Q & A with Rick Ramage of The Screenplay Show

Rick Ramage

Rick Ramage is a writer, director and producer with numerous credits on major motion pictures and television shows. During his 25-year career as a screenwriter, he has set up or sold over 40 scripts in Hollywood.

Rick’s latest project is The Screenplay Show, a new 10-part online series to educate about the art, craft and business of screenwriting and storytelling.

What is The Screenplay Show, and what inspired you to do it?

The Screenplay Show is an actual show about writing, presented in a fun, narrative style. It’s a ten-part webseries that will focus on the trade secrets I’ve developed (and learned) from Hollywood’s most talented writers, directors and producers during my 25-year career.

As to what inspired it, a few years ago, a buddy of mine started a writer/actor group called, “Write to Act” and he asked me to put on a seminar for his people in Denver. I was reluctant to say the least. For the last 25 years, my only job has been writing and producing film and television. Speaking in public? Not so much. He kept twisting my arm and after about a year of hounding me, I finally gave in and promised him I would do a one-day seminar. Then reality hit me: What could I possibly say for six hours that would interest other writers and actors? In an effort to alleviate the poor souls who would be stuck looking at my ugly mug all day, I pulled in my editor and we put together a long list of writing samples and clips covering every element of screenwriting so they could actually SEE what I was talking about – instead of listening to me pontificate as I clumsily tried to explain it.

For instance, using stills from The Shining, I put every moment of Jack’s character arc into a still photo sequence. You can actually visually track his descent into madness. I then put the page number from the script beside each expression. The audience literally gasped, because it was the first time they had actually seen a character arc moment by moment. I did the same thing for all the other elements of storytelling. As screenwriters, we have to write visually – so I figured it would work for seminars, too. But one thing really surprised me: the audience had as many questions about the writing experience as they did about the nuts and bolts. Personally, I’ve always been fascinated by the methods of actors, athletes, and other writers, so I guess it’s fair that they wanted to know about my method – and how a life and career in the film business actually works.

What sets The Screenplay Show apart from other online seminars?

One look at the teasers we’re putting out there will let people know this isn’t your father’s seminar. I can’t honestly say I had an epiphany and The Screenplay Show was suddenly born. But doing the seminars over the next year or two, it definitely evolved into a rolling narrative; my personal Hollywood experience merged into describing actual methods that have worked for me and many of my colleagues. So far, I’ve set up or sold over 40 scripts. But I have to give credit where credit is due: I didn’t learn how to survive the biz, or sell scripts from books. I learned from working closely with tremendously gracious agents, managers, producers, directors, executives and actors who were generous enough to share their knowledge with me for one purpose – to get the story right.

My goal with The Screenplay Show is to share what they’ve taught me with other writers and storytellers. And when I say storytellers, I mean anybody involved in the film and television business. Directors, actors, producers, cinematographers, and even executives. They are storytellers because they impact the script and help bring it to life.

Tell us a little about your writing background. How did you get started?

I didn’t finish my degree. Instead I went into business with my dad, selling tractors. But I wanted to be well-read and well-spoken, so I sat down with 100 of the great novels and voraciously read them back-to-back. In the process, I began to see how the authors worked the elements. The storytelling process fascinated me. So when I was out covering my sales territory, I began to daydream about becoming a writer. Eventually, I tried to write a novel. Long story short – it sucked. But the person who told me it wasn’t very good also told me I was a good writer. That seemed like a contradiction, but it wasn’t. He told me I had a very visual style, and suggested I write a screenplay. So I turned my bad novel into a bad screenplay! (But that process lit a fuse in me, and I’ve never looked back.)

What have you recently read or watched that you thought was incredibly well-written?

When I’m deep into writing one of my own scripts, I don’t usually watch or read much. By the end of the day, more words and plot lines are the last thing I need to relax. But two shows I try not to miss are Game of Thrones and House of Cards. From their production values, to the great characters, to the tight, well structured scripts, I admire them both a great deal. In fact that’s how I can tell when I’m in the hands of great storytellers – they make me forget I’m a writer. I become a fan.

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

Definitely. Recognizing good writing can and certainly should be taught and learned. I’ve known some executives who were by no means writers, yet they learned to identify good writing and write smart notes. Their jobs depend on it. I’ve learned to recognize good writing by the way it makes me disappear into it.

What do you consider the components of a good script?

For me, the single most important component of a good script is simply this: It must have soul. I need to feel what the writer is trying to say through his or her characters. If that happens, I know the other elements are working.

What are the three most important rules a writer should know?

-Dialogue:  When to shut up and let the subtext play.

-Action:  When not to overwrite. (more often than not, you’ll lose your reader.)

-Characters:  We write in search of ourselves. (makes them real.)

How can people find out more about The Screenplay Show?

