now. But you definitely want to stick around and learn about that. It's it's a way of putting your screenplay together the structure and everything that I had never really heard of. And Chris, pretty much he is the inventor of this method of putting a movie together into these mini movies. All right, let me get to the episode here is Chris So. So what I wanted to focus on, first of all, is a little bit about your background in screenwriting, and you know where, where, how you got into screenwriting from the beginning?
Chris Soth 2:52
Sure, absolutely. I, well, I guess I've been sort of a nut for story and structure. Since I was a kid. I was an undergraduate major in drama. And I started studying their plays and play structure there as well. But I wanted to be an actor at the time. And I just felt like there was something better. And we could we could know more about this than we had been given by Aristotle was kind of out there in the general knowledge pool. And I did ply my trade as an actor for about 10 years, also the comedian and the magician and started writing my own material and started using some of this story structure that I adapt, studied to. To make that material a little better. I sort of found if I was doing a six minute comedy sex, I told a little story or there was a story shaping the whole thing. I didn't have to be as funny. So we're that made it funny. And so I wouldn't do that and started reading up on that and wrote a novel. I worked on cruise ships actually, I and I was doing this comedy acts there. I have plenty of free time. So I wrote a novel with that free time. And then I wrote the screenplay of that novel. And after that, I you know, the bug had bitten me and I had to know everything about screenwriting. I started reading all the books at that time, there were about three of them. And now of course, there are 300. And I come sort of from an academic family if you want to do something in my family, by and large, you go to school for it. My dad's a college professor, so I went back to school, University of Southern California film school, and that's where I found a far better structure method which they call sequencing there, which I use and have, you know, studied and got in depth with ever since and sort of heightened and refined to the mini movie method. I was very lucky at USC that I wrote a screenplay there. That was my thesis. I'm a graduate screenwriting pro ramp. And that's hold for three quarters of a million dollars. And that became a movie called FireStore. So, very fortunate to have one of those big splashy spec sales on the front page of variety and Hollywood Reporter The next day, very fortunate to get the movie made, and lucky enough to ply my trade in Hollywood ever since. And I've kind of always taught as well, I mentioned, I kind of come from an academic background and started teaching at USC shortly after I left part of UCLA Extension. And what I found was outside of USC, people, we're not getting this method. This better way of breaking stories down to you know, the sort of hideous the overview of the method rather than three acts, which is taken from playwriting. The mini movie method breaks a story down or screenplay down into eight mini movies. So if we take Peter back to our timeframe of 120 minutes, we have 815 minute chapters, or eight mini movies that all add up to the story of the movie and made as I say, this, you're thinking of movies you've seen, or you've or you can remember, some movies, you've seen where you felt like, you know, doing a certain visual cue or music cue that you've been given by the director of the filmmakers? Oh, something has ended, everything has changed now. And something new is beginning. Right, though, at the end of that, too, you know, the cops partner will be killed. And, you know, he'll look at this, you know, into the sky and hollered know, right in that way, right. And the camera ends up into that God shot because after he's talking to God, you know, God, how dare you do this? Right? Well, that's generally around the end of Act Two, or what I would call him in the movie six. And it's kind of said, you know, one chapter is ended. And another chapter is beginning and the music will smell, too. But you know, that they're actually ative and good story, have a structure that have eight different tension, of breaking the main tension of the story down to eight different tensions each day. So the hope and fear on which the the outcome of the main story will rely. And once you've had that breakthrough, it becomes much simpler. I mean, it's never easy to write a story. But let's say this is about eight times easier. That that really helps you out. So that's kind of, as you were saying, you know, people specialize in different areas, that was where I found the need, and the niche where I said, Well, wait a minute, this isn't the industry standard, everybody should be doing. So much simpler, so much easier. Why aren't all the screenwriting books written about dismissed? I don't know how much you do. You just have to keep learning or you're listening to I know, we're talking to all kinds of filmmakers here. But if you want to tell a story, this is going to help you. You know, if you've ever heard, you know, acts to if you read your screenwriting book and you write 30 pages, that's hard. And, and, and you've got that landmark of the x one turning turning point, right. And now your reward for that is you get to like 60 More without any sort of landmarks to guide you on your way. You know, that's, that's a nightmare. And I think everybody knows, that actually was very good screenplays that have died. Right. You know, I mean, how many movies have a promising start and kind of falter in the second act? I can tell you, you know, for every movie that does that. There are 1000 screenplays and didn't make it right and, and die there. The second act and this is the way this is a great way to kind of keep your your second act topic, right, as real attention and a build and the ability to a really strong climax and have little mini climaxes in many movies along the way, as the tension resolved. And
Jason Buff 9:17
So now do you chart that in some sort of way where you, you know, say, Okay, the first mini movie needs this needs to happen. The second mini movie this, you know, do you give a general guideline of the things that need to happen along the way?
Chris Soth 9:30
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, we are after, you know, hundreds of years and stories and over 100 years of movies, generally 1000s of years of stories and about 100 plus years of movies. We can kind of figure this out and the method actually troubleshooting the fact and sort of it starts to emerge. Because I would argue good stories always good this just kind of by accident.
Alex Ferrari 9:52
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Chris Soth 10:01
And I think that you know, what's making them good starts to emerge. When you know, by serendipity film start to be shot on reels and a real hole, pretty close to 15 minutes of film, and the early filmmakers, as they develop what becomes a modern day feature film, I find it advantageous to plot out a chapter per reel. Right. So I don't think you know, Sam Goldwyn was ever, you know, chocolate cigars, and we have a problem in Acts two, he would didn't know when the act was out of ink been hacked. In the Golden Age of Hollywood, we're saying that either I think he was saying, We've got to fix the fifth wheel. So there's absolutely a template and a pattern that you have between me and Joseph Campbell. And I know a lot of other people who've studied stories and folklore, we can say many will be one is very typically going to do this. Many we choose to typically do this. And you can identify it sort of a broad, generic way, mainly because you know where it is on the timeline, right? If, if a story is if a if a mini movie is the beginning of the story, there are certain obligations and tasks to have to perform, introducing the main character, setting the main intention, showing this world, things like that there's, you can generate a checklist pretty easily. Likewise, at the head, and that sort of that filling in that that middle where you know, things are the most treacherous. But there's a much more detailed template than that, that I gave in my book, million dollar screen running the mini movie method that is actually available on Amazon relatively recently used to only be able to go to my website about 10 times. I advise Amazon and and you can identify those kind of broadly and generically, and then you can sort of separate them by genre to say, Okay, well, are they in a monster movie, this is kind of a thing that starts to be happening here, the charts we see in many new ones, and come up with different patterns as well like, like in a love story, right? Those those three, the three famous Hollywood sentences, boy meets girl, right? That tends to be the end of any we want, boy loses girl. We all kind of know that the end of that to that heartbreak occurs. And then boy jets girl will be somewhere out there in the third act, maybe seven or eight. So yeah, those are plot points to talk about what they do to avoid real projects, girl, right. So, so yeah, there is a general pattern and it breaks down, play genre. And then, you know, in my mentorship program, that students i mentor.com, feel free to check it out. I will guide you there step by step not through just you know, the genre of story that you're doing, and not just what also you do. But what your specific stories do, I feel like that. That's what we all have to master, we offer master story in general, than the dictates of genre and then we have to find what our own unique story is to tell. And ality best told, because that's what's gonna differentiate it from all the other stories of the genre and all the other stories in the world. Right. Right.
