Friday, July 06, 2007

Further Revelations of the Man of Mystery

Our very good friend, Edward Copeland, who I’m afraid may not be blogging with us much longer, tagged me to list 8 random facts / habits about myself. I had been tagged not long ago and shared 5 Personal Things. (See also Mystery Man in the News! Hehehe…)

This time around, I’d like to share some personal beliefs.

Hope you enjoy it.

(I'm already missing you, Ed.)



1. There is a horrifying disconnect between screenwriters and film scholars. I believe that aspiring screenwriters could learn more from film scholars (aka "film bloggers") then they would from most screenwriting gurus. I also believe that an improvement in the thinking behind new films begins with bridging that gap. (Take note on my sidebar - "Film Blogs" and "Goodies for Cinephiles.")

2. The second big education for screenwriters begins when they unlearn everything they thought they learned from
Robert McKee. (A sampling: Sympathetic Protagonists, Character Arcs, and Voice Overs.) When aspiring screenwriters start thinking for themselves, they’ll quickly realize that the reality of storytelling rarely fits the rigid, narrow-minded rules laid out by the gurus.

3. Here’s the key to growth for screenwriters: read everything like crazy, review other scripts like crazy, and watch films like crazy. Oh, and write like crazy, too. You can sleep when you’re dead. And you can start having a life after you master the craft.

Napoleon is the greatest screenplay never produced.

5. All you pros can check your vanity at the door or just move along. Selling a script does not mean that you know what you’re doing. I've encountered 2 unknowns
on TriggerStreet whom I would consider "brilliant" and 1 flat-out "genius." No, I'm not kidding. The revolution is coming.

6. Avoid dating actors and porn stars. That’s all I’m saying. Hehehe

7. Anyone can make a difference by blogging about the craft. In the latest issue (May-June) of
CreativeScreenwriting Magazine, Karl Iglesias (author of 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters) has an article on "Subtext in Dialogue." WHERE OH WHERE could he have possibly found the inspiration to write such an article? (Perhaps here?) I don’t believe that anyone has ever studied or had a serious discussion about subtext until WE came along. I sent him an email. I never heard back from him.

8. I truly believe that down the road we will see a revolution in films. Kids are studying films and storytelling and the craft of screenwriting at a younger age. They’re also getting feedback on their scripts at a younger age, and when they get older, they will be unstoppable. Even those who are a little late getting into the game are improving their craft exponentially quicker than ever before.


Anonymous said...

To steal one of your lines that I love...


Another observation I've had within the last 6 months is how many older blogs seem to be going back to the drawing board...




Mystery Man said...

For all you film bloggers who may be discovering me for the first time, if you need more proof that there's a revolution afoot amongst screenwriting bloggers, you should see Unk's brilliant 14-part series on Transformational Character Arcs.

I love ya, Unk.


Anonymous said...

# 7 - I wonder how screenwriters ever "made" (not to mention how the ones who were cutting edge) it without screenwriting magazines and bloggers telling them how to write movies...

Guess we'd all be lost without those little words of wisdom.


Anonymous said...


I don't think I've read anywhere on any screenwriting blog that what WE say is the bottom line...

Nor have I ever read any screenwriting blogger tout his or her blog as THE WAY TO WRITE MOVIES.


So to infer that WE (the collective we of the Scribosphere) have somehow taken over the reins of professional screenwriting is, I think, a misnomer.

Nobody that I have ever read has claimed to be the END-ALL as to how to write a screenplay.

How I prefer to opine MM's post is that the collective WE of the Scribosphere are simply helping those out there that MIGHT need or WANT help when it comes to writing the almighty spec screenplay.

There CONTINUES to be and I'm sure there will always continue to be those screenwriters out there that are on the cutting edge of screenwriting and people like that will undoubtedly be successful.

To me, the SCREENWRITING REVOLUTION is simply a smattering of ever-growing screenwriters willing to help others out. To give others the benefit of their knowledge and experience in all aspects of screenwriting from writing to marketing.

In other words, the gates have been OPENED and we opened them. No more secrets... No more uneven playing ground when it comes to little tricks and tips of the trade that so many have in fact been keeping to themselves.

Not that THAT is a bad thing either... It's a free country but I think we HOPE that if only ONE of us reads a tidbit in somebody's blog that helps us become a better screenwriter -- better yet, a working screenwriter -- then we've definitely succeeded in our endeavor.

