Friday 30 December 2016

Charlie Chaplin - Mysteries & Scandals

An episode of Mysteries & Scandals, the story of Charlie Chaplin.

Woops! That one's gone missing. Try this one instead.

Thursday 29 December 2016

Book review: "Ink Spots"

Brian McDonald is the author of Invisible Ink, and The Golden Theme. He is an award winning screenwriter who has taught his craft at several major studios, including Pixar, Disney and Industrial Light & Magic. His award-winning short film White Face has been shown all over the USA.

I had the privilege of conducting an interview with Brian back in January, 2012. If you haven't read that, you should. 

Since 2005, Brian has been writing one of the best blogs in the business: The Invisible Ink Blog. He started that as a way of helping get his first book, Invisible Ink, published. The international success of Invisible Ink has now led to the publication of Ink Spots


Ink Spots is a compilation of the best posts from Brian's blog. It's a small book, divided into three sections. The first deals with things he has learned over the years, the second with the craft of screenwriting, and the third is a collection of observations about classic films.  

I have provided a few sample quotes from each section, to give you a taste of the book.

Things I Have Learned

There are a dozen posts here, many of them regarding the How of learning or thinking generally, or of learning about screenwriting specifically. There are anecdotes, especially of mistakes made and lessons learned.

  • If you have a Batman story and you can turn it into a Superman story, it isn't a very good Batman story.
  • Understand that plot and character are linked.
  • Don't be afraid to be bad at this for a while.
  • I have never understood why people think it takes great craftsmanship to confuse and/or bore people.
  • The truth is that it is very hard to make yourself understood.
  • My friend Pat Hazell talks about talking to writers starting out who are obsessed with getting an agent. His response is always, "What do you have for them to sell?" It's amazing how often they have nothing.
  • If you think this business is a way to get rich quick, you are in for a world of heartbreak.
  • Some of the longest films I have ever seen are short films.
  • I am constantly amazed when talking to younger film students that they have seen almost no classic cinema.
  • People who study physics still study Newton and Einstein. Those who came before still have something to teach us.

Thoughts on Craft

There are another twenty-six posts in this section.
  • It's amazing what happens when you rid yourself of the burden of being original.
  • "Where do we get screenplays?" may sound like an innocent question, but what it really says is that the person is unwilling to put any effort into learning their craft—not even the effort it takes to type "screenplay" into a search engine.
  • If you want to sell something for a million dollars, you have to do a million dollars worth of work.
  • If you want to write screenplays, you have to read screenplays.
  • The primary job of a storyteller is to tell the story clearly.
  • Almost all stories have a lesson at their core—sometimes a small lesson, sometimes profound, but almost always a lesson.
  • No first act equals no emotional involvement.
  • This idea of being clear often frightens my students. They don't want to point out the obvious. But what is obvious to them may not be so obvious to the audience.
  • A professional magician friend of mine confirmed my observation that scientists and skeptics are the easiest to fool.
  • The so-called reluctant hero is a hero, while the fearless hero is a cartoon.
  • A character who has fear but confronts it will feel more real to an audience, even if that character is actually a cartoon. Look at Finding Nemo.

Movies I Like

This section contains a dozen posts about classic films. Paper Moon (1973), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Sunset Boulevard (1950), It's A Wonderful Life (1946), The Apartment (1960), Tootsie (1982), 12 Angry Men (1957), Norma Rae (1979), Jaws (1975), and Planet of the Apes (1968). Brian McDonald discusses those things that separate classics from the rest.
  • Films today don't make you feel as much as they make you think. We seem to have made a collective decision that thinking is better than feeling. But sometimes the emotion of a situation is the truth of a situation.
  • As a rule, films that make us think are respected while those that make us feel are beloved.
  • Selflessness has been the mark of a hero as long as human beings have told stories.
  • What makes (Billy Wilder) so good? No fat. Everything matters. He is always advancing plot, character, or theme—sometimes all three.
  • Many modern-day filmmakers are trying hard to be noticed. The shots are there to be noticed. The characters are there to be noticed. The editing is there to be noticed.
  • You are not the master of your story but a slave to it. You must do what it needs, not what you want.
  • The audience could see that Yoda was a puppet, but they were so interested in this unusual character that they allowed themselves to be "fooled" into believing he was a living, breathing being.
  • In recent years, we have spent a lot of effort trying to make creatures look more real. Maybe they do, but they don't feel more real. No one cries when they die.
  • No matter how much better technology gets, it will not improve on good story-craft. Make your characters live on the page and they will live on the screen.
  • If you call yourself a student of film and don't make yourself familiar with Charlie Chaplin's work, you are doing yourself a disservice.