Jason Buff 13:26
Now, what I was wondering if you could do just to give an example of the eight mini movies in action? Is there a movie in particular that you use to demonstrate those eight mini movies just so that people can have an idea of of how it breaks down?
Chris Soth 13:45
Yeah, I don't know that. I have one. Absolutely, by heart and by memory. But I know, you know, the notes I'll go to when I when I'm asked this question, I probably could pitch you the one of these two movies entirely from memory and give you all eight of the mini movies. But if people are hearing this? Well, that's that's interesting. I'd like to see that in action. What movie can I look at? Absolutely. The movie Seven. When I first heard that conceit, you know, I was in. It was in my second year of grad school at the time. And I interviewed on a couple senator who had bought the script. And he said, Oh, it's about a serial killer, who is killing people in the in the mode of the deadly sin. Right. And I, I immediately do, oh, well, that's one deadly sin for many years. Right. And it it almost is it's, it's a little more sophisticated than that. But once in a while when it had like an idea like that, where there's sort of a number, we are right in this concept that is very close to seven. All right. If I say or snicks, and I say, Well, okay, now now my fix I say now my story is three quarters out. Right? That's seven, seven eighths of the way to outline. It's slightly different than that, in that I can I mean, I don't have it by memory so much that I can say, you know, maybe movie three is lust, right? Well, that's a pretty good guess actually. So it's seven, really six of them in the movies of seven are dictated by are all sort of short films of leading up to a ghastly Tableau, where in which someone has been killed, that is staged to look look like a crime and one of the deadly sin. That happens six of the of the a time, and it is a full eight mini movie structure. They just they knock one off right away. And the three credit sequences of the first scene is Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman showing up at one of these. So now, now there are six left, the fact that many movie ends, there's another one. And then when the instrumentally for that's all about chasing the killer there on the track of the killer there. And he shows up at the police station that has his fingerprints cut off, Kevin Spacey as the killer, they call John Doe. And then he escapes them, that's going to be four. So the two of them are knocked off by going to a movie one. And one is what is eliminated by in movie four, and end the other six, each demonstrating a mini movie. So if I was, if I had that brilliant idea. I would just say okay, well, this is the last movie, and that is the slow mini movie. And this is the Gulag name. And I will be a reference potentially to find that and I would love that scene in the few pages I was writing, and seven and very well written and doesn't appear to work as episodic at all, because it's all sort of all those pearls are hung on the string of touching one serial killer who was perpetrated all of these acts like have you learned a little more about each shot. So there's a great example a very good movie and a very good screenplay for soldiers effect using this method, and I feel like you have sort of a little laugh of recognition when I said that. There was that like, Oh, of course. And but we don't experience, you know, the movie that way and go oh, well, this is just formulaic. Right? Oh, my God, cool. And target Twiki. Right. Like, likewise, a winner of Best Picture and Best Screenplay, I probably will over the more I remember from my childhood. It's original belief. Seven Oscars swept the Oscars. That year, a great period con man movie called the state. So in the sting, at least through the second act, title cards come up, that get a title to each minute. So So bear in that all important second act, I think it actually goes into the third act to know, I know, I could be wrong about that. So that second act is chaptered. Very specifically, with tension that are almost exactly 15 minutes long. So you'll really see it there. And you'll see it in the second act where it's so important that things don't get static, that you haven't been trying to resolve the same tension too long, that it has evolved a little bit or the stakes have risen. That your your heroes are now trying to do something different to solve the problem. The second act is where you know, you, you know, as an audience or reader, we can kind of look at Watson looking kind of in statics for a long time, nothing's really changing here. Let's let's click on the face guy. So they're all chapter quite, quite specifically. And it's a great one treatise for you to see and study because, hey, that screenplay, that picture right. So I can go into more detail about that and I could pitch it to you by memory. I don't know if it's our best possible study year. But you know, go take a look at yourself. You know, the just quickly at the end of the day, we won the Robert Redford character wants revenge against the gangster who killed his combat partner. At the end of two he had left the Paul Newman character to help. Now that's what you've probably been taught to call I can walk from you this morning to
Alex Ferrari 20:01
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Chris Soth 20:11
They're gonna pull the big cop on the on the gangster. And to do that, they spent all night and says it in the first act, we got to set the hook that we can tell them the tale that we can pull the wire and, and that'll sting, right. And those are the four title cards, they are the hook detail, the wire and the state. And they're all sort of Mini Cons, they have to pull along the way to pull off the big car, which is ultimately the stain in which the movie takes the title. So the Con and getting the money from the market was called sting. And that's the tension way up there and many sevens. In particular third act, I'll make this I just said one and two are what you've heard called the first act, they were 3 4 5, and six are what is called the second act. And the seven and eight are what we would call the third act. So you'll see, we divide this by 15 20 pages or minutes by 15, you'll see that two of my platforms are the ones you're familiar with the end of that to the end of that the end of that one in the introduction. So your detention of the hook, is they got to hook the marking to wants to be in this Congress, he was actually thinking he is going to set the hook in the fish there. And our target is we hope they can we fear the whole economy blown because it will be aligned to what's going on. So does that make sense? And you just and I did this exercise with in seven to actually recommend to my clients and my students and anybody out here who wants to use any new method. It's a good exercise to title, your mini movie, you're going to title your movie, your movie will have the title. Why not give him any movie title? So I said you know, I call that the the pride movie, right? Called pride and now they don't have title cards come up with right? They do they literally do. The same. Yeah, the great, great Scott Joplin, Marvin Hamlisch score will come up and a little title card with sort of a Norman Rockwell ish. image from the coming, maybe we'll see we'll, we'll come up with it will say the hook. Right. It really you know, creates in your mind as you were turning the page, you came through chapter five and the title. You know, it creates sort of a preparation, the viewers mind that, oh, we're coming to something new. Okay, so something has ended something new beginning. Now, you know, that's not going to work for every movie, because of that stylistic way of telling the story in some movies. You know, you want to go by so fast and not have that quaint it's a new chapter sort of feel that we experienced them seamlessly. And it's a little harder to see these platforms and these turns intention, but they are there they are nonetheless there. And they're working difficult.
Jason Buff 23:31
Now, what is your process? When you're creating a screenplay? How far do you go with outlining and creating somewhat of a blueprint? Before you actually get into the you know, the writing phase?
