The Orange County Screenwriters Association
    Be Inspired, Do Good Work

    OC Screenwriters - Articles


    Larry McMurtry

    Larry McMurtry 1978

    This profile originally appeared in Plotpoints Podcast, May 21, 2021

    You could be forgiven if you know novelist/scriptwriter Larry McMurtry from only his multiple award-winning novel and mini-series “Lonesome Dove.” But McMurtry was pounding out both novels and screenplays on many more topics than the west right from the start of his career. He was never a one-off kind of writer.

    McMurtry was born in Texas so it made a lot of sense for him to focus on the Lonestar State. He actually grew up on a ranch outside of Archer City which he renamed to the town of Thalia for his novels.

    An odd bit of information from McMurtry’s memoirs states that he didn’t have any books when he was growing up until about the age of six. He inherited a boxload of young adult books from a cousin heading off to serve in World War II and began reading the western adventures left to him. One has to wonder but for this bit of serendipitous inheritance would we have been denied this amazing writer?

    A Texas boy through and through McMurtry got a bachelors and masters degree of arts from two Texas universities.

    He was also an academic fellow at Stanford Creative Writing with some impressive classmates including Ken Keasey, and then back to Texas when he did a year at TCU.

    A breakthrough occurred when McMurtry’s novel “Horseman, Pass By” which was purchased and filmed as “Hud” starring Paul Newman as the titular character was produced. The film was nominated for seven Oscars and rocketed McMurtry to the A-list of novelists whose stories Hollywood wanted to tell.

    “The Last Picture Show” was next. Set in Texas in the early 50's, it starred a young Sybil Sheppard, Jeff Bridges, and many other amazing actors. McMurtry wrote both the novel and screenplay. It told the story of coming of age in a town that is slowly dying. Picture Show, directed by Peter Bogdonavich, was nominated for eight Oscars in 1972, including adapted screenplay, winning two.

    Continue reading
      2302 Hits
    2302 Hits

    Irwin Allen


    This profile was originally part of Plotpoints Podcast

    Irwin Allen might seem an odd choice to profile for this podcast. There are hundreds, thousands of writers who would be potentially more appropriate for this show including Aaron Sorkin, William Goldman, Rod Serling, Richard Matheson, etc. And I have profiled them here.

    But Allen was a true innovator. In the same way that many golden age scifi writers cut their teeth on b-movies in the 50's and 60's Allen was that writer for B-television.

    Born to poor Russia immigrants in 1916, Allen attended Columbia University majoring in journalism and advertising before being forced to drop out because of the Great Depression of the 30's.

    Moving to California, Allen found work in radio in Los Angeles at legendary station KLAC. In fact, KLAC which is AM 570 is now a great sports radio outlet. This radio gig in the late 40's led to other opportunities in print and movies.

    “Where Danger Lives” starring Robert Mitchum was Allen’s first film at RKO. His documentary “The Sea Around Us” won an Oscar in 1953 and despite this success, Allen went from RKO to Warner Brothers and made movies with such luminaries as Peter Lorre, Victor Mature, the Marx Brothers, Ronald Colman, Hedy Lamarr, Vincent Price, and Dennis Hopper.

    In the early 60's, three films by Allen, “The Lost World,” from the novel by Arthur Conan Doyle, “Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea,” and “Five Weeks in a Balloon” became the basis of some of Allen’s TV successes.

    In the mid-60s Allen focused almost exclusively on television with 20th Century Fox Television Studio.

    Continue reading
      2648 Hits
    2648 Hits

    David E. Kelley


    This profile was originally part of Plotpoints Podcast

    David E. Kelley’s scripts are the stuff of Emmys. Kelley’s work includes such legendary TV shows as "L.A. Law" where he started as a staff writer for Steven Bochco and quickly became exec producer. "Doogie Hauser" (with Bocco), "Picket Fences," "The Practice," "Ally McBeal," "Boston Legal" and movies like "Lake Placid" and "Mystery Alaska" were all part of Kelley’s early successes.

    Kelley has many Catholic themes in his work but was actually raised Protestant in Belmont Massachusetts. His father is a hockey hall of famer and at Princeton, Kelley was captain of the Princeton hockey team.