Ink Spots is a thinking book. It's all about what makes for great screenwriting and great films. If you're looking for sensational anecdotes and explosive Hollywood gossip, you'll be disappointed.

If you haven't read any of Brian McDonald's previous writings, I'd suggest you start with Invisible Ink. If you know that book, and have been writing for a while, Ink Spots is the kind of refresher that will return you to your own writing reinvigorated and with a sharper focus.

     IMDb    Twitter    Website    Wikipedia   

First posted: 24 December 2012

Wednesday 28 December 2016

Carrie Fisher: 1956-2016

Carrie Frances Fisher, daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, was an American actress, screenwriter, author, producer, and speaker. She was best known for playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars films.

With her mother, 1971.

Broadway stage debut, in Irene, also with her mother, 1973.

In the movie Shampoo, 1975.

With Paul Simon, in 1977.

With her trusty blaster, 1977.

With Mark Hamill and Harrison Ford, in 1977.

Blues Brothers, 1980.

When Harry Met Sally, 1989.

With her mother, 2007.

Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens, 2015.

Tuesday 27 December 2016

Martin Scorsese on Framing

"Sometimes when it all comes together ... you become the film you’re making." - Martin Scorsese in 1990, as told to T.J. English.

In this episode we have a previously unheard conversation with Martin Scorsese on how he's framed his movies and his life. The early foray into making a movie as a kid, toying with becoming a priest, and where his parents fit into all this.

Monday 26 December 2016

Editing In Storytelling

Lewis Bond examines the skill of editing film.

Sunday 25 December 2016

Silent Night by Chewbacca

Merry Wookie Christmas! 


Aer Lingus have been bringing people home for Christmas since 1936. This year, they wanted to make Christmas extra special for families across the world, who couldn’t make it home to see their loved ones. Taking to social media, they quietly sought out five families for a very festive homecoming.

From San Francisco, they brought Tracey, her husband and two boys to Glasnevin to surprise Joan and Tony and reunite with their grandchildren. James’s family in Dundalk have not enjoyed Christmas dinner in their home since he emigrated to New York as they didn’t want to leave his seat empty. And they brought Brendan home to his family in Lusk to regain his title as the most boisterous family member on Christmas Day.

Saturday 24 December 2016

Christmas with love from Mrs Claus

Here is Marks and Spencer 2016 Christmas TV Advert: a modern twist on the much-loved character Mrs Claus.

Friday 23 December 2016

Thursday 22 December 2016

The Greatest Gift

Sainsbury’s 2016 Christmas advert – a joyous Christmas musical created in stop frame animation featuring vocals by James Corden. It tells the story of Dave, a hard-working and devoted Dad, who realises that the greatest gift he can give people this Christmas is his time.

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Unforgettable... Peter Sellers

I've been immersed in Brian McDonald's latest book, Ink Spots A theme Brian repeats in the book put me in mind of this 1974 interview. In it, Peter Sellers, the late, great, demented Peter Sellers, is talking to Michael Parkinson.

The principle Brian has been drumming into me (no pun intended) has been about the need to set up a story properly. He complains that a lot of modern "action" films skip over the boring stuff, where an audience can get to meet and like a protagonist, and jumps straight to the car chases, explosions and mass killings, where all the fun can be found.

Brian compares this to doing a magic trick without bothering to set it up first, or telling the punchline of a joke without setting it up first.

Brian does magic tricks; so does Peter Sellers, and Woody Allen, and Terry Rossio, and many other writers. If you want to write a thriller, learn some magic tricks first; they will help you with the skill of misdirecting an audience.
In the nine minute clip that follows, Sellers complains about the Churchill Centenary (Winston Churchill, 1874-1965), then in full swing in Britain; does a magic trick with a red scarf; then talks about why he quit being a drummer. That's the story I wanted to show you here. He starts with, "Well, it's a very dreary business being a drummer, or any musician doing gigs, really, around the country."

