Q & A with Aiko Hilkinger

Aiko Hilkinger is an award-winning, queer, German-Japanese screenwriter from Colombia. She primarily works in fantasy and animation, and her pilot “Kate and Ava” placed her in Network ISA’s “Top 25 Screenwriters to Watch in 2021”. Hilkinger creates magical worlds filled with diverse characters that children and teenagers can relate to and see themselves represented in. Not only does she strive for diversity and inclusion in her stories, but most importantly, she believes that through her animation work she can connect with kids and help teach healthy communication and to own up to their mistakes.

When she’s not writing, Hilkinger works as a script analyst for big screenwriting contests and has recently started her own script consulting business.

What was the last thing you read or watched you considered exceptionally well-written?

I feel like I’ve said this to the point where the people who know me have gotten tired of hearing it, but Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts on Netflix has to be my pick. I honestly think the show made my 2020 much more bearable while also blowing my mind with their imaginative storytelling. The show was planned as a three-season arc and you can tell when watching it that it was meticulously planned as the story is just so tight and has a clear message all the way throughout.

How’d you get your start in the industry?

I actually don’t feel like I’ve “made it” into the industry yet. I joke that I graduated from “baby writer” to “toddler writer” in 2020 since it was a learning year for me. After I graduated from film school, one of my teachers helped me get an internship with an agency where I perfected my coverage skills. After that I applied to work as a script analyst for a contest site while entering some contests here and there for the first time.

I won some pretty cool awards this year and was named one of the Top 25 Screenwriters to Watch in 2021 by Network ISA. I’m looking forward to new opportunities this year, like getting signed and hopefully selling my first script or getting staffed in a room.

Is recognizing good writing something you think can be taught or learned?

I think you can teach someone what to look out for (structure, format, clear goals, etc.) in a script but after a while it becomes a feeling. It sounds strange, and it definitely is, but after reading as many scripts as I have, you start to very easily pick up on things that make a script good or bad. At times it has everything to do with those “rules” we’re taught in film school, and it’s easy to technically say why something isn’t working, but it’s only through practice of your own craft and opening yourself up to criticism that you really learn what works or doesn’t for you, and how to break those rules.

What do you consider the components of a good script?

A good script has something to say. I’m a sucker for a good theme, and I always suggest looking at it as a “thematic statement” or “the lesson the protagonist or antagonist will learn”. When a writer knows what they want to say with their piece, it gives the story direction, and it is much more enjoyable to see them get there.

Oftentimes when a script doesn’t know where it’s going, you can feel it, it’s like you’re wandering around aimlessly through a world, surrounded by characters who don’t know what they want and thus you don’t know what they need. Definitely start your writing journey by knowing your why (why do you want to tell this story and why does it need to be told now?).

What are some of the most common screenwriting mistakes you see?

One of the most common mistakes I see is characters not having a clear goal. A goal is the driving force behind the protagonist accomplishing something by the end of the script and without it, the story can drag on and become repetitive. We don’t want to see someone live their life day to day because it’s not dramatic; not every action pushes the story forward. That’s why it’s important that not only the protagonist has a clear goal, but the antagonist does as well, since they’re the ones who will get in the way of the protagonist.

I also recommend giving other characters goals of their own so that they can be more rounded and have something going on that gives them more depth other than doing whatever the protagonist needs them to do.

What story tropes are you just tired of seeing?

I’m exhausted of seeing every queer story be about “coming out” and dealing with homophobic families, friends, etc. It’s the same annoyance I have about POC films, especially Asian-American stories, only being about the struggle of immigration. There are so many other beautiful stories that can be told outside of the constant struggle to be accepted by a straight, white society that need to be told in order to showcase the beauty of our cultures and communities.

I want to watch a film about queer love that has nothing to do with strife or struggle, and I’m so happy that we’re slowly starting to get there with shows like Schitt’s Creek and She-Ra. And I would love to take my family to watch a film with characters that look like us where they’re just living their lives unapologetically, like Crazy Rich Asians and One Day at a Time.

What are some key rules/guidelines every writer should know?

Write with a purpose. Know your why. Why are you writing this story? And why is it important to tell it now?

Fill out a bullet point list of your main structure in order to know your main emotional turns before you start writing.

Always outline, even if you don’t like it. Look at your outline as your first draft.

Make sure your characters have clear goals (wants) and clear needs (areas for growth).

Sneak exposition through conflict.

Make sure your characters are emotionally motivated.

Antagonists should have a clear driving force behind them.

Read as much as you can and make it a variety (both produced and peer scripts) in order to figure out what works for you in terms of storytelling, and to practice pinpointing why they don’t work for you.

You don’t have to take every note you get. Take the ones that resonate and throw away the ones that don’t.

Have you ever read a script where you thought “This writer gets it”? If so, what were the reasons why?

The main reason is that it’s clear the writer has something they want to say. I know I’ve mentioned this a lot, but it truly is the most important thing you can do. The second I get your voice and understand your point of view, I’m in. It’s our job to make that as clear as possible because our voice is what will set us aside from other writers. It’s what we bring to the table, what we’ll get hired based on, so it’s the most important thing to develop. And through a lot of practice, giving and receiving notes, you’ll get there.