    His early work was listed nicely on Wikipedia:


    Demonstrating early-on a creative and quirky bent, in his junior year at Princeton, Kelley submitted a paper for a political science class about John F. Kennedy's plot to kill Fidel Castro - written as a poem. For his senior thesis, he turned the Bill of Rights into a play. "I made each amendment into a character", he said. "The First Amendment is a loudmouth guy who won't shut up. The Second Amendment guy, all he wanted to talk about was his gun collection. Then the 10th Amendment, the one where they say leave the rest for the states to decide, he was a guy with no self-esteem."[3]

    In 1983, while considering it only a hobby, Kelley began writing a screenplay, a legal thriller, which was optioned in 1986 and later became the Judd Nelson feature film “From the Hip” in 1987.

    End Quote

    Continue reading
      2555 Hits
    2555 Hits

    Oscar Micheaux


    This profile was originally created for Plotpoints Podcasts 2020.06.19 (Here)

    Born in 1884, Oscar Micheaux’s success as author, filmmaker, playright, and activist was unprecedented.

    African Americans were just a few decades removed from slavery; the 15th Amendment which guaranteed the right of Blacks to vote was passed just 14 years before. Lynchings and race-driven murders were still all too common in many parts of America.

    Micheaux’s father, himself a former slave, sired 13 children on a farm in Illinois. A middle child, Micheaux rebelled against everything and become somewhat of a problem. Eventually moving to Chicago to live with his brother, he tried many jobs that were never very satisfying but led to him saving some money and making some solid connections in the white community that helped his future plans.

    After bouncing around, Micheaux eventually became a homesteader in South Dakota. While there, some articles he had written made their way to The Chicago Defender to be published. His experiences as a sharecropper and homesteader informed much of his early literary work and led to a long career as a writer in many genres but focusing on the social issues of the times.

    In 1913 Micheaux’s first book The Conquest: The Story of a Negro Pioneer was published.

    A connection to the Lincoln Motion Picture Company upon the publishing of his second novel seemed promising but ultimately fruitless. Micheaux wanted control over the film adaptation of his novel and the owner of the production company flatly refused.

    Micheaux promptly founded his own company, The Micheaux Film & Book Company of Sioux City (in Chicago) and wrote, directed, and produced the film The Homesteader based on his book about his experiences in South Dakota.

    Forty more films followed. The movies were raw, in your face features that pulled no punches about race relations and societal issues of the times.

    Quote: "It is only by presenting those portions of the race portrayed in my pictures, in the light and background of their true state, that we can raise our people to greater heights.” End Quote

    Besides being the first African America to produce a film in 1919, in 1924 Micheaux introduced the moviegoing world to the astounding Paul Robeson in his film, Body and Soul. He attacked the racism in D.W. Grifiths’ film Birth of a Nation in his own film Within Our Gates.

    Micheaux never shrunk from a fight and many of his movies, books, and just his attitude in general created enemies not happy with this man of modest means taking the white community to task in the cinema and newspapers.

    From Wikipedia:

    “Micheaux's films were made during a time of great change in the African-American community. His films featured contemporary black life. He dealt with racial relationships between blacks and whites, and the challenges for blacks when trying to achieve success in the larger society. His films were used to oppose and discuss the racial injustice that African Americans received. Topics such as lynching, job discrimination, rape, mob violence, and economic exploitation were depicted in his films. These films also reflect his ideologies and autobiographical experiences.”

    The Producers Guild said he was: “The most prolific black – if not most prolific independent filmmaker in American cinema.”

    Micheaux wrote, produced and directed forty-four feature-length films between 1919 and 1948 and wrote seven novels, one a national bestseller.

    Oscar Micheaux, born to ex-slaves, defied all odds to become a successful film producer, scriptwriter, playright, author, and entrepreneur.

    He died in 1951. He is buried in Charlotte NC.

    His gravestone reads: A Man Ahead of His Time.

    Many of his films are available on streaming services like Amazon Prime.

    Continue reading
      2365 Hits
    2365 Hits

    Eric Roth

    Screenwriter Eric Roth

    If you don’t know writer/producer Eric Roth you do know his films.

    Notables such as: A Star Is Born (the latest one), Ali, Forest Gump, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Good Shepard, Munich, The Horse Whisperer, The Postman (costner), Suspect (Cher) and early, uncredited movies like Wolfen, The Drowning Pool, and The Onion Field.

    Born in 1945 in the Bedford Sty area of New York, his mother and father were producers and writers giving him what was certainly a good head start on his career.