Listen carefully to the story that follows.

Unforgettable... that's what you are.

Okay, you want to hear the rest of the interview. It's a classic, so enjoy.

First posted: 23 December 2012

Tuesday 20 December 2016

Come Together

A new (Christmas) film directed by Wes Anderson, and starring Adrien Brody.

Monday 19 December 2016

Coming Home for Christmas

Throughout their 70 years, Heathrow have specialised in reconnecting people with their loved ones, especially at this time of year, because coming home for Christmas is the best gift of all. Among the millions of seasonal passengers, there are some extra-special arrivals that have made it home in time for the big day...

Sunday 18 December 2016

Christmas in Moscow

Волшебное Рождество в Москве 2016.

Saturday 17 December 2016

Bruno Mars Carpool Karaoke

Okay, I know, everyone's done this one, but, hey! James Corden and Bruno Mars drive through Los Angeles singing his hits, including tracks from the new album "24K Magic," and chat about everything from Elvis to poker.

And before I forget, here's a link to Bruno's latest touring details:

Here's the one you really wanted to watch.

And here's the one my wife wants to watch. (Dancers, you know, they can't resist a smooth move.)

Friday 16 December 2016

Thursday 15 December 2016

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee

Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee: The White House episode.

Wednesday 14 December 2016

The original animated "Superman"

Max Fleischer was the founder of Fleischer Studios, and a major pioneer in both the creative and technical development of animated films. His first invention, in 1915, was the Rotoscope. He filmed his brother, dressed in a clown suit, then drew, frame by frame, over the filmed action, creating more life-like movement. Coming home from their day job and working nights in Max's living room, it took the brothers a year to produce one minute of film, but the look of animated cartoons had changed forever.

The Rotoscope was only one of the more than 15 patents Max Fleischer held on his inventions, many of which significantly advanced the technology of early film and animation. He was a true pioneer in the film industry.

Fleischer's 'Bouncing Ball' sing-along Song Car-Tunes series began in 1924. These were the first sound cartoons ever made, preceding Disney and others by four years. They featured popular entertainers of the day, including Rudy Vallee, Cab Calloway, The Mills Brothers, Louis Armstrong, and Ethel Merman.

By 1929 the studio name officially became Fleischer Studios. This coincided with the start of the Great Depression, a time when people sought escape from their problems by going to the movie houses.

Betty Boop, Fleischer's most famous creation, was born during this time. Betty first appeared in Dizzy Dishes in 1930. Her flirtatious persona was inspired by the flapper look, and the most famous female stars of the day (including Mae West).

By 1932, Betty was the star of her own series. She had become the first animated screen siren, and the unrivaled star of Fleischer Studios.

In addition to animating their own characters, Fleischer Studios animated and brought to life two other famous characters created by others that had previously existed only in comic strips—Popeye the Sailor (1933) and Superman (1941).

The Superman films are known for their visually stunning animation. The first in the series, Superman, was nominated for the 1941 Academy Award for Best Short Subject: Cartoons. Here it is:

First posted: 19 December 2012

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Monday 12 December 2016

The Problem with Action Movies Today

Chris Stuckmann describes some of his problems with action movie filmmaking today, and provides some possible solutions to fixing them.

Sunday 11 December 2016

A craft that has to be learned - Billy Wilder

Everybody wants to be a screenwriter. They all sit and look at movies and after they've seen so damn many of them, in the theatres, or on TV, or on videotape, and they think, 'This is easy—I can write a film!'
    This applies to your cook. Your dentist. Your garage mechanic—they all say, 'Hey, I've got a great idea for a picture,' and they come to me and they say, 'I've seen movies all my life, and how would this be, here's an idea. And I say, 'It would be bad, it would be corny, you've seen it up there on a screen before, it wouldn't work, trust me! ... But they don't.
    What causes such arrogance? Their lack of respect for the craft. People do not realize—writing a film is very difficult. They do not realize that you must serve your internship, that you must develop a feel for it. And, additionally, you have to learn the mechanics! It is a craft that has to be learned!'  ~Billy Wilder, 1972

Friday 9 December 2016

Mae West: And The Men Who Knew Her

Born in a working-class section of Brooklyn, she became a show-business giant, a personality so distinctive she transformed forever the way women and sex would be presented on stage, in films, radio, TV and cabarets around the world.