How do you feel about screenwriting contests? Worth it or not?

Contests can be worth it if you have money to splurge. I know a lot of people who haven’t had a lot of success from them and it can definitely be frustrating. I’ve had a very 50/50 experience. I didn’t make it into a few contests that I was excited about, but then I made it into one that really, really worked for me.

You have to be very clear with yourself about what you want out of these contests (exposure, management, etc.) and make sure you know they’re not your only chance to get into the industry. Also, be sure to ask fellow writers about their experiences in order to find out which contests are the best for you and your goals.

How can people find out more about you and the services you provide?

I am super active on Twitter – @aikohwrites. That’s where you can find me saying things I probably shouldn’t. And if you’re interested in my coverage services, you can go to aikohilkinger.com/script-coverage to find more information.

Readers of this blog are more than familiar with my love/appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?

This is such a good question! My favorite is apple. My mom has always had her own recipe and her apples for some reason always taste amazing. But if we’re being more specific, I love a good, warm and buttery strudel (maybe with some ice cream and caramel).

Q & A with Heidi Hornbacher of PageCraft

A graduate of UCLA’s screenwriting program, Heidi Hornbacher has written numerous features, treatments, and TV pilots for various independent producers. She’s judged for the Slamdance Film Festival screenwriting contest and co-founded the Slamdance Script Clinic. She and her husband founded PageCraft Writing in 2008, offering script coaching and writing retreats in LA and Italy. Her clients include Emmy winners, TV legends, and brand new writers too. Heidi has written, directed, and produced numerous commercials, music videos, and electronic press kits for various artists. She’s currently making a documentary film about British artist Paul Whitehead.

What’s the last thing you read/watched you considered to be exceptionally well-written?

There is so much great TV right now. I was mesmerized by I May Destroy You. Anything that makes me say “wow, I could not have written that” I love. I had a Kenyan writer on my podcast recently and she noted that it was a very African storytelling style which I found particularly interesting. 

How’d you get your start in the industry?

I moved to Los Angeles to go to the UCLA Professionals Program in Screenwriting at night and landed a day job at Paramount as a president’s assistant. From there it was a lot of reading, learning, developing skills, and networking. And just making things without waiting for permission.

Is recognizing good writing something you think can be taught or learned?

I think this is absolutely something that can be taught. If you have a natural instinct it helps but you can train your eye to spot things the same way a sommelier trains to spot subtle flavor differences in wine. When I first started reading for contests I would decide to advance or decline a script based on instinct, but had to develop the facility to be able to say why.

Once I could could point to things like unmotivated dialogue, a major story turn being on the B story but missing from the A story, unearned reveals, etc. it helped me codify those elements into my own writing and into a teachable curriculum for PageCraft.

What do you consider the components of a good script?

Solid characters that have been well developed with clear goals, and positive and negative stakes to achieving those goals. Scenes that work hard to move your story forward and don’t just sit there. Even in a reflective moment, we should be learning something new about the character or they should be learning something about themselves. Every scene having a clear Goal-Obstacle-Outcome, or what we call GOO structure. Yes. EVERY SCENE.

What are some of the most common screenwriting mistakes you see?

Where to begin? The most offensive mistakes are things like not spellchecking (how hard is that?) and grammar errors. Those tell me you just don’t care about your craft or my time, so why should I give my time to looking at your craft?

A lot of scripts that are findable online, etc. are shooting scripts rather than original scripts so I see a lot of bad habits writers pick up from those such as writing in edit and camera direction. There should never be a CUT TO or CLOSE UP ON in your original script. Every slug line implies a cut so there’s that, and you should be able to imply the angle and type of shot by how masterfully you work your action lines.

I see a lot of over-directing the actor from the page. Unless a movement is key to the plot, don’t tell your actors how to move their bodies. The hardest thing about screenwriting is getting your head around the fact that it’s a collaborative art where we often never meet our collaborators because they come in after we’ve done our part. Learning to trust that your actors are going to bring nuance and physical choices to the role can be like a trust fall. If you’ve written the script well with clear context for what that character is going through, the actor will run with it.

What story tropes are you just tired of seeing?

Aside from lazy things like the detective with the board full of photos connected by red string, I’m really tired of societal tropes; rape as a motivator for why a female character becomes stronger, stories that only view Black characters as suffering characters. Can we move on? We’re more nuanced as humans so our stories should be too.

Then there are just overused dialogue lines like “it might just work”, “that went well”, and “we’re a lot alike, you and I.” We actually have a powerpoint with stills from over 40 films and shows illustrating how overused that last one is.

What are some key rules/guidelines every writer should know?

-As I said above: Make sure there is GOO (Goal-Obstacle-Outcome) in every single scene.

-Make sure you have a solid structure and outline before you start writing. You need a roadmap!

-Make sure you’ve done your character work and understand what motivates them. Make sure you’ve done as much work for the antagonist as for the protagonist so the struggle is worth your protagonist’s time. 