Chris Soth 23:45
It depends and it is anywhere from absolutely outlined to you're aware writing the screenplay is an afterthought to jumping in having one eight sentence out of one. And that's, you know, either it's like he did that number eight, right, and they're eight mini movies. So I wrote Firestorm the, you know, the screenplay that sold for three quarters of a million dollars as they do for me in the long haul. Just with those eight sentences, and what they were was just a turning point, I would jot down to end each mini movie. Right. So now, July outline in more detail than that. I do what I might do with in process. So if I, so it kind of depends on the work situation I'm in and sort of my mood if I can't wait to get writing. I might, you know, brainstorm those eight turning points and dive in. If I'm working with a studio or other producers or collaborator, and it's a good idea that we all are on the same page. And understand, you know, that what the story is going to Be there, you know, in a lot of detail, I might create a, a treatment that is quite detailed. The most whatever creates without being painful is, again, an eight page treatment. And it will shock you that that's one page from a movie, right? So, and you're my collaborator who will do my little coin to anybody I like this, this admittedly method. But when I'm working with a client, it's sort of up to them. And I'll say, Listen, you can bring in an outline for let's do, let's do our brainstorm a belief, confidence, a turning point. For many movies, and what I might say, next week, blow each of those, those sentences up into a paragraph. And then maybe blow each paragraph up into a page. And then we're going to take each of those pages of prose written in treatment style, and we're going to blow them up into the 10 to 15 pages of the screen. That's a very typical process for me. Now, when I'm writing myself, as I said, I might just jot down the attorney all so you know, what, and it'll be kind of like he just heard me do for this do for this thing. At the end of the day one is partners kills the enemy two, he gets a new partner, at the end of the new three, he is set the hook, right now, I'll know what that means. I'm all scrawled on the back of an envelope somewhere. And then I might actually start writing the scripts, but I will do more outlining, it's just sort of in processing, or in process, which means, you know, when I get to that many movies that like, wasn't really great for my mom, I guess we very often that's going to be five, and I've always got, you know, which is younger than we for to them, right? All the strong 1.5 To me, sometimes the most amorphous movies in that second half of two, which is you know, what one of those places which entails get a job. And I and I will outline the mini movie in more detail. And that might start with the brainstorming a list of highlights, which will become a list of themes, I might actually if I'm really sort of up against at night, I'll sort of break the mini movie down into micro, which means, you know, these eight steps of structure they have are kind of the structure of every, if you're gonna work on a tension in 15, the steps are going to be the same if smaller than that, if you work them out over 120, right, and the ratio of these affects about one quarter of the script will be, you know, the beginning and then we'll reach the end of the beginning. And I call it the length true, because that's kind of the golden mean or ratio of storytelling are drawn. So I might then outline further, but to me, those eight turning points are key. The analogy I've been using recently is kind of like having a Mapquest for the jury, you know, on on your screens, like you know, your your screenplay would have a turning point, maybe a Mapquest has h turn, right, I happen to live in San Diego County, if I'm driving up to LA, I'm probably going to go on the five. And depending on where I'm gonna go in LA, I'm gonna have to get off the five at some point, I kind of don't care, at least at the beginning. And even on most of the drive, how long I'm on the side, but that's going to be you know, 70 miles or something like that. I care about that Terje. My offerings, because I know I'm drilling there. And I know that I can figure out the drive that's in the kind of a straight shot. So I, you know, and when, whenever we used to give directions, if you come from an age before math test, it was always, you know, you keep going on this road and take a write off. Yeah, we were very rarely mentioned how long it's going to be, we might say, a long time, right? You know, or there could be a quick left. But you know, the term define the shape, and the term defined budget. And then when I have those, I really know the shape of my story. I can fill in the details that along on the purple line, the blue line and Mapquest or Google Maps as I go.
Alex Ferrari 29:46
We'll be right back after a word from our sponsor. And now back to the show.
Jason Buff 29:55
Now, do you have any exercises once you have your outline and everything Do you just rely upon the writing process for creativity to come out? Do you have any tricks for kind of like making putting yourself into a creative mode? Or is it just something that comes out as you're writing?
Chris Soth 30:12
Well, you know, I, one of my favorite quotes is from Stravinsky, at editing, the news will only visit when she sees your hard work. And, you know, I working hard and, and, and, and doing the work, if you expect that bolt from the blue to strike, I think it will come sort of when you're in the zone, or you'll cross over into the zone, when you're doing the hard work. But, you know, the medium is simple, and sometimes that hard work does not, you know, cause or descend from the heavens. And I think, you know, having a craft and having a, a series of best practices and principles that you can reliably put into place is the core and the very base of what is called professional, you know, the story is going to be very good, or, you know, quite good. Because, you know, these principles, and you have an aesthetic, and you know what good is. And then you know, the news only has to come and leave and do a little bit to do crossover to great, maybe. And I think if you actually do study the great movies, even if that writer did have that bolt from the blue, that that gave them that brilliant idea. And they they weren't, you know, assiduously practicing their craft, and, you know, doing the grunt work that it takes to do that. After they have, you can dissected and by and large, a lot more than people are willing to admit in the arts. The second and see what makes it great. And, and duplicate it in your own work. And that's, that's why I think movies and, and, and stories and television are getting better and better. Partially by the sheer volume that we have, partially by the technology that allows us to generate more multiple drafts faster and easier. And, and just a better understanding of what makes it good. There is you know, working against that, or the fact that, you know, once once a great story has been told, you can't really tell it exactly that way. Again, that's come up with a worthy, you know, reinvention, or let it be your inspiration for something else that is also or you're hoping, great. But you know, as far as that goes, as far as the training, the creativity and being being in the zone, I think of myself as a craftsman more than I do as an artist. And so you have the meaning you have and in the end you really study this is I hate to say this almost a way to MacGyver around not having to have the views strike, I don't want to say not even not having to have creativity, because these are the nuts and bolts of creativity that we study and the craft that we dedicate ourselves to. Right. So it is it is creativity. I think there's and as far as that, you know, the brainstorming that you know that you do, and you know, just trying to get yourself in a creative mode, I find hard work is the best thing. But if I'm not doing that, and I want to like just get ideas that no, you probably heard that. That dictum of you know, one 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration, right. Having a craft and having the aesthetic and having the, you know, the best principles and a hard work ethic that all fits in the 99%. The 1% is that inspiration of the great idea. Right? I say and I and for that. I watch a lot of movies, I read a lot of books, I do a lot of reading. I tried to keep myself stimulated. Now I have friends in a writing group that I have, you know, very intelligent people that I try to keep in my life that really provides a stimulating conversation with and in my own mentorship program students I mentor.com Because I work with dozens of clients who are great writers that I'm always having scintillating conversations with. And laughter You have the one big idea, right that 1% of the process. If you have to have a million other little great ideas to and so you have, you know, other smaller ones that you need the good idea for how to do this scene with, you know, which is inspiration as well. And a good idea if I did this in the museum that I live in this plot twist, or ideally is a great idea for that process, but nobody ever seen before. So you're continually challenging yourself that way. And, you know, I don't know, in a way, I don't want to demystify it. But I will, I do want to be at the time, really, I feel one word, that word creativity, you know, and waiting for the muse to strike is sort of an ego trip. A lot of writers and other people in the arts take that. And they sort of mystify it. So that it can be a holy and religious experience for them. And, and they can, you know, maybe put themselves a little above other people who don't have it, or don't get it. Right. And, you know, I would much rather say, Let's demystify it, you can, you can do it. And you can find great idea with screenplays, if you just follow these steps. And, you know, I, you know, who sold the screenplay for $3 million. It's not magic, I'm not better than you. You can learn the same things I learned and and maybe not those screenplays, it's worth a million dollars, but right one is, that is good. Or better, as one that that did. And, and I far prefer that to sort of the oh, you know, kind of elitism that comes with creativity and what people call brilliance and inspiration. You know, God has chosen to favor me with his brilliant idea, therefore, you know, I'm, I Lord it all over all of you. Hey, congratulations, the idea, you had a good idea, you're gonna actually have about a million of those to have a streamlined career. So get back to work.
Jason Buff 37:17
Do you feel like deals like that still exist? I mean, that seems like that's kind of like, I mean, even even for the day, it was very kind of, you know, bizarre and kind of unique in its own way. But it's like, it seems like that kind of thing. You know, doesn't that world of filmmaking is kind of a bygone era at this point.
