Writer cattle prod for 2016!

Screen Shot 2016-01-14 at 10.43.14 AMDear writer,

Some inspiring 2016 cattle-prodding for you! My goal here is to PROD YOU.

For those of you aspiring to a career in writing (all of us?)…..
THERE IS NO “ONE SET OF RULES” TO HAVING A WRITING CAREER.

There is no “one way” to create a career in writing.
Today I am inspired by Jay Duplass, screenwriter & film director. WATCH THIS INTERVIEW. Jay gives it to us straight: There is no “one way” to have a career as a writer. There is no “one career path”. Don’t think about your career; keep your focus on What It Is That You Want To Give To The World.

So don’t wonder about right or wrong career moves – don’t wait to be helped, noticed or discovered – just WRITE it, then SHOW it. Then REPEAT. People will find you.

For those of you who are poets, playwrights & novelists: Same goes for you. WRITE. THEN PUBLISH. THEN KEEP WRITING AGAIN. 

Go Writer Go.
The world needs your stories.

Love Tara

 

 

 

Be Who You Are

Andrew Ahn, FilmmakerI am inspired, dear friends.

So inspired that I am blogging again.

That’s right, dear excellent readers: If you’re like me and you’ve dropped the blogging ball for many months or years, and you’ve been wondering how to dust off your blogging chops – how to break the non-blogging spell – what to even write about…..you too can simply PICK BACK UP. Begin again. Who cares how long it’s been.
Seriously who cares. Pick back up, now.
Especially helpful toward the task of Picking Back Up: choose someone who inspires you, and write a blog that tells the world about her!

SO. To inspire you, dear writer, reader, creator, inventor:
I am writing to tell you about a him: writer-director-filmmaker, Andrew Ahn.  He is making a film that is all Beauty and Truth: SPA NIGHT. A film that I can’t wait for you to see. For the world to see.

And toward the worldwide cause of Creating Art We Want To See – that we know is important, I am writing to band us together – you and I together, dear artist – to continue the Great Barn Raising as I like to call it: the Barn of Important Stories. It takes a village, my friends, as you know.

SPA NIGHT needs us. Let’s get this one made. 

SPA NIGHT is both fictional, and immensely personal.
Andrew Ahn: ” Spa Night may not be autobiographical, but it’s still very personal. My main character David feels like he could be a cousin of mine, someone that lives in the same community, breathes the same air as me. David is an amalgamation of different people that I know, of different experiences I have had. David and I are very different people, but I feel like we’re emotionally linked.
” As a second-generation Korean-American, my connection to my Korean identity is almost entirely defined by my family. If I lived in Korea, my Korean identity would be informed by many other things: my citizenship, my language, my pop culture, etc. But because I’m Korean-American, I mainly feel Korean because I have a Korean mother and a Korean father.
” So what happens if I don’t have a Korean wife and don’t have a Korean child? Suddenly, my Korean identity is at stake because my homosexuality keeps me from duplicating that family structure. In this way, my two identities feel at odds with each other.
” This is why I’m so thankful for the LGBTQ Korean-American community. We can define our Korean identities and our queer identities through each other. In Spa Night, David hasn’t quite figured this out, but he gets one step closer.
” At its core, Spa Night is about growing up. It’s about becoming your own person. ” 

For all you creators out there, Andrew Ahn is another noble artist here to remind us that our own stories are important.  What you are chewing on, dear storyteller; what you have an irrepressible itch to SAY – it has a PLACE.  An AUDIENCE.
Write it. Grab your pen; open up your laptop, and Be Who You Are. Share it.
Get at it. NOW.

SPA NIGHT is on the Sundance, Film Independent, Vimeo, and Calarts curated pages on Kickstarter, and is one of Kickstarter’s “10 cool new projects”:

Go Writer Go.
T.S.

 

 

And Now: An Ode To The Minutiae

I’ve been thinking about the Nobility of the Minutiae. More to the point, about the Great Wisdom of Prep.

This important theme has been on my mind the past couple of weeks. Today, I am compelled to share with you the highlights, insights and gifts of wisdom dropped in my lap over past 14 days.  Dropped by some sort of storytelling god who has been sitting on my shoulder for a fortnight now – my angel? my albatross?….reminding me that deep artistic (not to mention life) satisfaction …ALWAYS BLOOMS OUT OF THE MINUTIAE.  It’s been a good 14 days, dear readers. Get ready for some nuggets of wisdom from the Minutiae Heroes I’ve run into recently – nuggets intended to explode-open your own personal genius.

