Thursday, August 21, 2014

"DEMON DAYS" e-book is on the AMAZON BEST-SELLING BOOKS... AGAIN!!!



#6,608 in the Kindle Store
#2 in Occult - Near-Death Experiences
#3 in Mystery
#69 in Literature/Fiction - Horror - Occult

Get your e-Book copy now at 
amazon.com / Barnes & Noble / 



HERE IS THE LINK TO THE BOOK TRAILER

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

SPEAKING THE LANGUAGE OF "FILM TRUTH" OR "PELICULA VERITAS" IS ON WEBSITE "FRESH VOICES"...

Check out a piece I wrote featured on FRESH VOICES, a screenwriting website.


The subject of pelicula veritas is addressed in my latest screenwritng e-book -- "16 Secrets Revealed by Professional Screenwriters" -- but the piece featured on the website is very different than what is in the book... 



In many ways the piece highlights a concept that will be a running theme as I progress in the Professional Screenwriting Book Series.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Inspiration for my Short Story Dies...






Kenny Kingston -- psychic to the stars died. I was in Santa Barbara, speaking to a screenwriting group and meeting with investors on a project when I heard the news.

I met Kenny only once, but he ended up having an impact on my life that I never expected. 
And to this day, I’m still not sure whether it was a good thing I met him, or the worse.

My meeting with him inspired a short story, Life Lines (which was included in my short story collection -- The Cake is a Lie). 
                     


I have to admit that there was a time I definitely bought into the world of the paranormal.
I had graduated from college two years before and my first marriage had already ended.
I was lost.
I needed guidance.
And along came Kenny Kingston.
It was 1980 something, and I was working at a local Television station in Southern California, writing screenplays in my spare time.
One of the programs at the TV station was a daily talk show shot live.
Kenny was booked as one of the guests. His reputation as a genuine pscyhic had everyone connected with the show excited about his first appearance.
He didn’t disappoint when it came time to broadcast the program. On air, Kenny was energetic, charming and straight forward with his “readings.”
But truth be told, even the viewers at home the day of the broadcast would not have known exactly how impressive Kenny actually was.
Part of the show was to take live phone calls from viewers who would ask Kenny something, and he would give the caller a reading on the air. Because the producers could never be sure if anyone would actually call in, they often pre-arranged to have a few employees call in first as if they were real viewers. This was the operating plan on Kenny’s first visit on the show because no one knew how he would come off. As it turns out, the phone lines lit up a few minutes after the show began, which was impressive (remember this was all happening pre-Internet).
Despite the phone lines being stacked with real callers, the producer of the show inadvertently went to our employee-ringer as one of the first calls.
Kenny’s response to the employee-ringer’s query was very specific, citing details of his personal life, how he had been recently behaving and what he could expect to have happen in the future as a result of his actions.
I was astounded by Kenny’s response. There was no way he could have known the person he was talking to was an employee at the TV station. And what Kenny spoke about was so detailed and spot on about this employee’s private life that it was chilling to hear the words come from his mouth on live TV. After the phone call, I watched as the employee rushed from where he had made the call… to the station’s restrooms… where he threw up in the toilet.
Yeah, I’m not kidding you, it was that eerie how close Kenny came to nailing this guy’s life.  

After the show was broadcast, I met with Kenny.
I was working on a paranormal script and wanted to get some background info on his personality, his way of going about his business, etc.
But there was no doubt I was extremely curious about what he could “see” concerning my own life.
We talked for an hour. I learned a ton of things about his experiences, growing up, interacting with movie stars, and living the life of a psychic.
Only as I stood up to leave did the conversation eventually turn to me.
“Don’t you want to ask anything about yourself?”
I sat back down and admitted that I did want to know what he had to say about my life.
So how did he do?
Not too bad.
Two very important aspects of my past he was able to read with specific and accurate details. And when it came time to predicting my future, he ended up getting one thing right, but one thing wrong.
At the time, his reading was really impressive.
But as the years have gone by, the one thing he got wrong… ended up profoundly changing my life. 
Which is the reason I don’t believe in psychics.

