Category Archives: Storytelling

Screenwriting Podcasts

 Franklin Leonard: Movies are a very special thing. Um, in, in, in contemporary life, there are very few times where we as a community or as a world or as people in any of those things sort of gather together and have a shared experience, um, you know, you, you see it in sporting events, you see it in live music, you see it in religion, you know whatever, depending upon what faith you are, one day a week you go into a room and you have a shared human experience with a bunch of people that you may or may not know, um, and, I think film is similar. You know, every friday night there’s a new movie, and you go to a theater, and with people you don’t know, and you have an experience – an emotional experience, if the movie is good – uh, and you leave the theater seeing the world maybe a little differently than when you came in. Um, I think, I think it’s a sacred responsibility. Um. The. The stories that you tell, the stories that you attempt to tell, the stories that make into film that are shared with the rest of the world – do have an effect. Um, it may not be an effect that’s knowable, um, but it all – but it is an effect that in aggregate is undeniable. And so I think it is really important that as writers write, you know, think about what you’re putting into the world and aspire for greatness because there is no point in doing it otherwise. (

“Ums” and “Ahs” in this ‘factual fiction’ transcription are not meant to be disrespectful…

Respecting Writers

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Craig: I have just general umbrage for the world of speeches that don’t acknowledge the writer. I think everyone’s speech should thank the writer. And why? Because we are first. You cannot figure out how to costume the actors if the writer hasn’t created the character, including very often the setting, the time period, what they kind of dress like, what they look like. You can’t do anything — you can’t find a location, you can’t produce a set, you can’t light it, you can’t shoot it, you can’t act it, you can’t cut it, the sounds. Every single person’s job is touched by the writer, every single one. The writer should be the first person they’re all thanking.

And it makes me crazy, crazy that at the very least the people who are speaking the words that the writer wrote specifically aren’t thanking us, but frankly I think the writer should be thanked by everyone. Everyone. I can’t help but feel that the writers aren’t being thanked because our existence somehow makes people feel insecure about what they’ve accomplished. And I want to just give everyone a big hug and say stop that. Stop it.

I don’t feel diminished by the fact that somebody had to perform this character. I can’t do it. I can’t do that. I don’t even know what lights, I don’t know how the lights work. They talk about these lights and I go, “Oh my god, it’s freaking wizardry that they know that you’re supposed to put a filter in a thing and put a light there instead of here.” I don’t understand any of it. And I’m okay with that. I love and respect everything that people do to make a movie happen. Why is it that other people should feel insecure and diminished by what we do?

Is it because we’re first? Is it because the screenplay has primacy? Maybe so. I will say this: the process for an Oscar-winning movie ends at the Oscars. And at the end of that process people get up and they accept awards for their role in making a movie. But you know how the process begins? We can’t pay a dollar to make a movie until we get a good script in.

“Well, we’re not going to be able to get a director unless we get a good script. Well, we can’t get an actor unless we get a good script.” And what are the actors, and the directors, and the financiers all say, “Well, it’s all about the script.” They’ll just say that. They will say it casually at the beginning of the process, verbatim. It’s all about the script. They say it like it’s the most obvious thing in the world, because it is. And then at the end of the process the script is gone. The writer is gone. And that has to stop.

How was that?

John: There was some umbrage there. I would want to also just have a discussion about what you may say up at the podium. And I think there’s basically two tracks you can choose when you’re up there accepting an award. If you are going to talk about how grateful you are for this journey, you’re going to thank the people who gave you the award. You’re going to say something about what it means, or something about sort of an aspiring message. I think that’s an absolutely valid choice. And I think you can go down that route and then take your statue and start to walk the wrong way off the stage and then get redirected and head the right way off the stage, like everyone does. and that’s absolutely great and fine.

But I think the moment you mention any filmmaker by name, anybody who was a part of making this film by name, you mention the director, you mention the producers, you mention this. That’s when you have to mention the writer. So, you can go two different paths and I think they’re both okay — mentioning none of the actual creative team. Fine. Mentioning the creative team. Great. But if you’re going to mention the creative team you have to include the writer, otherwise you’re just a dick and don’t be a dick.

Craig: Well said. And with much greater calm.

Full Transcript Here:

Tip…listen to Scripnotes at 2x speed or faster with their iOS app:

A (Nearly) Free Kindle Workflow


While the Kindle Paperwhite is a great lightweight device with near-infinite battery life for reading anywhere (even walking or at the gym), you can also pick up a Kindle app for free…there’s no need to buy a dedicated Kindle tablet (although they are discounted during the “National Reading Month” of March and radically expand your reading opportunities):

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 6.36.32 PMBy using a kindle workflow it is easy to read, store, and annotate digital text anywhere on any device, forever, from your own personal archive, including such free books as this miracle from Amazon: translations of Petrarch’s sonnets by many different poets through the centuries…available here: 

91H8huPR5rL._SL1500_With the free ‘Send to Kindle’ app you can archive all of your eBooks and PDF scripts in the cloud (available for free from sources such as Lee Thompson’s Script Archive and

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 6.37.26 PMFinally there is also a ‘Send to Kindle’ browser-plugin for Chrome to permanently archive html (from sources such as Luminarium, Renascence Editions, and Elizabethan Authors):

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Echoes of Shakespeare


For those interested in experiencing Shakespeare by way of his predecessors
these resources may be a start…

1597 translation of Ovid’s Metamorphosis by Arthur Golding

Petrarch’s Lyric Poems

Tottel’s Miscellany sidneypenshurst

Philip Sidney, Astrophel and Stella    Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 9.17.29 AM

“Chop Bard” Down to Earth Shakespeare…

$2 Collected Works of Poets Formatted for eReaders Homer’s Iliad, translated by George Chapman in 1598

England’s Helicon

Virgil’s The Aeneid
Screen Shot 2014-01-29 at 3.55.56 PM Plutarch’s Lives (North translation)
shakespeare-crowd-630x300 Shakespeare’s Sonnets…

What does truth mean, in fiction?

