Rank #2: PODCAST – Arrival: The Writer’s Journey
Our language, and the metaphors of our films, have the power to change us.
They change us as writers and they change us as audience members. They shape the conversation and the way we see our world. They shape our trust in our institutions or our distrust of them. They shape the way that we see heroism and the way that we see cowardice. They shape the way we see inclusion or exclusion, the way we deal with our fears and open our curiosity.
The language that we use as screenwriters changes our audience. And the wider the audience for your movie, the more people you have the ability to affect. That's why we as screenwriters, particularly if we are writing movies with mass appeal. If we are writing action movies, horror movies, thrillers, sci-fi's, fantasies, romantic comedies, and of course television, we have such a responsibility, because the language that we use as we write changes us. And the language that we present to our audience changes them.
Our movies teach people how to live and how to interact with the unknowns of their lives.
In this way every movie is a political movie.
Rank #3: PODCAST – Writing The Horror Movie: The Inner Psychology of Se7en, Drag Me To Hell & Dawn of the Dead
There are two kinds of horror movies. There's the basic gross-out horror movie where it's really just about creating a progression of increasingly horrible images and getting a high body count. These movies have a very simple formula: establish a bunch of characters and a bunch of relationships and then, one by one, kill those characters off with the greatest efficiency and bloodiness. All the creative work in those movies really just goes into creating the most horrible of horrors. It’s about making the most disgusting, horrible, frightening “this is going to haunt me in my dreams, I can't un-see that” kind of moment.
But the best horror movies try to do something much bigger. The best horror movies are either psychological commentaries or political commentaries or sometimes both...
Rank #4: PODCAST – Everybody Wants Some: Structure Without Structure – Part 1
This week we’re going to be looking at Richard Linklater's new film Everybody Wants Some. Richard Linklater has called this film a spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused. He has also referred to it as a sequel to Boyhood, his brilliantly structured (although very unusually structured) film, which basically ends right before this film begins: at the end of boyhood and the beginning of college.
Everybody Wants Some picks up the baton where Boyhood left off, and centers around a college baseball player who is just starting college, and the other guys on the team, in the days leading up to the first day of his freshman year. And though the main character may be different from the character in Boyhood, and while the structure may be entirely different than the structure of Boyhood, confined to a few days, rather than evolving over many years, Linklater is once again building a sprawling, multicharacter journey around young kid in a different kind of family, at defining point of discovering his identity and what gives meaning in his life.
But the question remains: is Everybody Wants Some actually a good movie?
Because Everybody Wants Some basically does nothing that a movie is supposed to do. It has virtually no plot; In fact most of the film is simply spent watching a bunch of bros hang out. It’s built mostly around dialogue, much like a play, rather than the action and images we’re used to seeing as the primary building blocks in movies. It kind-of has a discernible main character (it certainly seems to center around Jake( but the truth of the matter is, Jake doesn't really drive most of the action.
In fact, most of the structure isn't really driven at all in the way we traditionally expect, with one character chasing a particularly challenging goal against increasingly difficult obstacles. Instead, it's driven by random events like, “Let's go dancing,” “Let's go to baseball practice,” “Let's pick up some chicks.” Which feels a hell of a lot like the free-flowing structure of any respectable drunken freshman’s introduction to college, but not much like the version of that story we’re used to seeing in a movie.
The overall effect is that we’re watching (and for many people, enjoying) a film that seems to have very little structure at all. And this is not because Richard Linklater can't do structure. Because if you've seen Boyhood, you've seen a film that survives upon its rock solid structure as it jumps from year to year to year in a young boy’s life.
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Rank #5: HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN YOUR SCREENPLAY IS DONE?
One of the hardest things in screenwriting is knowing when you’re finished. Because art is so subjective, there’s always something that can be added, changed, improved or rewritten. Which is why, in the arts, we often don’t get the same feeling of completion that an accountant gets. Or that a salesperson gets. Or that a burger flipper gets. There’s no clear place where it is truly done where all the criteria have been met.
So if we’re going to be successful, we need a different way of evaluating ourselves. We need a different type of criteria. In this podcast, Award Winning Screenwriter Jacob Krueger teaches you how to know when your screenplay is done, so you can build the successful career that you are looking for.
Rank #6: PODCAST – Frozen: Do You Want To Build A Screenplay?