Of course, if Kenny had known about how he had inspired a short story and the way it ended... he would have had something to say while he was alive. 
Now that he’s on the other side, I bet I’ll someday hear him whispering in my sleep -- “You’ll see. I’m going to end up being right.”

---




 THE CAKE IS A LIE is FREE!
 Sign up for Kindle Unlimited and get the first 30 days FREE!



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

Can Live Sports Coverage Change The Way You Write Your Next Screenplay?





I'm proud to have an excerpt from 16 Secrets Revealed by Professional Screenwriters at FRESH VOICES SCREENWRITER'S SOURCE. 

It's definitely a different take on how creating a screenplay story can be affected by the structure of something most of us enjoy all the time -- SPORTS

Check it out!!!!!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

My latest Professional Screenwriter e-book is available now!!!



THE LATEST PROFESSIONAL SCREENWRITING BOOK IS A HIT ON AMAZON!

#99,569 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#34 in Kindle Store Screenwriting
#52 in Kindle Store Performing Arts
#94 in Kindle Store Authorship


Those who can’t do teach. And those who can’t write professionally somehow end up writing books about screenwriting.
This book is DIFFERENT. Written by a PROFESSIONAL currently working in Hollywood—
As a SCREENWRITER and FILM PRODUCER.
The author was able to use his connections to get Successful Professional Screenwriters/and Television Writers to –
REVEAL A SECRET about what led to their SUCCESS.
What he discovered will help other screenwriters!
This e-book has 34,000 words…
Internet links throughout the content
An “Appendix” section summarizing each chapter, which can be used as a checklist 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Wednesday, May 7, 2014




Several months ago, I commented on a post which received so many favorable responses that I've decided to post it on my blog for my regular readers to take in and think about. 
Here's the original blog post from Ted Farrar, Writer, Batrachologist, nature lover, granddad -- 

For the sake of writers everywhere, please STOP this!

Please, please, please - for the sake of all established and newbie authors alike - PLEASE stop giving away your e-books for free or at ridiculously low prices!
You might think you’re giving your books an advantage by promoting your name, but all you are doing is undervaluing your work and making it impossible for authors to make a decent living. At the present time there are so many free e-books available that e-book readers have no need to pay a reasonable price to read anything. I know of people who NEVER buy an e-book – they just surf the freebies. They’re not that discerning: if it’s rubbish they’ll go on to the next freebie. The thing is, they don’t have to be discerning. People get a finite amount of leisure time and as long as they’re spending that time reading free books they aren’t going to be buying yours.
To compete in this giveaway market means that to sell any books at all we have to reduce the price way below what our books are worth. Now, I don’t know about you folks, but I worked and sweated my arse off to write my novel. The idea that ‘Okay’ or ‘Now’ magazine is worth more than 18 months of hard work sticks in my craw.
Although this might sound hilariously naive, attempting to level the playing field with this being a free market and all, I’m proposing we should introduce a minimum price range. I suggest we should price novellas at no less than £0.99, short novels at £1.99 and larger novels at £2.99. This still gives us scope to value our work at more than this, but safeguards us against slitting our own throats to attract a readership, and then we can let our books speak for themselves.

THIS WAS MY RESPONSE --

Here's what I believe Ted might be overlooking... 