-Make sure every major story turn occurs on the A storyline – the external story. Turns on the B and C storylines can serve as point and counterpoint to that but if a turn is missing from the A story, the narrative will feel off and it can be hard to see why. 

-Remember that a script is a blueprint for a visual story and as such everything in it needs to be visual and filmable so no internal writing about what a character feels or remembers – we should get that from how you externalize those feelings. 

-Break up action line chunks by story beat, audience focus or implied new camera angle so they stay below 5 lines each and keep the reader’s eye flowing down the page.

Have you ever read a script where you thought “This writer gets it”? If so, what were the reasons why?

All the time! It’s clear when a writer just doesn’t know the rules versus a writer who knows the rules and breaks them creatively. These tend to be scripts with thoroughly developed characters, great pacing, and a satisfying emotional catharsis. They are scripts with a clear point of view and strong positive and negative stakes for the characters. Their message is the byproduct of a great story and not the sole reason for the story (i.e. the story isn’t preachy).

How do you feel about screenwriting contests? Worth it or not?

It depends. If you do well in a big one, you can get noticed. The right ones can help you get representation or otherwise forward your project. For example, one of my clients just won the Nicholl. She will get lots of meetings off of that.

There are obviously a ton that are a waste of money but it can boost your confidence to get those laurels. There is a backside to that too. When I see scripts in competition with laurels on the title page (DO NOT DO THIS!), it’s like they’re painting a target on themselves saying “find reasons to tear this down” and, except in the rare occasion when it’s a stellar script, we always can.

How can people find out more about you and the services you provide?

Visit us at PageCraftWriting.com. Our next round of script workshops starts in January, we offer one-on-one consulting services, and check out our Hearthside Salons podcast (on Podbean and iTunes) featuring conversations with writers, directors and other creatives.

Readers of this blog are more than familiar with my love/appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?

That’s like asking me to pick a favorite sunset. I love anything fruit-related and made some killer loquat-ginger pies this spring. But I love pecan and pumpkin so I’m happy it’s that time of year. More pie!

It is most definitely NOT a sprint

I haven’t written about it in a while, but one of my other interests is running. It’s inexpensive, good exercise, and I’m fortunate to live in a place well-suited for it.

Added bonus – plenty of time to think about whatever script I’m working on at the time.

However, the passage of time and some good old wear-and-tear are starting to take their toll. My pace is a little slower than it used to be, but I don’t mind.

I especially enjoy half-marathons. 13.1 miles is a good, solid distance. In the Before Times, I’d run about 6-8 a year.

This year, kinda-sorta. All but one of the races I’d signed up to do this year were cancelled. Race organizers, however, were undeterred. Runners were given the option of doing the races virtually, as in “you run the same distance, but on the route of your choosing, then send us your time and a map tracking your route, and we’ll send you your shirt and medal.”

With all of this going on, one of the things I’d always wanted to attempt was running a full marathon. 26.2 miles. Running a half wasn’t too hard, but taking on a full seemed much more formidable.

But the biggest challenge was I wanted to see if I could do it.

So I trained. A lot.

This is also where that part about wear-and-tear really started to make itself known – primarily in my heels and ankles.

But I kept at it, always trying to push myself a little more each time. I was confident, but still plenty nervous.

As the days wound down to Race Day, my anxiety levels were growing. The biggest question on my mind was “COULD I DO THIS?” My family were as supportive and encouraging as possible, but in the end, it was all me.

So I started out. The app in my phone announced at the onset that “tracking would continue for 26.2 miles”, which is quite intimidating during those first few steps.

“It’s the distance, not the time,” I reminded myself.

Off I went through the pre-dawn streets. Sunrise was still about 80 minutes away, and save for some hills and a bridge colored international orange, it was a pretty flat route.

The miles ticked away. I got to the halfway point, feeling pretty confident the second half might not be as challenging as expected.

Mile 19. So far, so good. At this pace, maybe an hour fifteen to go.

Mile 20. The wear-and-tear decides to kick in. For my heels and ankles. Steps got a little bit tougher to take. Then a stabbing pain at the base of my left shin. That doesn’t seem good.

I wanted to keep going, but was more concerned about inflicting further damage, so I chose the safest option: I stopped running, and walked. Not what I wanted, but at least I was still moving.

It’s the distance, not the time, remember?

I got to Mile 24 and thought “maybe I can run these last 2.2 miles” and ran for about 4 steps. Nope. The walk continued.

But I kept going, and eventually did cross the virtual finish line, with a time of 5:11:33.

Not the results I was hoping for, and despite some unexpected problems to deal with, the important thing was I DID IT.

One of the most apt metaphors about screenwriting is “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” It takes a REALLY long time to be able to do it, especially properly, so you need to keep working at it, constantly trying to do better.

The journey to finishing a script, let alone establishing a career as a screenwriter, might not be the one you anticipated. Everybody moves at their own pace, so don’t be discouraged if it seems like everybody but you is moving forward by leaps and bounds.

The important thing is to focus on becoming a better writer and making your script better. Work on crossing the finish line that’s waiting for you, and you alone.

Giving yourself a medal, however, is totally optional.

