Tag Archives: Screenwriting

Things to Come: Sci-fi Adaptation Edition

I’m way overdue in posting about David Agranoff’s article for Tor from last December. In the wake of the adaptations of Dune and Foundation that were released last Fall, adaptations of quintessentially influential science fiction series, what landmark work might be adapted next?

Yes, that’s the shape of the reference I was making…

(And yes, I see you there amid your psychohistory textbooks, ardent Foundation fan. I know you’re waiting to wryly expound about how Foundation has yet to be adapted. A Seldon Crisis which necessitates Foundation being as faithfully adapted as you desire is not predicted for another 1,000 years, so it might be time to enjoy a readthrough of the series again instead).

As many a sci-fi fan knows, there are no end of ambitious and interesting works that could be great candidates to adapt. That’s why I like Agranoff’s article, just about every work he mentions is something I’d love to see (the exceptions being works I haven’t yet read) — and he muses about what the best treatment would be in film or TV form. I would love to see The Dispossessed as a limited series. Guillermo del Toro doing a gonzo 3D version of At the Mountains of Madness? Yes, please.

What adaptations do you want to see?

The Work, not Art, of Screenwriting, via Billy Ray

Given last week’s post about David Lynch and screenwriting, I knew I wanted to do another screenwriting post. And then last night’s Oscar ceremony got me thinking about the film industry and its future and I remembered a column by screenwriter Billy Ray. It’s from 2016, but it doesn’t seem any less apropos in its calls to action.

Still from the film Network, written by Paddy Chayefsky

Note that the column is very much about Hollywood/mainstream film industry filmmaking, but it’s not like the Hollywood approach to filmmaking hasn’t had an impact on filmmaking in general. I found a lot of thoughts popped out, whether from focusing on the work (see Paddy Chayefsky above) to “If you’re an artist, it’ll come out as art anyway.”

Enjoy… and then get back to writing.

Video

Screenwriting through the David Lynch Lens

Last week, I posted a few videos about David Lynch and how to hook yourself an idea or two.

Well, as you might expect, I plowed through a number of Lynch videos at the same time, in part because the two I shared last week are just about the nature of getting ideas.

But, in fact, the first video I watched was a piece asking Lynch about his screenwriting process… and since it’s just over two minutes, it’s actually easy to re-watch as you realize at the end how many little nuggets of experience he puts in there.

All the ideas of process could easily be fleshed out into whole seminars (and I imagine the gentleman who introduced Lynch to the “note card” idea does just that in his classes), but it’s good to think of.

Incidentally, I am more of a “plotter” than a “pantser” — and back when I was more analog than digital, I absolutely did the note card method and still do it as I outline albeit via Workflowy. However I think in terms of altitude. Some “note cards” remain at the 50,000 foot view and that’s all I need. Some need more detail. Some get so much detail, I have to break them into separate cards so that the flow gets articulated well.

But that’s likely a discussion for another time. Back to Lynch. I’ve now shared several short videos, so here’s a compilation of a bunch of interviews which gives you 10 screenwriting tips… though since it’s Lynch, it’s really more ideas and approaches to screenwriting versus bland specifications.

I like all the ideas presented. For one, I think he nails why film is such a powerful medium, since it can deal with abstraction so powerfully. I also like his notion of what writer’s block represents and how he rejects suffering as a necessary component of being an artist. There’s also some great stuff about how to tap into your own creativity. Hope you all have a creative week.

Farscape and Mental Health

I’ve mentioned before about my love of the space opera Farscape even going so far as to detail many of my reasons to recommend it.

While I touch on the writing insofar as their episodes move at a rapid clip that puts many older TV shows to shame, one aspect I haven’t dwelt on was how the show deals with mental health in general and trauma in particular.

There are tangled webs and sci-fi tangled webs. This is the latter.

Enter James Hoare’s piece for The Companion. With an assist from Commander Crichton himself (Ben Browder), the article delves into the traumatic events that befall Crichton and how he deals –and is unable to deal– with them.

Frankly, most characters in adventure series experience trauma that would overwhelm those of us who don’t have a writers’ room to prop us up. And traditionally, in many an adventure series, the writers conveniently sidestep the consequences of said overwhelming trauma in the name of preserving the status quo. People being reflective and being affected by the events of one episode bleeding into subsequent episodes is not something one saw in the adventure tales of yore.

Thankfully, Farscape was part of a series of said adventure shows that began to push the envelope of serialization — something we take for granted in the era of streaming and “prestige TV.” And while I always appreciated the different voices and perspectives of the characters –many of Moya’s crew really didn’t get along with one another– reading the article made me realize how much the writers addressed mental health, asking for help, and helping. I suppose just as sci-fi and speculative fiction in general helps explore ideas more easily or safely in its fantastical wrappings, it helps when said sci-fi has been given the mandate to “be as weird as possible.”

But, in the end, how weird is it? After all, as Browder points out, all of us have a ‘Harvey.’

(Note: that last line and the article itself are chock full of spoilers for the series, so if you’re planning to dive into the show for the first time, maybe hold off.)

Aaron Sorkin Gives Screenwriting Support

Purveyor of hyperreal –and immensely satisfying– dialogue, playwright/screenwriter Aaron Sorkin jumped online last week to give a few really choice answers to some Twitter questions. Enjoy.

Writing Like an Angry God

I have often mentioned Scriptnotes, the screenwriting podcast hosted by John August and Craig Mazin, as a source from some really good information and inspiration for writing.

On the one hand, I could arguably link to them just about every week, but if I had to pick just one this year, this week’s unprecedented solo effort by Craig Mazin is one you should listen to if you’re about to embark on writing a feature film anytime soon.

They’ve called it “How to write a movie,” but I contend the title above is more apt.

You’ll see. It’s good stuff. (Unlike what’s about to happen to your characters.)

Being a “Useful Writer’

Perhaps it’s the human predilection for pattern recognition, but because of the recent passing of William Goldman, I’ve been thinking a good deal about writing as it relates to getting one’s writing produced in Hollywood… and how random the process can sometimes be.

In Mark Evanier’s latest intallment of his “Rejection” series (which is worth checking out if you haven’t already, he notes that elusive, yet absolutely real writer quality of being “useful.”

You absolutely want to be a useful writer.

Screenwriting & the Perils of Pitch Fests

If you’re a regular listener of Scriptnotes, you’ll know that the hosts (especially Craig Mazin) have little time for screenwriting “gurus.” So you probably won’t be surprised by the this article by Stephen Galloway that was in The Hollywood Reporter earlier this week all about the high cost and non-return of many a “pitch fest” held in New York and L.A.