When a reader gets something for free (because you offered it for free or because they took it for free, pirated, it doesn't really matter so far), in that territory, the odds are, when they liked it, the chances of the author SELLING SOMETHING just increased.
The key phrase is WHEN THEY LIKED IT...
This is especially true with books... 
Meaning that people like to test something...
Whatever happens after they like it... 
Usually bodes well for the author... financially.
I have theories as to why that that is true, and so do a lot of other people, people way smarter than me, who have staked their reputation on this -- People will pay if it is worth while to them to get what they want.
TRUST YOUR WRITING. 
Trust that if you create something that is worth paying for... people will pay for it.
If Free gets you noticed... do it. 
If a discount gets you noticed... do it. 
There's only so much time... and books take time to read... 
There will never ever be "overnight" successes. 
It takes time... free... discount... whatever... 
If you are unknown... and you wrote something... didn't do something infamous... 
YOU WROTE SOMETHING... it takes time...
Whenever you hear someone talking about a plan to MAKE PEOPLE PAY FOR SOMETHING... 
I believe its those people who are not trusting the quality of their writing. 
And these same people will be asking for something else if they achieve their aims.
I hope I'm right. 
And if I'm wrong, I grant Ted his point, and that by granting his point, it might be too late to change courses.
I'm still going to take that chance because... 
I know I'm right... 
And...
I believe in my writing!!!
And all you writers who feel the same way (and if you don't feel that way, why are you still in the game?)... 
This is one of those moments... where you may not have sighted land yet...
And you're getting itchy because you fear there may never be...
A point where you reach the promised land.
I tell you it's out there... 
STAY THE COURSE. 


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The AUDIO BOOK of DEMON DAYS is HAPPENING!!!

Producing and narrating the audio book of DEMON DAYS is D. Michael Berkowitz!!!



Mr. Berkowitz was a company member in the Tony-nominated, Olivier Award-winning Broadway production of Stanley at Circle In The Square. He appeared in the critically acclaimed, Lucille Lortel and Obie award-winning, Drama Desk nominated Off-Broadway production of Counsellor-At-Law, starring John Rubinstein. He has appeared on the TV series “Law & Order” SVU” and “All My Children.”

I believe this is the man to make the words of DEMON DAYS come to life!!!



Sunday, April 6, 2014

THE WIND RAIDER GETS AN AMAZING REVIEW!!!


Influential R&R (Reader & Reviewer) Terry Price loves the first book in The Wind Raider book series!

Here are some quotes from her review --

Wow. I've read Post-Apocalyptic novels before, but never one like this one. Think of the best ones you've read, combine your favorite elements from them all into one, and you have "The Wind Raider - Book One".

Richard Finney is a master of his craft and a true professional. There are characters you love, ones you hate, and non-stop action. His sleight of hand is powerful, because characters and situations are not always who or what they appear to be in his novels.

Check out the entire review at her facebook page -- TerrysReviewsandAuthorInterviews


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"I’m so RIGHT, I’m afraid I’m being NAIVE about my ADVICE to screenwriters..."



The website FRESH VOICES posted today a recent  INTERVIEW  I did with one of their staff.



"An idea must go through a series of creative tests before I consider it worth writing as a screenplay or book."

I answered questions about my take on the industry... 
Where the screenwriting trade was headed...
And my approach to the craft of screenwriting...  


"We’re at the cusp of another seismic shakeup of filmmaking, possibly similar to what happened in the late sixties that led to so many great films produced in the 70s."
I was excited to talk with the site because their outreach is geared to the next generation of screenwriters trying to make an impact in movies, TV, and media.  

Check it out... and let me know what you think about what I say... Even if you disagree... I'd love to hear your FRESH VOICE!


Saturday, March 1, 2014

WHY A MEETING WITH THE DIRECTOR OF “GRAVITY” STILL HAUNTS ME



I had blown it. I had completely choked on a great opportunity to change my screenwriting career.


When Gravity was released in theaters I went to see it in IMAX 3D. 
Like most people who have seen the film, I was blown away. Gravity is wonderfully scripted, acted, and directed. The production also featured significant technological breakthroughs that compel audiences to see Gravity in a movie theater if they are to get the most from the experience.  
Watching Gravity prompted other thoughts, more personal in nature.
 I actually met with the director of Gravity over ten years ago and had the chance to change the course of my screenwriting career.
And I choked.
At the outset I should say that for legal reasons I can’t reveal the project we discussed, but trust me, the specific project and any of the related details aren’t really important to the point of the story.

