How YouTube thinks about copyright

Margaret Gould Stewart, YouTube’s head of user experience, talks about how the ubiquitous video site works with copyright holders and creators to foster (at the best of times) a creative ecosystem where everybody wins.


Discovering Story Ideas in Everyday Life

By Rona Edwards & Monika Skerbelis

Time and time again, people come up to us and pitch ideas for movies and television. Everyone thinks their story needs to be told or that they’ve got the greatest idea since the invention of the iPhone. But it’s not just enough to have an idea. You have to see if it can go the distance. Does it have legs? Is it really a movie? Or is it just a sketch? Is there enough there to keep an audience engaged? Are the characters unique enough yet still accessible enough for audiences to root for? These are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself as you develop your story. It all starts with the idea, but there’s much more to it. It’s not as easy as people think. Most don’t realize the time and effort it takes to flesh out an idea, from its inception to a full-blown motion picture. But there are some blueprints you can use to help get your ideas out of your head and onto the page.

Graduating from California Institute of the Arts, Rona Edwards became Vice President of Creative Affairs for multiple Emmy-winner John Larroquette (Night Court), Academy-Award Winner Michael Phillips Productions (The Sting, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Taxi Driver) and Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated Producer Fern Field (Monk, Heartsounds) before she was dragged kicking and screaming into the world of independent producing.

In our 4-week online workshop, Finding & Developing New Ideas, we work with producers, writers, actors, development executives and directors to do just that. We encourage them to find ideas in unusual places and create a 3-act structure using our “Idea Form.” The Idea Form is just the tip of the iceberg, but it gets our students to think in terms of the 3-act structure, the main characters and, what we call, the six essential story elements necessary for good storytelling.

Dating back to Aristotle, the 3-Act Structure is the basis of all stories whether for theatre, film, television or the net. There is a beginning, middle and end. There is an inciting incident, which kicks the story into gear and sets up the premise. This is followed by a main turning point at the end of Act One which sets our Hero on their path (sometimes in a slightly surprising direction) and usually sets up the antagonist. The mid-point is a mini-climax in which our hero might possibly fail. Then, it’s two steps forward, one step back on his or her journey. At the end of Act Two is the “all is lost moment” – another vital turning point in which our hero must make the ultimate decision and either go for it, or not. Whatever the decision is for that character, it will lead to the climax – the ultimate confrontation with the antagonist usually resulting in our hero winning or losing. Lastly, there’s the denouement; the resolution and the aftermath of the climax in which we see the outcome of the climax and the story resolve itself.

After outlining the bare basics to see if the story can go the distance, from there, you might choose to go to the next step: a more elaborate outline of your film, and eventually you’ll be able to turn this idea into a screenplay.

But let’s back up a second. How do we find those ideas? Learning how to spot potential stories, knowing how to use those stories as a springboard for a bigger, more dramatic story, and then learning how to take dramatic license to develop those ideas into cohesive films for television and motion pictures is a practice.

Here are just a few places to get you started (some are obvious sources of material, while others may surprise you):

  • Newspapers and magazines – sometimes there are rights issues involved but oftentimes, something in an article may only serve as a notion that springboards your story into an original tale and therefore you don’t need to get the rights.
  • Novels and short stories – for these you will have to option the rights. If it’s not a bestselling novel, you might be surprised to find you can actually option them for little to no money if your passion speaks volumes to the author or agent. There are also a lot of public domain books and stories out there that are ripe for the telling.
  • Obituaries – yes, you heard right. Start reading them and maybe you’ll come up with a character loosely based upon someone’s obituary that could possibly be fleshed out into an original story and eventual script.
  • Comic books and graphic novels – you might wonder how you can afford to go after the rights of these sometimes hot properties, but there are small presses out there that might appreciate your passion and game plan. You may just be able to option something for little money with the promise of more option money to come upon set up with a studio and/or financier.
  • Poetry – have you ever heard a piece of poetry and thought, there’s a movie in that? If not, start listening and reading – you may very well find a great piece of poetry that translates onto the screen – of course you will have to dig deep into your creative imagination to pull that story out, but it can be done.
  • Dreams – do you remember your dreams? If so, do you write them down? Have you ever noticed that sometimes those dreams are quite cinematic? Do you ever ask yourself if they can be a jumping-off point for a screenplay?
  • Photography – like a dream, only a still picture that says a lot with just one shot. Can you make it more than that?
  • Sitting in a cafe watching a couple have an argument – Do you ever wonder what the argument is about? Do they make up? Do they break up? What’s their story? Let your imagination run wild.