We’re really encouraging people to go to their most comfortable social media site and follow us. Also, we’re really hoping they go to www.thescreenplayshow.com and sign our landing page. We won’t bombard you with trivial junk, but we do want to build a steady audience so we can let people know about events and new material.

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

My grandmother made the best pie I’ve ever had. Golden, flaky crust made from scratch, crisp green apples sliced thin, and lots of cinnamon! I do miss that woman.

The game of waiting

After hours of indecision, I made a decision.

I sent a note to the Bollywood person, explaining my situation and concerns.  I like to think I was reasonable, level-headed and fair-minded.

So now I wait.  I wonder how long a response will take.

Not much else to report.  Very tired.

Movie of the Moment: UNDERCOVER BROTHER. It wasn’t my idea, but funnier than I expected.


So I signed an agreement with this guy at a local small college who’s taking a film class.  To sum it up, I’ve got my work cut out for me.

To say this is going to be an uphill battle is putting it mildly.  There are so many things he needs to learn.  And this is just after an initial glance at his pages.


And it appears that I may have the Bollywood gig after all.  The person is slow in responding to emails, but seems interested in working with me. Today they asked about meeting later in the week, and I said when I was available.  I’ve yet to hear back.  We’ll see how this works out.

So getting back to the title of this post…

On one hand, it’s fantastic that I’m working so much on script-based stuff.  It’s like I’m getting the experience I need to move ahead, career-wise.

But on the other hand, I’ve been quite lax about getting my own stuff done.  I don’t like that.  But the whole keeping busy thing kind of offsets it.

I know I’ll get my own stuff done, but doing all this other work feels necessary.

There’s also that little fantasy about the people I’m working with spreading word about me, which eventually leads to real screenwriting work.  This will be staying in the realm of fantasy for the time being.

And since I’m on the subject of writing gigs, I’m a little surprised but also not surprised that some of the others have yet to respond.  The webseries, for example.  I suppose I consider it just common courtesy to at least write back to people saying “job’s filled,” rather than just leaving it open-ended.

Then again, this is craigslist, which is not exactly a shining example of reliabiity and trustworthiness.

But for now, I’ll take what I can get and build from there.

Good things are coming.  And I’m going to be ready.

No Movie of the Moment tonight, but I did watch BATMAN: UNDER THE RED HOOD earlier today.  It was good, even with Judd Winick writing it.  Different voices for all the characters, and some pretty good animation.  I gotta admit, there were some cool fanboy moments in it.  The next one – BATMAN/SUPERMAN: APOCALYPSE looks pretty cool.  That came out today, but I’ll probably see it in a month or two.

I can’t remember if I mentioned it, but last week I watched YOO-HOO MRS. GOLDBERG, a documentary about Gertrude Berg, the true first woman of radio and TV.  That was really good.

Not again

These are busy times.  So busy that I wasn’t able to do any writing-oriented work today.

Partially due to a lot of walking in an effort to get some exercise, and partially to save money.

Today was also the first day of Rosh Hashanah, so I took advantage of my only opportunity to go to services.  I walked there as well.

And K and I are trying new healthy recipes, so I have to get ingredients.

And since K has the car AND my bike is still in the shop, there’s more walking.

All of this adds up to not much writing time.  Which kind of sucks.

But I did get one of those mega-positive feelings today.  Like my scripts are going to be kickass and totally awesome.  It feels really cool to experience that.  Hope it lasts.

I’ll make a big effort tomorrow to try and get some more work done.  Promise.

-A listing that was on Craigslist about two weeks ago popped up again.  They want a produced screenwriter to help with a short-term project, and the person MUST have pitching experience.

Because everybody knows that if you are looking for an experienced screenwriter, Craigslist is the place to go!  If you’ll excuse me for a second, I have to hold on to my eyes so they don’t roll right out of my head.

How stupid would you have to be to think that a working writer would be interested, let alone willing, to take on this kind of assignment?  I’ve really considered writing them this exact question.  But in the end, I probably won’t.

Or maybe post a response-type listing.  I would love to hear their line of reasoning. Then again, I’d be amazed if they responded at all.

Once again, no Movie of the Moment. Part of it has to do with busy evenings that revolve around getting homework done, and then getting an almost-8-year-old insomniac to stay in bed.

Both of these activities are quite time-consuming, which unfortunately doesn’t include much time to settle in and watch a portion of whatever Netflix sent.

I miss that.

How liberating!

I didn’t write at all today.  I did think about BABY while I was running, but actual pages?


And it felt pretty good.

I’ll do something tomorrow, or at least next week.

It’s weird, but I think once I get this draft done, making changes won’t be as hard as I think.  I also find myself going back to ideas way back in the early days of developing the outline.  Some of them could actually work.

I’ll have to look into that.

Movie of the Moment: HOT TUB TIME MACHINE.

Don’t you judge me.  Parts of it are really funny.  I can see how they were hoping it would be the next HANGOVER.

So my attention keeps going back and forth between this screen and the TV.

TV wins.