The meeting came about when Sandy Weinberg, my agent at the time, called with news that the director, Alfonso Cuarón, had read a screenplay I had written and really liked it. Cuarón had a production deal at Warner Brothers’ studio where the meeting would take place. Sandy didn’t have any more details beyond Cuarón wanting to meet and discuss the script, but I was excited because I had really enjoyed his previous movies and thought he was wonderfully talented director.   


So I arrived on the Warner Brothers lot for the meeting and was shown into his office immediately. From the moment we met, Alfonso was personable and smart, and he displayed both qualities without a hint of pretention or artifice. His English at that time wasn’t the greatest (I’m sure it’s gotten much better over the years), but it was certainly good enough to convey his views about what I’d written. He told me he really liked my script and went into some detail about the parts he had responded to and why he was excited about the project. His thoughts clearly demonstrated that he understood what I was going for creatively with the script and there was no doubt he’d be the perfect director for the project.
But after delivering his final compliment, he gathered his breath and then revealed that despite responding to the script, he also had a big problem with it. And for him, the problem was a deal breaker. It turns out Alfonso had brought me into his office so that we could brainstorm a solution to this story problem. If we were successful, his new contract at Warner Brothers would allow him to put the project into development with his company’s discretionary fund. So we immediately launched into an intensive discussion that covered every aspect of the script… story… characters… themes… plot… everything. And we eventually arrived back to what was bothering him about the screenplay. 
For the record, Alfonso’s creative problem was real and profound, which is my testimonial to how smart and insightful he is as a storyteller as well as a filmmaker. He had no way of knowing that his sticking point had been a long running creative issue with the project, one that I had worked hard to smooth over with every draft of the screenplay. And I’d been at it for the last five years.
Any screenwriter with experience at the studio level usually ends up realizing that you are often times in a room with some of the smartest and most creative people in the world. And any flaw or problem in your work is not likely to escape notice, rather, it will surely be highlighted. The goal of highlighting the flaw is almost always about trying to come up with a solution. Smart and creative people revel in the opportunity to solve a creative problem, while at the same time, I believe the goal of a screenwriter should be to solve your own story problems so that you’re never stuck with a solution dictated by someone else. But in this case, I would have relished a solution to the problem coming from any source, especially if it came from a talented filmmaker.  
As time ticked away, so did my confidence in coming up with an idea that would make Alfonso feel good that the problem he had with the script could be resolved. 
I should have anticipated the situation because I had already spent a ton of time trying to work out the same problem. Yet somehow, during the entire process of developing the story, that creative Eureka moment had never materialized. And the pressure of an impromptu creative meeting on a major studio lot with a brilliant director made the challenge to produce a breakthrough even more daunting.
Despite my best efforts, every solution I devised in that meeting completely bombed with Alfonso.
I knew we had reached the end when Alfonso’s assistant interrupted for a fourth time (to his credit, Alfonso had already cancelled three previously scheduled meetings so we could continue discussing “the problem”) to remind his boss that he needed to leave for his next meeting, one that he could not cancel or reschedule. 
Our meeting ended up lasting over two hours.
I will never forget the disappointment on Alfonso’s face as his eyes looked toward the carpet in his office as he said, “My friend, I don’t think we’ve solved the problem.” 
I had blown it.
I had missed the shot at the buzzer.
Dropped the Hail Mary pass in the end zone.
Watched helplessly as the puck squirted through my legs for the winning goal.
I had completely choked on a great opportunity to change my screenwriting career.
As it turns out, when the movie was eventually produced, the exact creative story problem that Alfonso Cuarón had with the project ended up hurting the finished film, and was reflected in the reaction by both audiences and critics. 
Failure is a part of the industry.  Even success is often laced with failure. I believe one only perseveres as a screenwriter if you are disciplined in handling the fallout that comes from failure. My advice to other screenwriters has always been to thoroughly examine any failure like an autopsy -- embrace and document the details, sort through all the issues, and try to decode what led to the breakdown. 
Then let go. 
Move on.
Learn from the autopsy so you can evolve as a writer, but don’t allow your failure to hinder your progress as a working professional. I believe that those who don’t adhere to this, will eventually no longer be working professionals.
And yet… walking out of the movie theatre after being dazzled by the beauty of Gravity, I couldn’t help but think about how my career would be different… if I had just been able to solve that story problem many years ago on the Warner Brothers studio lot.
At this very moment I feel as if I’m on the top of my creative game, and given the same opportunity today, I really believe I would nail that meeting with Alfonso.
But I couldn’t do it then.