    He’s quoted as saying that the boxing he learned as a young man helped his later career by teaching him discipline. Certainly an unusual path to becoming one of Hollywood’s finest writers.

    Roth went to college in California and then film school at UCLA with Jim Morrison. They were good friends until Morrison’s death in 1971.

    There’s not a lot of background on how Roth became Hollywood’s A-lister of note but he did pay his dues writing or working on a dozen films before he saw major success in 1994's Forest Gump.

    Six films of Roths’ were nominated for the 'Best Picture' Academy Awards: Forrest Gump (1994), The Insider (1999), Munich (2005), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (2011) and A Star Is Born (2018).

    "Forrest Gump" won 'Best Picture' and earned him the 'Best Adapted Screenplay' Academy Award.

    Continue reading
      2322 Hits
    2322 Hits

    Richard Matheson

    matheson, richard


    This profile first appeared in Plotpoints Podcast #175, April 10, 2020

    Although there had been quite a few post-apocalyptic tales before "I Am Legend," Richard Matheson’s take is probably the most copied and most produced. It has led to many awards and much acclaim from everywhere in the world.

    And it all started humbly enough in Allendale, New Jersey.

    Richard Burton Matheson was the son of Norwegian immigrants. He published his first story at the age of 8 in the newspaper The Brooklyn Eagle in New York where he had moved with his then-divorced mother.

    In 1949 he migrated to California after college and a stint in the Army. There he discovered even more outlets for his genius.

    “Born Of Man and Woman” a horrifying tale about a gigantic child chained in a basement was published in the legendary The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 1950. This garnered him a following and the attention led to other stories being published in Galaxy Science Fiction.

    Matheson was quickly gaining a rep as a horror/scifi writer to be noticed. He was invited to become a member of the Southern California Sorcerers which included Ray Bradbury. I mean what wasn’t Ray Bradbury involved in back then?

    Continue reading
      2019 Hits
    2019 Hits

    Harriet Frank, Jr.


    This post was originally part of Plotpoints Podcast.

    Harriet Frank Jr, an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, was born Harriet Goldstein in Portland, Oregon. Her mother, Harriet also, changed their family name to Frank, becoming Harriet Frank Sr.

    I’ve never heard of a female Sr/Jr but according the interwebs there is actually no gender assigned to either it or using 1 or 2. It’s just been that traditionally that men have named their children after them.

    Frank started her career under MGM’s Young Writer Program soon after WWII. She met her husband there, with whom she would collaborate on many projects - but not initially, writing several films and teleplays on her own from 1946 until 1957.

    The husband and wife team had their first collaboration in the 1958's “The Long Hot Summer” staring Paul Newman and directed by Martin Ritt. This was actually an adaptation of a William Faulker novel called “The Hamlet.” Harriet said it was mostly original material so she didn’t consider it a true adaptation.

    This collaboration both of husband and wife and with director Ritt would prove to be fruitful for all, leading to another seven films most of which were terrific commercial successes at the time, and some of which have become film classics.

    Said Ritt a hugely successful director who was also a blacklisted filmmaker for his alleged communist sympathies: “I don’t know of any better screenwriters in America.”

    Eight movies in all were made by Frank, her husband Irving Rav-etch, and Martin Ritt including “Hud” starring Paul Newman which was nominated for seven Academy Awards including adapted screenplay which at the time was called Best Writing, Screenplay Based On Material From Another Medium.

    Frank and her husband were nominated and won numerous other awards.

    Golden Globes, Edgar Awards, New York Film Critic Awards, Western Heritage Awards, and five Writers Guild nods winning with “Hud” which was adapted from Larry McMurtry’s “Horseman, Pass By.”

    The 1979's Norma Rae was based on the life of union organizer Crystal Lee Jordan. It starred Sally Field and was another Oscar nod for Frank and her husband. It was nominated in total for four Oscars including Best Picture and script, and won Field an Oscar for Best Actress.

    It was also nominated and/or won numerous other accolades including at the Canne Film Festival, being awarded the Prix d'interprétation féminine (meaning best actress)

    Frank’s screenplays, 26 in all, are a list of classic movies that made stars of the actors, actresses, and directors involved.

    1958 The Long, Hot Summer
    1959 The Sound and the Fury
    1960 Home from the Hill
    The Dark at the Top of the Stairs
    1963 Hud
    Baby Makes Three (Television movie)
    1967 Hombre
    1968 House of Cards Credited as James P. Bonner
    1969 The Reivers
    1972 The Cowboys
    The Carey Treatment Credited as James P. Bonner
    1974 Conrack Producer
    The Spikes Gang
    1979 Norma Rae
    1985 Murphy's Romance
    1990 Stanley & Iris which was the last thing Frank was credited with.