The Scribosphere... Helping one screenwriter at a time.

Works for me. Sorry it doesn't work for you.


Mystery Man said...

I guess #7 came across as a little vain, but I didn't mean it that way. I'm just proud of our study, which still remains quite popular on my blog, and I have no doubt that it inspired Karl's article.

Many screenwriters made it because of film school backgrounds, and many of those schools I'm being told doesn't go into hardcore studies about the craft like you might find here about subtext.

And when I talk about "revolution," it's in large part due to the fact that screenwriters are finally talking to each other about the craft, rethinking what they learned, studying the craft for themselves and blogging about it, which they never really did before. The film bloggers would blog about everything about films under the sun that they love, but screenwriting bloggers wouldn't say a word. Why? Because we're "competing" with each other. How absurd is that? How do you know that what you know is correct unless you talk about it? And frankly, many many subjects are far more complicated than that "5 simple tips" you read in screenwriting magazines. Blogging has opened up the craft in ways that have never been examined or talked about before.

I'm going to do a few more posts on Visual Storytelling, some articles about Joshua James and Ann Wesley Hardin, we got some more movie breakdowns from Miriam, a couple of script-to-screen studies I'm doing, and then we're going to dive into an interactive study (like subtext) on handling exposition, which I can't wait. I guarantee you that so many of the examples that the community will bring to this discussion will be ideas you've never considered before that will improve the way you write.

To Unk's point, the gates have been opened up, and that sounds like a revolution to me.


Joshua James said...

Rock on, MM!

A cool revolution, one of ideas and imagination, rather than the blood and bullets kind . . .

But no dating of porn stars? I'm so bummed, it was the reason I chose to work in entertainment!

Mystery Man said...

You're not missing anything except pain and anguish. EMOTIONAL pain and anguish, I mean. Hehehe...


Christina said...

I want to hear more about #6.

Mystery Man said...

Read Tom Stoppard's "The Real Thing." Tells you everything you need to know. Hehehe...


Unknown said...

I think the advise about porn stars is something everybody should learn on their own.

I'm a big believer in learning by doing.

Mystery Man said...


Anonymous said...

See, I think you've missed my point. I tend to think that cutting edge filmmakers/screenwriters have always been around and thus don't really need bloggers or books or magazines to start a revolution. No, instead what's really needed to start a REAL revolution is producers and financiers to take more risks with cutting edge screenwriters/filmmakers...

In my mind what's needed to start a REAL revolution is a Field of Dreams approach to filmming: if you film it they will pay money to watch it.

And there's some evidence to support this idea, such as the growth of film festival circuit (Sundance, etc) which tilts toward non-traditional storytelling methods, etc.

Maybe what's needed is to steal from the Europeans. Be edgy and inventive in storytelling and not be so concerned with the traditional American way of following story arc.

Frankly, I don't see bloggers or magazines or books changing filmmaking or storytelling, but I do understand your defensive attitude...AND just to clarify, I didn't suggest that bloggers et al were changing filmmaking/storytelling, I was just suggesting that in the pre-blogging world there were certainly creative storytellers making their way in the industry and you just have to wonder how they made it without all the "help."

(and in case you missed the tone of the first post: it was a mild form of sarcasm. As is my last paragraph of this post.)

Don't be so defensive fellas.

Anonymous said...

Your comment about kids studying filmmaking struck home. My 10 year old is obsessed with movies. When I signed up for Netflix, he added 150 movies to the queue. I'm teaching him a bit at a time how to transform story ideas into actual stories. And he's learning.

My other kids are learning too. The other day, I was pitching them a short film I plan to do with my neighbor. My 8 year old asks, "When do we get our scripts?" My 11 year old daughter came up to me later with some thoughts about the character she wanted to play, and how that character would likely behave in the situation I'd described.

The revolution is coming. And it will be televised.

Anonymous said...

I think both sides are right. Aspiring screenwriters are getting smarter in a sense that they are getting their information from many sources now and are seeing the benefits of working WITH each other rather than against one another. I do think though that "the revolution" in exceptional writing from unknown talent will be largely due to the indie industry. High quality films can be shot now on micro budgets... and directors/producers finding themselves under these budget constraints extend their arms to unknown writers because they're simply easier to afford. I think most of us will get "inside" through the indie door.
I think the most significant factor here is the change in technology.

I COULD be wrong though. It DOE happen. har har ;)

Christian H. said...