And I have never stopped wondering why.

Thursday, February 27, 2014



In medias res
It’s a Latin phrase that translates in English as - Into the middle of events.
And it’s a phrase all screenwriters should keep in mind when they write.
It means: Get into a scene as late as possible and get out as soon as possible.
Screenwriters who live and write by this rule will speed up the pace of their script, and reach a new level in their storytelling ability.
Why? Because pacing is critical in achieving maximum impact in a story you are trying to tell… and sell.
Skip writing about a character walking through a door and saying hello, and then asking another character whether they’ve had a nice day.
At the end of the scene, forget having the characters get up from their chairs, exchange handshakes, and say goodbye to each other.

Just cut to the next scene as soon as possible.


There’s no doubt there’s at least one great filmmaker who ignored this advice and did just fine with his productions. Stanley Kubrick had many non-essential verbal exchanges between his characters as they entered and exited rooms. 

2001: A Space Odyssey (screenplay by Kubrick & Arthur C. Clarke, based on several stories by Clarke) and Clockwork Orange (screenplay by Kubrick, based on a novella by Anthony Burgess) are two prime examples of Kubrick’s movies where characters went through the routine of introductions and exits without any obvious narrative payoff. Kubrick ignored the rule of In medias res purposely to showcase the superficiality of humankind’s emotionless interactions, thereby giving greater force to the scenes of violence in both films. 

No doubt both movies cited above are classics, but before you get inspired to do the same, please remember -- Kubrick was the Michael Jordan of filmmaking, a master of his art so great that his achievements will probably never be replicated, not just because he was a talented filmmaker, but also because he created films at a time that now feels light years away from where we are in commercial movies.

The professional screenwriters who master In medias res with their scripts increase the probability their projects will be viewed as a “fast read.”
Make no mistake, this is not faint praise.
In an industry full of people who don’t like to read, saying a script is a fast read is an enormous compliment, and could be the difference between having your script read or not read by a VIP who could get your project produced.
For those who aspire to be professional screenwriters, I totally recommend you keep In medias res in the forefront of your mind at all times.
I could go on and on, but I’ve said what needs to be said.
And now it’s time for me to leave. No need to get up and show me the way to the door.

Just do a hard cut to the next scene. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

INTERVIEW WITH THE WIND RAIDER CO-CREATOR DEAN LOFTIS!!!


THE WIND RAIDER NOVEL - PART ONE is FREE!!!! 



"While I’m certainly a writer at heart... I have developed that 'marketing sense' to latch on to the spectacle of landsailors and Ki-summoned tornadoes..."

We felt this was the perfect time for all readers of THE WIND RAIDER Book Series to get to know the co-creator DEAN LOFTIS
I first came in contact with Dean in 2002 and almost immediately we began working on THE WIND RAIDER together.
We lived in different states, but still managed to collaborate through emails and phone calls. 
The first novel was published in December, 2013. 
So for over ten years Dean and I have been tied together. 
And we've come together again for this interview.
Not in person. To this day we still haven’t personally met each other.




FINNEY: What inspired you to create THE WIND RAIDER?