    There is no doubt that Frank and her husband were true innovators.

    According to the L.A. Times quote:

    Although they sometimes adapted a story as written, they just as often used it as a starting point for a far different story — villains would be recast as heroes, minor characters reshaped as the script’s protagonist, multiple characters melted carefully into one complexity.

    End quote.

    A true groundbreaker, a Norma Rae who wouldn’t accept no for an answer, Harriet Franks, Jr.’s incredible career spanned 43 years of success after success at a time when doors were either never opened or were closing for female writers.

    She died recently in L.A. at the age of 93.

    Continue reading
      2211 Hits
    2211 Hits

    Frances Marion

    330px Frances Marion

    So many people are spoken of as being groundbreaking. Screenwriter Frances Marion is truly one of them.

    During her enormous career she wrote 187 (some say up to 300) scripts - starting in silent film.


    Born in 1888 in San Francisco, Frances Marion became proficient in art in school. Once her school was destroyed in the 1904 earthquake, she dropped out, worked as a photographer’s assistant and model.

    Multi-talented even at a young age, legendary filmmaker Lois Weber hired her as a writing assistant, and actress. She was so good and photogenic that she could have carved out a career in acting alone but chose to write for the screen.

    Marion impressed World Films owner William Brady by recutting an unusable film that starred Brady’s daughter. This resulted in a job offer and in Marion eventually becoming head writer at World Films. She wrote upwards of 50 movies there.

    In 1917 the hit Poor Little Rich Girl staring Mary Pickford and written by Marion, cemented Marion’s future as she became the official scriptwriter for the legendary star, Pickford, who started United Artists.

    According to Columbia University, quote: “Marion maintained ongoing collaborations with Mary Pickford, Irving Thalberg, and William Randolph Hearst. She excelled at writing scripts that accentuated the strengths of specific actors and is often credited with defining the careers of Marie Dressler, Greta Garbo, Marion Davies, and Pickford as well as Pickford’s husband, cowboy star, actor Fred Thomson.

    Continue reading
      2094 Hits
    2094 Hits

    Leigh Brackett

    brackett leigh


    Leigh (pronounced 'Lee") Brackett was that rarest of all writers.

    A female science fiction writer, she wrote successfully in a time when genre fiction, and the film industry was dominated by men.

    She became known as the Queen of Space Opera penning some of the most compelling novels and stories about space and our place in it with increasingly sophisticated themes.

    In 1939 (at the age of 23) she sold her first scifi story called “Martian Quest” to one of the pre-eminent science fiction magazines of the time: Astounding. Her style and story was inspired by Edgar Rice Burroughs and his “God Of Mars” novel.

    Quote: "Suddenly, at one blazing stroke, the veil was rent and I had a glimpse of the cosmos. I cannot tell you what a tremendous effect that idea of Mars, another planet, a strange world, had on my imagination."

    She continued in that vein until she wrote “No Good from a Corpse” (1944), as LEE Douglas, her maiden name, which was a crime novel in the Raymond Chandler mode.

    This book resulted in her getting her first big screenwriting assignment.

    Continue reading
      2240 Hits
    2240 Hits

    Buck Henry


    This article was originally on the Plotpoints Podcast

    Buck Henry sounds like a name to be feared. It intimates a man of giant stature, powerful and muscle hard.

    And he was - just not physically.  The name was Henry's way of both honoring his grandfather, who was also a Buck, but also an enduring statement about perceptions.

    Henry Zukerman aka Buck Henry, was an award-winning actor, writer, and director. It’s doubtful that anyone was more accomplished in the facets of entertainment than the ones Buck Henry pursued.

    Like many of his peer group at the time, Henry was born and raised in New York city, cutting his teeth on high school plays. Unlike those of his time, however, Henry was a paid actor on Broadway at the age of 15 with a production of "Life With Father."

    Henry came to the entertainment world naturally. His mother, Ruth Taylor, was a silent film star, and his father, a brigadier general and stockbroker, provided a nice cushion for Henry to pursue his dreams.

    During a stint in the Army during the Korean War Henry continued to act and write plays for an Army repertory company. After the war he did improvisational comedy with a well-known comedy troop in New York.