 Five Invaluable (Free!) Reminders that will Multiply Your Greatness:

1. From Tariq Tapa: Moviemaker to watch, outstanding storyteller: “Be the expert of your film.”

I had the chance to meet with Tariq about a week ago. What a lucky wack in the head. Tariq took me back to my theatre school days, where I was first exposed to the great importance of storytelling research. Tariq reminded me of the utter importance of script-breakdown/break-a-part, with a sweet tutorial on How To Prep Like A Maniac. Prep until the cows come home. Prep like no one’s prepped before. Prep in the way that only the True Leader of a movie must be prepped. He wasn’t just talking about location, dialect and wardrobe of the period. No way. Tariq reminded me of the immense importance of knowing the specific role in a screenplay, of every character, every scene, every beat, every line, in relationship to the overall arc of your tale. Every character/scene/beat/line uniquely serves your story in its own specific way. And how do each of these elements evolve, moment to moment. The minutiae of storytelling. This kind of in-depth prep requires time & focus. And always pays off. Worth the work.

Tariq is about to go into production on his next film. For each page in his script, Tariq has spent hours and weeks answering specific questions for himself, in order to field any and all questions posed to him before, during or after shooting. He will be able to explain & defend every part of the process, in terms of how it will serve his story. You should see his director’s book. This is one stupendously-prepped director. Tariq: “Be the expert of your film. How? Prep prep prep prep prep prep. Know your movie inside and out, backwards and forwards.” Tariq’s ZERO BRIDGE is a multiple award winner; Tariq himself is a nominee for both the Film Independent’s Spirit Awards’  “Someone To Watch Award” and the “John Cassavetes Award”.

2. From Justin Zackham. writer of The Bucket List directed by Rob Reiner, a quote from from Reiner: “The entire film happens in prep.” 

This I heard recently in an interview with the enthusiastically thorough Zackham on the podcast The Q and A with Jeff Goldsmith.  If you haven’t yet discovered this podcast dear reader, please run-don’t-walk to your laptop and lend an ear to this puppy. Jeff Goldsmith is yet another Minutiae Hero of mine. His interviews are impeccable. In summation again: Every tiny, tedious, irritating, painstaking bit of logistical work you do – everything from multiple readings of your script to endless, laborious location scouts – the absolute meticulousness of this work will show up in your end product. Will set it apart. Uncompromising prep = agonizing minutiae = timeless, lasting, world class cinema. Absolutely worth the work.

3. From Luke Fedoroff, on his debut feature film screening: “The World Premiere of Hunt The Maguffin is now a Hospital Benefit Screening.”

Holy heck the planning this guy is doing. Never mind the producing of his charming, esoteric first film Hunt The Maguffin (which he also did), Luke Fedoroff is now producing his world premiere at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. And donating the the evening’s entire proceeds to the promotion of healing through mediation. What a grand event this is going to be. All are welcome: come and be inspired here in Los Angeles, August 2013. – So it was when I joined Fedoroff for a ‘walk-through’ at the theatre where we discussed ticket sales, guest check-in, security, table & chair load-in, granola bars, lavatories and linens, that I considered again the nobility of the minutiae. I am in awe of the amount of work that Fedoroff is putting into his debut film. He is tireless when it comes to the details. And all for a tremendously important cause. This fastidious, heartfelt prep work creates a kind of resonance. A kind of Grace. Commitment to the Minutiae invites Transcendence.

4.  From the esteemed, accomplished & tireless L.A. film collective WeMakeMovies Board Members: “Thank you for volunteering.”

Holy hamburgers these cats are the Mighty Warriors of the Minutiae. Ever run a film collective? The organization behind the easy affable front of a “workshop night” is like the buzzing inside of a raging beehive on an outwardly serene, sunny day. Currently in the works: the inaugural WeMakeMovies/Duly Noted/Equal Writes Screenplay Competition – Finalist Announcement Night. On the team blotter: The ticket sales, the volunteers, the box office, the greeters, the t-shirts, the step-and-repeat, the cameras, the run-thru. All of this spearheaded by one extraordinary Elan O’Connor. Yes, today I am singling you out, Elan O’Connor:  Accomplished Actress & Writer – also an extraordinary professional chef, also Head of Casting and the ADMINISTRATIVE GODDESS of WeMakeMovies.org. Master of the WMM minutiae, Elan is a force to be reckoned with. Meet her this coming June 30, where she will be running the show. The rest of us will be taking orders.