LOFTIS: I wanted to capture or recreate the "epic" feeling I experienced from fantasy/sci fi novels and films I grew up loving, such as Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and The Road Warrior. One of my favorite epic fantasy book series is the Chronicles of Thomas Covenant by Stephen R. Donaldson, who has talked about how combining the familiar with the exotic helped him spark what became the very expansive Covenant universe.  I remember sitting in my dark basement in Kansas City at 4:00 a.m., my “writing time” back then after having had newborn twins and working around a full time job, and somehow coming across an image of people landsailing at dusk across a dry lake bed in Arizona, with an almost haunting full moon in the background. The “exotic” image of the landsailor and that haunting moon “hooked” my imagination and in hours I had created the boy protagonist Josh (who was really me in search of a financially life-changing event, as I still am today) scouring the windswept wasteland for valuable “sky rocks” beneath a haunted, fragmented moon. And I thought wind would be so important in this world, the defining, all-encompassing element. I also mused about some type of religion springing up around the wind.

FINNEY: What were some of the challenges you encountered?

LOFTIS: Creating any new world that is unique and intriguing is challenging. Perhaps the greatest challenge is also to make the world familiar and realistic for the reader. The more fantastical elements you create for a world, the more realistic and believable these elements must be to pull in an audience. 

My goal was to create a fictional world where people were realistically struggling to survive in a harsh setting -- Josh was searching for something valuable; Lore was weaving rugs for money; and water was a valuable commodity for everyone fighting for their lives in the desert. What helps readers believe and accept fantastical elements is genuine human emotions and motives. I believe the best way to accomplish this is to create an organically driven world, one that would naturally feature a thriving city of commerce, which would also attract thieves. Familiar and realistic, while at the same time… unique. This is the setting that triggers the action in the main story.  

FINNEY: We came from different backgrounds when we first met. You worked in Public Relations and I was a screenwriter and a film producer. Is there anything about your job in Public Relations that helped you developing THE WIND RAIDER?

LOFTIS: Having worked with so many clients and campaigns in advertising – having had to execute many bad ideas forced on me along with some of my own bad ideas -- I think I've developed a fairly reliable filter or instinct for what is a “good idea” in the sense of identifying the elements that would appeal to a certain target audience. I've learned to better apply my marketing sense to my own creativity and works, including the development of the various aspects of The Wind Raider. One example would be while I’m certainly a writer at heart and know ultimately what matters and resonates are the characters, their interactions and themes explored, I have developed that “marketing sense” to latch on to the spectacle of landsailors, Ki-summoned tornadoes, a shattered moon, a city floating in the sky, etc.

FINNEY: THE WIND RAIDER quickly received interest from Hollywood. What was it about the project that made it so attractive?

LOFTIS:  From a Hollywood feature film perspective, I think the THE WIND RAIDER is not what they call "high concept." That is, it cannot easily be summed up with a catchy or pithy phrase over lunch, such as "Scientists extract DNA and create living dinosaurs for a Jurassic theme park in which a group of visitors become trapped." Unlike some other writers, perhaps because of my annoying advertising background, I don't criticize Hollywood for this; the very easily pitchable nature of a high concept, the ability for the many players involved in Hollywood to quickly "get" and in turn transmit a concept up the ladder to their superiors is very powerful, from a pragmatic business point of view. There is no more collaborative industry than Hollywood and no industry that risks more money and careers trying to bring to life "good ideas."
I think THE WIND RAIDER has originality and depth, both visually and dramatically. Many high concept ideas make it through the initial Hollywood door, but then die from lack of execution and originality, which means they were "good ideas" to talk about from a birds-eye view, but not compelling in execution. 

Saturday, February 8, 2014

SECOND SCREENWRITING BOOK ALREADY AN AMAZON BEST SELLER!



The second publication in my Professional Screewriting Book Series was just released and is an amazon.com best seller... in England!

Here are the numbers -- 
#13 in Kindle Store > Books > Education & Reference > Publishing & Books

#34 in Books > Reference > Publishing & Books > Authorship



It's also an amazon.com bestseller here in the United States! 

#90 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Humor & Entertainment > Movies & Video > Screenwriting

But I guess I just love that across the pond, the aspiring filmmakers are all over what I have to say about writing quality screenplays!


Here is an excerpt from the book 19 Techniques for Professional Screenwriters -- 


BASIC WRITING TECHNIQUE #2

Don’t confuse “Plot Spin” with “Setup.”

