Tag: hollywood

[Book Review] Crazy Screenwriting Secrets by Weiko Lin

Introduction

A good script can provide the recipe for a good film. Screenwriting itself is a craft which can be attempted by pretty much anyone, but it can be very difficult to master. A decent script can transform or take away from a film’s appeal. While a movie can be universally popular, not every film is internationally successful. While Hollywood system films still dominate the film industry, it is harder and harder to ignore new markets across the world which yearn for something new, something fresh – and I would argue, that it all starts with the script. So, what makes the script of a film interesting? What does it need to achieve? Why does script form the foundation of a film? And how can we bring new and different stories to a international audience?

Crazy Screenwriting Secrets is a book which tackles the question of global film appeal and examines it through a screenwriting lens. It’s written in a comfortable and interesting way, expressing the core practical tenets of scriptwriting. The book also gives an introduction into practices of both Hollywood and Chinese film industries with a thesis of global inclusion – which is one of the reasons why I enjoyed the book so much! Weiko Lin, the author, is a writer and producer who has written major film projects in both Asain and Westen markets. He has also taught at many prestigious institutions including UCLA, Northwestern University and Taipei National University of the Arts. Weiko bridges the gap between the Chinese and American film industries in order to find both an interesting and unique global filmmaking viewpoint.

 

Content: An Universal Outlook With Practical Solutions

Lin organises the book into two parts over five chapters. The technical side of screenwriting covers things like Story Ideas, Characters and the Screenplay, etc. The second part looks into the actual practical side of the craft. That is to say, he looks at concepts such as the U.S. market and how to work within it, as well as the Chinese film industry and its own brand of global appeal. The book goes through the tools that you need in order to write, how to construct a script and how to work in both the Hollywood industry and the Chinese filmmaking industry. It also lays out the craft of screenwriting through explaining various practical elements and discussing how to practically achieve them. He explains what industries standards to use (Final Draft software etc.), methods to conceptualise story ideas and how to present your script in the best way possible to potential buyers.

Weiko also takes the reader on a short trip around the scriptwriting profession- explaining the workflow from screenplay to screen, a couple of managerial agencies that he recommends as well as film schools that he has either been an alumni at or has connections too. It’s not a full list of recommendations or a comprehensive guide for a writing career but it can give you an understanding on what to look for. Furthermore, he briefly touches on legal concepts such as copyright rules for scripts and the Writers Guild of America union which are a small but essential part of a practical real world guide to the craft of scriptwriting.

My favourite ideas of the book must come from the section about the global appeal of Hollywood structure and how it can be used to for maximum effect for ‘universal movies’. Citing examples such as Slumdog millionaire, Brokeback Mountain, Get Out, Crazy Rich Asians, etc . Weiko explains that these films have critical and blockbuster success because of the few things they have in common. They take advantage of a culturally and ethnically inclusive storyline, they don’t preach to their audience and simply put, are good movies! Weiko also briefly mentions the unique aspects of the Chinese film industry, how it is organised, what material can (and can’t) be used in a screenplay and the particulars of Chinese networking. I really enjoyed this section of the book – as alongside this, Weiko also mentions various different examples of recent Chinese films which are critics’ favourites and what is popular in terms of box office appeal. As someone who is very much interested in the emerging Chinese film market, it’s a great opportunity to see what new gems to look out for.

 

Style: A Foodie’s Approach To Film

The book is also blessed with a style which is both easy to digest and refined. It’s is a nice length, and does not go into irrelevant detail – in fact, I could have had a second helping of it! Weiko uses recent and popular film examples in order to illuminate his points about how best to go about organising genre and structure. It also is written in a way which pays homage to its cultural roots as food is used to draw an analogy between it and scriptwriting in multiple, illuminating ways. To put it simply, you can’t have a good three act structure without a decent recipe to make it!