A treasure trove of creative riches

smaug gif

With sheltering-in-place still a thing, this is a great opportunity to discover and enjoy some amazing works across a wide spectrum of mediums.

Settle in and take a look. There’s a lot to choose from today.

Added bonus – several of the featured creators have also been interviewed on this very blog, so a link to each of their Q&As is also provided.

Enjoy!

Marilyn Anderson
How To Live Like A Millionaire When You’re A Million Short – book
https://www.amazon.com/Live-MILLIONAIRE-Youre-Million-Short-ebook/dp/B06XWZFNRY/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8&fbclid=IwAR3GqZdJFtV8ftEqH6V3pc2NxpxJCS7TwWZSHaSPOS4P8TnlRF-jMGSh7so
AND
How To Beat A Bully – film
https://www.amazon.com/How-Beat-Bully-Pearce-Joza/dp/B016DMY16M?fbclid=IwAR0ery6kikBDlZDwfGXV62WGIVIc05lkAcq-1T0c6DiSwLaysHia9n5RhqQ

Steve Altes
Geeks & Greeks – graphic novel
https://www.amazon.com/Geeks-Greeks-Steve-Altes/dp/0996350446/?fbclid=IwAR2kgIue5ev9gE86QyOsUdTH6bIjZ07JyQpV2mnYEBF8tJT0N41jptpzdEU

Tracee Beebe
The Rise & Shine Show – motivational live video feed
https://www.facebook.com/RiseShineMorningShow/?hc_location=ufi

Q & A with Tracee Beebe

Gregory Blair
The Ritual (Part 1) – book
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005955G1Y?fbclid=IwAR0stm9XLgcs_m6yfHJVNnSZ2lskN3ICM8yAqTbXYuI7apD2NSlHHJz1pUg

Lois Buchter
Gerti’s War: A Journal of Life Inside the Wehrmacht – book
https://www.amazon.com/Gertis-War-Journal-Inside-Wehrmacht/dp/0997510846/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=gerti%27s%20war&qid=1590531435&sr=8-1&fbclid=IwAR2wGp8aRp4s2ZSPbiJya7WLpIb1H0nr3Cdze50a9kbADgxhpae7sFxnnMw

Geoffrey Calhoun
The Guide For Every Screenwriter: From Synopsis to Subplots: The Secrets of Screenwriting Revealed
https://www.amazon.com/Guide-Every-Screenwriter-Synopsis-Screenwriting-ebook/dp/B07R92L1N1/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=geoffrey+calhoun&qid=1590599973&sr=8-1

Q & A with Geoffrey Calhoun and one about the book

Howard Casner
The Starving Artists and Other Stories: Nine stories of sci-fi and the supernatural – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07FS91CKJ?fbclid=IwAR1LKXLOuZ61r0wB2vl3N2RGO1qg4j4-CUTjJ_Pr3pUvaIiQNzIJbEHrkP4
AND
The Five Corporations And One True Church – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KY5Z3CF?fbclid=IwAR1v1XvJ6ZeVv79i66EtG6lNOfutzAgMY_LkYM5OkZCQkGk3zPpjofuq3Hs

Q & A with Howard Casner

Steve Cleary
ManHeat – microbudget webseries
A screenwriter takes his filmmaking career into his own hands and started a microseries about action film cliches that’s seen a steady increase in production values
https://www.facebook.com/storbangfanpage/playlist/2385554318362169/

Brian Fitzpatrick
Mechcraft – YA book
Sci-fi nanotech thriller – “The Matrix meets Harry Potter”
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B079HTG6C6?fbclid=IwAR1ElBGEPvlJ8y_s9GQaO501D9WTlUoENm8Nwews3zW0XXMo5IiLTY4mJR0

Clint Ford
Cope – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/149433111X/ref=cm_sw_r_em_apa_i_7deZEbAMMETKD?fbclid=IwAR3_0IrhUFAarQyE1h9gdJF6jg97J4iS2-Urrwip1Z-nsDmh5jOxOnQWk7Y

Jimmy George, Jamie Nash & Bob Rose
Writers/Blockbusters – screenwriting podcast
Examining blockbuster films through the lens of writing
https://thundergrunt.com/category/writersblockbusters/

Q & A with Jimmy George

Randy Gordon-Gaticahttps://www.instagram.com/rggatica/
The Magic Bomb – film
https://vimeo.com/ondemand/themagicbomb

Jay Harez
Collection of horror and thriller books
https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/jayharez?fbclid=IwAR0yuD_-jYBdbe01lUOaR2Icm28fJk8IVIHbrXxvqYIazgTgkT1PBMBSVsE

Phil Hawkins
Star Wars: Origins – short film
A critically acclaimed fanfilm that combines the worlds of Star Wars and Indiana Jones. The saga we know, the origins we don’t.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVSox0qApO4&feature=youtu.be