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Callie Khouri on screenwriting

Callie Khouri was raised in Texas and Kentucky by her doctor father and mother. She went to university to study landscape architecture, but switched to drama. She moved to Los Angeles in 1982 to study at the Strasburg Institute, then worked for a commercials production company as a receptionist before taking a position with them as a music video production assistant. While working at the office, she began work on what would eventually become Thelma & Louise (1991), writing the script in longhand at home and then retyping it on the job.

Here's her story of how she came to write Thelma & Louise.

First posted:  16 December 2012

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Designing Dialogue

What is the purpose of dialogue in movies? It may accomplish more than you expect.

Monday 5 December 2016

Raiders of The Lost Ark's Boulder Scene

It’s one of the most iconic and engaging opening sequences in movie history, firmly establishing Indiana Jones, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg as blockbuster forces to be reckoned with.

Indiana Jones wouldn’t occupy his place in our collective consciousness were it not for this scene. The soundtrack, cinematography, production design and special effects all came together in a spectacular sequence that established an enduring character in cinematic history. This video takes you though the scene’s backstory, telling you about the contributions of Spielberg, Lucas, and the film’s entire creative team.

Sunday 4 December 2016

Suzanne Verdal - Leonard Cohen's Muse

Suzanne Verdal inspired Leonard Cohen's song "Suzanne". Here is her story.

Saturday 3 December 2016

What makes something "Kafkaesque"?

The term Kafkaesque has entered the vernacular to describe unnecessarily complicated and frustrating experiences, especially with bureaucracy. But does standing in a long line to fill out confusing paperwork really capture the richness of Kafka’s vision? Beyond the word’s casual use, what makes something "Kafkaesque"? Noah Tavlin explains.

Friday 2 December 2016

Thursday 1 December 2016

Francis Ford Coppola on Solitude

"Death is on the back of everyone’s minds whether they want to admit it or not." ~Francis Ford Coppola

Wednesday 30 November 2016

6 Filmmaking Tips - Rian Johnson

Rian Johnson is an American writer and director. He won a Special Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival with his debut feature, Brick, and has received a lot of media attention recently over his latest film, Looper.

In what has been described as "a bit of free film school," here are some tips provided by a man who built his own time machine.

Read Great Stuff That Has Nothing to Do With Anything You’re Writing

I’m in that phase right now where I’m fishing for the next idea, so this is the first tip I thought of. But it’s applicable at all points in the process, I think. When I’m looking for inspiration, in addition to looking at sources that line up with my idea, I try to cast my net wide and into weird waters. If you’re working on a western, read a biography of Einstein, or, if you’re working on a horror movie, dig into some Jung, or a history of the French revolution, or some Tolstoy short stories. Anything that sparks your interest, and as far afield from your own idea as possible. Because when you’re reading a book that has nothing to do with your movie, and you hit that one paragraph that somehow miraculously has everything to do with your movie, it’s like striking gold. That’s the kind of unique inspiration that can really start things up.


One of the things I’ve tried to get better at in the whole process is listening.  I grew up making short films with friends, and coming into features I was used to controlling every aspect of the process, story boarding everything, and dictating the movie I had in my head. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, I think you need a movie in your head, and having a clear idea of how that movie will work and what to do to get it there is obviously essential. But I’m also learning that my most important job on set is to be present, to be in the moment, and, if something new presents itself, to be open to that. That sounds really obvious I guess, but I’m a slow learner. So I do my storyboards, I have my plan. But I also show up ready to listen, watch and observe, and to react.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in Brick (2005)

Make As Many Movies As Possible

When I graduated high school, I had made about 80 short movies, and 78 of them were unwatchably horrible. Dumb skits with friends, action scenes with GI Joe figurines, fart jokes and tv parodies and half assed videos on “Hamlet” and “Brave New World,” to get out of writing book reports. Nothing that will ever see the light of day. But in making those 80 dumb videos, I learned more than I did in four years of film school.
    I was getting used to having a camera in my hands, finding shots, and forming a (crude) visual language. I was goofing around with editing, with sound, putting things up against each other, and testing how malleable everything was. Doing a bunch of it, even if it was bad, was the key to it becoming something I could start refining. The camera in my iPhone is a million times better than the Hi8 camera I lugged around back then, and I would have killed for iMovie. If you’re in high school right now and want to make movies, you should be doing it.
    Right now. Stop reading. Go.