5) ….And from Sam Zvibleman, writer, director and all around do-what-needs-to-be-done filmmaker: “Aim for the highest possible standards.” 

Zvibleman is also smitten with The Minutiae. Unable to love any less. This high standard is the curse of an auteur. The ball-and-chain of a filmmaker you’ll be hearing more and more about, and soon. I name Zvibleman here, good reader, as a final inspiration to you to explore your story details to their fullest. To think your project through with the utmost reverence & care. This is Zvibleman’s M.O. When Sam asked me to be a sounding board for a short screenplay of his, we met not once or twice, but monthly, for a year.  We spent a year in coffee shops elucidating the specifics of his plot & the exact stakes of his characters. Check out this gentleman’s work, dear hungry storyteller, and let your imagination receive a hearty butt-kicking. Good medicine for all of us. Sam co-wrote & co-produced the indie feature film The Sound & The Shadow due out 2014. He is also a sought-after script editor / script doctor. Among his spec scripts are Imagine The Moon, a family dramedy about a boy who wants to take his dream girl to the Moon, and a hush-hush provocative and controversial satire feature film he is set to direct. Meet him – and see his short film The Rwanda Blend here in Los Angeles, June 1st.

Long story short, dear fellow filmmaker: Delve, delve into the fine points. Dig and dig to unearth the particulars. Work and work to uncover the luminous minutiae of your own inventions. If The Minutiae Be The Food Of Love, Plan On.

Tara Samuel
tara@scriptkicker.com
www.scriptkicker.com

Tara Samuel is a script consultant and editor on fire about sharpening your screenplay. She is your Script Kicker. In close collaboration with you the client, Samuel zeroes in on the specificity of your characters, hones your story rhythm and maximizes your audience engagement helping you to create a perfect story-ride www.scriptkicker.comTara Samuel is an award-winning producer-actor from Toronto, most recently a Best Actress winner for her role “Ruby” in Ruby Booby. July 2013 Samuel will star in the feature film WIld Prairie Rose. Her writing and directing has been celebrated on the international festival circuit, and she has published filmmaking articles in a number of publications, including MovieMaker Magazine. Samuel is Co-Founder of the notorious Los Angeles  film collective WeMakeMovies.org


And the Lord declared: Let There Be Really High Stakes

Published, MovieMaker Magazine, March 22, 2013

Attention all Screenwriters, Graphic Novelists, Novelists-Afraid-Of-Screenwriting, and Waiters, Bankers, Accountants, Teachers, Custodians, Firefighters, Cashiers and Parking Lot Attendants who Dream of Being Screenwriters:

You already know how to tell a great story. Quit worrying. Worrying is not your job. Writing is your job. Start writing. Start right now. Don’t even read this article. Begin writing your story right now.

For anyone still finishing their coffee & toast and in need of some entertainment before they get back to writing:

The reason you already know how to write a great story is this: You already know what the other guy would be thinking. And when I say ‘the other guy’, I am referring to your attentive friend, your fellow story lover: Your Reader.

How do you know what your reader would be thinking? The Voice in your head tells you. Aka: your Gut Translator. Some people call this voice their Lord in Heaven, some people call it the God of Creativity speaking through them. I call it your friendly Gut-Translator: Your Inner Voice. This voice is your inner writer-coach. Great gal to have around. Gal or guy, animal or mineral, listen to this sage advisor in your head. You were born with her and she is totally rooting for you. She is on the ball – and she is bang-on. As you write your universal tale of love or revenge, dear screenwriter, as you weave your adventure of loss, grief, murder or hope, this voice speaks to you the whole way along. You all have it. You just have to listen.

Ah, the listening part. The task is upon us, we humble servants of our imaginations, to listen as well as we can to this voice while we write. And darn it if distractions don’t sometimes get in the way. “This idea’s really gonna sell” gets in our way. “This character will really impress that producer” gets in our way. “NOW they’ll finally see I can write” and “No one’s ever seen THIS idea before” …get in our way. Sometimes our listening needs a polish. A dusting. Sometimes a murky curtain of second-guessing separates us from our sure-fire Voice Of Excellence. All I can tell you, dear valiant writer-at-whatever-stage-of-your-career: Keep listing to that Voice in your Head that is telling you what you Already Know.