Jason Henderson
Young Captain Nemo book series
Jason recently signed a deal with Kinsane Entertainment to develop the books as an animated series, mobile games, consumer products and more for worldwide release.
Young Captain Nemo
https://www.amazon.com/Young-Captain-Nemo-Jason-Henderson/dp/1250173221/ref=sr_1_1crid=2M2M8J5BQYIQJ&dchild=1&keywords=young+captain+nemo&qid=1590698680&sprefix=yougn+captain%2Caps%2C200&sr=8-1
Quest For The Nautilus: Young Captain Nemo
https://www.amazon.com/Quest-Nautilus-Young-Captain-Nemo/dp/1250173248/ref=sr_1_2 crid=2M2M8J5BQYIQJ&dchild=1&keywords=young+captain+nemo&qid=1590699109&sprefix=yougn+captain%2Caps%2C200&sr=8-2

Brannon Hollingsworth
Silent Night, Lady White (Wyrdwar) – book
https://www.amazon.com/Silent-Night-Lady-White-Wyrdwar-ebook/dp/B0834GRN3L/

Ann Kimbrough
The 100 Script Challenge Journal: A Journal for Screenwriters
https://www.amazon.com/dp/153708318X/ref=cm_sw_r_em_apa_i_vYlZEbWAMCB9M?fbclid=IwAR0wRXKP2b5DoFHKPFHAF6dLOdnjzn_uYrCu3e_PzpHeTC4OpWOboIss0lE

Q & A with Ann Kimbrough (and her equally amazing writing partner James Moorer)

David Lake
Tears of Glass – thriller novel
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01CHTF3HQ

Tracy Stone Lawson
Counteract: A YA Dystopia Thriller (The Resistance Series Book 1)
(first volume is a free download; whole series of 4 for $2.97)
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07J5NS9F5/ref=nodl_?fbclid=IwAR3NeRR0-3Z_73bWfEg98qiWbtQQbzhVol9V_KVlSRhMrEMXnZaY4hEz6FU

Chris Mancini & Fernando Pinto
Rise of the Kung-Fu Dragon Master – graphic novel crowdfunding project
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/whitecatent/new-2020-rise-of-the-kung-fu-dragon-master-vol-1/description

Q & A with Chris Mancini

Ellen Matzer
Nurses on the Inside: Stories of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in NYC
https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/ellen-matzer/nurses-on-the-inside-stories-of-the-hivaids-epidem/

Alicia McClendon
Wing Chun – short film
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bt228HohbOE&feature=youtu.be

Sean McDonough
Collection of horror books
https://www.amazon.com/Sean-McDonough/e/B07SJWGX6M/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1?fbclid=IwAR3d5kRzKL9kjwaiBd0CDiDJ4UfshxGbtCRBqQXuhDjjGX1Xjj6lJeBj1MY

Jim Mercurio
The Craft of Scene Writing: Beat by Beat to a Better Script – screenwriting
https://www.amazon.com/Craft-Scene-Writing-Better-Script/dp/1610353307/?fbclid=IwAR0wRXKP2b5DoFHKPFHAF6dLOdnjzn_uYrCu3e_PzpHeTC4OpWOboIss0lE

Q & A with Jim Mercurio and one about the book 

Josh Mitchell
Stand By Me (Revisited) – song
https://soundcloud.com/mitchwickid/stand-by-me-revisited?fbclid=IwAR01kCtiU359sQZJ7mevOhf9gDgiKy3LTjlthm0-J7foXkB57Cw_pImDM6w

M. J. Moore
Mario Puzo: An American Writer’s Quest – biography
https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/mj-moore/mario-puzo/
https://www.amazon.com/Mario-Puzo-American-Writers-Quest/dp/1942762631?fbclid=IwAR1aTbdr7QqF6tE3tMb6tyuZ4gCXhZXWZ7yws1eWc39abQ8M9TLvusjY0Cc

Annie Morgan
Complicated: The Zephyr Collection: Book One
https://smile.amazon.com/dp/1393683932/?fbclid=IwAR2-6ILJb6VxvMg-JhH9xbkUeIJoZeELcMQ25d2vVHLhoyTJnr8oI9IJgDw

Jeff Neparstek
Borrowed Time – book
https://www.amazon.com/Borrowed-Time-Jeff-Naparstek-ebook/dp/B01AA9KDZW/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1484175499&sr=8-2&keywords=Jeff%20Naparstek&fbclid=IwAR2n5iYy9jsgCDAi2ZjVcuKX1DUWddeVjJT6Z4OO5RxeStWN-KAVku2lA9k
AND
The Arab Messiah – book
https://www.amazon.com/Arab-Messiah-Jeff-Naparstek-ebook/dp/B01AAOHW5Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1484175499&sr=8-1&keywords=Jeff%20Naparstek&fbclid=IwAR3UtO0g6kI68nh4sqU1a7VFjIFMqmQw5SLeWX-TojJyv_8WCfXM-XvvnmI

