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14

Oct'13

5 Lessons About Story From the Movie Gravity

1.   Create an experience. Storytelling isn’t about telling a plot.  It’s about giving an audience an experience.  The best filmmakers deliver us into emotional, visual, and interpersonal worlds we have never had access to.  We get to imagine ourselves in the dizzying, disorienting weightlessness of space (especially in 3-D) with enormous detail.  Dr. Ryan Stone’s isolation and panic in space sparks our imaginations as we think about facing the same questions she faces.   When an audience starts asking themselves, “Would I be like that?” and “I wonder if that’s what it’s really like?” the experience is immersive.  We’re hooked. 2. Deliver on the promise of the premise. Lots of movies spend time getting ready to get to the ending.  Not Gravity.  From the first frame until the last, the delight of space, the beauty of space travel, the issue of weightlessness, the problems and challenges of isolation in a weightless, airless environment are explored.  From beginning to end, we’re dazzled. 3.  Give us a theme. Theme is like the vitamins in chocolate milk.  We like to have fun while downing something good for us.  Gravity delivers a simple, clear an powerful theme about the power of letting go and embracing new possibilities in life while alternating between awestruck moments and scaring the shit out of you. 4.  Don’t let us figure it out before she does. There’s nothing worse than a movie with a lousy villain. If an audience can figure out the movie before the hero does, we’re annoyed.  In Gravity, the villain is regular onslaught of satellite debris, added to the already antagonistic space environment.  Add them up and Gravity gives Dr. Stone a satisfying badass fight for survival.  Personally, I always love inanimate villains since they are so emotionless and relentless.  There’s no reasoning with a piece of debris coming at you at 20,000 miles an hour.  5.  Keep it simple. We go to the movies to sit in a dark room and be soaked in a emotionally charged mind-body-spirt bath designed to make us forget the world outside the flickering lights on the screen.  One simple strong problem set in a beautiful world where the details of a life and death struggle unfold in surprising ways is enough to propel us away from our ordinary lives into the glorious impossible.  And that’s entertainment. Our StoryMaker 101: Master 9 Genres + Write Your Outline Class …

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09

Oct'13

The Logline Trick

Here’s how to use a loglne to write your story. Now, a logline in this context is not a pitch. You won’t be using this logline to corner a producer in an elevator. This is different. This is meant to help you write your story, especially when all you have is some thin shreds of ideas. Our definition: Loglines tell the whole story from the point of view of the hero using the construction, “When….then…” The beauty of this kind of logline is its power in helping you figure out where to point your creative brain. It’s like turning on the secret X-ray detector to be able to see what needs to be fixed or added. Putting your logline into a “When…then” construction does one big thing: it forces you to look at the events as a consequence of each other, and it begs you to wonder about a resolution to the consequence. Look at these examples: “When a poor kid finds a lucky penny, he’s discovers a magical world of banks, money and gold.” What happens to the kid? Does he turn greedy? Does his save his poor family? “When a heartbroken woman divorces her cheating husband, she starts a dancing school for women who have been cheated on.” What happens to the woman? Does she find love? Or does dancing heal her heart? Now, here’s the fun realization: First act: When Second act: Then Third act: The result: What happens after the “then.” Do you see that? The “When” of the logline is your first act of your screenplay. The “Then” part is the second act. The “What happens” part is the third act. Your whole story gets told in a sentence. Let’s try another one. First Act “When an asteroid nearly hits the earth, a disabled but brilliant scientist tries to stop the imminent disaster.” What’s the problem with this logline? A few things. In our little formula, the hero’s point of view is missing. The logline has to be told from the perspective of the hero. Notice in the first two examples, the hero is ACTIVE. The hero does something that leads us into the new world. The kid FINDS. The woman DIVORCES and STARTS. Both heroes are doing something. In order to get this logline to work, we need to have the hero do something. “When a disabled by brilliant scientist discovers an asteroid is …

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30

Sep'13

5 Reasons Why Every Character You Write Should Be Just Like Walter White

1. Write characters with contradictions. Walter White was both motivated to become a meth cook-dealer by his love of his family and his disdain for his brother-in-law, the arrogant, self-congratulatory DEA agent Hank. He was a sweet, kind milquetoast man and a manipulative killer. He cared about Jesse but would punish him viciously to get his way. Contradictions in character come when your characters are unaware of their true motivations. Their subconscious wounds (we like to call them Core Wounds) bubble up and take hold of their actions, despite what they say. Think of people in your own life. The mother who says she cares about her children most but gambles her money away in the hopes of striking it rich. The church-going man who preaches abstinence but can’t stop visiting a prostitute. The girl who says she hates her brother but who secretly beats up the bully who terrorizes him. Think about how your character is wounded emotionally. What’s their damaged belief about themselves, other people or about the universe? Then let those beliefs cause chaos in their lives. 2. Write characters who have a goal. Walter’s goal was simple: to leave his financially-struggling family with millions of dollars upon his impending death. The dollar figure kept changing, sure.  One million wasn’t enough. Ten million paled.  180 million seemed enough by the end. But he never wavered.  From the pilot episode to the finale, Walter’s goal was clear. One of the biggest problems I see, is writers who give their characters abstract goals.  To be happy.  To find love. To save the world. Characters need physical goals.  If an audience can’t see it, smell it, taste it, touch it, it’s not a physical goal.  A physical goal is; money (preferably a fixed amount), to find the gold coin, to marry the girl, to rescue the kid, etc. It does not matter whether or not the hero actually achieves the goal.  The goal creates action.  Action creates scenes, conflicts, new characters and fresh challenges. Walter’s goal drove him to go on a ride-along with Hank into a meth bust.  It caused him to track down his former student, Jesse Pinkman, AKA Captain Cook.  The goal made him take the last money out of his savings account in order to buy an RV.  And thus, began Breaking Bad. The more clear the goal, the easier your story will be to write …