Chris Soth 37:38
Unfortunately, you know, they do still exist, but they are, as you say, were rare back then. And they are even more rare now. And this has happened, you know, I think in my lifetime, in my screenwriting career, if we want to put our fingers on walk, I would argue that it's always it's not even really that, you know, a lot of specs got bought for a lot of money. And some of them turned out badly. You know, that's, that's part of it. But the truth is, movie studios, just as I've been working in Hollywood, have become more corporate. So, in 20th, century, Fox became part of News Corp, right? And Paramount became part of the suburbs and gigantic media conglomerates, they all have the movies to indicate it used to be their own corporation, and sell their own stock. And, and have their own shareholders. And they got bigger and bigger and, and became, you know, just a small part in some basket media conglomerate, which they're only, you know, four to six out. And and it is harder to justify to your shareholders, that you bought a screenplay for a million dollars and then went and lost $100 million on movie than that is to say, we thought it was going to work it was by the writer of Harry Potter, or, or, you know, whatever, whatever else is that it's been successful in another media in, in a publishing company that are that are that are media conglomerate, oh, it's the best seller over here, like so. It's a video game that our company also is based on a song that the music branch of our of our bass music conglomerate has to do with small piece. So that synergy is kind of what has replaced in the day the odd spec sale and the new the journeyman screenwriter who kind of wins the lottery.
Alex Ferrari 39:57
We'll be right back after a word from our side. answer. And now back to the show.
Jason Buff 40:08
Day. So what advice would you have for screenwriters to, you know how to get their screenplays read and how to get you know, how to try to have a career as a screenwriter?
Chris Soth 40:17
Sure, I think that you, you want to write those big scripts actually in plays, and you want to play that lottery. While at the same time, you have other works in your portfolio, that are smaller budgets, and we'll go to smaller conglomerates, or outfits that aren't conglomerates, but are still profitable. So what do I mean? Well, I think it might be worth everybody to take a look at a book called The Long Tail, right? So it's sort of how the market is shifting. And the long tail refers to the you know, the tail at the end of a bell curve on a graph about who's making the money. Right. So as that graph, you know, swells up Hi. And we see there's Paramount Disney and universal making billions of dollars in the entertainment. And as they have become more corporatized, and an arch, you know, $100 million used to be a blockbuster, right, and a studio kind of only wants to make a movie these days that they think the upside is $300 billion, and not dramatically after every million parts. And as they've moved out of the movies that nearly make $100 million that has left room for us on the long tail, to make movies and, and go to entities with our screenplay, that that might be making movies for 10 to $40 million, that that are only going to make 100 million. And the opportunities there where hedge funds are stepping in and other you know, conglomerates are stepping in with cash liquidity for the studios and bandwidth and smaller conglomerate can move in. That's where your opportunities are they a little harder to find, yes, they are. Or you have to do a little more work to be able to better connected, you probably are on the very far end of that same longtail is, you know, your friends who all want to make a movie for 10,000. And, and these are the kinds of scripts you can write and fund yourself. And in between our you know, every every number of budgets from $10,000, which I sort of picked as the lowest you can make and moving forward was probably not not the lowest. Everything between 10,000 and 40 million and and between 40 million, and what the studios may produce for there, there's room as well. So there are other entities stepping in stepping in the profitable areas that that the larger studios have abandoned. Now, are you going to sell a screenplay for a million dollars to any of those entities that will be rare at first. And I am thinking you might come back again. And but you know, could you make, you know many more millions of dollars. If you are a producer on such a movie and you raise the funding for a movie and are a profit participants. In a screenplay you also work but hyphenated and became a writer producer on that's what I am attempting to do now. That's where I think my next million dollars is and I hope my next 10s of millions of dollars are and a higher level of creative control and fulfillment as well. So and I'll say this I spent many years as a writer and of course have that first flush of success quite early on. That was very exciting and caused me to write in that genre. And at that budget range here for my next 10 streams. I'm now as excited by the creativity it takes to get into these funds have been made, as I once was by the new creative challenge was more traditionally called the creative challenge of actually writing the script and defining the events that will take place in it finding the funding for a movie, you know, building a following you know as I have Amongst writers and people who want to partner in filmmaking with me has been a very warfare that breakthrough to realize this could be the same thing these are just all just challenges that have that are big and creative solution. Once I realize that is the same thing I can get as excited about seeking funding for as soon as I can for the original idea the you know, the former is just a little more harsh, I say, out of my hands. And then the other day of course, I could have millions of dollars at my disposal.
Jason Buff 45:40
Now, how do you how do you feel about places like Inc tip and the blacklist? And then what do you have a resource that you use? For example, if you have a screenplay that you want to get out? Or is it just a question of trying to get it in the right producers hands I mean, talking about strictly working as a writer,
Chris Soth 46:01
Certainly working as a writer, I recommend all of those sources I I have gotten a lot of work myself during tiff including a movie that was made that I appeared in. And I my own experience with a tip is I got a lot of work on it. I don't know that I actually listed my own scripts on because I've always had agents and managers that first expect fail to get scripts to to get my scripts read. I I do hear lots of great stuff a valance resources I had a movie made that I will assignment from the entities that are my second produce credit after Firestorm and, and I know a lot of people who have had their their scripts picked up in official way, but blacklist newer on on the playing field, by guesses become something very good. Certainly with that brand and being sort of recognized as quality, I think it should do well, I am a little less familiar with their business model. I actually know people that tip and feature them regularly. That hasn't been the case with the blacklist as yet. So, but I recommend all of those resources, you know, always saying, you know, copy that copy out and tour. But you know, I am one of those resources myself. I'm much more about the craft of the screenwriting man not the marketing. But certainly if you write a script that meets your screenplay, mentor.com, I'm going to advise you on the marketing and help you craft a great query, and Coach pitching as well as a guy who's sold multiple pitches myself. So I think these resources are a great idea. I'm, I'm a piece of that. But like anything else, they're they're good ones and they're bad ones. And, you know, the bad one for you may be the great one for me. And so it all I think kind of depends, I regard all these people as my colleagues and not my competition, we're all part of the same machine that is trying to get you know, movies made and white writers to hone their craft and to get their work seen and, and make movies and television and novel than any other media better. That will do as well as being a writer of fiction myself. I'm creating a nonfiction book about books about the craft of writing and other nonfiction materials about the craft of writing all the time. And to make the art better, and I would even like the art of creating those books. And I would like there to be better books on screenwriting and story structure, and that's why I'm contributing over I obviously think that there's a better method than sort of the dominant paradigm out there. And that is my message in that. Okay,
Jason Buff 49:06
What what do you think about, for example, like save the cat and that kind of thing.