As a story consultant and screenplay editor, all I do, every time, is guide you back to your gut. Your Voice. Your Gut-Translator.

Today’s Inner Writing Coach reminder of the day:  REALLY HIGH STAKES 

You gotta have high stakes in your screenplay. Really high stakes.That’s how you’re gonna make your audience care. Your inner voice knows this. She chimes in with things like:  “Come on, would Cinderella really put up with that? Make sure she’s trapped – socially, economically – something – otherwise she’d high tail it outta there for sure.”  …Or she pipes up: “Okay come on, she can’t SEE that that her grandmother is now a WOLF? I gotta see that she is REALLY looking forward to seeing her grandma. ‘Cause those are some serious blinders.” Show your audience that Cinderella has spent her last penny. Show us that Little Red has no other friend in the world.

When you have high stakes, your audience will be on the edge of their seats, viscerally and bodily CARING about your story. Really and truly caring. The whole point of storytelling. Keep your stakes Really High. Where there are high stakes, there is tension. You gotta have great story-tension from beginning to end: The exhilarating/promising ups and devastating/terrifying downs of a roller coaster ride. Then back up again. I don’t care if you’re writing the next James Bond adventure, or Driving Miss Daisy Part Two: More Driving. When you think your characters’ stakes are already high, make them higher.

How do you create high stakes? You SHOW me what is RIDING on the outcome of your character’s goals.  Seems obvious? I know that you fine writers know this instinctively, and yet, still, it is our daily duty to mine our characters’ hearts fully, and SHOW our audience the many WAYS our lead character is COUNTING on a certain positive / successful outcome.

Don’t only show me the planning of the heist. Show me the ways that the poverty is affecting the impressing of the girl. Don’t just show me the training and the glorious boxing match. Show me the the brother who no longer speaks to our boxer. Don’t only show me an election campaign, show me the birthday party no one comes to. Show me the frayed suits. Show me the whispering colleagues. Give me Henry’s nervous pick-up lines, yes, but also show me his agonizing dates-gone-wrong. Let’s see Henry get fired from his job.

All kinds of ways to create extremely high stakes. Your Inner Writer-Gut will always ask you questions, then provide endless ideas. Your Inner Voice wants to see what your characters are emotionally attached to. What addictions they are desperately trying to shake as they pursue their new plan.  Don’t only show me her fight to survive illness – also show me all she has to lose: her particular joys, inside jokes and successes before the illness crept in. Seen the opening of Pixar’s “UP” anyone?

Show me what is RIDING on the various outcomes of your characters’ actions. This is the way to make your audience feel great pain and profound love. Listen to the questions & suggestions of your Inner Writing Coach. You are about to complete a great screenplay.

T.S.

Tara Samuel is a script consultant and editor on fire about sharpening your screenplay. She is your script kicker. In close collaboration with you the client, Samuel zeroes in on the specificity of your characters, hones your story rhythm and maximizes your audience engagement helping you to create a perfect story-ride. Samuel kicks your script into ship-shape; kicks it through the goal posts, kicks it out of the park. This is her passion. www.scriptkicker.com

Tara Samuel is an award-winning producer-actor from Toronto. Recent Winner Best Actress, RUYB BOOBY. Her writing and directing has been celebrated on the festival circuit; articles on filmmaking published widely, most recently in MovieMaker Magazine. Samuel teaches a 6-wk screenwriting course in Los Angles with co-instructor John Sandel, The Script Kitchen. More information: scriptkitchen@gmail.com

Tara Samuel is story editor for screenwriters Jon Rannells, Ruby Booby, Mexico-Machismo, Mr.Happy-Joy; Paula Tiberius, Male Order, Bitch Magnet, Kathryn Winslow, Downtown Mrs.Brown, Sam Zvibleman, The Rwanda Blend, Justin Miller, The Sound & The Shadow, Andrew Ahn, The Good Life, Summer Vacay, Biggz, Gareth Bennett, Bang Baby Bang, Deborah LaVine, Aunt Janny’s Money, Darrow Carson, Absolving Grace, Whit Spurgeon, The Interview – among many others.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily vitamin, or a short film

Three cheers to short films. Short films inspire. Short films frustrate. Short films worm their way into your unconscious and make you want to jump up and make your own. Either that, or they make you want to write, or travel, or have a good argument with your sweetie, or start a revolution. Don’t forget about short films, dear reader. Find short films at film festivals; find them at your nearest library; find them online! Here’s the trailer for my own short film FIND – the first film script I ever wrote – terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time. Write your script! Write your short story! Make your movie!