    In an odd bit of real-life farce, and I’m going to quote this directly from Wikipedia because I won’t get it right if I don’t.

    Continue reading
      2354 Hits
    2354 Hits

    Linda Woolverton


    This article was originally part of a November 2019 Plotpoints Podcast episode.  See right side, under slideshow on home page.

    Linda Woolverton is the combination of two rarities in Hollywood. One is a female screenwriter - a growing but still under-represented demographic, and two, a multi-screenwriting Disney star.

    Woolverton is a SoCal native born and educated in Long Beach, earning a masters at Cal State Fullerton in children’s theater.

    If Hollywood wouldn’t hire her, she reasoned, she’d just start her own children’s theater company which successfully performed in theaters, malls, and churches in the area and which also gave a venue to many aspiring young writers, directors, actors and actresses.

    While working as a development exec at CBS in children’s programming, she also began writing her YA novels, Star Wind and Running Before The Wind which were very well received.

    This decision to write and publish books would become one of her better ones.

    Tiring of the executive grind, Linda moved into children’s television writing.

    She wrote for animated series Star Wars: Ewoks, Dennis the Menace, The Real Ghostbusters, The Berenstain Bears, My Little Pony and Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers but eventually chafed over the restrictions and seemingly dead end.

    Continue reading
      2597 Hits
    2597 Hits

    John Hughes



    This article was originally part of a November 2019 Plotpoints podcast..  See top right of home page (under slideshow.)

    If John Hughes hadn’t been born someone would have had to invent him.

    In the 80's John Hughes ruled Hollywood when it came to a 15-30 yr old demographic. And as his repertoire grew, he ruled screwball comedies in the same way in the 90s’ and beyond.

    Born in 1950 into a comfortable middle class life in Lansing Michigan, Hughes channeled much of his teen years into film. He credits moving to Chicago for his inspiration for his first film efforts. He in fact met his future wife, Nancy Ludwig there. In high school he was a Rat Pack fan (Sinatra, etc.) and that certainly expressed itself in some of those teen comedies where groups of young misfits would go through 2 hrs of drama and comedy. In fact, some of these teens became known as the Brat Pack.

    Hughes dropped out of college and sold jokes to several top tier comedians of the time. He got into marketing and created several dynamic and well-known ad campaigns before he found his comedy groove.

    He became a regular contributor to National Lampoon - the magazine - and wrote a story called Vacation 88 which eventually became National Lampoon's Vacation.

    National Lampoon's Class Reunion which he wrote while still on staff at the magazine became his first produced movie screenplay but he had a few episodes of a TV show called Delta House and oddly enough, a co-writer credit in a Nicola Tesla film.

    Continue reading
      2390 Hits
    2390 Hits

    Frank Pierson

    ScreenShot a1499


    One of the more frustrating aspects of scriptwriting is that rarely are writers as celebrated as in other fields like novels or plays. And actors, directors - even producers get mch more press.

    Case in point: Frank Pierson.

    If you don’t who he is, that’s typical. But when I list his films you’ll be amazed.

    Pierson was a New Yorker born and raised. Chapp - a - qua to be exact. Both Pierson’s mother and father were writers so Pierson’s path was set.

    After an a stint in the army during World War II Pierson started selling teleplays in New York city but soon moved to Hollywood.

    His initial attempts at writing for TV failed so he became a script editor on the show “Have Gun Will Travel” starring...Richard Boone, and did manage to get some of his work produced for that show.

    Success continued as he wrote for such shows as “Naked City” Dr. Kildare, Route 66 and others.

    Continue reading
      2440 Hits
    2440 Hits

    Elmore Leonard


    This profile was originally part of Plotpoints Podcast #156 / July 10, 2019 iTunes

    You may not know the name Elmore Leonard. Or you may know him solely from the hit series “Justified” starring Timothy Oliphant which was based on Leonard’s character Marshall Raylan Givens. The short story “Fire In The Hole” became the basis of Justified in which Givens is sent back to Harlan County, the area of his birth, as punishment for basically having a old west duel with a drug assassin in Miami Beach, Florida. At a restaurant. During lunch. Not that Givens cared.

    But what you probably don’t know is that you actually do know him from many, many sources because at least 19 movies and 7 TV shows were based on Leonard’s work.


