Spielberg, Grazer & Howard: Cowboys & Aliens Interview

Jon Favreau sits down with Steven Spielberg, Brian Grazer and Ron Howard, three of the producers of Cowboys & Aliens. In these interviews they touch upon subjects like Jaws, the Oklahoma Land Rush, but the highlight is Spielberg telling the story of when John Ford told him to get the fuck out of his office.

5 Keys to Writing a Summer Blockbuster

by John Truby

It used to be that summer was the season for blockbuster movies. Now it’s a year-round phenomenon. Hollywood is in the business of selling films to a worldwide audience, which means they are always looking for a script with blockbuster potential.

Most screenwriters think a blockbuster is simply a film that does really well at the box office. Technically speaking, that’s true. But the reality is that a script with blockbuster potential is a very special kind of script, with a number of story elements that studio executives are looking for.

I’d like to point out five of the most important blockbuster script elements, out of about forty that we consistently see in the top money-making films.

Technique 1: The Myth Genre

The first blockbuster story element has to do with the genre you use to tell your story. A genre is a particular kind of story, like detective, action or comedy. When Hollywood was selling primarily to an American audience, executives thought that movie stars were the key to a hit film. But in the last ten to fifteen years, the vast majority of blockbuster films have had no movie stars.

Instead the emphasis has changed to genre films with great stories. For a film to reach a worldwide audience, it must be popular in over 100 different cultures and nationalities. Story forms are instantly recognizable anywhere in the world.

But you can’t just choose any genre if you want to write a script with blockbuster potential. Most writers don’t know that some genres travel well while others don’t. For example, comedies based mostly on funny dialogue don’t travel.

Ironically, the story that travels best is the oldest genre of all, the myth form. Myth is found in more blockbusters than any other genre by far. Add up the box office for the following myth-based movies: Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Lord of the Rings, Shrek, Star Wars and Avatar.

The reason myth transcends national and cultural boundaries so well is that the form tracks archetypal characters and archetypal life situations. These are fundamental character types that everyone knows, and life experiences everyone passes through from birth to death.

Like any genre, myth has a number of unique story beats you must learn, and include, if you want to tell the form well. And remember: in blockbusters, myth is almost always combined with one or two other genres, such as action, fantasy and science fiction, that serve to update and unify the myth story for a young audience.

Technique 2: The Hero’s Goal

The single most important element in an international blockbuster is narrative drive, the ability of the story to propel forward at an increasing rate. Narrative drive comes primarily from the hero’s desire line. Desire is one of the seven major story structure steps, and provides you with the all-important spine on which you hang all characters, plot, symbol, theme and dialogue.

Average writers tend to make at least one of the following mistakes when coming up with the desire line: their hero has no clear goal, he/she accomplishes the goal too quickly, or the hero reaches the goal by taking only a few action steps.

There are three keys to a good desire line. First, make it specific; the more specific the better. Second, extend the goal as close to the end as possible. Third, make sure the hero is obsessed with it. Above all, intensify the desire.

Technique 3: The Opponent

As screenwriters, we are taught to focus on the hero, since this character drives the story. That’s sound advice. But in blockbuster films, the opponent may be even more important. One of the great principles in all storytelling is that the hero is only as good as the person he fights. Also, the opponent is the key to plot. And in the last ten years, blockbusters have become more plot heavy.

When writing your script, first make sure you have one main opponent to focus and build the conflict. Then look for ways to intensify the central opposition. Make your main opponent bigger, smarter, more aggressive, more passionate. In writing Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan said, “What was important to me in creating an incredible frightening villain is that everything he says is true and at some level reasonable and also makes sense.” Nolan then used this same approach in The Dark Knight when he created The Joker, one of the all-time great opponents and probably the key element in that film’s huge success.

Once you’re clear about the main opponent, try to come up with one or two secondary opponents, with at least one of them hidden from the hero and the audience.

Technique 4: The Scam

The emphasis blockbuster films place on plot leads to another story technique. And it’s designed to solve a problem that plagues almost all screenwriters: how do you create maximum plot in the middle, where 90% of scripts fail? In blockbuster movies, the hero’s plan is often a scam, or a plan that involves deception.

The trick here is to make the plan more deceptive for both hero and main opponent. When the hero scams, he becomes a trickster character, which audiences love. When the opponent scams, it gives you more plot and makes him/her a more challenging foe.

Technique 5: The Story World

The rise of the videogame along with the ability of special effects artists to realize wholly imaginary worlds has made the story world one of the three or four crucial elements in a blockbuster film. As little as a decade ago, Hollywood didn’t care about story world, because it slows down narrative drive. Special effects were designed primarily to heighten heroic action.

But videogames showed Hollywood the power that comes from having viewers immerse themselves and explore a world in all its facets. And there’s no medium that can do that better than the big screen film medium.

