The Orange County Screenwriters Association
    Be Inspired, Do Good Work

    Mark Sevi is a professional screenwriter (32 scripts sold, 19 movies produced) and scriptwriting teacher through Southern California community education.  He is also the founder of the OC Screenwriters Association.

    GOLIATH

    goliath"Goliath" is the newest show by super-producer/writer David E. Kelly. 

    It stars Billy Bob Thornton and features some great supporting actors like Maria Bello (ex-wife/rival attny), Olivia Thirlby (rival attny), Sarah Wynter (client), Tania Raymonde (hooker/paralegal), and Molly Parker (attny in rival firm.)  William Hurt plays a demonic figure (ala "The Natural") who sits in the dark and uses a clicker to show his anger or disdain for people (you'll just have to see it.)

    Kelly tells a personal story of how he promised his kids he wouldn't write any more lawyer shows.  But this isn't like anything you've seen from this prolific writer.  Bad words, drinking, drug use, violence...it follows the trend of the  edgier shows that have been coming out.  It's an Amazon Prime original so they can get away with challenging the audience.

    And it does.

    Taking place in Santa Monica with locations at the famous dive bar Chez Jay, "Goliath" features an attorney on the edge of slipping away from the legal world until he's approached with a redemption-type case.  The storyline of redemption borrows heavily from "The Verdict" the Lumet/Newman/Mamet courtroom masterpiece that for me never gets old.

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    Leah Estrin - A True Pro

    leah estrin

    Event review
    byMark Sevi

    THE PRO

    The first thing you notice about Leah is she is a no-spin zone - the good kind.  Ask a question and she gives you a straight and honest answer.  It's a reflection of her years in the industry reading and evaluating scripts.  But more than that, it's a true reflection of an industry pro; someone who has seen what being disingenuous can lead to - unrealistic expectations and misunderstandings that becomes heartache and heartbreak as you try to navigate an industry (Hollywood) that you don't understand.

    She does understand it oh so well.

    The amazing thing about Leah is that this honesty can make some people sound cynical and mean-spirited and Leah is nothing of the sort.  She is open, always smiling, always ready to give someone a great tip.  That was abundantly clear at our event before, during and after.   (more after the jump - hit CONTINUED below)

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    Westworld

    160825 westworld s1 key art 1024x374Didn't think I was going to enjoy "Westworld" on HBO. I liked, not loved, the movie although it was sufficiently violent and creepy to appease my young mind.

    But the first episode of the series has me wanting more.

    You think you know what this show is about: A wonderland of fantasy where any whim can be accommodated. That's about as close to what is presented as the old TV show "Fantasy Island" is to the porn films that use the same title. The movie itself showed/implied a lot of this from what I can remember; the series kicks that theme up several notches.

    The show's 1st episode more than implies what that would really mean to anyone wealthy enough to buy a ticket to this world where anything goes; and given what's on the horizon technologically- and virtually-speaking, the thought of this world or some form of it existing is getting much closer which is even more troubling.

    westworld 2016 evan rachel wood1Violence in "Westworld" is epidemic. The Wild West is used as a motif purposefully. Blood (faux) flows as "people" (robots called Hosts) get their throats cut or shot in the neck. In one scene, a leering manbot host about to rape a fembot prostitute host in a saloon is shot from behind and his face opens like a squeezed grape. It's a quick image but memorable nonetheless. One hapless manbot gets scalped and although you don't actually see the gruesome details (yet) you are shown the beginning and end, and that he has been bled nearly dry by his tormentor.

    Ultra-violent, seemingly senseless gunfights take place in streets as outlaws roar through towns shooting women and men. No children have appeared so far but can't that be far behind given the level of violence that the first 45 minutes has shown. Or maybe not. Even the hint of that particular sexual/violent perversion would cross a line because it would be all too possible here and I'm sure neither the builders of Westworld (nor the producers of the show) want to introduce even the possibility of that. Thanks to them (all) for that small restraint although you have to wonder if they are being true to the themes - would that ever be off the table if this Westworld was real? Let's continue to hope so - I don't want to squirm any more than I already am while watching this.

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    The Tip of the Spear - High Concept

    Scriptwriting is a fantastic way to frustrate the crap out of you.  Even if you conquer everything - plot, characters, theme, etc. you still may completely miss the mark - selling it - if you don't pay attention to the tip of the spear:

    The Concept.  (warning: I'm going to whip this spear analogy to death)

    A high concept is (loosely) defined as being "the elevator pitch" - something you can say in a few sentences between floors of an elevator ride.  I say parking lot pitch because it's even harder to contain someone who is searching for their car and anxious to get out of wherever they are - elevators are simple.  Unless the person you're pitching is an action hero and can escape through the roof, they're stuck.  Parking lots not so much - but I digress.