Robert People
A Walk On Mars – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1466458313?fbclid=IwAR3WFOvITpvhcAugwPXAx5hrYbXgFe1kQSoVDo4OLkWVnfo2_Ww0SVx2yxk
A Walk On Mars 2: Overtime – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1470187388?fbclid=IwAR0u-7rltbLP6m_KLG65GPU6ggiSuM_h6ta98qbanujKCbt43iCJtENFd8A
Blowing Through The Jasmine – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/148184573X?fbclid=IwAR12lBLXqWjL6W5aiz50UsMuwj9Gcexmmwz_vGdyPT_-nny6knTnAB1MHyY
Sellout– book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1729732372?fbclid=IwAR3JAT2k6n-HyUzByFIanRdeJL2mBRuy-hwZwTuDm06x2VEU-QDRs7POCyA
Sold Out – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/109928533X?fbclid=IwAR293eZo5oayPWXzo6DQjg7qZeCZTjZW_ZNgUnSnT0ZH1KGvfhxcewS4CYE
The Basics (And A Little More) Of Writing A Book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08924GD52?fbclid=IwAR3ZLgCHR0u7VAiVA5j5GcdgZ_iOIlrQneZWCL7JV82xEsV_d1G7xQUGU9I

Jackie Perez
Beachworld – sci-fi/horror short film – authorized adaptation of Stephen King short story of the same name
“Stranded crew on an alien planet covered in dunes. Locating their ship’s emergency beacon is their only hope, but when a salvage crew answers their distress signal, it’s already too late.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wd7HeWs0jVQ&feature=youtu.be

Hudson Phillips
After The Fall: A post-apocalyptic anthology inspired by the universe of This World Alone – book
https://www.amazon.com/After-Fall-post-apocalyptic-anthology-inspired/dp/B088VR6L87/ref=as_li_ss_tl?_encoding=UTF8&psc=1&refRID=FNT09EKN4KWMYMRJPGPH&fbclid=IwAR2vHP5fmHHhEZt3U2F9tC2484s-BcFK84cVS7XmS2w95cx54y3mN6utYSU&linkCode=sl1&tag=styocaus0e-20&linkId=b93767ca505cf1c60c046621718768f7&language=en_US

Dr. Sapna Ramnani
Lockdown – a documentary in pre-production seeking contributors
https://eu.jotform.com/form/200975116787060

Renfield Rasputin
In Defense Of Our Good Name – short story
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CMMFKYW/ref=cm_sw_r_apa_i_rhbZEb3840CS1?fbclid=IwAR1x29n6ly37Yuvu4Egtx5pkYAO2Gkx7Clhjksn8-SMWwsSQmxdUesRDDDA

Bob Saenz
That’s Not The Way It Works: A no-nonsense guide to the craft and business of screenwriting
https://www.amazon.com/Thats-Not-Way-Works-screenwriting/dp/1734347910/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1575403713&sr=8-1&fbclid=IwAR0TRWlRzoxneFNgyuP22hqJRBeErgHy0fvpG6UqqnWE5hYe-W-A6niDbf0

Q & A with Bob Saenz

Roman Scott
Tone Poems and Nightmare Fuel – blog
https://tonepoemsandnightmarefuel.wordpress.com/

Travis Seppala
365: A Year of Screenwriting Tips
https://www.amazon.com/365-Year-Screenwriting-Travis-Seppala/dp/1725810972/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3AY6WYU9SKJLD&dchild=1&keywords=travis+seppala&qid=1590599648&sprefix=TRAVIS+SEPPALA%2Caps%2C205&sr=8-1

Q & A with Travis Seppala

Justin Sloan
Prime Evil
https://www.amazon.com/Prime-Evil-Justin-Sloan-ebook/dp/B087YKY5SV?fbclid=IwAR1l64MgNO_FOWlka2K2CEeF1rAsrp51LYvUvBq-gODBKXC2Ac92-d_XgYQ

Karelynn A. Spacek
Queen of Swords (A Stone Wielder’s Legacy Trilogy) – book
An epic journey revolving around a sunken island, and a new queen that prefers archery over politics.
https://www.amazon.com/Queen-Swords-Wielders-Legacy-Trilogy/dp/B086Y3ZWQF/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=9798630009722&linkCode=qs&qid=1589933088&s=books&sr=1-1

Dan Stout
The Carter Archives – book
https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/series/3CA/the-carter-archives/?fbclid=IwAR2iisl3XP2kXPH1R4PXHe2LZfY21ORydTdLRbiIPf7MoDH7MkbxdjKDyRE

Chip Street
Rocket Summer – novel
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1480202622?fbclid=IwAR2i4B62oDUO-dCGkIPCk9Z4jPbYEJVfBcrsncvMCaS7OJR80x7Pv0P3Bg4
AND
21 Things You Need to Know About Screenplay Options: The Indie Screenwriter’s Guide to Protecting Yourself and Getting the Best Deal
https://www.amazon.com/Things-Need-About-Screenplay-Options-ebook/dp/B07J1L5QLB/ref=redir_mobile_desktop?ie=UTF8&fbclid=IwAR0TRWlRzoxneFNgyuP22hqJRBeErgHy0fvpG6UqqnWE5hYe-W-A6niDbf0

Timothy Trimblewww.timothytrimble.com
Air Born: Do You Dream of Flying? – book
https://www.amazon.com/dp/1536873292