Try Film

This tip is is specific to October 2012, so if you’re reading this in the future, you can probably skip it.
   Film is going away. Quickly. We’ve shot all three of our movies on 35mm film, and in film school we made our student shorts on super 8mm and 16mm. I know that it’s expensive, I know it’s a pain in the ass. But it’s something that will be totally gone in 10 years. So I’m saying try it. Shoot it while you can. If you’ve only shot digital, get ahold of a super 8 camera and make at least one short on it. If you’re making a short film with a budget, stretch a little and shoot 16mm.
   First off, it looks so much cooler than digital. Second, this is sort of last-days-of-the-dodo time, nobody can say how much longer we’ve got with film, and you owe it to yourself to experience the sewing machine whirr of a camera turning over, the smell of the stock when you load it, and that weird magical thrill when you get it back from the lab and realize you’ve got an image.

Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo, in The Brothers Bloom (2008)
Watch The Criterion Collection

Blindly choosing a movie I know nothing about that’s been vouched for by somebody (or by a great DVD label, like Criterion here in the states or Masters of Cinema in the UK) is one of my favorite things to do. Sometimes it leads to muted appreciation, sometimes to flat out boredom, but when something grabs you and engages you it opens up not just a new movie you love but a new director and maybe genre or period you’ve never explored. It’s important to keep discovering.

Don’t Chase the Market

When I was trying to “break into the business” (I’m not sure why I put quotes around that) every once in awhile I’d get frustrated and say “Well, hell, X is really getting lots of attention this year, I should do one of those.” Then I’d make an X, whether it was a parody short or an action screenplay or whatever, and of course it would be derivative and not very good, and I would realize I’d wasted a chunk of time making something that didn’t get me anywhere.
   At the end of the day, the movie that got me noticed was something that nobody was asking for—a bizarre high school detective movie—but it was 100% mine. It was my individual voice, and it was something I cared deeply about. I think the biggest “breaking in” (man I did it again) lesson I learned is to not concentrate on breaking in, but to focus inward and just work on your thing. Cultivate what you care about and what’s unique to you. That’s what has the best chance of breaking through the clutter, and even if it doesn’t (because who the hell knows in this business), that’s what you care about and what matters.
   Making a short film that you’re proud of, and you feel is true and honest, that 200 people see on YouTube, is more fulfilling (and in the long run more productive) than chasing someone else’s dream, on any scale.

First posted:  14 December 2012

Friday 25 November 2016

Wednesday 23 November 2016

"Lydia the Tattooed Lady"

I first encountered this recording on the radio back in the early 1960s. Once heard, never forgotten. 

It is part of the Marx Brothers 1939 movie, At the Circus, and the singer is, of course, Groucho Marx.

Robin Williams does a great version of the song in The Fisher King (1991), but for tonight, we're sticking with Groucho.

First posted:12 December 2012

Monday 21 November 2016

Sunday 20 November 2016

Spike Milligan - What a Performance!

Spike Milligan is the focus of this extract from an episode of the Bob Monkhouse-hosted ITV series What A Performance!

Saturday 19 November 2016

Friday 18 November 2016

Clara Bow - Mysteries & Scandals

An episode of Mysteries & Scandals, the story of the original 'It Girl', Clara Bow.

Thursday 17 November 2016

China: A Skier's Journey

Skiing as a sport is in it’s infancy in China, a phenomenon of the country’s exploding middle class. As a means of survival, however, it is thousands of years old, a stone age hunter-gatherer technology born in the Altai mountains where China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and Siberia merge. On a vast trajectory that spans 11,000km of Northern China, Chad Sayers and Forrest Coots touch down into the rich past and dizzying future of these two respective Chinese ski cultures. As one rapidly expands, they find the other is at risk of disappearing.

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Interview with Adam Levenberg

Adam Levenberg is a former Hollywood executive (Intuition Productions, One Race Films) who spent years inside the system.

Once outside, he promptly wrote a book called The Starter Screenplay, which gives an executives' view of the factors that influence studio decision-making about spec scripts.

I took the opportunity to ask him a few questions.