Frozen: Do You Want To Build A Screenplay? By Jacob Krueger Listen to the podcast of this article The structure for Disney’s Frozen begins with a piece of terrible advice. Confronted with a child with an extraordinary talent, the Grand Pabbie of the trolls tells her that until she learns to control her gift, she must hide it from the […]
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Rank #7: An Interview With Sebastian Stan From I, Tonya
Jake: This week I am with Sebastian Stan. Many of you have probably seen I, Tonya and Sebastian’s performance in that piece. We are going to have an interesting conversation with Sebastian, looking at I, Tonya from the perspective of an actor and also from the perspective of a writer. And we’re going to be discussing something that is important […]
Rank #8: ROMA: Turning Your Life Story Into A Screenplay
This week, we’re going to be talking about Roma by Alfonso Cuarón. Roma is an extraordinary film that harkens back to a different era of storytelling. It’s shot in black and white, despite having a substantial budget. It’s entirely in Spanish. And, in a way, the whole film is a love poem for Alfonso Cuarón’s real-life nanny from his childhood […]
Rank #9: ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY – What’s Your Structural Focus?
This week we’ll be looking at Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Which is about as far as we can go from last installment’s Oscar Winner Manchester By The Sea.
Rogue One is a silly joyride of a script, built with half-drawn characters, nonsensical plot twists, and a hundred other flaws. And yet, while clearly feeling a bit trifling in scope compared to the other Star Wars films, it nevertheless delivers in a big way what its audience is seeking.
What’s also particularly interesting about Rogue One for screenwriters is the way it dives into a moment that is literally just a blip on the radar in Star Wars: Episode 4, and discovers there an entire backstory, worthy of a film itself.
The ability to dive deep into any moment and find drama is one of the most exciting things about screenwriting (and one of the most important skills you can develop as a screenwriter). It means that truly anything-- even just a little question like “how did they find those Death Star plans anyway?” can become a movie, if you’re willing to look closely enough.
But it’s also a reminder of how easy it is to get waylaid by backstory and exposition as we write and rewrite our scripts. Because as successful as Rogue One might be as a stand alone film, just imagine the effect it would have had if George Lucas had tried to squeeze all that exciting backstory into Star Wars: Episode 4, rather than just allowing the rebels to already have the plans.
He would have been 100 pages into the script, and Darth Vader wouldn’t even have boarded that first starship. We wouldn’t have met Luke Skywalker. We wouldn’t know the real story we were following.
So, we’re going to talk about what makes Rogue One work, and more importantly, we’re going to explore a concept called Structural Focus and how you can use it, both in writing and rewriting a script, to keep you focused on what really matters, whether that’s diving deep to find the drama in a specific moment, or keeping yourself above at a bird’s eye view, to keep your focus on the big picture of the story you’re telling.
So what makes Rogue One work?
If you’ve listened to my podcast on Star Wars: The Force Awakens then you know that these movies are being built more like a TV Series than like traditional Feature Films-- replicating the same Structural Engine over and over again to create a genre experience for the audience that feels the same as the one they got from previous episodes, but just different enough to make them feel like they got value for their money.
The elements that compose this Engine are always the same.
For the Star Wars franchise, it’s always some version of a Death Star, a McGuffin (usually plans) that everyone is trying to get their hands on, gorgeous space chase and fight sequences with super bad-ass technology, a juxtaposition of jaded “Hans Solo” and innocent “Luke Skywalker” characters working on the same team, a neurotic Droid, a complicated father/child relationship, and most importantly, a spiritual journey in relation to the Force.
As Episodes 1, 2 & 3 proved, Star Wars movies abandon these elements at their peril. Successful episodes can shake up these elements and approach them in different ways, but if they ignore them, the films stop feeling like Star Wars and start feeling like something else.
And of course if you’ve studied TV Drama, TV Comedy, or Web Series writing with us you know this is the exact same thing that happens in TV Series Writing.
Rogue One is just another reconstitution of these same elements-- some, in a vague way, and some in a very specific way.
At the core of the film are the characters we care about most. We don’t care about them because we haven’t seen them before. We care about them because we haven’t seen them this way before.
Rank #10: PODCAST – Show Me A Hero: Do You Need An Active Main Character?
Show Me A Hero broke the most profound rule of screenwriting, the first commandment: Thou shalt have an active main character.
If Show Me A Hero didn't work for you, there is a good chance that this is the reason. And if it did work for you, there is a good chance that this is the reason as well.
The choice to have an inactive protagonist is related directly to the theme and the ironic title of Show Me A Hero.
What is brilliant about the journey of Nick Wasicsko, its main character, played by Oscar Issac is precisely that he is not the hero we are longing for...