Chris Soth 49:12
You know, I knew Blake and, and he was a colleague, and we sort of emerged on on the market at the same time and kind of from the same need, you know, which is to say, you know, the three act structure is not sufficient to our task, you're gonna fall apart and add to that, and flake. So I like to save the cat. I mean, I really like anything that makes it easier and, you know, I, I recommend, kind of everybody and all of my colleagues
Alex Ferrari 49:49
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Chris Soth 49:59
I choose to my students and say, you know, or to anybody lack this right, right? You know, you're gonna read all of these books. Eventually along who is a writer, just like you're gonna have to have many ideas, and you don't know what book is going to give you the idea for a new movie, or you don't know what book is going to which book is going to solve the problem that you're having with this screenplay. So when I have a hot project, I'm working on the screenplay, I usually have faculty who get research and books, I would always have a stack of books that were my research for the project, and the latest screenwriting there. So I would be, you know, I might do my research in the morning, and then my writing and during the day, and then read a little bit about the craft, like just been practicing all day, before I go to bed that night, and, you know, I, I could point to, to most of the books that I've read on screenwriting and say, Oh, well, this thing that I always do, that came from that book, and this thing I always say to my students, or you know, one of my mentors or clients that came from that screenwriting book, and I always say it or my version of it, if I say their verses, I say you should go look at Robert McKee book, Robert McCain's book, I actually, there's one thing that I've actually close the page number off, which was, you know, John Truby, I think has a lot of great and very original stuff. And save the cat as well. Some of my students, at the same time, from my students read our books, around the same time, I feel I got a student who sent me a spreadsheet that lays like cyber structure over what we have heard me say, of, you know, the three act structure, you know, two of my plot points are the end of Act One and act two, if it's the same thing, I don't say don't use a three act structure, I say use that. And, and likewise, I would say, you know, if, you know, like structure, use that, and mine is, you know, John troubIes, 22 steps, you know, figure out where those are going to go as well. And if something from the key is, is helping you out, lay that into your story as well. I sort of feel like, you know, you study all of this, and you synthesize it maybe into your own methods. And, and maybe you can write a book as well. And, and contribute something to the dialogue about what makes good good screenwriting and what makes good movie. So I quite liked, like, if there's, if there's one thing that I kind of envy the chance, at least for the first couple of years, when I was teaching, I always there was a lot of the fact that I was a USC grad, whenever I departed, from what I had learned at USC and said something that was just my own theory, I would make a big point of saying, like, maybe this is crazy, but I think, and Blake just, you know, went crazy and gave all of his prospects backing backing names that people still use, right. And they became part of the language and that was very flattering to me, when someone says, Oh, yes, it's been really three, particularly when it's someone I've never been, right. I, you know, I always felt like, at least for the first couple years, you know, if you if you use the terminal movie method, you just had a conversation with me quite recently. Read my book. And now, you know, I will, I'm putting myself out there a little more, I'll get email from someone that was, you know, picked up on one of the folks that Amazon and say, you have been using them and we've met for two years, and I've never met them and never, never heard of. And, and you and I've had some consultations with those of us that, oh, yes, I always use this method. And you know, they're in Australia or Canada or somewhere else, the far reaches of the English speaking world. And, you know, and I've never heard of that we have never spoken that word. And we've never spoken and that varies and that we've ever had. And do when you put yourself out there and start to reach that far. It's very flattering. If you're like, hey, I actually am changing the world a little bit from the bottom.
Jason Buff 54:34
Well, do you. One thing I want to talk about a little more is going into the movie method, the mini movie method. One of the things that I wanted to talk to you that we didn't talk about was the concept of creating tension. And I wanted to get your opinion on how you create tension in each of the many movies. Okay?
Chris Soth 54:58
Absolutely. And this is this is my absolute favorite talk, I probably should have led with it. I hope it was to the podcast. No, I actually would say, you know, you've hit upon what I think is the most important thing I teach what I get complimented on the most in, oh, this gets me through the second act like nothing else right now. Now it's, you know, four little 15 Page steps, I never needed them 15 pages away from a major turning point. And that's so much better than the 60 page. Right. So what is a tension? Okay. Attention is sort of defined by always, in fact, it's up a little more, and I will I will say that I believe Sigmund Freud was right. In his book, the pleasure principle, when he said that, all pleasure is a release of tension. So pressure comes from tension reduction, if you get a massage, and they're rubbing their shoulders are tense, that feels good. Why? Because the tension is being relieved. If you take a nap, you've got some tension because you're tired and cranky. That's relieving that fatigue and exhaustion. These are Freud's example coming up here, if you go to the bathroom, that relieves the tension of a full bladder bowel, of course, the physical act of love is a build up and build up and build up into the release of sexual tension. Right? So if we like anything, it means it's reducing attention. If we like a story, that means it is releasing attention. So you've heard this phrase dramatic tension, maybe you know how important it is. Right? It's the source of all pleasure, we take in drama, not the tension, but the release of it. So a story is going to build and build and build and build dramatic tension, and then release it in a surprising and gratifying way. So how do we build up potential immunity? Okay, here it is. Here's my magic formula for retention. If you ask me, this is the E equals MC squared a story? This is the equation I wish all realize. tension equals hope versus fear. In every movie, there's something we're hoping for, you've probably heard heard us heard, maybe you heard this called a rooting interest. We're rooting for the hero. And what does that mean? We're rooting for him to get what he wants, probably, which might just be escaping or monitoring trying to kill them, which might mean the heart of the fair maiden, which might mean not to be sexist about it, the harder that hunky man. Okay, so whatever they want, we're generally rooting for them to get it. And we hope they will. We fear not just that they won't, but that they will suffer great consequences in the attempt of Genesis. So in Raiders of Lost Ark, we really hope that Indiana Jones gets to the Lost Ark, when he really fear that he should die in his attempt to get worse. And worse yet, that the Nazis will have it and they will become unstoppable. Right? So knows the stakes that are attached that help them feel well, that's the hope and fear of the entire movie. That's what I would call the main attention of raiders the Lost Ark, right? Right. Likewise, each mini movie has attention on which that relies. So at the end of the day, we won when the CIA if the dlss back then comes to me and says, we need your help. We found this, the word staff of law in the telegram in the sense, the head piece and the staff of well, you take it to the maximum of Tanis in Tanach, at a certain time of the day, it shows the location of the world the soul. Well, he is that line of dialogue, just the way Paul Newman does, and the sin lays out the tension in the next three minutes. The next mini movie is about him getting the headpiece on the staff of raw, we hope that he can we fear that he shall die in the attempt and the Nazis will get it. So he gets it successfully. The one after that is all about getting into the macroom undetected and finding the will of the souls and the one after that is about getting the soul without getting the ark. Right. But if any of one of these goes wrong, we're out we're hoping in the triumphs of each meal and if any of them goes wrong, not the Nazis going to have the Ark and rule the world.
Alex Ferrari 59:56
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Chris Soth 1:00:05
So, hope and fear is your technique, and it's your surefire way to build tension in a movie. In a mini movie, I'll go a little further that in a scene, or in any interchange of dialogue, or be of action, within a thing, every little beat of action, or every line that somebody says, must move the needle on the tension meter. And it's gonna swing it from Hope, just fear, or fear to hope, or hope to fonder hope or fear to even worse fear. And if it's not doing that, then that seen that many movie, or worse yet, that movie is static, and doesn't have attention and is going to be boring. And that is the worst crime you can commit as a storyteller or a filmmaker, my right to be boring.
Jason Buff 1:01:11
So would you go back and like check out a scene and say, Okay, this scene is good. It's kind of like it's okay. But I want to add a little more conflict to it. I want to add just a little more spice.