•  Where were you born, and where did you grow up?

I was born and grew up in Cheltenham and Upper Dublin, which are both suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

•  Where did you go to school?

I attended USC School of Cinematic Arts and majored in Critical Studies. It’s a great place to study cinema, but I think the reason for the school’s success is that every single student has already made the commitment (most at age 18) to move away from home and live in Los Angeles. Most of my friends from USC are still living in L.A. and working in the entertainment industry.

•  When did you first take an interest in films/stories?

Before I can remember. I have Dr. Seuss’s My Book About Me and for My Favorite Sport, I filled in “Watching.” As a kid, I was completely indiscriminate about what I watched—I just tried to see everything. I probably spent about 5-6 hours per day in front of the television. Weekends were spent watching movies at the theater or on video.
   By the time I hit film school, I was seeing about 200 movies per year. I have an encyclopedic knowledge of Hollywood Cinema from the late 1980s to the present. I don’t watch sports, so when my friends are watching a game, I’m knocking off another film title.

•  What was your first paying job?

At 16, I worked as a dishwasher at Friendly’s, which is a restaurant and ice-cream chain.

•  What was your first job in the movie business?

My first paying entertainment job was producing a show for Trojan Vision, which is the USC television station. It was called Organized Chaos and we tried to make it as wild as possible. I think on the second show the hosts were doing a flavored condom taste test. Nobody was watching, so we tried to be as outrageous as possible just to entertain ourselves.
    My first real industry job was reading scripts for USA Films, which at the time had deals with Alexander Payne and Spike Jonze, and was making films like Traffic (2000), Nurse Betty (2000), and Being John Malkovitch (1999).
    It was interesting to read the projects that great filmmakers would submit and evaluating if the script or book had any potential as a feature film. The first book I did coverage on was submitted by an amazing filmmaker, but I didn’t understand how it could be adapted into a movie. I called in and was told, “Evaluate the material honestly. Don’t be swayed by the name on the cover letter or the names attached. If the book is a pass, it’s his job to explain to how he plans on adapting it into a great screenplay.”

•  What did you learn from working with Vin Diesel?

Vin likes the idea of building worlds and I learned a lot about intellectual property development. That works for an established actor/producer. But for screenwriters, I tend to suggest sticking to the screenplays. There’s nothing wrong with creating some concept art as inspiration for yourself, but if you don’t have representation, just focus on the writing because there’s no artwork that will make someone reconsider a script that doesn’t work. 

   One piece of advice from my book is that you should never worry about sequels or franchise building while you’re writing a spec script. I say this not because it’s a bad idea in theory, but because these attempts (especially from new writers) tend to result in unreadable screenplays. Creating effective setup and payoff in one screenplay is hard enough.

•  Why did you write The Starter Screenplay?

I went from being a production company executive to an independent consultant. Basically, my intention was to do the work of a development executive for multiple companies, make the same amount of money with more freedom to pursue projects I was interested in advancing. 
   Then a friend pointed out that I could allow unrepresented screenwriters to hire me for feedback. I got creative and e-mailed the writers who had queried me in the past. A bunch of them decided to send me their scripts. At the time I didn’t know that there were other companies out there who just sold notes without discussion, which is so much easier to do, but worthless for the writer. When someone hired me, I would read their script, then talk to them for 2-3 hours. I still do that, except now I make notations on the pdf of their screenplay. I do notes after, and then the discussion takes place within 24 hours, so I’m fresh.
    Once I started working with unrepresented screenwriters, I went looking for screenwriting books to recommend. I couldn’t find a single book that shared the perspective on what an executive is looking for, or a book that nudged writers in the direction of simplicity and commercialism, while still getting the hang of the medium. 

   So I wrote it. 
   The book is broken down into two parts—the first is What to Write? The second half is about Interacting with the Industry—how to decode people’s reactions to your material, including what it means if you don’t hear back from queries, or when someone says “I liked your script, it’s a pass.” 

Even executives have to unwind. Here's Adam on Space Mountain at Disneyland.
•  You wrote on Twitter that Australian screenwriters are your favorite clients. Why is that?

