Articles - Blog

Interview: Joe Martin Discusses Us and Them

Interview: Joe Martin Discusses Us and Them

With the political and economic unrest felt by the majority of the world, it is timely that Joe Martin’s debut feature film, Us and Them, had its World Premiere at SXSW in the Narrative Spotlight section this year. 

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How to Write Compelling Crime

How to Write Compelling Crime

How do you write compelling crime scenes? We've got tips from a former crime-scene journalist on finding the perfect details to make the murders, heists and court room drama in your script more believable. 

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Writing For Ensemble Casts

Writing For Ensemble Casts

Writing a story with an ensemble cast is like serving a pie with equal slices. How do you make sure everyone gets an equal amount of screen time? We look at Captain America: Civil War for tips on spreading the wealth. 

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Five Overused Comedy Bits to Avoid

Five Overused Comedy Bits to Avoid

Naturally when writing a comedy, you will want to lampoon certain trends in our culture. But how do you stay current without regurgitating what everyone else is doing? We look at five overused comedy bits to avoid in your writing. 

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“Moana” and Writing Realistic Female Adventurers

“Moana” and Writing Realistic Female Adventurers

Disney’s new film Moana has dropped anchor at the top of the box office with an adventurous female lead character. We dive into the ocean of reasons Moana succeeds in creating a complete character and find tips on writing realistic female adventurers. 

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Sports Action: How to Write That Game Winning Play

Sports Action: How to Write That Game Winning Play

Writing sports narratives that strike an emotional chord can be difficult. The tempatation to write out every step of a game or, on the other hand, to generalize large parts of the game can be hard to navigate. How does a mostly-visual and action-packed story get told on the page? We dive into the sports world to help you write clear and compelling sports action.

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Creating Setups and Payoffs That Stick

Creating Setups and Payoffs That Stick

How do you create setups and payoffs that reward your audience? We've got tips on finding the perfect moments, objects or lines of dialogue to highlight in order to create setups and payoffs that stick. 

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Capturing the Workplace in your Writing

Capturing the Workplace in your Writing

What do you do to make ends meet? Chances are you've experienced a workplace or two in your life. So here are some tips on drawing from your own experiences to infuse your script with some authentic workplace drama.

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Screenwriter Matthew Altman Talks Martial Arts and Spec Script Sales

Screenwriter Matthew Altman Talks Martial Arts and Spec Script Sales

The son of a Broadway theater electrician, Matthew Altman literally grew up immersed in the glow of the entertainment sphere. After selling his balls-to-the-wall action thriller spec script Red Widow to STX Entertainment last month, it’s clear that Altman has successfully pivoted his energy towards writing stories for the silver screen.

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Asking Questions of Your Work

Asking Questions of Your Work

How well do you know your own screenplay? Do you know what your story is really about? What is your central idea? Can you condense these answers into a short and concise logline? We dissect the benefits of answering questions of your work!

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Shake Up Your Research Routine

Shake Up Your Research Routine

It’s no secret that research can give your script a leg up. Maybe two legs. Potentially an arm too. Research into your subject matter can flesh out your story making it feel even more realistic and grounded. Your script’s world will seem fuller, your characters more enthralling, your descriptions more vivid. The more you know about your topic of interest, the less likely you are to alienate readers and viewers with that all-too-common feeling that “something is missing”. 

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How to Capture the Essence of Summer in your Script

How to Capture the Essence of Summer in your Script

Ahh summertime. For many people summer means vacations, trips to the beach, and some much deserved time off. For others, it means everything stays the same except now it’s really hot and sticky. Whether or not summer means leisure time for you in your adult years, it is usually associated with some strong core memories – the smell of seawater, family picnics, the much anticipated ice cream truck music that nowadays sounds a little creepy thanks to horror movies.

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The Art of Pacing: How to Improve Your Dialogue

The Art of Pacing: How to Improve Your Dialogue

Dialogue can highlight your screenwriting skills in a unique fashion. You might be a whiz at structure or writing action scenes, but those abilities tend to stand out on the page when you’re pitching a script, not necessarily in the final product. Dialogue is not only what decision makers and filmmakers read – it’s what audiences and critics quote after the movie. It’s a great chance to let your voice be heard through your characters. One way dialogue stands out is through pacing. Scribes like Aaron Sorkin, Quentin Tarantino, and Tiny Fey are among those who write with rhythm in mind. 

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How To Be a Fan Of Your Own Work

How To Be a Fan Of Your Own Work

It can be hard to separate yourself from your work. You try not to make it personal but, of course, it is. Your writing is the combination of your thoughts, your skills, your life experiences and your passions. To type that first sentence on a blank page is to declare, “I have something to say.” And that is a scary, personal thing. 