We could go on and on as the possibilities are limitless. All you need to do is look around you and there’s a story to be told. It’s up to you to create the characters, the objectives and overall arc of your tale. You should never be at a loss for finding good ideas. Some, you may translate to paper on an Idea Form, or whatever you use, and file away for future use; others may have a life of their own – in that you get the bare bones on paper and it still just keeps on ticking – and becomes a more detailed outline and eventual screenplay.

Good stories are usually about someone trying to overcome something. For film, they need to be cinematic. So even though you may collect a bunch of ideas in a file, some may not translate as well as others. The more you have to choose from, the more you’ll have at your fingertips when creativity strikes.

Graduating from California Institute of the Arts, Rona Edwards became Vice President of Creative Affairs for multiple Emmy-winner John Larroquette (Night Court), Academy-Award Winner Michael Phillips Productions (The Sting, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Taxi Driver) and Emmy-winning and Oscar-nominated Producer Fern Field (Monk, Heartsounds) before she was dragged kicking and screaming into the world of independent producing.

Source with Permission: The Writers Store

Write Your Screenplay in 10 Minutes a Day

By Pilar Alessandra

I know you’re busy. Trust me, I’m with you. You’ve got work, school, kids, you name it. Family counts on you, friends need you – someone’s probably e-mailing, texting or instant messaging you right now!

So how in the heck are you going to find time to write? Well, look down at that smart-phone or computer. You already are.

Be honest. How many times a day do you sneak in a Facebook post, send a brilliant thought through Twitter or entertain a far-away friend with a text? Every time you do, you’re writing.

You’re relating an anecdote; describing a person you met, engaging in a conversation. In other words, you’re focusing on story, character and dialogue all day long.

So, you might as well do it for your screenplay.

Try it. Apply those same stolen moments of time to your script. Instead of telling your friend what happened that day (really, she can wait), quickly synopsize your movie idea. Instead of texting gossip about that person you met in an elevator, create a piece of scene direction that might describe that person as they enter a movie scene. Instead of engaging in a cutesy I.M., write a “cute meet” between two characters.

Suddenly, your stolen moments of time are productively moving you towards a screenplay.

Think it can’t be done? Let’s try it out. See how quickly you can actually outline your movie by choosing to focus on one element per ten-minute break.

  1. Commit 10 minutes to telling a simple story with a great idea. Describe it in a paragraph or two as though telling a friend about a great movie. That’s your synopsis.
  2. Commit 10 minutes to dividing that story into four sections. Give each section a title. Those are your acts.
  3. Commit 10 minutes per act to brainstorming the major events that happen in each section. Those are your sequences or “beats.”
  4. Commit 10 minutes per sequence to brainstorming the cool details, character moments, and smaller actions. Those are your scenes.

Congratulations. Outline finished.

This isn’t to say that you need to cut all of your Facebook, Twitter and texting time. But look at how quickly you just moved through your outline when social networking suddenly turned into screenwriting.

Do keep texting, though — because you’re actually teaching yourself to write. Yeah, you read that correctly. All of this texting and tweeting has taught us how to focus our stories and edit.

You choose your words carefully and well when you “tweet” a joke using only 140 characters. You’ve learned how to create urgency or coax a smile with only a few choice words sent in a quick text. You edit your e-mails to make sure that you’re not burying an important point.

All of these skills are the same ones a writer brings to scene honing and dialogue doctoring. So why not try a rewrite on your script with the same attention to detail?

  1. Commit 10 minutes to hone in on the main point of a written scene. Then quickly lop off the excess that threatens to bury it.
  2. Commit 10 minutes to finding new words for your action lines; words that have enough impact to sum up the action and emotion of that moment.
  3. Commit 10 minutes to turning an overwritten monologue into the perfect one-liner.

There’s an argument that all of our social networking is dumbing us down as a society. I say it’s created a generation of writers. We communicate through the written word more than we ever did before. Now, we just have to use those skills for our art.

Today, when that urge to cheat on your job comes to you, go ahead and take those ten minutes – but don’t log onto Facebook; focus on your screenplay.

Imagine your status update after you’ve sold it!

Pilar Alessandra is the director of the popular writing program “On The Page.” A sought after teacher and lecturer, she’s traveled the world teaching screenwriting and is in high demand at major writing conferences and film festivals. As a consultant, she’s helped thousands of writers create, refine and sell their screenplays. Her students and clients have sold to Disney, DreamWorks, Warner Brothers and Sony and have won prestigious competitions such as the Austin Film Festival, Open Door Competition, Fade-In Competition and Nicholl Fellowship.

Source with Permission: The Writers Store

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