    A pitch can also be the logline (I'll give you examples below)

    BULL (new series on CBS):  Based on Doctor Phil's early life, a psychologist who is a world-renowned jury analyzer solves crimes every week.

    BRAIN DEAD: An alien species invades people's brains in Washington and makes them even more partisan than they are causing even more gridlock in the halls of power.

    Columbo:   A seemingly bumbling detective who is actually a brilliant crime fighter, solves the HOW DONE IT instead of the WHO DONE IT.

    The concept here is to pitch someone quickly and concisely so they request your script.

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    If You Can't See It, Hear It or Speak it - Don't Write It!

    See No Evil Know No EvilOne of the hardest tasks I face as a scriptwriting teacher is convincing new (and sometimes vetted) students not to put internal thoughts into scripts.  I call this inner narrative.  This is action or meanings only a reader would be able to glean because there is no way for a director or actor to matriculate that information to the screen.

    Passages like: "He remembered his mother who told him always to wear clean underwear" has no function unless it can be tied to the precise moment that is contextualized in your script.

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    Is Deception in Romantic Comedies Rape?

    Rape?

    I frowned at the students' contention.  Then I started to think about it.  Is it?  Maybe they had a point.

    overboardI had assigned the movie "Overboard" to my Intro to Scriptwriting class (Class Info) in honor of Garry Marshall's passing. I needed a romcom and that was the one that fit best when I looked at his filmography.  The discussion was to be about how these types of movies work and when done properly, reinforce the best of what is a fun genre.

    The key words here are "was to be."

    An interesting and troubling side discussion came up about the sex scene in which Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell have (loving) intercourse.  It comes at an appropriate time in the film and it's shot very beautifully and tenderly.

    So why could it be considered rape?

    The storyline is simple and funny.  Goldie plays a wealthy, obnoxious woman who is married to a vacuous and specious man.  They do nothing positive as they sail the seas in yachts that look like the Queen Mary.  She is not happy, never satisfied and constantly, consistently ultra-critical of everyone and everything.  He hates her (it's obvious) and yearns to be free from her constant screech.

    Russell is Joe Everyman, a widower, laissez-faire father with three unruly boys who the school district is about to come down hard on because the boys are quite boisterous, even to toilet-papering the school's principal when she visits to welcome them to the area. The principal warns Russell that he has to get some supervision for the boys or else the next visit will be from social services.

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    The War With Your (Creative) Self

    Recently, my Intermediate class students all had a difficult workshop session.  Most of the comments on all of their scripts were not positive.  The comments were constructive to be sure but even constructive criticism is hard to take.  It still means "this isn't working."  I wrote them an open letter that then became this article.  I've expanded it a bit from the original form.

    There's a war going on inside you.

    Your head and fingers are in constant battle.  What you see with your mind's eye about your script never ends up to be what actually gets to your fingers.  Why is that?  I blame...uh, Canada (that's from the movie "South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut" and I'm just kidding so relax.)

    war5 Here's the problem; it's too easy to write that first flush of great scenes that you see so clearly when that concept comes to you.  After that it's nearly impossible to clearly see the ramifications of that work.  You think you know the story but unless you've carefully charted out each moment, sh*t happens. 

    Even if you've carefully charted out your script you take side trips; a character inserts himself or herself demanding more attention than you had intended.  Maybe a piece of information comes to you or you have to change something that you thought worked.

    Also, each day you're a different person and your mood, attitudes, sense of life changes.  If you're doing the work properly, you are writing from your subconscious mind and that changes - a lot - as you process each and every moment of your life.

    A script seems simple but is maddeningly complex. 

    Most of the time, what you have in your head is not what ends up on the page. 

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    Welcome!

    logo meetup

     

    Welcome to the new website for the Orange Country Screenwriters Association!

    A lot has changed, web-wise, since the 1st time I put up a website for this org in 2009. 

    We've gone from a Flash-based site, to a Drupal-based site that was mostly custom-built, to now this platform.

    I've migrated most of the articles over from the old site and this migration will be ongoing until the old site can be safely put to bed and this site given its due.

    I hope that you will visit regularly and enjoy the content here.  I will also list all our social media and partner sites which include screenwriting classes, tips, etc.

    Today as always: Be Inspired, Do Good Work!

    Mark Sevi, President Orange County Screenwriters Association

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    In Praise of - Doc Hollywood

    A230 02"Doc Hollywood" is a romantic comedy based on the book What?...Dead Again? by Neil B. Shulman M.D.  It stars Michael J. Fox and Julie Warner with a cast of great character actors including David Ogden Stiers ("Mash") and Barnard Hughes with Woody Harrelson and Bridget Fonda. 

    Fox plays an egocentric young doctor heading to L.A. to join a plastic surgery practice.  He gets run off the road on the way, destroys the local judge's new fence and is sentenced to community service because the town needs a doctor.  The ploy is designed to make him fall in love with the town in the hopes that he'll stay and become their next town doctor. 