Last week, I saw a remarkable collection of short films at the Newport Beach Film Festival. These were startling, at times upsetting films, that gracefully and bravely explored the loves, losses and furies that drive the human heart. I found myself sitting in the dark thinking “I can’t take this!” (My version of “I love this!”) The program presented
The Future‘ – dir. Venetia Taylor, ‘Not Dark Yet‘ – dir. Brian Paccione, ‘Shirin’ – dir. Stephen Fingleton, ‘Charlotte’ – dir. Daniel Monks, ‘Neighbors’ – dir.Tracy Wren – and lastly our own ‘Praire Sonata‘, directed by Deborah LaVine. Three cheers to short films.

More inspiration for you – wait’ll you read the following – delicious:
Kurt Vonnegut on how to write a short story…..

1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.

2. Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.

3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.

4. Every sentence must do one of two things- reveal character or advance the action.

5.Start as close to the end as possible.

6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them – in order that the reader may see what they are made of.

7. Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.

8. Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To hell with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Love this!
T.S.

 

 

I’m learning to read

I have dear friends who read a novel a month; sometimes a novel a week. Both my parents are avid readers. My husband too – rips through books like they’re going out of style. They all happen to be great writers too. Which brings me to my personal lesson of the day (lesson of the year) …READ. Read more often, Tara! Read to enrich my mind, to increase my vocabulary, grow my perspective, expand my empathy, stretch my brain, broaden my imagination. This morning my favorite coffee shop dweller Jared Petrich told me that he spent his weekend reading John Steinbeck‘s East Of Eden. “Changed my life” he said. So guess what I’ll be reading this week (this month)….

Here are John Steinbeck’s “Six Tips on Writing”:

1. Abandon the idea that you are ever going to finish. (Ha! Love this. -Editor.) Lose track of the 400 pages and write just one page for each day, it helps. Then when it gets finished, you are always surprised.

2. Write freely and as rapidly as possible and throw the whole thing on paper. Never correct or rewrite until the whole thing is down. Rewrite in process is usually found to be an excuse for not going on. It also interferes with flow and rhythm which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material.

3. Forget your generalized audience. In the first place, the nameless, faceless audience will scare you to death and in the second place, unlike the theater, it doesn’t exist. In writing, your audience is one single reader. I have found that sometimes it helps to pick out one person – a real person you know, or an imagined person and write to that one.

4. If a scene or a section gets the better of you and you still think you want it – bypass it and go on. When you have finished the whole you can come back to it and then you may find that the reason it gave you trouble is because it didn’t belong there.

5. Beware of a scene that becomes too dear to you, dearer than the rest. It will usually be found that it is out of drawing.

6. If you are using dialogue – say it aloud as you write it. Only then will it have the sound of speech.

Write on, dear brave Writers! Read, read, then write again! And on a quick break, I look forward to meeting with you here again, for my next blog post.
T.S.

 

 

I’m the story consultant you’ve been looking for.

So glad you found me. I want to read your writing. Then I want to help you make your writing outstanding. Send me your writing.

What kind of writing you ask? What level of writing? All of it. This is my thing; it’s what I do. I love first-time writers; disillusioned or depressed writers; seasoned, award-winning writers. I love your poetry, your novels, your screenplays. I want to climb inside your writing and tap into its shine. I adore this process. Send me your writing and let’s make it as fully alive as it wants to be.

Why do I do this? I am immensely excited by writing. Fired up in my belly. About anyone’s writing. Don’t know why. You have lungs (at least one); I go bananas over writing. And I find ways for your reader / prospective producer to be irresistibly engaged and deeply-moved by your story. Even if it’s a comedy. I will kick your writing up ten notches. Kick it out of the small pond. Kick it through the goal posts. Kick it to the moon.  Elevate it to its highest potential. Make it Kickin’. I am your ScriptKicker.

Contact me. I am excited to work with you.
Click here to email me. I welcome any questions or comments!
Twitter:  @scriptkicker