Phyllis K. Twombly
The Martian Symbiont series
Been Blued – book 1
https://www.iuniverse.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/139113-Been-Blued
Martian Blues – book 2
https://www.iuniverse.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/139112-Martian-Blues
Martian Divides – book 3
https://www.iuniverse.com/en/bookstore/bookdetails/146298-Martian-Divides

Larry Whatcott
Telepath – short film
https://vimeo.com/8395049?fbclid=IwAR2CLjjoaOjNNUf2pHM40_Rli8QPHr7Kx0njq7AkT7f6i97gt6SfTW942u0

Allison Chaney Whitmore
Forgot Me Not – book
https://www.amazon.com/Forget-Me-Not-Allison-Whitmore-ebook/dp/B01GL04FJO?fbclid=IwAR34qN_nGlFRQGh2nlX0ywzV0-jruUSPGyYvaoW16Tm3FQC8vSrO8ScFagg

Q & A with Alison Chaney Whitmore

Q & A with Terry McFadden

TERRY Cool

Terry McFadden came up through the ranks as a playwright having been produced
throughout the United States, the UK and Australia and winning several awards. From there he worked as a script consultant for ARD Television, Radio and Films and Eternity Pictures before starting off on his own. He has had the good fortune of giving studio notes to producers on scripts that got made such as THE GOOD GIRL, CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND and THE TRUTH ABOUT CHARLIE.

As the founder of Story Builders Script Doctor & Writing Services, he has covered, analyzed, given notes and consulted on hundreds of screenplays, TV pilots and story ideas and is dedicated to helping writers find and hone their own unique voice.

What’s the last thing you read or watched you thought was incredibly well-written?

JOKER. Without question. The absolute best script of 2019. From the very first page I loved the writing. Now, a lot of it is because I so identify with the charm and depth, the way it was done, the thematic and stylistic elements hit me right off. Not only was the lead character great and unique but he starts out as a very human but weird guy who has issues—issues that are clearly foreshadowed and then evolved. The story makes clear and piece by piece layers in not only his mental and delusional maladjustments but the idea that the way things turn out, as a result of his upbringing and belief systems and how he sees himself and world, is the only way it can end. This is developed wonderfully.

Screenwriters are taught to look at story, the characters and their arc, the twists, the spins, the reversals, the progressive development and surprises; a solid and rising structure with the catalyst plot points, midpoint, and the rest. All of that was there in JOKER but what kept me turning pages was the way it all weaved back in—supporting and commenting on what is already going on adding dimension. A real fresh slant on how he becomes not only his own hero but also the hero of those in need of such a person. The metaphors, the allegories, the songs, the running symbolic commentary—all snaking back and endorsing what is going on or will be, was both unpredictable, cool, necessary yet not seen coming in that way. Very well done.

How’d you get your start in the industry?

I started as a musician. Eight years old, I’m taking guitar lessons and my Dad tosses me onstage with “Tommy Schaefer’s Country/Polka Band at Jim Thorpe Memorial Park”. Music is a big part of everything I do. Writing is music. I came to formal writing at Penn State, penning funny essays about people and teachers. But it took off in Los Angeles in 1993 or so, when I began to write short scenes and monologues for the theatre. I became a member of Actors Art Theatre in Hollywood and remained there for four and a half years—this is where I really developed my style of writing.

Writing scenes progressed to ten-minute plays, short plays and one acts. The director and founder of the theatre was a real mentor to me and a great means of support. From there I studied at UCLA and AFI, did coverage and analysis for several production companies for a while, continued to write, act and produce plays and scripts. I then went out on my own as a script doctor.

Is recognizing good writing something you think can be taught or learned?

Absolutely – for both. The “craft”, to me, comes first. Learning about story, character development and structure–how to turn an idea into 110 pages of course, is the gig here. So in order for me to recognize it, I had to learn it. I had to discover what structure does, why and how–what makes great story points and all of the rest. When you are reading tons of scripts and attending workshops and seminars by a lot of the great teachers like I have, the recognition of good writing becomes second nature because you’re also seeing bad writing and discovering why.

Writers who want to grow and become better intuitively know they need some help. My job is to provide that while showing them their promise as well. Their promise is what we develop. Writers who are open to and then apply good notes will see right off how it betters the work—this is “being taught”.

What do you consider the components of a good script?

A memorable story, clear and fresh characters and building structure as I mentioned above, but for most of us, that’s a given. Good scripts need to be engaging and surprising too.

Stories that emotionally move you as well as make you feel that you are there. The mark of great writing is a piece that has the reader or audience invested and rooting, one way or the other – eliciting an emotional response. Even though readers may not identify with the situation they will identify with the emotional life of what the character is going through, the actions and the way the characters behave, and this is because of the human experience.

What I consider the most important component of all of this is that the writer tell the story in a fashion that only her or she could—their own unique voice. This is who they are and how they see the world that nobody else does. The first thing I look at when reviewing a script is the description and I ask myself, “is this textbook or is this from a perspective that I’ve never seen before?” A script that has a unique and personal voice to it is already leagues ahead as the writer understands not just story, but “their” story and how to get that across.

