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”

13th Amendment documentary: Slavery, hypocrisy, and profit

Director Ava DuVernay's cogent documentary, 13TH, exposes a broken democracy.
Director Ava DuVernay’s cogent documentary, 13TH, exposes a broken democracy.

As someone with a background in broadcast journalism and film, I tend to be extra critical of documentaries. Too many tend to be poorly structured, indulgent, boring, uninformative, or some combination thereof. But “13TH” is among the more cogent and compelling documentaries I’ve seen in years. Continue reading “13th Amendment documentary: Slavery, hypocrisy, and profit”

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”

SMASH CUT TO: Another lame transition

Smash cut to a lame transitionScreenwriters are always told to write visually because film is a visual medium, and “SMASH CUT TO” somehow has emerged as a “technique” to convey a sudden cut to a new scene. As Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock would say — actually, he would rightfully dismiss you with, perhaps, a glare, if even that, and move on to higher intellectual ground, where you should be, because SMASH CUT TO, if anything, actually will get in the way of the dramatic transition effect for which you poorly are attempting to compensate. The key to a dramatically effective transition from one scene to the next stems not from terminology, but instead from Continue reading “SMASH CUT TO: Another lame transition”

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”