Chris Soth 1:01:23
Absolutely, yes, I do that all the time. What is that that's rewriting and polishing? I think, you know, when you say you're rewriting, that may be kind of vague. But this is by and large, what you're doing, or at least, you know, in this phase is right. So of course, I'll go with you and say, Okay, well, what else? Here we'll, we'll make we'll make this tension really tough. You know, this line makes me me and gives me a little hope of, you know, the next line is going or, or b2b of action is making me fear. But how could it get even more fear? What could make it look like the outcome is even worse, but as we watch the story, or read a story, or go through our daily lives, we are constantly trying to predict the future, right? And we're constantly trying to get evidence. Michio Kaku in his book talks about this and talks about how that's an adaptive behavior, right? How, why would that evolve, right? Because the people who can make the future best are going to survive better, and are going to carry their genes to next generation and are going to get all the food and they're going to do very well, right. So so that adaptive behavior helps us out. And that's why stories are lighter, because they variously fool us and get us caught into that lifetime of profanity National Faculty accent. Right. So if I give you an event that seems to point towards a very dire outcome of fear, right? And then I give you another one that makes it even more convincing that that is surely going to happen. And then I sprang a surprise, because guess what it happened, but it was 10 times worse than we thought. And I'm exceeding your worst fears at every turn. Right? So that's constantly what I'm asking myself, What would raise a face on this? What would make this even worse? That's a very good, I assume font, or font for help. But you know, the way the way drama is structured, that's all the new dramas that three quarters of the drama will be the story will be convincing a theory that stuff can happen. Right. And that's usually the happy ending, stepping into day to day, about three quarters the way through, or maybe a comparative last.
Jason Buff 1:03:46
Now, talking about, sorry, creating conflict, I assumed that this means what you're saying is once you at the very beginning, you need to establish what it is your protagonist wants, and therefore, that's going to be something that drives you through the entire story.
Chris Soth 1:04:08
Is that right? Yeah. Okay. Right. And that's attention as well right in their desire line, create that tension. You know, I said, We're rooting for them to get what they want. Right? So there's our hope that they will get our fear that they will suffer great, great consequence in the attempts, right, they'll fail and be destroyed in some way by it. So and this this applies, by the way I mean, I'm using these broad terms a you know, destroyed by it, and the right action adventure. So people tend to think, Oh, well, this is only going to apply in that genre, but absolutely not it you know, if we say their heart is broken, then it applies to a love story, if that is if we define their disruption is that their heart is broken, they shall never love again. And because the one person they could love that they would ever meet here on this entire planet has married another. Well, there's your love story. There's the stakes of, you know, many a romantic comedy. And if you don't over literalized, me, if you sort of, you know, hear, either literally or symbolically, at the end of these things I'm saying you will realize they apply to every single story you're ever going to write. And yes, I talk about this structurally. And I kind of see everything as structure, because that characters want is really our hope. If you want something, you hope you get it, right. It's the same as that. This are two verbs can be used almost interchangeably, I think, if you look in the dictionary under hope, you see want or desire as a synonym, and vice versa. Right? So they're used interchangeably insofar as we talk about character, I think we should be called human wanting rather than human beings. That defines a character and a person so much, if you say, you know, you're talking about a third party friend of ours, and I say, What's he about? I think you're usually gonna answer what's, what he's trying to do in his life and what he wants. So that does define character for us. And that's where characters story are so inextricably bound up effect.
Jason Buff 1:06:36
Now, how does that relate to creating a logline?
Chris Soth 1:06:42
Okay, generally, I think, a logline and this is not the template I specifically use, but I can give you my own template for loglines. The defining aspects of a movie, maybe not perfect pitch, but generally, a you know, a one line will be one sentence, the subject will be the protagonist, and it will depict what he wants. And usually have a position my own template for long lines, do I have a full hour lecture that leads up to this phrase, which was raised as sort of the punchline? So I hope you're we don't have time for that. Right? Hopefully, we'll stipulate that I that I support it well and make my point. But I think the defining aspects are a hero, a villain, and a world or a protagonist and antagonist. And a backdrop. So if so, if we said a, you know, an archaeologist battles the Nazis to control an ancient artifact. That's Raiders of the Lost Ark, right? We can get more specific. But so it would be you know, an archaeologist battles the Nazis to retrieve the Lost Ark of the Covenant. Right. So that's right, in order a hero, a villain a world. Right. And that's right is a lost art. And the other thing I will say, and the reason I think long lines are important is only one movie fits that description. And I think that is you've got a good logline. And you slap the question, What's that movie? Where? Then put your logline after it? And then put a question mark at the end, there is only one answer. So what's that movie where the poor boy park now I'll rephrase it? What's that movie where the rich girl falls in love looking for a boy on the doomed ocean longer? Everybody? We really have to say Titanic. It's tougher everybody's head. The moment I said that right. Now, I could say on the Titanic, and that'd be an even bigger cheeks. Right? But I didn't, because I wanted to pop that movie poster and maybe that horrible song into your head. Right? And you cannot help but answer that. Now. How great a tool is that for you to have as the defining essence, to do even more heady here the Platonic form of what your story and movie is going to be? Right? That what your movie is that no other movie ever has been or will be, could be defined by that sentence.
Alex Ferrari 1:09:56
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Chris Soth 1:10:05
And I think if you get specific about your hero specific about your antagonist and specific about your world or backdrop, you'll get I don't know, if you're ever the movie plot generator, so maybe the CSI another writer store was selling, and probably look it up on Amazon. But it was, you know, a, sort of three books in one, because it had three sets of pages that you could flip. And so as you flip the top one, it changes, then there are two below it, right. So and, and so you could change an element of a movie, you could generate movie plots with them. And they were basically laid out like that, although, you know, I was talking about this logline template before it existed. You know, it was basically the top the top bunch of pages, which were a hero, the middle one were a villain, and the third were a word, or something they were attempting to do, or something like that. So I think that, you know, by and large, is a way to generate your logline. And, you know, I will make no bones about it. But, you know, for a while they're in through the 80s and 90s A lot of people may have made a lot of money, myself included, I kind of changing the world of Die Hard, right? I started over a forest fire, right, then die hard in a blank was a you know, a great sort of, you know, we saw a lot of those movies, and more even more scripts sold back in that day now, I also changed the hero. And I also changed the villain. Right? But essentially, it was a hostage situation which is kind of you know, what, what Die Hard is maybe one of the first to go to drama some of that to an entire movie, though I think it goes back to you know, movies called Desperate Hours in the seven days of season and 60s. So you know, so um the this means that life sort of shifted to here in Hollywood always they're always taking you know, one of those three elements from this and another one or two of them from that so you can also pitch diehard pitch Firestorm my my spec sale as diehard in the forest fire, right? Or you could die hard meets Backdraft right? So we're taking that hostage situation and we're putting in the world of fire taking a protagonist who battles fire and sort of the hostage situation that's really the situation so you already say the world and combining it with the world of Backdraft which is fire I pitched it a couple of times I was writing the thesis cliffhanger set on fire and so what am I saying nothing runs the room it is diesel which happens to be burning down around this to me you know what the stakes even on right click I understood very well. One of the federal fire it isn't better, more fun. So that that's that's logline for me a hero and a villain and a world now you can say a hero battle the villain and maybe the fourth element is a burden flying conflict. So if you really want to get a more detailed template a protagonist subjects with with the verb always implies calm conflict the direct object of the sentence is the is the antagonists and then there's a prepositional phrase indicating the world so you might have movie fires on the smoke jumper goes up against escaped convicts biggest forest fires national parks history is exactly the same.
Jason Buff 1:14:16
Now when you're going through something you know when you're writing that screenplay, do you go check out diehard and say okay, let me get the screenplay for that and see what beats this is hitting like what page and things like that?
