I try to make it a point not to be full of crap on this website so, after I wrote my piece on Valentine’s Day movies, I went back to see if Valentine’s Day movies were actually doing well enough that studios would be buying rom coms and chick flicks by the dozen next year. The results are below.
Before I get to them though, I should admit something. I eat numbers like this up. In television, you get the numbers when you wake up the morning after your show airs. A few days later you get a spreadsheet with numbers from every little town and hovel in the country. On top of that, my first roommate in Los Angeles had the job of calling movie theaters around the country to find out how many tickets they’d sold that weekend. These days here’s how I get my fix: I pop over to Box Office Mojo to see if their forecast agrees with mine (as soon as I see a trailer, I try to guess its opening weekend.) On Saturday afternoon, between my son’s lacrosse games, I drift over to Deadline to see their weekend predictions. There’s a formula—based on what a film does on Friday night, that can fairly accurately predict what the film will do for the rest of the weekend. Then on Monday, it’s back to Box Office Mojo for the official numbers as well as the drop-offs for movies released weeks earlier.
I’ve found that I’m not alone with this kind of thing. You’d be amazed at how many Monday meetings start with a little number crunching. You might judge this as a crass commercial addiction that gets in the way of the art of cinema, but think about it this way: How weird would it be if you were watching a professional athlete on Monday who didn’t know how the other teams around the league or the other players in his position had done? How strange would it be if you were talking to a lawyer who didn’t know about landmark cases or a doctor who didn’t read about the big breakthrough in his field the past week? Being an artist doesn’t mean you have to be ignorant. Know your stuff. It takes twenty seconds.
Anyway, here were the verdicts from Valentine’s Day weekend…
You asked for it, you got it. MASTER CLASSES! Tina Price and the wonderful people at the Creative Talent Network will be hosting yours truly at the Center Stage Gallery in Burbank for two, count ‘em, two Master Classes.
The first, March 8th and 9th, will get you guys into a 5 Keystones mindset. We’ll be going over the Keystones in detail, watching a few clips from movies to see how they work and why knowing them will make your writing better and why internalizing them will make your screenplays great! I’ll also be adding a few tricks for how they can make your pitches sing.
Happy Valentine’s Day everybody! Or, as I used to call it when I was single, “National Hide Under A Rock Day”. If you’re fortunate enough to have a significant other, you’ll be happy to have lint in your wallet after the roses, the chocolates, the teddy bear, the prix fix dinner and, egad, the ring. You’ll have your choice of movies to go to this year including ENDLESS LOVE, ABOUT LAST NIGHT, THAT AWKWARD MOMENT, LABOR DAY, AT MIDDLETON, BEST NIGHT EVER, LOVE IS IN THE… I’m sorry, just writing that list put me to sleep. Fortunately, if you’re a writer, the long list of choices means that producers are buying Valentine’s Day movies, so we should be selling them.
Now I know you’ve peeked ahead and you’re thinking “Oh boy! Rob’s made a Top 10 Favorite Romantic Comedies List.” Wrong, Beauregard! This is a site for writers so, instead, I’ve listed the romantic comedies I watched while I was preparing to write THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG.
Usually, I’ll start by watching the top 10-20 movies in the genre according to Box Office Mojo and then cross-referencing those with their Rotten Tomatoes ratings to see who stuck the landing and made a great movie that throngs of people wanted to see. I like to build my cathedrals on the shoulders of giants so it’s good to know where to put the scaffolding.
For FROG, I started by screening every princess movie ever made. Then I screened the direct to DVD princess movies. Then the TV specials until I felt like I had a grasp of the elements the “princess audience” was looking for. We wanted FROG to feel like a classic romantic comedy so I screened a lot of those. And then I watched some modern ones until I started to see the elements that made these movies so entertaining. After about a week of dusk to dawn screenings and a ream of notes, I felt like I had enough of a handle on it to get started. Here’s some of what I looked at and why–
A few weeks ago I sat down with Ryan Kelly for a face to face interview at The Writers Store in Burbank. Ryan is an upcoming writer and he asked some great questions. It lead to a great conversation about writing.