    Justified, Get Shorty both the current TV series and movie, 3:10 to Yuma, Karen Sisco (TV,) Out Of Sight (jlo karen sisco), Jackie Brown, Freaky Deaky, and Hombre to name just a few of the many productions that he had either written into screenplays himself, or that were done by others from his novels and short stories.

    And actually the movie Joe Kidd (Clint Eastwood) which was a wholly original screenplay by Leonard.

    Leonard’s early life was unremarkable although his father’s job required them to relocate frequently. After military service (he was a SeaBee) in World War II, Leonard began submitting his work while still at the University of Detroit and had some minor success.

    In 1951, while still a copy writer, Leonard had his short story “Trail of the Apaches” published. This basically started a run that lasted for decades as he wrote about the old West both in short story and novels.

    Continue reading
      2808 Hits
    2808 Hits

    Steven Bochco


    First published in audio form on Plotpoints Podcast, Episode 161

    Before he passed away in 2018, Steven Bochco had the type of career that most of us can only dream of.

    Bochco was born and raised in New York and attended Carnegie Mellon University as a theater major.   After graduation, he drove cross country to California with actor Michael Tucker and went to work for Universal Pictures as a writer and then story editor on legendary television shows like Ironside, Columbo, and McMillan & Wife.

    One of his Columbo episodes, "Murder by the Book" (in 1971), was directed by another young budding superstar, Steven Spielberg. Actor Michael Tucker, Bochco’s moving partner would find success as a character actor and especially as attorney Stuart Markowitz in L.A. Law, a later Bochco production.

    In 1978 Bochco went from Universal to MTM Enterprises which was at the time a major television player.

    Bochco had middling success at MTM until Hill Street Blues which started a trend in television that has lasted and grown until today of gritty, street-wise police dramas.  Hill Street Blues’ 1st episode caused a stir when two likable characters, patrol cops Renko and Hill, played by Charles Haid and Michael Warren, were killed at the end of the episode.

    Or so we thought.

    The coarse street stories, worn and dirty sets, and ambush assassination attempts sent a clear signal that Bochco had a vision for episodic police procedurals and it wasn’t like anyone else’s.

    Continue reading
      2991 Hits
    2991 Hits

    NBFF 2019

    2019 NBFF

    Newport Beach Film Festival 2019by Derek Nguyen

    As always, the Newport Beach Film Festival provides the perfect spot for Orange County film artists to share their craft. With theaters in Fashion Island, Costa Mesa, the Lido, and more, you can hardly imagine a better venue to premiere your films and shorts. It’s well-run, industry professionals enjoy the slower pace of Orange County in comparison to the chaos of Los Angeles, and great food venues like Five Crowns are open for the VIP’s and filmmakers to wine and dine. It’s been five years since I’ve last been here, and while my outlook on filmmaking has shifted, my love for the festival itself definitely remains strong.

    Back in 2014, I was a senior in high school just starting to learn about filmmaking. The ever-fantastic Mark Sevi was teaching me screenwriting and every time he showed me some facet of filmmaking, I was completely enthralled. My technical knowledge of film was nil, I simply knew that I loved the storytelling. So, when I went to the festival for the premiere of “Chef,” I just watched it as a fun movie. You can find my review on this website actually, and my thoughts about the event afterwards. In terms of film criticism, I mainly focus on screenwriting because that was the (small) extent of my knowledge. I looked at the premiere party simply as a fun excursion with good food and drinks. Looking back at all of this and comparing it to how I took in the event this year, it makes me realize just how much my perspective on filmmaking has changed.

    Since 2014, I’ve went and graduated from UCLA, and pursued filmmaking the entire way through. At first, this began with screenwriting and narrative shorts, but as I grew as a filmmaker, I ventured into other mediums such as music videos and branded content. This led to me evolving from a writer to a director, and often times I would work as a producer for my own works too. These experiences necessitated that I learned about all facets of film, from writing to cameras to VFX implementation. So, when I went to the Newport Beach Film Festival this year, I watched the shorts from a much more analytical standpoint.