Chris Soth 1:14:29
Absolutely. Yeah know certainly when I was at USC, I was lucky enough to have access to a screen screenplay library I would get the same size probably read the entire first year I was asking to see a screenplay every single day. And and not at and it will not surprise you at all to to know that I go through and I create I reverse engineer from what I would call a structural As with anything will be outlined. Right, I will check what's happening on page 15. On page 30. On page 4560 75 9105. And and what's happening last page? What are those terms? I get the Mapquest structure of that story. So I'm, I'll certainly read the screenplay. But you know, I, I read so many screenplays, you know, that that year that I was able, I would get them, not just as they weren't great structural template, but I would go get some, if they just have a similar character to lie with considering you're going to mind the character? I would, you know, there been, you know, 1000s, if not millions of movie. Most of the problems are then confronted and sought and solved to varying degrees of brilliance by somebody, you don't have to reinvent the wheel every time. How can you, you know, if you're very specifically creating a minor character that was very similar to a well known minor character, can you do everything that people do to have a feeling that aligns your words, no person can, but they can be your inspiration, and you can isolate principles about why that works with the study. So if it was going to be similar in tone, to what I was, like, I would just go with me. And that that was another part is that I only mentioned the reading part of my, my creative process. I'll watch you know, after the the day's work is deep into a screenplay, I'll watch a similar movie to. So you know, there are certain templates, I find myself bringing up all the time to people that say, Oh, you're gonna have to do you should go make a mini movie out of this one I do when I can. And people write these downs and collect these outlines from starting to archive as a resource for my basic instinct, I think is a great, great for you to check this. And there are some some unique structural things that does that have been stolen a lot and continue to inspire. Three Days of the Condor is great for for thriller, as well on that spy intrigue. And, oh, Men in Black is sort of something I've mentioned a lot to people, for people to study for their own quirky, isolated secret organization. So, you know, lots of things have been done before, you're very lucky when you know, when you have a really unique idea. But you're also very challenged, if they're, if no one has gone before you them. So and some movies sort of fail by on that, and being sort of a winner, as they used to say, one of a kind. But I think that they're the movies that we're seeing these days, by and large, fall into fall into the very gratifying. I don't want to use the word for because it's formulaic is is a negative? I don't think of it that way. You know, the polio vaccine is a formula, and it's great for us. You know, I mean, to solve a problem of not getting polio, please give me something formulaic. So, you know, I think, you know, if you miss what people mean, when they say it's formulaic, and the implication is bad, it's not original. Well just make originality part of the formula. Right? So I say a cliffhanger set on fire. Well, if it was just cliffhanger that would be original. Combining those two elements is what brings the originality and I, I would say, if you read my script, you would say raising, raising the ball, right action, and tape is what made that that script worth buying in that movie with making whatever the results may have been, when it finally was made. So I think, you know, making sure that it's a fresh take, and it's original. I don't know that you're necessarily going to reinvent structure.
Alex Ferrari 1:19:53
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Jason Buff 1:20:03
I did an interview with Brian University a couple of weeks ago. And one of the things that he said that I think is very similar to what you're saying is, when they make a movie, and he's a producer, he says, basically, what they tried to do is have 80% of the movie be familiar. And then 20% be kind of new with new ideas. So people don't want to watch movies, they're 100%, you know, original, because they don't even know where to go with it, they want to have something that's familiar, and then they have want to have something that kind of surprises them within a template that's already kind of familiar to them.
Chris Soth 1:20:39
I think that's, that's absolutely correct. You know, and, and there are, you know, very, very original movies that are 100% original, and I generally can't stand them, because, you know, they've also bought a narrative out the door. So lots, lots of people like Kleenex, Scotty, which is, you know, basically, you know, Philip Glass music with and just images from around the world. It's not a character, there's not a story to follow. You know, it's, I don't even call it a movie, right. But it's also filmed. So I guess we have to do as a moving pictures, we have to call it a movie. But that's not for me, as a very small segment of the populace, who are going to watch and love that. And I think they're getting a different thing from it than they're getting from, from what we call a movie, I would almost argue that boyhood is that I have what I actually thought was good this year, but not for all the reasons why you normally think a movie is good, I did think it was slow, which I think is, you know, the greatest crime you can commit. And yet it did add up to something. And it was such a worthy project undertaking. And exploration is to a combination of movies and living life, that I would have been happy if anyone else. You know, just to reward the dedication of those filmmakers, and those people who showed up those 12 years. And it does kind of add up to something in you know, you kind of feel like Pericles an appearance from Torah boy, it has a little something to say about life, as it's being lived in the early part of this millennium. People who grew up that way. And so, but I almost want to say not a movie on almost its own art form. So there's an example of, you know, two things that are not really a movie, that one I don't like, and when I come to get Mr. Linkletter would be upset here and say, it's very hard work is not a movie.
Jason Buff 1:23:02
I think I read somewhere that he like, made a comment about hating plot, you know, and I thought that was interesting that if you watch his movies, he just can't stand plot and likes to you know, have more organic kind of scenes that don't necessarily hit beats, you know, so that's just a different, you know, some people can get away with that.
Chris Soth 1:23:22
So, so few do. And listen, I'm not gonna go through it again. I'm glad I'm glad I did. And I'm glad it was done. You know, I think it's never gonna make the money, the Transformers done. Or, you know, a lot of other things. So,
Jason Buff 1:23:43
What's like, was a tree of life to is kind of like that, you know,
Chris Soth 1:23:47
Like, like, to this day, this will be telling that I have not seen the tree of life to this day, because I just fear that I'm gonna go pretty pretty and fall asleep. I don't know, maybe some people do like it. You know, as far as mallets work goes, I love Badlands, which was pretty story driven, and I feel sort of defined the genre between it and Bonnie and Clyde that, you know, this, you know, young couple on the run, pull in height. Was was defined by that, and, and it was seminal as a certain kind of story. And there's no Natural Born Killers and that it can be a certain certain of Noah Feldman where we talk about it certain other stories that we've seen. But I, and I understand, you know, he has a certain Zen philosophy that, that, you know, God laughs or doesn't even notice the tiny small thing and try to do care about. I get that. Mr. Malik has that viewpoint And you're probably right. It's true. It's to me, it doesn't make for the best entertainments once once you graduate, one of these days, I'll say, probably, you know, I think that, you know, it's better. That's better left to a philosophical discussion for me to really grasp and not not demonstrated dramatically through story. And, you know, certain ideas have a better treatment in other media, I guess. So.
Jason Buff 1:25:41
I let me let me change gears for a second, if I can, I wanted to, since we're coming up on an hour and a half. I want to make sure I hit a few things. Now, you know, a lot of people that listen to this are, you know, starting out as screenwriters and first time screenwriters for people that are struggling to, you know, write their first can you talk a little bit about some of the biggest mistakes that you see when you have new students come in that are that are creating their first screenplay? Are there any common kind of pitfalls that people run into that you see a lot?