One of the keys to understanding “plot spin” is to know that it is completely different than the “setup” in a screenplay.



In The Godfather, the setup in the first act introduces the entire family, including Michael, who will end up being the character that ushers in the plot spin of the movie. But everything that happens up to Don Corleone being attacked, and even what happens afterwards, until the moment Michael decides to become part of the family business, is all “setup.” It’s only when Michael steps up to be part of the family business that the first act plot spin occurs.
The key to deciphering when the plot spin kicks in is waiting to see what choice the writer makes in telling his story. For instance, after Don Corleone is shot, the rest of the movie could go in the direction of how the oldest son, Sonny, takes over the family business and we watch as his hot temper ends up incinerating what his father spent years creating.
But that’s not the story the screenwriter chose to tell.

The plot spin takes the story in a different direction, one that is different than another choice the writer could have made in choosing to move forward... 

Michael Corleone is the one who leaps from his law-abiding perch to murder a dirty cop, is forced to flee to another country, then returns years later to take over the family business in a way that is even colder and more calculating than his father. And this we see firsthand, because it is Michael who is the lynchpin of the entire story.
But not all plot spins are as obvious.



 Let’s examine the movie Back to the Future (screenplay by Robert Zemeckis & Bob Gale), which many screenwriters have trouble spotting the first act plot spin. 
In the first act, the protagonist, Marty McFly, ends up in a time machine that takes him back to the 1950s, in the same town where both of his parents are still young and haven’t yet fallen in love.
Now some people might believe the plot spin is when Marty travels back to the past. And it’s an easy mistake to make because the screenwriters take their time setting up the story in the first act (they take their time for a reason – endeavoring to establish some characters and situations in the present day that will allow them the opportunity to pay off this setup in the past).
But when the plot spin does arrive, it is clearly at a point in the narrative where the story goes off in a different direction – Marty’s mother ends up falling in love with his time-traveling self, and turning a blind eye to Marty’s father, a development that jeopardizes his own future existence. This is the plot spin that puts in motion the main direction of the plot for the second act.
Remember, the plot spin takes the story in a different direction, one that is different than another choice the writer could have made in choosing to move forward with the storyline.
In Back to the Future, after the plot spin, it turns out Marty’s mission is to execute a plan that will have his mother, now in love with him, to once again fall in love with his doofus, dweeb father, so it will allow the time continuum to go back as it was, allowing for Marty to once again be born. 
Before this plot spin was settled on, the plot spin options were wide open – what if Marty had gone back to the past and he realized that someone from his original timeline had also traveled into the past and intended to marry his mother and cut out his father altogether and it was Marty’s job to stop this… time traveling stud. It’s a good plot spin, but we would have missed out on all the wonderfully humorous moments of Marty’s own mother making overtures toward him.
Or, what about the plot spin of Marty meeting his mother in the past, and just when he’s getting to know her some other person from the future is hell bent on killing her, which would prevent Marty from being born in the first place…
Wait, that’s already the plot spin for another movie, The Terminator (screenplay by James Cameron).
Okay, you get it, right? There’s a lot of ways to go, but choosing the right plot spin is critical. In many ways, the plot spin is the main support beam holding up the construction of the plot in your screenplay.



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

YOU ASKED FOR IT! I FINALLY WROTE IT... A SERIES OF BOOKS ON SCREENWRITING!



Most screenwriting books are written by writers who aren't industry professionals. Or if they were industry professional screenwriters, their experience is so old its no longer relevant to the way movies are written and produced today.

I earn a living to this very day as a professional industry screenwriter.

I've written a series  of books on screenwriting that I believe will be very insightful for those looking to learn the trade or for those looking to step up to another level.

The first book -- 20 BASIC RULES for Professional ScreenWriting -- has just been published!