    I went to two different short showcases, the UK Shorts and the “Realizations Came Shortly” selection, and I dissected them based on scene count, locations, production design, and equipment in order to guess-timate the budgets. I found that most of the shorts from the UK showcase were actually rather expensive and often had a medley of sponsors. It makes sense though, as the UK shorts had to have a sizeable budget in the first place to be submitting to festivals across the world. These shorts often had big casts, many scenes, intricate production design, and expansive locations on top of their top-notch equipment (drones, ARRI Alexa’s, Steadicams and the like). They exuded money, and I wasn’t surprised to hear that the budgets were upwards of $30,000 for most of them. On the other hand, the American shorts I saw in “Realizations Came Shortly” did have some lower budget selections. I could tell right away when a short was lower budget: the camera movement would not be as free-flowing, the casts were small, there would be only one location or continuous scene. As I watched these shorts, I made sure to analyze them to think about how I’d execute my own short. I wasn’t there just to watch them for simple enjoyment.

    That being said, I’m a sucker for good stories. I found myself slowly starting to focus less on the logistics and “ugly” side of filming, and started to focus on what made these stories click. Comparing how I interpreted these stories to how I viewed “Chef” five years ago, it was comforting to know that I still valued stories above all. Reflecting back o nthose shorts now, after I was enthralled by quite a few of them, I realized that I loved the stories when they were distilled to just one, simple narrative. They never needed to be overly complicated or produced. It didn’t matter whether it was a $5,000 budget or a $30,000 budget. A short can be great as long as it had a compelling story.

    After the shorts, I also attended the dinner party at Five Crowns this year, and it was fascinating watching all the networking going on all around. As a freelance filmmaker, I couldn’t help but to think of how great an opportunity that party would be. While I have a portfolio, I definitely needed a short to take full advantage of this party as narrative filmmaking really was the main subject people were interested in. Nonetheless, I still enjoyed the well-drinks, the great food such as the delicious tuna tartare tacos, and the cozy environment that Five Crowns has to offer.

    Looking back at this year’s festival, it really illuminated how much there is to know about the film industry. I’m still a novice to say the least, and I feel infinitely more knowledgeable than I did five years ago. Five years from now, I’m sure I’ll think that I knew nothing about film in 2019. I just hope that next time I’m here, I’ll be able to showcase my own stories instead of simply watching them.  At least now I know I don’t need a $10,000+ budget to pull it off! I just got to find the right story to tell.

    Continue reading
      1885 Hits
    1885 Hits

    John Sayles

    1024px Sayles John IMGP2516 A


    John Sayles isn’t one of those filmmakers you think about a lot. But if you’re a fan of his, as soon as his name gets in your ears, his movies inhabit your mind and you can’t think of anything else.

    Sayles’ career started in the incubator of Roger Corman’s production company. Corman, who at the current age of 93, has an astounding 415 credits as a producer - and started the careers of many famous Hollywood names such as Jack Nicholsan, Dennis Hopper, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorcesse and James Cameron also counts Sayles as one of his mentees.

    Lady In Red and Pirahna (1978 and 1979) were two films Sayles wrote for Corman before he did his own film, Return of the Secaucus 7 about a group of college friends on a reunion at a house in New Hampshire, and the drama that occurs as old wounds are opened and unresolved issues are aired. If that premise sound familiar, you might recognize it from The Big Chill which was made several years later in 1983. Secaucus 7 won several awards including a Writers Guild award for best comedy. It unfortunately was not a commercial success which marked a path that many Sayles films would walk.

    Sayles work has always been distinguished by low tickets and high praise. He’s won Edgar Awards, WGA awards, NAACP Image awards, dozens of film festival awards, Spirit and Sundance awards, critics awards, nominations for Academy Awards and on and on even as box office rewards mostly eluded him.

    His dramas are marked by intense and painful exchanges. Raw and emotionally bloody, they grab and hold you uncomfortably tight. His comedy is broad and absurd. His genre films, notables like Pirahna, Alligator, and The Howling never failed to scare or thrill.

    The exception proving the rule, Sayles was a writer on Battle Beyond the Stars widely named as one of Corman’s worst films. How Battle failed is beyond me. It featured Sayles as writer and James Cameron and James Horner contributing - but that’s the joy of creativity. Even the sure things can sink under the weight of their own expectations.

    Sayles has dabbled in television and appeared in many films as an actor.

    Continue reading
      1968 Hits
    1968 Hits

    Newport Beach Film Festival 2019

    dgAGS RP


    The Newport Beach Film Festival honors short films with more screen time than any other festival I've attended.

    Over 200 short films are screening this year!  And only fourteen percent of the shorts submitted to the festival are accepted!  That number comes straight from Dennis Baker, Director of Shorts Programming.

    The math is pretty simple:  Over 1435 short films were submitted to the festival this year!!