Chris Soth 1:26:17
Well, you know, I sort of feel like the, you know, the first step is to kill off from the misstep, which is sort of a bad idea selection for what you're going to write a movie on. And I sort of feel like there are two mistakes people make there. One is not sufficiently differentiated from other movies, they don't even really recognize that it's so similar. It's, you know, it doesn't have the 20% in that 8020 ratio that you were talking about. Your producer, Brian was mentioning. And, and I will speak to someone and I will say, Well, how is that different from this well known film, and I won't get it good enough. And there's this desire to cling to it, because you know, you love this idea. And maybe it even got you to be a writer. And if it did, that it was worth it. Is it ever made, maybe not. The other, the other is picking something that doesn't add attention to it, and isn't going to be a good story when you're done. An idea that's just not a good idea. And having that aesthetic, instead of you know, having studied in that movie to know what what a good idea is, because it's going to provide a great tension and conflict and ideally, yield a theme. I think it's key. I think that's, that's a very common misstep, then when it gets to the actual writing, over directing, and putting things in in the narration that couldn't possibly be acted or dramatized, or seen the things that development executives and are wondering, how do I know you know, in the margins about so, you know, the main character thinks at the time when he was three years old and went to the old fishing pole, right? You put that integration you know, I've been an actor I cannot put an expression on my face even in the post that shows you that I'm thinking right so me over directing and really having such a strong visual humanitarian aid goes on and it's in a lot of things that jump back
Jason Buff 1:28:41
Can you put in any sort of I mean, I know that people who are writers and directors, you know, like PT Anderson will put camera moves and things into his shooting script. Is there is that just completely taboo to put any sort of like camera movement or I mean can you do like angle on something or focus on there?
Chris Soth 1:29:02
I think it's it's becoming less and less taboo. And we'll see more more screenplays I'm I have none No, I am nonetheless partially because I'm just an old dinosaur and I grew up saying never do like big books to say never do it. And and do it over direct my my opinion on why you shouldn't do it a little different than everybody else's which is you know, don't tell the director haven't directly going across all that stuff out. And if they just offered you my attitude is much more than listen in the spec scripts are designed to be read. That's put the word camera in it. Okay, more angle. Is is to jar the reader out of what your hope out of the flow state
Alex Ferrari 1:30:01
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Chris Soth 1:30:10
They shouldn't get into such a statement in their script that they forget that they're even reading it should flow through them and and to put and they shouldn't so they should feel like they're a fly on the wall watching these people have these experiences and then they should so forget themselves and lose their their self consciousness so much of this even for not even flying and then there should be no wall. And that's what you're trying to do you should just achieve that then the state of flow with your reader and so far they should only realize when they get into scripts that they weren't even reading a director of Dynamo causes to dream state and to say Canberra to say angles to remind them they're Washington they're very Michigan scripts for our movie that will ultimately fail but actors are going to be playing these roles and is to take them out of their reality. Families and I I am against we see and we hear about in script there's no there there is only the flow of the story. You're not forget that you are watching it and hearing it let it flow through. That's what I want to see in the spec script. Now when that is changing for shooting script. I have vowed the next one. I will call the camera directions and do because it seemed perfectly obvious to me that this had to be a close up when I said you see appear on his face that it wasn't I wouldn't say you see as I would say tears on his face. So I go to coded stuff like that. If I'm destroying somebody's face. It means because I'm trying to get you into the visual movie I have in my head. I don't actually feel that we see and we hear does that.
Jason Buff 1:32:16
So you would just say instead of like we hear a car honk outside, you would just say a car honks outside or like now Okay, yeah.
Chris Soth 1:32:28
All right. Let me what was that an improvement at that? What what did you get into you hear a car honking or when you read that back in your mind you what's going to be different on the screen and the movie? They're going to be different? Yeah.
Jason Buff 1:32:43
Now when you were at USC, were there any screenplays that were kind of ideal? Or did you have any like I hate to say this phrase but any like aha moments when you just like kind of got it for the first time. Or when you when you realize like, Okay, this is this is really someone who has talent and this is a screenplay that you know, is going to inspire me
Chris Soth 1:33:08
You know, I read all of William Goldman's works and it was particularly The Princess Bride and I actually never read the novel Princess Bride but I quite like the movie where I said well this this is an incredible piece of work and if you just your eyes are just pulled down the page Shane Black who is sort of everybody's idol coming up in the screening room had you happened to him what we all want to have happen to us is on record saying I read all the in Goldman I read all of Walter Hill and so I I took my writing style from them and so I wonder reading all those golden scripts and employees getting almost a shell script and I did have one thing coming up to Shane Black did not have which was I also had Shane Black. So I read both producing and unproduced and and a lot of others as I say have the slightest element the two that really stand out as far as reading screenplays go that I would say that the Princess Bride screen was so beautiful made me cry more than seeing the movie and I'm not quite the cult fan that everybody else would love it. Just not you know like I've done with it again. And also the movie field the screenplay refusal I have seen that movie very emotionally affected, affecting on the riot act had at least the same motion probably more. So I guess it's getting to the ones that made me cry. I also read a lot of a lot of the ones that give you this emotion and those probably influenced my writing style. I exactly sure what that emotion is. So I'll just sort of get the reaction, which is, Whoa, cool. I read a lot of those. And in fact, my, my producer said, you're going to carve yourself a niche in Hollywood make the cool stuff, Josh. And that that is what I tried to do. And that's, that's kind of what I, I learned to write quickly. Now I've written I have written screenplays, since they don't make you cry, tragic comedies, family movies, and things like that, that that came a little later, but my aha was, and the ones that really stuck with me are what led you to remember being on an exercise, exercise, like reading tears streaming down my face? are filled with the purpose.
Jason Buff 1:35:51
All right, now, my final question is always the same. I call it the time machine. Okay, you could go back in time and talk to yourself when you were, let's say 1820 years old, what advice would you have for yourself about filmmaking? Or screenwriting? Or life in general?
Chris Soth 1:36:12
Okay, filmmakers? I think I would say start writing now, because I change for writing, right. And I'm always very jealous of the people who, who are that age and no, they want to be writers, because I went through two careers before I really started writing. And then I would say, because it is all writing. Also, making a writing or all of the writing and filmmaking and arch, in general, are the same thing. Some other thing, and as best as I can determine, this is a relatively recent revelation for me, I certainly know how it is, they are leveraging the most meaning that you can think of the smallest possible piece of information. So into the most meaning you can do into a visual, the most meaning you can into a word, or word. If you have a line is five words long and quite meaningful. If you can cut one word, and lose no meaning, you just increase the ratio of words meaning of syllables, meaning by 20%. And so fill everything with meaning if I only had four words to say that 18 year old, I would say that about about writing, I would say that about filmmaking, I would say about art, since you asked. Yes, I would say that about life.
Jason Buff 1:38:08
Well, Chris, I really, really appreciate you coming on today. And thanks for spending the time with us.
Chris Soth 1:38:15
Jason, it's been a real treat, please send me a link and let me know when it's up at all. That's alright.
Jason Buff 1:38:20
Just so people know, can you? Do you want to put your links up and your how to get in touch with you and find your books and things?
Chris Soth 1:38:27
Sure, absolutely. If you search my name, Chris Soth in the Kindle store. You'll see I think that at this point five books there. And I intend to kind of be publishing like a Kindle single size book several times a year, maybe as much as once a week. Shortly, I do several regular streams by a mastermind group. And I sort of started to transcribe those and publish them when people send to me, I want that information to get that to me. So you can find that Amazon, I have, I guess my flagship, but now it's screenplaymentor.com. And there's another 1 millionscreenwriting.com. And if you want to reach me, personally, that first name and last name, Chris. So [email protected] or gmail.com. You can get some either way with that as well.
Jason Buff 1:39:25
All right, Chris, thanks a lot. I appreciate it.
Chris Soth 1:39:27
Thank you, Jason. It's been fun.
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