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Our Big Break℠ Was Exactly That…

Our Big Break℠ Was Exactly That…

Three months after the win, Daniel Bonjour, one half of the 2015 Big Break℠ Grand Prize winning writing team, takes a look at the doors the contest has opened for him and writing partner G.W. Freund. 

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Big Break℠ Finalist Joseph Greenberg Tells His Tale From Draft to Sale: PART II

Big Break℠ Finalist Joseph Greenberg Tells His Tale From Draft to Sale: PART II

In Part I of this interview series, New Jersey screenwriter Joseph Greenberg spoke to Final Draft about craft and writing his spec script, Man Alive, which sold to 20th Century Fox for an impressive six figures. Today, in this second installment of his interview, Greenberg describes the process of acquiring literary representation and greenlighting the sale of his script.

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Big Break℠ Finalist Joseph Greenberg Tells His Tale From Draft to Sale

Big Break℠ Finalist Joseph Greenberg Tells His Tale From Draft to Sale

NFL media specialist Joseph Greenberg has always been an aspiring screenwriter on the side. But after winning the 2015 Big Break Science Fiction Category things began to change for the 39 year-old New Jersey native. Twentieth Century Fox just dropped six-figures on his spec script from the competition Man Alive and Noah Hawley of Fargo is set to direct. Now Joe is finding his screenwriting career more than a side gig.

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A Note On Taking Notes: How to Assess a Critique of Your Work

A Note On Taking Notes: How to Assess a Critique of Your Work

Have you ever gotten a note on your work and thought, “they just don’t get it”? Or maybe you’ve had great feedback that has helped shape better drafts of your story. Opinions are subjective and weighing a critique of your work can be hard. Big Break℠ finalist Adi Blotman dives into the world of workshopping, rewriting and assessing feedback on your work with an open mind. 

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“Making it” Means Making Magic

“Making it” Means Making Magic

Has the term, "making it" in Hollywood ever caused you doubt, stress or frustration? Big Break℠ Finalist, Meghan Fitzmartin redefines this common term by refocusing on the script at hand. 

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A Guide to Naming Your Characters

A Guide to Naming Your Characters

Choosing names for your characters is an important part of the writing process. The right name can say something significant about your character. So how can you choose the perfect name for your characters to help them really stand out?

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What is a “Bill Murray Type” Character and How Can He Inspire Your Writing?

What is a “Bill Murray Type” Character and How Can He Inspire Your Writing?

Call him a lovable scoundrel or a dry wisecracker, Bill Murray has cultivated a very specific persona over the years. From his early days as Chevy Chase’s replacement on Saturday Night Live to his recent Netflix holiday special, A Very Murray Christmas, Murray has always stuck to his comedic guns. He’s so synonymous with sardonic humor, I’ve read spec scripts in which a character is described as a “Bill Murray Type”. In one case, this description was used for a female character half Murray’s age!

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What is Nonlinear Storytelling?

What is Nonlinear Storytelling?

What if there are several flashbacks in your story? What if we keep jumping from the past and present and it’s not a frame story? Meaning, we cut back and forth without a character directly telling a story or obviously reflecting back. Well, if this is the case, we’re no longer talking flashbacks.

We’re talking nonlinear storytelling.

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The Frame Story & the Flashback

The Frame Story & the Flashback

Flashbacks can be utilized for several reasons in a script. If you want to reveal a plot point from the past or something about a character that needs illuminating, a flashback might be the best route to take. Sometimes this storytelling technique can become a crutch, but if executed properly, a well-thought-out flashback can be a very effective narrative technique. Sometimes the majority of our story takes place in the past, in which case another technique is commonly used: The Frame Story.

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Tips on Contest Entry: Big Break℠ TV Winner Eric Buchman Shares His Experience

Tips on Contest Entry: Big Break℠ TV Winner Eric Buchman Shares His Experience

Meet Eric Buchman. By day, he’s the Script Coordinator for the hit NBC show Blindspot. By night, Buchman writes his own spec scripts, and dreams of one day hiring his own Script Coordinator to run a show he has created. Now that Buchman is the TV Grand Prize Winner of the Final Draft Big Break Screenplay Contest for his half-hour pilot 45 Wall, that day has just gotten closer.

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Hollywood: Full Circle

Hollywood: Full Circle

The 11th Annual Final Draft Awards in February 2016 evoked a look back at my spotty screenwriting career and gave me a lot of hope for the future of my filmmaker son, Haley. Coming along as my guest to the awards at the Paramount Theatre on the studio lot was a thrill for him, and his excitement escalated throughout the evening.

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Five Tips to Successful Pitching

Five Tips to Successful Pitching

Being able to write a decent script is just half the job of a professional screenwriter. Usually after breaking in with a spec script, an agent or manager will send you on a bunch of general meetings with production companies.

