Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Long Goodbye by Robert Altman (1973)

Notice how much time is devoted to developing Private Detective Philip Marlowe's (Elliott Gould) character in this opening sequence. Before the story begins, we get a sense of the protagonist--who he is, where he lives, and what his values are--all of which play an important part in setting up how he behaves throughout the film. The opening sequence (feeding the cat) foreshadows what's to come in the rest of the film. In fact, it plays out like a mini movie of the film: Marlowe goes to great lengths for his cat to whom he is devoted only to have the cat reject what he offers and run away.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Review: Good Dog 1x1

Here's a review: Review: Good Dog 1x1

Join Denis McGrath for Free Writing Workshops on Comedy & Drama TV Writing

Join Denis McGrath for Free Writing Workshops on Comedy & Drama TV Writing

Join TV writer and CFC Alumnus Denis McGrath ('00)  for two free Series Writing Workshops on writing for comedy and drama television and learn more about the CFC's CBC Prime Time Television Program!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Great Train Robbery

Ira Glass on Storytelling

"Not enough gets said about the importance of abandoning
crap." Ira Glass

Part 1 of 4

Part 2 of 4

Part 3 of 4

Part 4 of 4

Monday, March 28, 2011

Mockler Tips: Make Life Harder for Your Protagonist

Make your story more interesting for your audience by making life harder for your protagonist.

First drafts of screenplays often have one thing in common: they make life too easy for the protagonist.

It makes sense. Writing a first draft is hard. Why not have the protagonist walk into the bar and get exactly what they expect? It’s easier for the writer because they don't have to worry about the protagonist falling flat on their face or bumping into an ex-boyfriend or forgetting their wallet.

But in the revision this should change. Having events occur too smoothly and with the character getting exactly what they expect can often be very dull for an audience.

In the 1952 Italian film Umberto D written by Cesare Zavattini and directed by Vittorio De Sica, not one moment of this classic neorealist film is easy for protagonist Umberto D, an elderly pensioner trying to secure his basic needs for survival. From selling a watch to getting on the streetcar to finding his lost dog, Umberto D’s every action is met with an obstruction. And his every expectation greeted with an outcome he does not anticipate but with which he must cope. For example, Umberto D collects as much money as he can to pay his back rent, but when he gives the money to his landlady, she will not accept partial payment; it’s all or nothing. This makes life more difficult for him and is an event he does not anticipate. In another example, Umberto D admits himself to the hospital leaving his beloved dog, Flike, with his trusted friend, the tenement housemaid, Maria. Upon his return, Umberto D is shocked to discover his dog is missing—the cruel landlady let him out. Again this makes life hard for the protagonist, and it’s an event he doesn’t expect.

While this film may be an exaggeration of this principle, it never hurts a story to rely less on coincidence and convenience and more on conflict and obstacles. Why? Because life is hard and audiences root for characters who they relate to, who are vulnerable, and who they understand. What audience wants to read a story about a beautiful couple, with well-behaved children, who live in a mansion, have well-paying successful jobs, who are fit, healthy, and happy, and who get everything they want out of life? Not many. If the beautiful girl gets the handsome man then she better pay for it by struggling long and hard, and in some cases, as in Romeo and Juliet, the protagonists must die for audiences to care. Romeo doesn’t expect that Juliet will wake up; he thinks she’s dead which is why he drinks the poison. 

Written by Kathryn Mockler

Fear and Loathing on the Road to Hollywood - Hunter S Thompson Documentary

Friday, March 11, 2011

Toronto Screenwriting Conference: April 9 to 10, 2011

Toronto Screenwriting Conference. Register here.

The second annual Toronto Screenwriting Conference will take place April 9 & 10, 2011 at Ryerson University’s Ted Rogers School of Management at Yonge and Dundas, in downtown Toronto.

A one-of-a-kind event for professionals in the screen-based industry, the Toronto Screenwriting Conference gives you:
  • Extraordinary key-note sessions with high-profile showrunners and screenwriters
  • Incomparable breakout sessions with leading international screenwriting academics, book authors and industry execs
  • Advanced level of education and skills development unparalleled by any other screenwriting event
The Toronto Screenwriting Conference is the premiere 2011 event for everyone involved, in any way, with screenwriting. 
Professional writers, producers, directors, and executives will benefit from this gathering of the best creative talent, authors and speakers in writing for screen-based media.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

An Evening with Spike Lee

Tuesday, Jan 25, 2011 7:00 PM EST (6:30 PM Doors)
Cineplex Odeon Varsity Theatre, Toronto, ON

In celebration of Black History Month and presented by TD, CFC and Clement Virgo are pleased to host a special evening in conversation with acclaimed filmmaker Spike Lee (IF GOD IS WILLING AND DA CREEK DON'T RISE, MALCOLM X, DO THE RIGHT THING) to discuss the role of music in his films.

Hosted by Clement Virgo (RUDE, POOR BOY'S GAME), the evening will combine conversation and film clips to examine the use of music in Lee's films - from his musical collaborations with his father, Bill Lee, a jazz bassist, to Prince, Stevie Wonder and composer Terence Blanchard.

A notable writer, director, producer, actor, and author who revolutionized both the landscape of independent cinema and the role of black talent in film, Spike Lee is widely regarded as a premiere filmmaker and a forerunner in the 'do it yourself' school of filmmaking.