Now the inside baseball: Usually in interviews I try to speak in slow complete sentences so the interviewer can write everything down as I say it, but Ryan was taping the interview and I was in a good mood so I got to yapping. Now, I’ve been told by more than a few of you that I can reach Scorsese-esque talking speeds when I hit a subject that I’m passionate about and I was burning some rubber with Ryan. I feel sorry for whoever had to transcribe the interview but Ryan did a great job covering my tracks and editing it into coherent thoughts. If you have any questions about the contents of the interview, or if there’s anything you want me to go more in depth about, please feel free to ask your questions in the comments section below… or just say “Got it” so I’ll know I didn’t drive to Burbank for the sheer joy of burning a few gallons of gas.
Screenwriter Interview: Rob Edwards of ‘The Princess and The Frog’
Interview by Ryan Kelly for Script Magazine.
Rob Edwards wrote for some of the most acclaimed and popular television shows of all time—In Living Color and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, to name just two –and later transitioned from TV to film, with Disney’s Treasure Planet and The Princess and the Frog. He currently has several animated features in the works, including The Life and Times of Santa Claus and Amulet, in addition to developing his screenwriting education website, RobEdwards.net. I had the opportunity to sit down with Rob at The Writers Store and discuss everything from the art of animation to how the industry has evolved over the course of his remarkable career writing for film and television.
You have a few things coming out?
Life and times of Santa Claus is next Christmas—hopefully… That one was a fun one to work on. It’s Anthony Bell, who directed Alpha & Omega, and he had been doing the TV series of How to Train Your Dragon. He’s an expat Dreamworks guy. And John Eng, who’s head of story and just won an Emmy Award for How to Train Your Dragon. […] An Executive Producer was telling me about his conception of it. He said, “OK, I want to take this guy from being a street urchin and a pickpocket to becoming Santa Claus—and I was like, “That’s awesome—that’s a great arch.” A kid—any kid—and the theme being that any of us could be Santa Claus. That the spirit of Christmas could be anybody.
So, a writer friend is pitching an idea to me and I start asking my same questions I always do: “What’s the theme?” “What does the main character want?” “What’s motivating the antagonist?” “What are the 5 Keystones?” After the first question she looks at me and says, “I don’t know… ‘loss?’”
“‘Loss’ is not a theme,” I tell her. “Comon. You know that!”
We go around and around for a while as she basically threw darts at a theme roulette wheel, “Dealing with loss?”, “We all have to move on?”, “A stitch in time saves nine?” Finally, I realized my frustrations had nothing to do with her. I needed to find an easier way to get you from a blank note card to a viable theme to a workable Superfreak as simply as possible.
So here goes…
Here’s a story and a question…
Years ago, I was working on a screenplay on deadline. I was really feeling it on this one, the words were flying off of my fingers and I was a few keystrokes away from wrapping up a brilliant Superfreak. In the meantime, Final Draft had just released a new version. I was thrilled. I checked the website and the screen grabs looked awesome. Every new bell and whistle seemed like a passage to adventure. I scrambled for my credit card and quickly downloaded the new software. I eagerly opened the screenplay that I’d been working for months on and… the rest of the story is too painful to tell.
Suffice it to say the glorious piece of comedic poetry I’d spent months working on is still lost in the electronosphere. I gave up trying to find it after a day and a half on the phone with a tech support guy whose tech savvy seemed to begin and end with the hold button. Worse, I couldn’t revert to the previous version or the previous draft. I cobbled together what I could from pieces of screenplay that I had printed out and written on, stuff I dug out of the trash, my handwritten notes, and whatever I could remember off of the top of my head. Mind you the screenplay was a well assembled maze of several stories that interacted briefly and then merged together in the end in a brilliant display of literary fireworks… at least that’s the way I remembered it.