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“The best teacher is a cheap, little Penguin Classic. Read read read.” “The saddest, saddest thing is a human being who has no stories. Because a human being who has no stories is someone who has not been loved, and who has not been able to love. As soon as you engage yourself in being human you start developing stories.”

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“Human truth. Not photographic, realistic, journalistic recorded truth – but the truth we recognize as human beings, how we interact with one another, what are our strengths and our weaknesses, how we interact – and, what is, what is the meaning of our lives.”

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“Stories are equipment for living. Human beings need storytelling in order to make sense out of life, in order to live as well and as civilized as a human being can. And so they will go to the storyteller for meaningful, emotional experiences they cannot get from life. […] People are desperate. Are they getting the stories – comic or tragic – that would help them live through this really ugly period in history? “

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Question: How do you write dialogue?
Richard Price: It’s pretty intuitive. I think dialogue is a knack; either you have it or you don’t. A lot of writers find other elements of writing a lot easier than I do. I have a terrible time writing the King’s English. I couldn’t punctuate a four-word sentence if my life depended on it. I hear people. When I’m writing, I hear people. I do improv. I’ll be out on the street and I’ll pick up the rhythm of it but it’s not like anthropology. It’s not like I’m trying to get the glossary right. It’s just about expressing how somebody’s brain works through what comes out of their mouth. I went to management meetings at Schiller’s and I rode around with cops a lot. I was kind of a fly on the wall but all I’m basically looking for is what’s plausible. Before I start lying, let me lie responsibly. What are the parameters of plausibility and given that, once I know that if I do this, that’s way over the line of possibility, I won’t do it. The other thing is I want to write in such a way as somebody who’s showing me the ropes will read the book or see the movie or whatever it is, and not close the book or walk out of the theater like a third of the way through saying “Well, that was a waste of time.” They’re sort of my audience in an obsessive way. I want them to say “Wow, he really nailed it.” It’s arbitrary. It’s literature. It can be anything you want. It’s not social realism, it’s not photojournalism but I do have that obsessive desire to nail things for what it’s worth.

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“So it is… it’s right dead, smack in the center of what it is to be human, the ability to tell a story.  There is another theory that has it that the narrative art is an evolved adaptation on which we got in the Pliestocine because those who had it had a much greater edge.  They had a much greater survival edge on those that did not have it.  If I can tell you that right over there in that river was where the crocodile ate Uncle George, you do not have to test that in your own life by going over there and getting eaten by the crocodile.  And I can tell you all sorts of other things that are very useful to you for survival in your world if I can tell you a story.  And we know that people learn and assimilate information much more through stories than they do through charts and graphs and statistics.  You might want to back up those things with the math.  But what really hits people is the story because it’s not an intellectual thing and it’s not just a scream.  It’s not pure emotion; it’s a melding of those two things, which is where we exist as human beings.  We’re not thought machines, we’re not screaming machines, we are thought/feeling machines, if we’re machines at all, let’s pretend we’re not.  We are thought/feeling entities.  In fact, some people who have done studies on it say that if you remove the emotion from the person through some accident, they have a lot of trouble making decisions because they try to reason everything out and you actually can’t.  It’s endless.”

No Wonder We Don’t Have A Space Program

Who wants to go into space if all we’re going to discover is an indestructible endoparasitoid extraterrestrial species?

Rant from Amir, a character in development:
“What’s with these detestable cheerful bright colors??!?! ‘Home’ is Sci-Fi isn’t it?? Listen up: I want lasers, dark dangerous evil, ruthless aliens flying around killing idiots, lasers, people freeze-drying, brutal crazy crap popping out of stomachs, viruses, explosions, wickedness, tentacles obsessed with diving down putzes throats, death: death beams, death stars, death dearth, darth vaders, death despair, death disaster. Did I mention lasers?!? Misery entertains me! If it bleeds it leads! Outer space’s lethal man. Give me deathliness. Instantly. Immediately please not now right now. I shouldn’t have to say please because what I want is what science fiction is. Everyone knows our universe was created by malevolent obscene councils of sadistic evil demons flying around in vicious conflict with each other. We’re finished. No one wants Future-is-Great crap. It highly aggravates pisses me off as a member of The Lost Generation – a Zero without a Hero, me – to tell you, this. It hurts. For your information I grew up watching Babylon 5 Battlestar Galactica Star Wars Star Trek Starwhatever SyFy Alien Prometheus Avatar – all of it, the whole thing – I am expert on high-tech corporate body snatching straight up ass butchery. With lasers. Dig it. Get with it. Butchery à la badass. Carnage à la punkass. That’s la programmé. Pull it together: Zombies. Space. Lasers. Pirates. Make it happen. Insane aliens. Aliens angels fear. Aliens god is afraid of. Lasers. Mucho lasers: laser swords, laser guns, laser jails, planet destroying lasers. Everywhere lasers. Be realistic: life sucks. With lasers. On Earth, on Mars. Everywhere. Lasers. Guaranteed. Stop annoying me you offensive optimist.”

Catalyzing Empathy with Factual Fiction: Pinker on the Decline of Violence

“Empathy may be catalyzed by exposure to histories, journalism, memoirs, and realistic fiction, travel, and literacy – which allows us to project ourselves into the lives of other people, who formerly we may have treated as subhuman. And also to realize the accidental contingency of our own station in life – in the sense that “There but for fortune go I.”. It helps us imagine what it is to be someone else. Anything that makes it easier to imagine trading places with someone else, may increase your moral consideration to that other person.”