Great post. I believe in the revolution also. I have only been around for a few months (me and IQ started in Feb) but I have gotten nothing but support for my efforts.

I only hope that as I post more to my blog I can help people as much.

I think you have a good idea with the articles on cinematic "design." It's one thing to talk about dialog and structure but this is a visual medium so we need to talk about images and sounds also.

A simple ringing phone has more charge than 10 murders.

A furrowing brow is more descriptive than a holler.

I mean look at Die Hard. His dirty clothes mean more than the action or emotion. They paint him as the underdog who has to be in the trenches to win.
I talk about clothing on my blog and next up is props.

Hopefully it will be worth a read.

GimmeABreak said...

MM, I think you ought to disable anonymous posting. Cowards hide behind that label and participants in the revolution can't be cowardly.

Laura Deerfield said...

anonymous - so... why are you here? since you imply that blogs have no important use?

Could it be that you find some information of value here? Or enjoy the community of screenwriters, having intelligent discourse on the art of writing films?

It seems to me that process is a factor in strengthening our work. I personally have never bought into the idea that there are geniuses (or cutting edge writers or whatever) who don't have anything to learn - the geniuses I know have always sought out whatever sources of information they could find.

Oh, and re: porn stars. They are mostly vain, boring and not that good in bed when the camera's not on. Not that I'd know.

Mystery Man said...


kjb - You have no idea how many emails I get from flippin' teenagers! I reviewed one script from a teen, about a teen who wants to skateboard, and ya know, it was pretty good.

Pat - I'm anonymous, why shouldn't I allow anonymous people to post?

I don't mind a spirited debate. Okay, three thoughts:

1) I don't entirely disagree with Mr. Anonymous. But what I'm referring to is a general improvement in the craft, an opening up about the craft that's never been seen before. And I believe that changes things. I'm a changed writer because of our subtext study.

2) While there are cutting edge filmmakers, I don't believe that there are hardly any cutting edge screenwriters out there. I've read a lot of scripts. Never seen one. But those who want to be cutting edge can cut their teeth on different perspectives here.

3) You wouldn't be so misunderstood if you weren't so cryptic in your comments.


Anonymous said...

I just can't help it...

I'm a defensive MOTHERFUCKER. Always have been -- always will be. It's the only way I can get shit done.

Anonymous, I agree that producers WILLING TO TAKE A RISK is definitely one element to the revolution. It's happening right now.

How do you think I got here?

To me, the BIGGEST misnomer in this endeavor is that we (the collective we) have to write what Hollywood wants.

We don't.

But because 99% of us do... That's what we got to work with.

Hollywood is no fucking different than Microsoft or Google... They are trying to make THEIR VERY OWN PLAYING GROUND making the kind of shit they want to make and serve it up to us on a paper plate.

Fuck that.

I refuse to write that shit and if I have to make it myself -- so be it.

But your point is taken.


Dudley Nichols said...

Pat, Laura, et al - I'm not anonymous any more, got me a real live blog (and name, too) now. Yippee.

Hope you're pleased.

Laura, to answer your question of why am I here: it's for the free booze and the chance to mingle with the hot girls.


MM - I don't mean to be cryptic, really I don't...Well, no more so than you mean to be a mystery, anyway.


Unk - And here we agree. I see the real revolution in film coming in the form of writers taking more control of their art. That is, the future of Hollywood (especially in this downsizing era of reduced film budgets and conservative producers who are only concerned with the status quo) is smaller but more adventurous and creative films from writers convinced that they have something fresh to say and presented in such a way that the storytelling isn't limited by the conventions of the past...AND there'll be more and more producers who agree with their way of thinking.

There have always been film revolutions, every era has its rebels, only in the future they'll be the norm and not the exception...and audiences are now seem to be willing to accept the sea change. For the moment, anyway.

Oh, and Unk, how do you think I got here? Somebody took a chance on me, this despite saying "Whoa. This shit is not the norm." And I'm damn grateful, too.

And when I can, I reach out and pull up a writer from the struggling's my way of paying back.

Keep up the good work MM and UNK. It's appreciated, even by me.

Mickey Lee said...


Ah, MM, if only the sage advice of number 6 were around for me a few years ago, I could've avoided a lot of unnecessary drama....

Tim Clague said...

1, 2 and 8 - spot on

Mystery Man said...

Thanks so much, Tim.