What if you walked into a McDonalds and the Big Mac was missing from the menu? Or it takes thirty minutes to get your meal? The Big Mac is a staple and that’s not the speed you expect from a fast food restaurant. It would be frustrating. The same goes for movies. There is a certain build up and momentum the audience has come to expect from films just as they expect a certain menu, food preparation, and promptness from a restaurant franchise.

Weiko’s passion for both food and film is consistantly used to ground the book in an easily digestable way. Both the Chinese and American cultural and social understanding of film shine within the book to create something unique and global. Finally, it primarily focuses on the essentials which makes it the book an easy recommendation to either beginners or writers from another medium looking for a good introduction into the craft of screenwriting.

 

Conclusion

Weiko Lin is a writer with a deep passion for film and food, which is reflected in the book itself. It combines the cultural footprint of his background with a lifetime of valuable experiences for a tasty and unique approach. While other screenwriting books may be more detailed or have more in-depth examples, this is a great start for a script-writer looking to write in a style which takes advantage of the increadly successful hollywood story construction and a global outlook on filmmaking.

If you are interested in learning more about scriptwriting or just want to learn more about film, please take a look at our short courses section on our website. Currenty, we are running a few things geared towards writing in film such as the weekend Script Analysis for Directors course, the weekend Script Supervision Masterclass and a 5 part series on scriptwriting starting at the end of July.

Filed under: Book Review, Filmmaking, Filmmaking CareerTagged with: , , , , ,

How They Say No In The Film Industry

Funny thing about the film industry is that it’s all about communication. And all about being really clear about what you mean.
When I wrote this article back in the mid 1990’s I had no idea that it would catch on so quickly, and become the hallmark of how the film industry is anything but clear. If you have any additions to this list, please add them into the comments box below.
Enjoy
Elliot Grove
London May 2019

People in the film industry love to use the word YES all the time – but rarely does the word YES mean a yes. The usual meaning of the word YES is the word NO.

YES means ‘yes’, when it is attached to one of the following two phrases:
– Yes, could I please have details of your bank?
– Yes, get your lawyer to call our head of business and legal affairs.

The word ‘NO”

People in the film industry are always reluctant to use the word No in case you become an overnight success.

For example: Raindance student Guy Ritchie was turned down by every single UK financing source when he was trying to finance his first feature: Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. When the movie became a critical and commercial success, several people who had turned him down were fired.

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How they say “NO” in the film industry

Thus the common expressions of the word NO are:

Yes. I really like it.
Don’t call me I’ll call you.
That is really good. Let me kick it around here in the office and get right back to you.

The only time a “yes” means a “yes” is when you get money.

Some definitions of commonly used words:

VERBS:

to schmooze = befriend scum
to pitch = grovel shamelessly
to brainstorm = feign preparedness
to research = procrastinate indefinitely
to network = spread misinformation
to collaborate = argue incessantly
to freelance = collect unemployment

NOUNS:

agent = frustrated lawyer
lawyer = frustrated producer
producer = frustrated writer
scriptwriter = frustrated director
director = frustrated actor
actor = frustrated human

COMPOUND WORDS:

high-concept = low brow
production value = gore
entry-level = pays nothing
highly qualified = knows the producer
network approved = had made them money
being discovered – you got a cheque

FINANCIAL TERMS:

net = something that apparently doesn’t exist
gross = Michael Eisner’s salary
back-end = you, if you think you’ll ever see it
residuals = braces for the kids
deferral = don’t hold your breath
points = see “net” or “back-end”

COMMON PHRASES:

You can trust me = You must be new
It needs some polishing = Change everything
It shows promise = It stinks rotten
It needs some fine tuning = Change everything
I’d like some input = I want total control
It needs some honing = Change everything
Call me back next week = Stay out of my life
It needs some tightening = Change everything
Try and punch it up = I have no idea what I want
It needs some streamlining = Change everything
You’ll never work in this town again = I have no power whatsoever

If you have another way they say “NO” in the film industry please leave in the comments box below!