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The Spirit of the Quest: What “Eddie the Eagle” Writers Teach Us About Perseverance

The Spirit of the Quest: What “Eddie the Eagle” Writers Teach Us About Perseverance

Eddie the Eagle, starring Taron Egerton and Hugh Jackman, will no doubt, be added to the list of best films about athletic underdogs. The film is inspired by Michael Edwards, who earned the nickname “Eddie the Eagle” when he competed in the 1988 Winter Olympics in the ski jumping event on behalf of Great Britain. Though he placed last in the event, he inspired people around the world for his determination and love of the sport. 

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Through-lines and “The Empire Strikes Back”

Through-lines and “The Empire Strikes Back”

I never heard the term “through-line” before I became a professional screenwriter.

After I sold my first script, however, and started working with producers and studio execs on various projects, I started to hear it all the time.

“What’s the through-line of the story?”

You’ll hear this as well if you break into the business.

If you don’t already know, a through-line is essentially a theme or plot thread in a script that keeps reappearing. 

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Orange is the New Black writer, Sian Heder, on directing her film Tallulah

Orange is the New Black writer, Sian Heder, on directing her film Tallulah

At the Sundance Film Festival, we caught up with writer Sian Heder at the opening night party for her first feature film, Tallulah, starring Ellen Page, Allison Janney and Tammy Blanchard. A staff writer for the Final Draft Screenwriters’ Choice Awards nominee, Orange is the New Black, Heder has worked to tenaciously to get Tallulah off the ground.

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Ross Partridge’s Film Lamb Will Twist Your Insides Into a Poetic Knot

Ross Partridge’s Film Lamb Will Twist Your Insides Into a Poetic Knot

The word “lamb” connotes both innocence and sacrifice. In Ross Partridge’s compelling new film Lamb, which he wrote, directed and stars in, it’s difficult to know which character is the innocent and which uncomfortable deed results in the biggest sacrifice. But that ambiguity is the genius of the story telling. 

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Interview with Big Break℠  Finalist Christina Eliopolous, writer of coming-of-age “King of Florida”

Interview with Big Break℠  Finalist Christina Eliopolous, writer of coming-of-age “King of Florida”

By Anthony Gagnon

Christina Eliopolous is no stranger to the industry.  After graduating from NYU, she’s worked as a copywriter, and written and directed a number of films, including some of her own, and some for a number of nonprofit organizations. “I actually learned the most about storytelling through shooting documentaries,” she says, “you don’t have the luxury of making everything up, and you have to be super conscious about real people and what they do in real situations.”

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Script Secrets: AFM 2015 | Part IV

Script Secrets: AFM 2015 | Part IV

American Film Market used to be closed to the public, with only industry members allowed past the security guards... but a few years ago, they realized there was money to be made on the general public. They began selling day passes and passes for the weekend and passes for the whole event

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THE TERMINATOR’S INCITING INCIDENT

THE TERMINATOR’S INCITING INCIDENT

I have always loved the first two Terminator movies, so when the TERMINATOR: GENISYS trailers began coming out I couldn’t wait to see it. I had seen all of the previous Terminator movies either on opening night or (if they were sold out) sometime over the opening weekend. I always hope that the next one will be as good as the first two. Because GENISYS is supposed to be the first in a new trilogy, I thought it would be fun to watch all of the movies again and write a book about them. 

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Script Secrets: AFM 2015 | Part III

Script Secrets: AFM 2015 | Part III

A big-budget studio film gets about two-thirds of its income from outside the United States, often through “pre-sales.” Pre-sales are like “film futures” - foreign distributors in each territory agree to pay a specific amount on delivery of the film. This amount is often slightly less than they might expect to pay for the film once it is finished and ends up a masterpiece. Of course, the finished film might also be crap... so there’s gambling involved. The factors these foreign distributors look at before making their decision are cast, director, mock-up poster and often mock-up trailer... and the screenplay. So our writing can make or break a project. 

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What Every Screenwriter Must Do (and Other Lies)

What Every Screenwriter Must Do (and Other Lies)

There’s a common piece of advice that floats around for screenwriters that goes something like this: read the trades, pay attention to what is selling, and write that. I don’t know about you, but personally I think it’s the worst advice you could ever give a writer, the quickest way to get them to write inauthentic garbage. The only way to write something worthwhile, I believe, is when you have to write it. When it comes from your heart, whatever that is. The rest is nonsense.

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Script Secrets: AFM 2015 | Part II

Script Secrets: AFM 2015 | Part II

The American Film Market, which is held in November in Santa Monica, California, every year is the place where independent films are sold to the world... and in every suite, you won’t find filmmakers, you will find salesmen. These are distributors and sales agents who are there to sell the foreign rights to the films they represent. 

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