Right before Christmas I got an email from Angela Guess at LA Screenwriter asking if I could do an interview for their website. It sounded like fun. A few days later she sent an email with some fantastic, thoughtful questions on it. I spent the next few weeks enjoying holiday joy and occasionally glancing at the printed questions on my nightstand. After the break, and ample harassment from Anne Marie Boidock, I finally settled down and had the best time trying to match Angela’s deep, insightful questions with equally thoughtful answers and this is the result.
You guys, more than anyone, will enjoy the back and forth that resulted. In it, we talk about career strategies, the difference between writing for television and movies, and my not so subtle feelings about the script consulting industry.
Have a great time with it. Share your comments and we’ll mix it up.
An Animated Discussion with Writer Rob Edwards (The Princess and the Frog)
Through constant dedication to his writing development, Rob Edwards has built an impressive career spanning some of the best sitcoms of the 90s to beloved animated features of today. He got his start writing for such shows as “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “In Living Color,” and “Full House.” Since making the switch to film, he’s penned Treasure Planet and The Princess and the Frog, and he’s also had the chance to consult on such hits as Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen.
Rob made his way up the Hollywood ladder starting at the ground floor and pushing upward with hard work, determination, and dedication. Now, he’s helping other writers do the same through his website, robedwards.net, which features insightful articles full of practical writing advice. I particularly recommend his five-part series on how to break a story.
Rob and I recently discussed what it takes to succeed in the film industry, why it’s a bad idea to write an animated spec, and the benefits/banes of getting pigeonholed as a writer.
LA Screenwriter (LA): You have a great story on your website about how you got your start as a writer. If you were starting out today, would you do the same thing?
Rob Edwards (RE): The first thing I did when I got to Los Angeles was grab the Thursday edition of The Hollywood Reporter. It had a section that listed all of the TV and movie productions in town. I’d call every office every day. When people answered, I’d either tell a joke or I’d have a juicy piece of gossip and then I’d ask if they were happy with their current Production Assistants. I figured, if I kept calling, somebody would eventually say yes but, if I never called, it would be the same as everybody saying no. After a few hundred calls somebody said yes and I was in showbiz.
If I was starting over now, I’d probably go about it the same way but I’d add one thing. I’d make a ton of YouTube videos. At Syracuse I loved making short films. I got pretty good at them, but I haven’t made one in years. You have to work on two parallel tracks all the time. One, to get your foot in the door. Two, to make sure you’re ready when the opportunity comes. Short films, standup comedy, short stories, spec scripts… do whatever it takes to hone your skills so you’re ready when you get “lucky.”
And we’re back! 2014 is the year you get your spec out so, to that end, we’re going to continue with our series on screenplay structure and then get into beating out scenes with action and dialogue that jumps off of the page.
But, before we get started I want to share this with you…
Amid Amidi at Cartoon Brew posted this YouTube video by Jacob Kafka. It points out the astonishing overuse of the “This is me” introduction in animated features. I’m not sure how this method of character introduction became such a cliche but Jacob has done a great job of making sure it’ll never be used again.
I just got off the phone with my agents who are shutting down for the holidays. Hollywood “holidays” doesn’t just mean Christmas – New Years, it also includes Sundance. So the town won’t be gearing up again for a little while. In this spirit, I’m giving Team Rob a well deserved break so they can enjoy their friends and families and maybe get a little writing of their own done.
During 2013 we’ve had a ball launching this website and our Facebook page, and I’ve gotten out of my writing cave for long enough to meet new friends at Master Classes and talks around town. Next year, will be even more exciting with a two-day introductory Master Class in February and a four week one-on-one intensive Master Class in March as well as the conclusion of our sequence-by-sequence series on film structure and other posts about writing comedy, creating compelling characters and maybe some news on the screenplays I’ve been writing since I started this blog.