    Surely those short films that made the cut deserve some serious kudos.  And it means, as a screenwriter, you should pay attention to the short form.  Given the exposure you may get, it’s a viable ticket to “the show,"  a point of entry in a marketplace filled with gatekeepers.

    Many of the shorts at this year's festival are written, directed, produced and sometimes star talented young people in the industry.  Some are proving concepts and skills, and their “how-I-got-it-made stories” are perhaps as interesting as the stories they present on screen.

     Stay turned for more on that.  In my next article, I’ll focus on a handful of the shorts screened here, how they got made, got funded, and the inspiration behind them.

    For now, I’ll tell you more of what I learned from Dennis on how these movies are presented to the public at NBFF.

    Continue reading
      2615 Hits
    2615 Hits

    William Goldman - Nobody Knows Anything Except Him

    william goldman
    WilliamGoldman NobodyKnows
    butch and sundance
    princess bride
    goldman oscar
    william goldman

    This profile was part of a Plotpoints Podcast on July 12, 2017 (LINK TO PODCAST)

    I’m not sure that any podcast that purports to cover scriptwriting can neglect to mention a true genius and legend of the craft. Writer Aaron Sorkin has said of him, “He taught me everything I know and about a tenth of what he knows.”

    Who is this genius?

    William Goldman.

    As if his name was somehow indicative of his potential for fame, in the 60's, 70's and 80's Goldman was the A-list writer who delivered box office gold.

    Movies like:

    1987 The Princess Bride (book) / (screenplay) 1986 Heat (novel) / (screenplay) 1979 Butch and Sundance: The Early Days (characters) 1979 Mr. Horn (TV Movie) 1978 Magic (novel) / (screenplay) 1977 A Bridge Too Far (screenplay) 1976 Marathon Man (from: his novel) / (screenplay) 1976 All the President's Men (screenplay) 1975 The Great Waldo Pepper (screenplay) 1975 The Stepford Wives (screenplay) 1973 Papillon (contributing writer - uncredited) 1972 The Hot Rock (screenplay) 1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (written by)

    Many of his most successful films were based on books he had written which were also successes. The Midas Touch was more than a phrase for Goldman.  Not only was he writing scripts that would star A-list actors and win numerous awards, he was also the most sought-after script doctor in the business.

    Continue reading
      4579 Hits


    © 2017

    4579 Hits

    Mel Brooks - Funny Man


    photo: By Angela George, CC BY-SA 3.0,

    If you’re too young to know Mel Brooks from his heyday, you certainly can still see many reflections of his work today.

    The film “The Producers” starring Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder has been made into a Broadway hit that is still playing. The original production starring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, has run for 2,502 performances and counting, and has won a record-breaking 12 Tony Awards.

    It was also remade into a 2005 movie starring Lane and Broderick.

    Brooks’ “Get Smart” series, which he co-created with writer Buck Henry, was recently made into a movie starring Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway as agents 86 and 99. The same silly, hilarious bits that infused the late 60's comedy and made it a TV hit were in abundance in the movie version.

    More recently, there’s been talk of remaking "Robin Hood, Men In Tights," "Blazing Saddles" (which I’d love to see how or if they could,) and "Young Frankenstein."

    Continue reading
      3251 Hits
    3251 Hits

    Copyright (c) Orange County Screenwriters Association
    Fair Use Statement

    Fair use refers to the right to reproduce, use and share copyrighted works of cultural production without direct permission from or payment to the original copyright holders. It is a designation that is assigned to projects that use copyrighted materials for purposes that include research, criticism, news reporting and teaching. When a project is protected under fair use provisions, the producers of that project are not subject to sanctions related to copyright infringement. The maintenance of fair use protections is central to many non-profit and education projects, especially those that operate in digital and online spaces.

    This website may contain copyrighted material, the use of which has not been specifically authorized by the copyright holders. The material is made available on this website as a way to advance research and teaching related to critical media literacy and intercultural understanding, among other salient political and social issues. Through context, critical questioning, and educational framing, the Orange County Screenwriters Association, therefore, creates a transformative use of copyrighted media. The material is presented for entirely non-profit educational purposes. There is no reason to believe that the featured media clips will in any way negatively affect the market value of the copyrighted works. For these reasons, we believe that the website is clearly covered under current fair use copyright laws. We do not support any actions in which the materials on this site are used for purposes that extend beyond fair use.