    It helps that the first morning he's there, he's greeted by the fetching Julie Warner rising out of a lake, nude, like some demi-goddess nymph.  That definitely sparks his interest in staying and creates a truly warm and funny romantic comedy as Fox fights his urge to be a big-city doctor and not follow his heart which is captured by both the town and Ms Warner.

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    In Praise of - NCIS

    NCIS Wallpapers ncis 13737939 1280 1024"NCIS" (the original) has been an ongoing success for 13 seasons.  To gain some perspective on that, when the show started the agents were using PDAs, not smart phones.  No one knew (or cared about) Kim Kardashian, Justin Beiber, Taylor Swift, Facebook (they used MySpace!!) or the Donald (Trump, not Duck.)  And there was no Homeland Security.

    I have to admit that I was never much interested in this show - procedurals in general left me less than enthused.  I watched the various Law and Orders but not regularly (another great example of long-running episodic TV.)  Netflix brought me to this show and I somehow have become hooked.

    I was a "Magnum P.I." fan but not "Jag."  Both were created by super-producer Donald Bellisario as was "NCIS."  The show is well-crafted with great characters - a hallmark of Bellasario.  You can rail against the "formula" but it works:

    • Gibbs (Mark Harmon) a tough-as-nails ex-Marine who runs the joint.
    • DiNozzo (Michael Weatherly) the womanizer/joker.
    • Ducky (David McCallum) the quirky, yet formidable forensic coroner.
    • Abby (Pauley Perrette) - a goth in goth clothing (with pigtails) who is the (also quirky) jack-of-all trades forensic scientist.
    • McGee (Sean Murphy) - a whipsmart geek/agent continuously trying to figure out who he is in the scheme of the agency and his fellow agents.
    • Ziva (Cote de Pablo) the hot Mossad agent who came in on Season 2 and stayed until Season 11.
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    Scriptwriting Classes

    Scriptwriting Classes at Irvine Valley College - Mark Sevi

    facebook Scriptwriting Classes
     Taught by a Professional Screenwriter (credits)

    mark sevi logo

    CLASSES ONGOING and RUN EVERY 8-10 WEEKS. 

    Image00001MORE INFO!

    These writing classes are through IVC Continuing Education: Website (123getsmart.com) for more information, or call Community Ed (949) 451-5555 if the information is not yet on the website.  
    You can also leave a voicemail at 949.610.4299


    Learn how to write a script but more importantly learn techniques on how to tell a complete and compelling story!

    Get that movie/TV series/animation idea on paper!  Don't think about it - do it now!  
    What are you waiting for?  Seriously!

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    A Conversation with Elaine Bossik, Author of The Last Victim

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    A Conversation with Elaine Bossik, Author of The Last Victim

    Scriptologist.com spoke with Elaine Bossik about her new novel, The Last Victim. Scriptologist.com (Q): Where did the idea for The Last Victim come from?

    Elaine Bossik (EB): I was in a writing workshop where writers share their writing and offer critiques and suggestions. I wrote what I thought was a short story, but it was really a vignette. The group encouraged me to continue the story and develop the characters. This vignette turned out to be the first chapter of my novel.

    Q: Did you plot your entire story before you started writing?

    EB: I had to know the beginning, the middle, and the end before I started writing. For me, I have to know my ending so I know where the story is leading. Read more....

    Recommend Scriptologist.com      

      

    Read the Latest Film Industry News:American Cinema Editors (ACE) To Honor J.J. Abrams UNIVERSAL CITY, California, December 30, 2016 ­ Award-winning producer, writer and director J.J. Abrams has been selected by the Board of Directors of American Cinema Editors (ACE) to be honored with the organization¹s prestigious ACE Golden Eddie Filmmaker of the Year Award. The award will be presented at the 67th Annual ACE Eddie Awards black-tie ceremony on Friday, January 27, 2017 in the International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

    "J.J. Abrams is a once-in-a-generation artist who has been making his mark in cinema and television for over twenty years," stated the ACE Board of Directors. Read more...   

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    How To Sell Your Screenplay: An Interview With Film Insider Laurie Scheer

    Q: Was there a working methodology you had for choosing screenplays and teleplays that were worthy of production?

    LS: Essentially, it would be whoever I was reading for at the time. When you do reading, you are told by whoever you are reading the script for what it is that you're looking for. Working at ABC, you were looking for stuff to develop into series. Working at Viacom, you were looking for movie series. I worked for Meg Ryan for a while on a freelance basis.

    I had to keep in mind [that] obviously a script about a James Bond character traveling around the world would not be perfect for her. You had to tailor what you were reading. Could Meg Ryan either act in this or would she be interested in producing this herself? The [question] is, why are you reading? Everyone wants a script that's going to open up with a huge blockbuster opening weekend.