Here is an EXCERPT FROM THE BOOK --

BASIC RULE #10

At the end of the first act, a “Plot Spin” needs to occur within the framework of the storyline. The point of this screenwriting technique is to “spin” the main storyline in a different direction. this plot spin often times changes the direction of the narrative in a surprising way that excites the audience experiencing the first act.

With this rule, we’re at the part of the screenplay structure I believe is the cornerstone to great storytelling in movies. I also believe it is the key narrative component for a teleplay, novel, or any “narrative” format where the storyteller has the goal of deepening the engagement of the audience.
Frankly, this is the creative step that usually begins to separate those who write and those who write stories where a reader wants more. It is also the fundamental step that separates those who create professionally… and those who end up creating for family and friends.
Even veteran screenwriters mess this step up (or skip it altogether) and the screenplay they’ve authored takes a beating when it is read by industry professionals. Others who read the script (or see the movie) won’t be able to articulate why they are responding negatively to a story after the first act, but more times than not their misgivings are based on the lack of plot spin (or a bad plot spin).

This is the crucial step to laying out a plot that will help your audience double down in their interest on the story you’ve set up in the first act. In the three-act structure, the first act plot spin occurs at the end of the first act, and is a calculated narrative development that takes the plot established up to that point, and “spins” the story off in a different direction. The mark of a great first act plot spin is how clever, original, or expectant the narrative has changed directions.
Consider a protagonist who is working for the Roman Empire as a loyal centurion, but then, after the plot spin, loses his career, family and land because of a change in leadership. This first act plot spin in Gladiator (screenplay by David Franzoni and Josh Logan) occurs after the character of Maximus performs heroically in a battle against the last Germanic tribe, but then resists the will of the new emperor who takes over after Marcus Aurelius has died (actually killed by the same man who has become the new emperor).

The first act plot spin is a narrative “game changer.”

The mark of a good first act plot spin is one where the previous pages have set it up, perhaps even hinted at the possibilities of this new direction, but haven’t necessarily given it away. The key as the writer is to establish such a well-written first act that the audience is open to several possible ways the story could end up going, but that when the first act plot spin is finally revealed the direction is more than just consistent with what preceded it; the storyline has now gone off in a direction that is potentially exciting, intriguing, and engaging for the audience.
Many screenwriters fail to come up with a screenplay that has a quality first act plot spin and also fail to realize how important this omission is to the way their script will be received. Scripts without a first act plot point start with the setup – the setting and the introduction of the main character – but then proceed forward, usually in a narratively “linear” way, with the same setup and main character doing exactly what has been foreshadowed in the first act.
An example of this kind of shallow storytelling can usually be observed by watching a “Lifetime” cable movie from the 90s. The first act in those productions usually consist of a protagonist falling in love with some guy with the hint of danger introduced before the first commercial break. And by the second act the heroine ends up stuck in a marriage with an abusive husband. The rest of the narrative is about her surviving the turmoil of an abusive relationship.

The first act plot spin is meant to “re-engage” the audience in a way that becomes even more profound than the beginning of the story. This is the goal, no matter the genre of the story.
In Star Wars: A New Hope (screenplay by George Lucas), the main character, Luke Skywalker, is introduced along with many other characters (Princess Leia, Obi Wan Kanobi, and Darth Vader) in the initial setup of the story. During the first act we discover that the universe has been torn apart by a galactic civil war, but unfortunately for Luke he’s on the sidelines working on his uncle’s farm.
Then, at the end of the first act, comes the first act plot spin – the discovery of a droid by Luke, which pushes his character to accept the mission of fighting for the rebel cause. His meeting with Obi wan Kenobi and the slaughter of his adoptive parents only makes his decision to fight for the rebel cause a mission he can’t refuse.

The first act plot spin is a narrative “game changer.” It re-energizes the story and prepares the audience for what the movie is really all about. A screenwriter must get this step right in laying out their storyline. If one fails here, an industry professional, (producer, studio executive) experienced in telling commercial stories, will be able to immediately spot the flaw in the screenplay. 


The second book in the series -- 19 TECHNIQUES for Professional ScreenWriting will be published next week!