What are some of the most common screenwriting mistakes you see?

Lack of prep and what’s worse, thinking that you don’t need it. Okay, great ideas make great stories but only if the idea is turned into a script that encompasses the story and structural elements to evolve, build, grow, sustain and resolve in 110 pages.

Another mistake is writing “pot-boilers”, that is, trying to copy what is out there without having a believably sustaining basis for the human aspect. Without a strong and personal character take, motivation, true want and need, you’re writing purely externals. Externals don’t get it for me. I need to know why.

Another mistake is that Act Two putters out and the scenes begin to get episodic and meandering. Biggest one is protagonist trade-offs: The protagonist, because of lack of drive, stakes, want and need is passive so the action is progressed by secondary characters thus confusing the lines and creating tangential sub-plots that do not correspond with the concept or original goal of the protagonist. I am a big proponent of using an outline. Sure, you could waver from it, but, do so in the context of the story that you are now familiar with—this is true and correct inspiration. Write an outline or treatment and get notes on that first. You’ll save yourself not only time but ego deflation and bouts of self-doubt. All comes down to execution on the page.

What story tropes are you just tired of seeing?

I’d have to say voice-over as it’s so overused. If you’re going to use a narrator, and this goes for all devices and conventions, ask how is this still serving the story yet different, adding, and, could it only come from me? Is the narrator a character? Do they know the ending? Are they commenting in a way that goes against the cliché? Are they oblivious, dumb, judgmental? Are they an active character? Also, mentors who are older and have it somewhat together.

Photos on the wall or mantle showing who the characters were and what they did before we see them. I feel that exposition should be meted out when essential and in story forwarding form in crucial times and scene beats.

Lastly, villains that are too dark and mean. My take is that antagonists and villains are the protagonist in their own story; they’re just at cross-purposes with the hero. If you can show why antagonists do what they do and their reasoning, it’ll be more interesting. Watch the original FRANKENSTEIN bopping and stumbling all over the place, and tell me you don’t feel for him.

What are some key rules/guidelines every writer should know?

Write dialogue that differentiates the character as per who they are, their world, POV and experiences. Dialogue that only they could say.

Make sure it’s your world; your voice; your take—only you could have written this. The hook, the take, the scenario and the point of view could have only come from you. Not just overall conflict but inner scene conflict between the characters needs to be present evolving and resolved in some fashion, especially if they’re on the same side. Individual stakes and progressive character function is vital.

Do not have a character if he or she does not only have a role but also a function. How are they influencing the story and the hero? What happens to turn the story because of them?

Keep us guessing. Great scripts set up surprises, twists and reversals that catch readers off-guard yet make sense as per the foreshowing early on. There is no such thing as “out of the blue” (some comedies and farce exempt) even if you think it is. Everything that happens in Act Three is foreshadowed in some way and credible to this story.

Be open to changes; be open to collaboration; be open to notes that are going to improve the vision overall. Screenwriters are subjective and we need another pair of eyes that are not our own. We need to understand that getting sold, published and produced demands active collaboration. Get notes, shut up or drive a bus. Keep writing. This is a process and you learn as you go. Will you get better at it as you go? Probably. Will you evolve as a writer? Absolutely.

Have you ever read a spec script that was an absolute, without-a-doubt “recommend”? If so, what were the reasons why?

Yes. I reviewed a coming of age drama, a TV pilot, that looks at one night in the lives of several late-teen/early 20’s pizza delivery-service workers, concurrently and from all of their points of view. So different were the characters yet all dealing with their own private teen angst. Phenomenal use of subtext; great devices and conventions that were imaginative, unseen before yet fell right in line with the voice and concept.

This slice of life story very convincingly depicted the trials of young adults searching for love but settling for sex and left me with the feeling of hope and the promise of their journeys to come. Because this pilot opened up so many possibilities for all four of the leads, I felt it could go for many episodes and progress uniquely as well. Great writing.

How do you feel about screenwriting contests? Worth it or not?

Only if you do well. Screenwriting contests can help leverage a career but again, you need to have a good script that is recognized by the contest. Bigger question is how are you going to get your script out there? Contests are simply one road and not for all of us.

How can people find out more about you and the services you provide?

You can check out my website at www.storybuilderswrite.com. I’m also on Twitter at @Storybuilderz and on LinkedIn at  https://www.linkedin.com/in/storybuilders/

I also have a new e-book entitled, “That Sounds Like Me’ – ‘Implementing your Own Unique Voice into Act I of your Screenplay or TV Script’. The book takes a comprehensive approach to the usual refrains on getting your life and slant on the page. By delving into how the writer’s natural voice need influence all aspects of the process, it demonstrates how story tools such as Opening Image; Character Construction; Backstory and Exposition; Hooks; Allegories, Metaphors and Themes work together, complement each other, are part of the same world and why. Go to my website and sign in and I’ll send you the book for free, as a gift to you.

Readers of this blog are more than familiar with my love/appreciation of pie. What’s your favorite kind?

Ha! I’m going to bend the genre here and go with New York Cheesecake – graham cracker crust and bottom.

new_york_cheesecake