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27

Sep'13

5 Ways to Get Creatively Unstuck

Creativity relies on a steady flow of ideas, inspirations and open channels of intuitive communication.  But what happens when we get “stuck?”  The voice or feeling that guides us seems to go silent, dry up or take a vacation to Bermuda. What then?  Getting the muse back can be hard.  Momentum rules.  Keeping energy flowing is a million times easier than reviving a stuck muse. That’s why writers like Hemingway and Fitzgerald were known to hit the booze and drive dangerously down Sunset Boulevard.  Being stuck can make you feel crazy, untalented, and hopeless. Motion is the key, albeit I don’t recommend a bottle of Glenlivet’s while behind the wheel of your Prius. Something in you has to start moving –physically– before the the creative spigot opens and words and ideas pour out. Here are a few ideas to get the idea factory back up and running. 1.  Automatic writing.   I like this one because I love to type.  If you can, close your eyes and keep writing so it feels like the voice in your head is going straight from the ethers to your fingers.  Shutting down the visual gateway, heightens your ability to listen for the internal guidance that is always trying to come through.  Just allow whatever is present in your feelings, mind or thoughts to translate to the page.  Within a paragraph of two inspiration will appear, though sometimes the voice will tell you to quit for the day.  That’s legit too. 2.  Raise your chi.  I learned this one from a Chinese herbalist who informed me at the time that my chi was low.  She told me to rub my palms together fast for about three minutes.  Rub them hard so the heat between your hands builds into fire.  When you can’t stand it anymore, bring your hands over your face, your throat, your heart, your belly button and sacrum.  Theoretically this gets your chakras open and chi flowing.  Add some light jumping up and down to get your whole body to vibrate.  Once you are buzzing with energy, ask yourself a question and then sit down and write the first things that come to your mind. 3.  Move your breath.   Try one of these breath moving techniques.  Consciously watch your breath come in through your nose, down your throat, expand into your ribcage and belly and hold for three seconds.  Exhale and …

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17

Jun'13

How to Write a Drama – Tues. June 18

If you’ve been percolating a drama for a movie, TV show or web series, come to Beverly Hills tomorrow for a 3-hour lecture that gives you the parameters of writing great dramas for any medium. As a bonus, you’ll also get a FREE recording of EXACTLY how to write a Drama using our StoryMaker Brainstorming process.  It’s the fastest, easiest way to take an idea and turn it into a story in about 90 minutes.  You’ll learn: – How characters change over time. – The secret to creating emotional characters. – The different types of drama. – How to start your story even if you only have an idea. – The power of THEME to organize characters and scenes. – Much, much more…. Be familiar with the following movies: SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, AMERICAN BEAUTY, UNFAITHFUL, LARS & THE REAL GIRL, THE WRESTLER, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, CRASH Each class lecture will be given to you via e-mailed link after class, and downloadable via Google Drive

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17

Jun'13

Writing Inspiration: Find your characters in cafes

Here’s why I love writing in cafes: – The 50-ish ex-hippie wearing an army jacket, false eyelashes, a rasta hat and and red lipstick. – The three African American hombres. One with a Pancho Villa moustache, a Brooks Brothers oxford shirt and tasseled loafers. Two with a fly leather fedora, shiny silver shirt and ponytail. And three with a Bill Cosby aw-shucks smile and the biggest ears you’ve ever seen. – Mr Tibet wearing a massive mala, a Tibet beannie, and ordering four lattes to go. – Two old friends surprised by the other’s presence in the cafe. “How long are you in town?” – The Menage Odd Trois:   Mr. Bottega Venetta jacket who can barely walk on his crumpled ankles, flanked by Ms. Faux Pam Anderson and Ms. Gladiator personal trainer. – The tall gorgeous butch lesbian in plaid and her frills and flowers mom who looks just like her. – A hundred women in yoga pants seemingly on their way to or from a class, though they never seem to sweat. – The 100 yard stare guy. Phone, keys, wallet and glasses on the table. His arms folded. A cup of coffee now cold. He’s alone and we know he’s been that way a while. ……All fodder for some kind of character. Tell me, who’s around you?

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About Peter Russell Movie&TV Script Doctor

Think of me as a writer, teacher and story consultant with over 15 years experience working with studios. From this experience, I have developed a great class list that focuses on many areas in the business. Peter Russell Script Doctor offers a large variety of classes, so be sure to check back often to see if there is an offering for you. Find Out More...

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