Many screenwriters believe that this aspect of the film is the responsibility of the director and the special effects artists. Wrong. A good story world is written into the script, and it is intimately organic to the story. That’s why you must make sure that every visual element contributes to the story. In other words every element should have story meaning embedded within it.

How you do that is a major story skill right up there with character, plot, dialogue and rewrite. All of the major techniques for creating a rich story world are found in my Blockbuster story development software. The first step is to define a distinct and recognizable arena. Then create a map of the world, with as much detail as you can provide, especially when depicting the central community within which the story takes place. Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Avatar were all written by masters of the story world.

If you are serious about succeeding as a professional screenwriter, start with these five techniques and you will be well on the path to writing a script that Hollywood is eager to buy.

About the Author:

John Truby coaches top writers for the screen and television, has created software for the working writer, has served as story consultant for major studios and production companies, and as script doctor on movies, sit-coms and dramas for television. He founded Truby’s Writers Studio where he teaches writing techniques and has created a number of books, audiotapes and other essential tools for the writer, all of which are available through the Writers Store.

Source with Permission: The Writers Store

6 Things to Check Before Hitting the Record Button On Your DSLR

In this video Dave Dugdale of Learning DSLR Video gives you six thing to check before hitting the record button on your DSLR.

Run and Gun Style

1. Resolution and frame rate
2. AWB, if I have a few more seconds to spare I will see what the other WB settings look like on the screen
3. ISO – inside outside?
4. Picture Styles – normally shoot standard especially if I am running fast
5. Shutter Speed – easy to jog it 50th for 1080 and 125th for 720
6. then I check focus and hit record

Planned Shoot (Additional Items to Check)

1. Custom white balance
2. I will check the ‘blinky’s’ to see if I am over exposed anywhere (I am not too good at reading histograms yet)
3. Use an 18% gray card to double check the exposure
4. Double check the audio – disable the AGC on my t2i

Somethings I never check because I never change them

1. AF mode – quick focus
2. AF during movie – enable
3. Movie exposure – manual
4. Grid Display – grid 1
5. Highlight Tone Priority – disable
6. Always on Quick Focus using the center or top focus point,
7. Auto Lighting Optimizer on standard.

The Sound of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

After eight films over a 10-year span, the epic adventure of Harry Potter and his circle of wizard friends will close the last chapter of this celebrated series with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2.

Director David Yates returns to direct his fourth Harry Potter film and returns with his talented sound team including Re-recording mixers Stuart Hilliker and Mike Dawson, Supervising Music Editor Gerard McCann, Supervising Sound Editor James Mather, and Sound Designer Dom Gibbs.

VIA: Michael Coleman

Funding Your Feature Film

This panel by Tribeca Film Institute at The New School addresses funding opportunities for both first-time and more experienced narrative and documentary filmmakers. Panelists discuss foundation grants, investors, individual donors, and nonprofit organizations as sources of pre-production, production, and post-production funding.

Funding resources from Digital Bootcamp Wikispaces.

Panel members: * Tamir Muhammad, director of Tribeca All Access * Ryan Harrington, director of the Gucci Tribeca Documentary Fund * Adella Ladjevardi, grants manager at Cinereach * Yancey Strickler, co-founder of Kickstarter * Moderator: Ingrid Kopp, director of Shooting People

Fair Use School: Response to YouTube’s Copyright School Video

In April, YouTube started forcing alleged copyright infringers to watch Copyright School a short and silly video that attempts to explain copyright law. We are all for educating filmmakers on copyright law, but as the advocacy group Public Knowledge pointed out the video sort of skips over the fair use doctrine.

Public Knowledge challenged their members to create a response video that explains fair use, and how, in some cases, making use of copyrighted material without permission is perfectly legal. This video from Patrick McKay is the winning entry:

The original YouTube Copyright School video:

How to Cook Like Hitchcock

Hitch by Felix Meyer, Pascal Monaco, Torsten Strer and others was their graduation project at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hannover. It’s an animated book containing the recipes for Alfred Hitchcock’s classics. “The Ultimate Hitch Cookbook” is made for Hitchcock enthusiasts and every other couch potato out there.

Something Educational & Something F*cking Stupid: LLC vs LP + Helium Dog

We post lots of stuff about contracts, the law and other boring topics. I believe they are some of the most important articles on IQ. Although it may not be much of a surprise that they are the least read. So, in a effort to provide a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down we created this new series, “Something Educational & Something F*cking Stupid.” :P

Something Educational:

A brief discussion of LLC vs LP for the independent film producer.

Something F*cking Stupid:

A fan blowing helium on a dog.

How Leica Lenses are Made

This video gives you a behind-the-scenes look at the craftsmanship and making of Leica lenses in the production facilities of Leica Camera AG.

Every Leica lens is hand-crafted and goes through meticulous manufacturing processes to uphold the quality and precision that Leica defines and customers have come to expect. In the age where technology almost inevitably means mass manufacturing, Leica products are still made with exacting precision by the hands of highly-trained technicians.

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