Professional Hollywood writers are used to being asked tough questions. They know how to separate their ego from the process of getting script notes. This can be an intimidating experience for a new screenwriter. Some get overwhelmed. But Australian writers (or at least the many who have hired me) do great taking constructive criticism in stride and staying upbeat. That’s important because they’re at full creative capacity when the conversation turns to “How can we fix this?”
    After a consult, I usually suggest a specific book on screenwriting (depending on the writer’s current level), run down a bunch of movie titles to see, and pick out some scripts for them, as well as discuss their next step in terms of the script. I ask all clients to let me know how they’re progressing with the work, what they thought of the scripts/book/movies, but only a certain percentage follow through. Australian writers definitely do a better job staying in communication with that feedback. Or again, at least that’s true of the many I’ve worked with thus far.

•  What was the best advice you were given at the start of your career?

At some point in the process, I had a long conversation with Anne Lower, who was working with Save the Cat. She explained how, by Snyder’s third book, he gave up on trying to defend his positions because, ultimately, people will either accept what you write, because they get it, or they won’t. That’s exactly what I needed to hear. I ended up cutting tons of unnecessary material as a result, once I wasn’t concerned with defending my suggestions from the exceptions to the rules. 

•  If you had to suggest just one screenwriting book (not your own) to a newbie writer back in Adelaide, which one would it be?

Blake Snyder’s Save The Cat! is the essential foundation of screenwriting for any newbie. My book covers what types of movies you should write and how to navigate the industry; I intended it as a companion piece to Save The Cat! 
   I think once you know Snyder’s structure backwards and forwards, you’ll need to move on to more complex stuff, such as John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story.
    It's important to note that most screenwriting books contain great points, but bury the important stuff under hundreds of pages. That’s why The Starter Screenplay is sparse and to the point—I talk about what to write and what not to write, from an executive’s perspective. An agent has to sell your script to a producer, and a producer has to sell your script to a studio. If there’s no chance of that happening, why would an agent agree to represent you in the first place?

What are your ten favorite movies of all time?

I don’t think I could limit it to ten... but off the top of my head:

Last year my favorite movie was The Help. This year, as of November, I've been blown away by Cabin in the Woods, Prometheus, Cloud Atlas, End of Watch, Wreck-It Ralph, Argo, and especially 21 Jump Street, for delivering humor and action alongside profound insight into today’s teen culture.

What's next for Adam Levenberg?

At the moment, I’m working on some fun projects as a producer, but I’m also launching a podcast, and teaching a screenwriting course on Saturdays at The Director’s Playhouse in Los Angeles. I developed the curriculum myself and it’s going well. We start with beginner and advanced classes in January 2013.

First posted:7 December 2012

Tuesday 15 November 2016

Trainspotting 2 - Trailer

First there was an opportunity... then there was a betrayal. 

Twenty years have gone by. Much has changed but just as much remains the same. Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) returns to the only place he can ever call home. 

They are waiting for him: Spud (Ewen Bremner), Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), and Begbie (Robert Carlyle). Other old friends are waiting too: sorrow, loss, joy, vengeance, hatred, friendship, love, longing, fear, regret, diamorphine, self-destruction and mortal danger, they are all lined up to welcome him, ready to join the dance.

Sunday 13 November 2016

Pano | LA

This film was shot by Joe Capra over a period of two years entirely in true panoramic form using two synced DSLR cameras side by side.

Friday 11 November 2016

Mandolin Man

Chris Thile, Tim Russell, Sue Scott, Fred Newman, and Rich Dworsky with the "Mandolin Man" script from A Prairie Home Companion.

Wednesday 9 November 2016

How Google rates your website

It's widely believed that Google search results are produced entirely by computer algorithms—in large part because Google would like this to be widely believed. But in fact a little-known group of home-worker humans plays a large part in the Google process.

Yes, folks, it's people—not pigeons—after all. Read the whole story here.

First posted:  3 December 2012

Monday 7 November 2016

The Hero's Journey - Supercut

An illustration of the Joseph Campbell theory of The Hero's Journey.

Saturday 5 November 2016

The Gunfighter

In the tradition of classic westerns, a narrator sets up the story of a lone gunslinger who walks into a saloon. However, the people in this saloon can hear the narrator and the narrator may just be a little bit bloodthirsty.

Friday 4 November 2016

12 Best Long Takes in Film History

There's no greater statement of a director's prowess than a long shot in a single take. And these are twelve of the most masterful.