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What’s Your Writing M.O.?

WebfestpicIt was great meeting so many of you at the LA Webfest last weekend.  I had a fantastic time with the other members of the Web Animation panel.  I learned a lot and I was introduced to some truly wonderful animated web series.  Big ups to my friend, Rich Halke, for inviting me.

This week I have a quick tip for you and in the next post—by popular demand, we’ll be getting back to our series on outlining.  I’m in the middle of writing a new spec and I stumbled onto something I thought I’d share with you guys…
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A New Look At INC/INCs

crazyphoto_orig First off, I want to thank Tina Price, Margarita Sweet, and all of the wonderful people who came to my Master Class at the Center Stage Gallery on the 8th and 9th.  I’d also like to thank Scriptwriters Network’s Melessa Sargent, Erica Dozier, and all of the fantastic writers who joined me at CBS Radford Studios for my talk on Pitching.  I hope you guys had as much fun as I did.

Not to gyp those people, but I made a discovery while I was putting together the slides for the Master Class that I’d like to share with everybody else.  As you know, I’m all about the “5 Keystones”.  The INC/INC, MP, EA2, SB and S!  If you don’t know what those mean, click 5-Keystones and get up to speed.

Now, for years, whenever anybody asked me about Inciting Incidents (“INC/INCs“) the conversation would go something like this:

YOU:  Hey Rob, I’m curious about these Inciting Incident thingies.
ME:  Well, you’ve come to the right place.  What do you need to know?
YOU:  What are they?  What do they do?  And where do I find them?
ME:  Okay, so everything.
YOU:  Uh yes.  But lunch is on me.
ME:  Okay.  Inciting Incidents are the incidents that incite your characters into the action of the movie.  They take the characters from their happy inertia on page one and propel them to do the things that entertain us during the course of the movie.  You can find them just about anywhere in the first 30 or so pages but, if you twisted my arm I’d say you should start your search somewhere around page 12 (or minute 12 if you’re watching a video).

Then I drop the mic and leave the stage.  And thus, it has been since I started answering these questions.  Why have I answered it this way?  Mainly because it’s all I’ve ever read ever since I started reading about screenwriting and listening to scriptwriting gurus.

Have I always written Inciting Incidents like this?  No!

In fact, let’s look at the INC/INC for THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG.  Is it (A) when the Fenner brothers tell Tiana that they’re going to sell her restaurant to somebody else or is it (B) When Tiana kisses Naveen and turns into a frog?

Take a second and answer the question yourself before you continue reading.
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Ratatouille Resonance

I’m going to tell you two stories so the third one will make sense… 2014-02-09Ratatouille-mod

First story…

My dad was a huge track & field fan. When I was a kid, he used to drag me to the National Indoor Championships at Cobo Hall in Detroit. I wasn’t all that big on watching people run around in circles, but I loved getting to spend the weekend with my dad. On this particular day, my father saw the anchor of the local Public Broadcasting Station’s 10:00 news. It was the closest we had to a Hollywood star in Detroit so my dad—knowing all about my showbiz aspirations, convinced me to go talk to him. I took a deep breath and dove in. I told the guy all about my plans to go to film school and then move to Los Angeles and be a writer. While various elite athletes ran and vaulted and Fosbury flopped a few yards away, the man with the golden throat stared into my eyes and proceeded to poop on my dreams. “There are no black writers in Hollywood, kid.” I pushed back and told him that I’d be the first. I didn’t understand the next thing he said to me so I had to ask: “Daddy, what are rose-colored glasses?” My dad was a pretty peaceful man. A doctor with a fantastic bedside manner. A kind soul. But after he got finished talking to the PBS 10:00 news anchor, the man returned to my seat, leaned down and said, “I’m very sorry for what I said, kid. Good luck in Hollywood.” As I look back on that moment now, I can only imagine what kind of thorny road that man had taken to wind up making a living talking into an unmanned camera on a public broadcasting studio at 10:00 every night, but whatever it was must have paled in comparison to whatever beat down my dad put on him that day.

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My Master Class is One Day Away!

Rob_in_class-postIf you live in Southern California and you haven’t signed up for my weekend 5-Keystones Master Class, you’re missing out. If you’re already signed up, you’re in for a treat! I’ll be teaching everything I teach on this sight plus a few tips and tricks I can’t teach on the web.

On the second day, we’re going to be digging into your stories, teaching you how to pitch them and then fixing them using the techniques I’ve learned during the 30 years I’ve been doing this. I don’t do these Master Classes often because my writing schedule is crazy so this may be it for a while. I’ll see you on Saturday and Sunday!

Center Stage Gallery
847 Hollywood Way #100
Burbank, CA 91505

Saturday & Sunday (March 8th & 9th)
9am to 5pm with lunch included
Tickets on sale here


The Center Stage Gallery has it’s 52nd annual juried Illustration Competition Opening Reception tonight, Friday the 7th, from 7-9pm, and just to whet your appetite, here’s an article I just wrote for LA Screenwriter. If that doesn’t get you off your butt, nothing will!

Rom Coms: The Verdicts Are In!

2014-02-27rottentomatoesI 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…

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We Hope to See You at my Burbank Master Classes

IMG_4339You 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.

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It’s Valentine’s Day…Again, Egad!

2014-02-07Frog2Happy 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–

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A Fun Time with Ryan from Script Magazine

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, 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.

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Theme and the Underdog Elixir

ElixirDogSo, 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…

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Any News on Final Draft 9?

Here’s a story and a question…

FinalDraftYears 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.

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