The best comedy writing starts with characters

Anna Chlumsky and Julia Louise-Dreyfus in "Veep."
Anna Chlumsky does her best to manage Julia Louise-Dreyfus in “Veep.”

Given the many flavors of comedy and personal taste, is it even possible to create something that is universally funny?

The Writers Guild of America’s list of the 101 funniest scripts ever written may be more definitive for some than others, but, if nothing else, the list reflects how broad comic appeal can be.

While¬†the top five films appear to have little in common, at the heart of each lie shared elements of Continue reading “The best comedy writing starts with characters”

Script coverage: a checklist to RECOMMEND – Part 2

script coverage at the BBC readers roomFollowing up on part one of the “checklist to RECOMMEND,” listed below are key coverage checklist items that, if well executed, will help you avoid the problems with more than 95 percent of the scripts out there. Remember, you are competing with established screenwriters as well as other up-and-comers, so what can you do to get your script closer to RECOMMEND? Continue reading “Script coverage: a checklist to RECOMMEND – Part 2”

Script coverage: a checklist to RECOMMEND – Part 1

Script coverage: checklist to RecommendScreenplay “coverage” and “analysis” tend to be used interchangeably, but there’s one key distinction:

  • Script coverage helps producers make business decisions; whereas,
  • An industry-level analysis of your screenplay helps you improve material before submitting to producers and screenwriting contests.

Additionally, coverage reports actually are more objective than subjective; therefore it’s important to understand how your writing affects coverage and the steps you can take to get your screenplay recommended to producers. Continue reading “Script coverage: a checklist to RECOMMEND – Part 1”

Recommended comedy book: “The Hidden Tools of Comedy” by Steve Kaplan

Hidden Tools of Comedy by Steve KaplanComedy is the most challenging genre for one simple reason: what is funny to one person is not necessarily funny to another. But that doesn’t make it impossible to write a humorous film or sitcom, because if you understand the foundation of comic situations you can inject humor into whatever it is you’re writing, regardless of genre, especially if you read Steve Kaplan’s The Hidden Tools of Comedy: The Serious Business of Being Funny. Kaplan is a long-time comedy consultant in the entertainment industry who successfully has distilled his transferable knowledge into what is one of the best comedy books available. Continue reading “Recommended comedy book: “The Hidden Tools of Comedy” by Steve Kaplan”

Revealing key backstory in compelling fashion — Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Chekov caught in the wrath of KhanTo this day “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” is widely revered for many good reasons — among them Ricardo Montalban’s memorable performance as well as a certain plot twist at the end — but in this post I’ll focus on the genius of the film’s second sequence and what screenwriters can learn from the well-executed screenplay by Jack B. Sowards. What makes a sequence filled with exposition set primarily in a confined space so dramatic and compelling? Continue reading “Revealing key backstory in compelling fashion — Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”

Indiana Jones and — the Story Development Transcript!

Harrison Ford and Karen AllenGrab a seat at the table with George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Lawrence Kasdan during their 1978 story development conference sessions for “Raiders of the Lost Ark and the memorable characters who help and hinder Indiana Jones. As Lucas initially describes Indy: “He is an archeologist and an anthropologist. A Ph.D. He’s a doctor, he’s a college professor. What happened is, he’s also a sort of rough and tumble guy. But Continue reading “Indiana Jones and — the Story Development Transcript!”

Required reading — and listening — from Stephen Tobolowsky


You most likely remember him as Ned Ryerson from the brilliantly original “Groundhog Day” — bing! — but gifted actor Stephen Tobolowsky also happens to be among the world’s premiere storytellers, and if you are as yet unfamiliar with his increasingly famous Tobolowsky Files podcast, get familiar, now, before something happens to you. Continue reading “Required reading — and listening — from Stephen Tobolowsky”

Why everyone needs an editor

The lingering confusion and disappointment about Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus” is a good high-profile example of why everyone — screenwriters, directors, producers not withstanding — need editors to identify plot holes, character inconsistencies, and anything else that undermines a story’s impact and confuses audiences.

One of the most anticipated films of 2012, “Prometheus”
Continue reading “Why everyone needs an editor”

Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show and what screenwriters and filmmakers can learn

Madonna’s SuperBowl halftime show achieved what screenwriters and filmmakers strive to achieve: quite simply, it was entertaining on many levels from start to finish. Regardless of how you feel about her music, Madonna’s show delivered a highly structured full-on multimedia experience that serves as a spot-on “how to” for screenwriters and filmmakers, starting with Continue reading “Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show and what screenwriters and filmmakers can learn”

Lead characters sell your script

Probably the best chance you have of selling your screenplay or raising funds for your indie project is to create lead characters that attract top talent, or, if not well-known actors, the best talented actors available. So how do you do that? For starters, Continue reading “Lead characters sell your script”