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Rank #12: More than one main character
"...There’s no doubt that some of the most successful movies ever, from Dead Poets Society to Little Miss Sunshine, have more than one main character. And at the same time, there are genuine risks when we start telling a story from the point-of-view of more than one main character. In this podcast, Award Winning Screenwriter Jacob Krueger shows you how to write a script with more than one main character and how to avoid the pitfalls when building this kind of complicated screenplay structure..."
Rank #13: Chernobyl: How To Write A Miniseries
This week, Jacob Krueger discusses Chernobyl as an example of how to write an essential and effective miniseries, what makes the miniseries format so unique, and how to determine whether your project has the epic scope, relevant theme, visual beauty, and character journey needed to become a miniseries.
Rank #14: A QUIET PLACE Part 2: Dialogue, Action & The Theme of Your Screenplay
In the first installment of this podcast, we looked at A Quiet Place in relation to writing action and discussed how all of screenplay formatting really exists for one purpose: to isolate visual moments of action. By isolating visual moments of action we can hypnotize the reader into seeing, hearing, and feeling the story in their mind’s eye, rather than […]
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Rank #15: PODCAST – The 2017 Screenwriting Challenge
We all do our best as writers when we get into a rhythm, but during the holiday season that rhythm can be really hard to maintain. Your schedule gets jammed up, you’ve got parties, you’ve got gifts to buy, you’ve got family visits, you’ve got stress, and you’ve got a little too much vacation time. The next thing you know you haven’t written.
Of course that's not even the real problem. The real problem is getting started up again. Ideally you want writing to be part of your daily routine. You want it to be as natural for you as brushing your teeth, getting dressed for work, drinking your morning coffee.
Rank #16: How To Write A Web Series
How To Write A Web Series By Jacob Krueger Jake: This week we are on with Karin Partin, and we are going to be talking about Web Series, which is something I haven’t talked about yet on the podcast. Karin teaches our Web Series Writing Classes here at Jacob Krueger Studio and has a lot to say about Web […]
Rank #17: PODCAST – Swiss Army Man: The ‘Bad Screenplay’ Experiment
If you seen Swiss Army Man and the way the film develops from an off color joke to a deeply moving personal story, you can see that the structure of the film mirrors the process: the process by which the Daniels created it.
They start with a really unlikely premise, that certainly doesn't seem like it should sustain a scene, much less a movie. And by running towards it, end up with a meditation on the connection between shame and loneliness, a meditation on love, on friendship, on sex, on attraction, on the way that we hide in plain sight, on what's really important about life, about the strange and sometimes uncomfortable lines between love and friendship, and about the personal journey that we all have to go on in order to figure out who we really are.
In one of the most beautiful lines in the movie, Daniel Radcliffe’s character, Manny, asks Paul Dano’s character, Hank, “You want to go home so you can have love, but you ran away because nobody loves you.”
The structure of the film forces Hank to come to terms with that dilemma, and with the nature of that loneliness: not the loneliness forced upon us by other people, but the loneliness that is forced upon us by ourselves, when we hide the natural things that make us who we are from the people around us.
And the magical realism elements exist, not to be weird or unusual or show how original these writers are, but to dive into the metaphor that drives the movie: how the ways we feel “marooned” by the people around us are often a by-product of the way we maroon ourselves.
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Rank #18: The Big Sick Podcast
The Big Sick: How To Adapt a True Life Story By Jacob Krueger This week we are going to be talking about The Big Sick by Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani. I am excited to talk about The Big Sick not just because it was a successful film, but also because it allows me to talk about a topic […]
Rank #19: PODCAST – Nightcrawler: Writing The Issue-Based Movie
Rank #20: PODCAST – Buildout Your Script, part 2: A Decision Every Moment
When every possibility starts to feel possible, it becomes incredibly difficult to make decisions.
Which brings me back to my wiring conundrum. Because ultimately my decision was to spend a little bit of extra money, and run some extra wires, even though they might turn out to be redundant or unnecessary. Because I don't know exactly what the purpose is yet, or exactly what’s going to work yet, or exactly what these rooms are going to become over the next ten years.
But I know this is important to me. That it’s something worth exploring. And that even if I don’t know what to do with every wire at the moment, I’ll figure it out eventually.
Sometimes that's the process of writing as well. They're all good wires, but some of them are leading to places they need to lead and some will hang there and never be used.
In a screenplay, those wires need to be removed, because we only have 95-105 pages, and we don't want to distract from the things that are actually important...
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