Filed under: Filmmaking Career, In Our Opinion, Promotion, Marketing and DistributionTagged with: , ,

National Pet Month: 7 Films to Watch in Honour of All Pets Throughout April

Have you ever found yourself watching a film that includes an adorable pet, but heartbroken you can’t cuddle with it in person? You’ve given your neighbour’s cat a scratch, even offered to feed your sister’s hamster — but still, the pain of seeing that precious little personality on screen just can’t be cured. We aren’t here to tell you we are able to do that, but we are here to say that April is National Pet Month! Whether you have a furry friend of your own or admire them from a distance, we’ve put together a list of 7 films starring adorable pets that steal the show, go unrecognised, or may have simply been forgotten about. Whatever the case may be, it’s hard to deny that any of these animals would make an unbeatable companion for life!

1. Back to the Future

Good boy alert! Sat in the passenger seat of Dr. Emmet Brown’s DeLorean time machine is his sidekick Einstein, also known throughout the film as ‘Einie’. Einstein loyally assists the ‘Doc’ whenever he can whether it be an assistant for an experiment, standing in as the first ‘person’ to travel through time, or day-to-day companionship. With all of the time these two spend together throughout the course of all three films, they have created a bond that any dog lover would be envious of.

2. Babe (1995)

Dogs and cats are cute, but after watching Babe it’s hard not to fall in love with a piglet too. After he is won at the county fair, Babe is then destined to live on the farm of Farmer Hoggett and the rest of his barnyard animals such as Ferdinand the duck and Fly the dog. Realizing his dream of being as good of a goat herder as the dogs are, Babe stirs up a mixed reaction on the farm. However, at the end of the film, we all can learn that anyone can be anything they want to be.

3. Homeward Bound (1993)

Stealing the hearts of all pet lovers is this trio of two dogs and a cat embarking on a journey to make it back to their family. The Seavers’ are dropping their pets off at a friend’s house before they leave on vacation when Chance, Sassy, and Shadow begin to worry that they have been left permanently. Determined to make it back home, the three begin their thrilling journey through the wilderness by overcoming major obstacles along the way. This film is sure to make leaving your pet at home for even the smallest of errands unbearable!

4. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)

Another unconventional idea for a house pet is an owl, which makes it all the more desirable! Hedwig the snowy owl flies onto our radar in the first film of the Harry Potter series as an 11th birthday present from Hagrid. She served not only as Harry’s postal service, but also as loyal companion during his time at Hogwarts as a silent and yet effective sense of security. A majestic and dutiful bird, having Hedwig as your pet would be any muggle’s dream come true.

5. Alien (1979)

Though his situation wasn’t the most ideal, Jonesy (or Jones) the cat was the cuddliest member aboard USCSS Nostromo. Originally brought for rodent control, Jonesy became a crucial sidekick as Ellen Ripley narrowly defended herself against the Alien, hissing when he felt the predator was approaching. Providing comfort to all of the officers throughout the duration of the film, he’s a lucky survivor as him and Ripley successfully defeat the alien (or so we think), and make their escape back to Earth together.

6. Home Alone 3 (1997)

Another pet lacking in screen time is Doris, Alex’s rat in Home Alone 3. When Alex is bed-bound after being diagnosed with the chicken pox, Doris is his loyal companion as he roams around his empty house. But when danger ensues, Doris can be seen scurrying behind Alex as he sets up trap after trap to stop the burglars from breaking into his home. As rats are often shown in a negative light, we feel that Doris redeems their usual stereotype and shows that rats can actually be quite cute!

7. Best In Show (2000)

As a film solely about a dog show, it’s hard to narrow it down to just one or two pet stars to covet. That’s why we’re going to say all of them! The dogs starring in this film have their own personalities that, when separated from their ostentatious owners, make them all the more adorable. From a bloodhound named Hubert to a poodle named Butch, dogs are the main topic of discussion throughout the film which is nothing to complain about!

Filed under: Film History, In Our OpinionTagged with: , , , ,