    Q: So, they didn't really lay down any specific guidelines?

    LS: No.

    Q: Would you use your instincts to determine what would be best for them?

    LS: For the specific company or the actor. Unless you've been given a specific. Otherwise, it's just, 'Is this a good script?'

    Q: Was there a submission process at the various companies you worked for that people had to go through? 

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    How To Format Flashbacks In A Screenplay

    Here is an example of formatting a transition to a flashback and a flashback scene:

    INT. SAIGON HOTEL ROOM – DAY (1983)

    Kim gets up from the sofa. Crosses the room to the window. Gazes down at people walking along the street. She stares at a mother and a young girl about herown age.

                                                                                                           FLASHBACK TO:

    INT. SAIGON HOSPITAL – DAY (1981)

    Kim's mother is in a hospital bed. Kim is holding her hand, squeezing hard.

                                                    KIM                           Mother, mother open your eyes.

    Kim drops her mother's lifeless hand. She stares with unbelieving eyes.A voice calls her name, "Kim! Kim!"

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    How To Write A Screenplay About Factual Events

    JFK

    How To Write A Screenplay About Factual Events

    Writing about factual events is both appealing and challenging for screenwriters. Many films have been promoted with the tag line, based on fact.

    Oliver Stone based the script for his film, JFK, on two non-fiction books: Jim Garrison's On The Trail Of The Assassins and Jim Marrs's Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy. The mainstream news media tried to discredit the film before it had even been released. But the media only succeeded in drawing attention to the film, ensuring its success. When Stone published the script for JFK in book form, he included 340 research notes with supporting facts for the story, as well as news articles written by high-profile journalists who chose to attack the film.

    In writing the script for JFK, Stone condensed a large number of events and characters from the Kennedy assassination. He chose New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison as the protagonist (hero) and businessman Clay Shaw as the antagonist (villain). Garrison was the only person to ever charge and prosecute anyone for involvement in the Kennedy assassination. He charged Clay Shaw for conspiring with other people to murder President Kennedy. Shaw was the director of the International Trade Mart—a business organization—and worked for the CIA.

    Oliver Stone uses Jim Garrison's investigation of Clay Shaw as the main focus of JFK. In the film, Garrison determines that Shaw planned the Kennedy assassination with David Ferrie, a CIA agent who knew Lee Harvey Oswald, the man accused by the U.S. Government of being the lone gunman in the assassination.

    Stone uses the trial of Clay Shaw in the film to show that multiple gunmen were involved in the assassination. In the court room scenes, Jim Garrison tells the jury that the assassination was carried out through the use of assassins firing guns at President Kennedy from three different locations in Dealey Plaza. Garrison explains the actions of the assassins by showing and analyzing the Zapruder film, a real-life 8mm film in which President Kennedy is shot to death.

    By focusing on Jim Garrison's investigation and the trial of Clay Shaw, Oliver Stone clarifies and dramatizes factual events from the Kennedy assassination. By choosing Garrison as the protagonist and Shaw as the antagonist, Stone avoided using too many characters. The result is a film that shapes facts into a riveting story. 

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    How To Introduce A Character In A Screenplay

    In a character introduction, the name of the character is stated first. The description of the character follows the name. The character's name is written in capital letters the first time it appears and before the character speaks for the first time.

    Example:

    KELLY BRANDT clutches her camera as she pushes through a crowd of people who are gaping with shocked expressions at flames leaping from a nearby building. KELLY's  stark beauty and intense blue eyes are illuminated in the firelight as she presses forward, determined to get her first story assignment on the front page of tomorrow's Daily Gazette.

    In the character description of Kelly, her age isn't specified. But the description of her beauty, her eyes, the way she  moves with determination, and the fact that this is her first story assignment provide clues that she's young. When Kelly "pushes through a crowd," we learn that she's assertive and ambitious. Kelly's personality characteristics are defined by her actions here, as well as by the physical description of her.

    It takes only a few sentences to describe a character. But keep in mind that you need to carefully choose the descriptive words that best define the character and his or her personality.

    Example:

    Down the street, ALLEN  MARSHALL steps out of his jeep. ALLEN is thirty-two years old, unshaven, dressed in faded jeans, T-shirt, boots, and a cap emblazoned with WBBD Radio. He moves with long, confident steps toward the crowd and the burning building.

    In the description of Allen, his age is stated. The way Allen is dressed and the fact that he is unshaven tells us a great deal about him. Also, he's driving a jeep—another expression  of personality. We can see that Allen is defiant, cares little about what others think of his appearance, and is very confident, which he expresses in the way he walks. The cap he's wearing provides clues about his job and complements his personality. The jeep fits in well with Allen's unshaven face, his faded jeans, and his boots.

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