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5 Things You Have to Know About Animation History

I had a fun conversation with Kristin Hunt at Historybuff.com about animation history the other day and this is the result.

As any of you who have come to my Master Classes or coffees knows, I can go on a bit when I’m passionate about something and animation history is a subject that I love to geek out about. Kudos to Kristin for artfully whittling down my endless sentences into coherent ones.

Enjoy the interview!

 


Skrawl Screenwriters Room Challenge #2: Breaking Down a Short Film

“Hey Rob! I know the structure stuff you teach on your website works like magic for feature films but I’m working on a short film. What should I do?”

I get this question a lot.

Okay, maybe that’s not exactly the question but it’s in the ballpark. Here’s the best way to answer…

In the SKRAWL SCREENWRITERS ROOM CHALLENGE that I’m doing right now, we’re basically writing a short film.

There will be six “parts” (I’ll call them “sequences” or “reels”) and each part will be about 5 pages. So, we’re basically talking about a final product that’s going to clock in at 30 pages or less.

So, here’s how I’m looking at it structurally…

First we need to figure out where the “act breaks” are. In this case it’s easy. 2, 2 and 2. So, two sequences for the first act, an Act 2A, an Act 2B and two sequences for the third act. More specifically:

SEQUENCE 1

Set up the premise, the characters and hit the ground running in an interesting way.

SEQUENCE 2

Hit the inciting incident and lead into the action of the movie. Get through the “debate” portion as quickly as possible by having the protagonists take to the action of the second act without question.

SEQUENCE 3 – ACT 2A

Fun and games. Play out the fun of the premise. Be as entertaining as possible here because this sequence will be the money in the bank. Build quickly to a MIDPOINT at the end of the sequence.

SEQUENCE 4 – ACT 2B

Flip the premise on its head with the MIDPOINT and, more importantly, the reaction to the MIDPOINT. Working quickly through that turn in the action, this sequence will end with and END OF ACT 2 crash. Whatever action I’ve set up in Sequences 1 and 2 is out of the question now. The antagonistic forces have taken over. The hammer comes down. All is lost.

SEQUENCE 5 – THE LAST CHANCE AT THE SWORD / THE SETBACK

This one’s too hard to explain quickly. Hit some of the other essays for a detailed explanation of swords and elixirs and SETBACKS as they relate to SUPERFREAKS. Better yet, I’d love it if some of you experienced students take a crack at explaining this to the newer students in the comments section.

SEQUENCE 6 – THE SUPERFREAK!

The unexpected wonderful happens. Bring it home in this one and make the short film as satisfying as a full feature film.

The quality of the work itself will rely on how solidly I’ve set up the first two sequences.

  • Have I given my reader driven characters?
  • Are they driven to achieve something I’m emotionally rooting for?
  • Will I feel a sense of loss at the end of Sequence 4 when they lose it?
  • Will I care when they fail to get it in Sequence 5.
  • Will I jump out of my cheer when they unexpectedly and wonderfully get it here?

That’s it.

That’s how short films work.

I’d be doing the same breakdown if it was five minutes or a 30-second commercial. Well, that’s it for now. Your homework is to give it a shot with your own short film ideas and see where it takes you. Better yet, break down your own favorite short and see how close it comes to what I’ve described above. Happy writing! Class dismissed!


Skrawl Screenwriters Room Challenge

Sorry I’ve been away. Here’s why.

Anyway, I’m doing something fun right now and I thought this would be a great opportunity to get the site back up and running. I figure, if I blog my way through the experience I can do some real teaching and really move the ball down the field as far as eradicating bad screenwriting forever.

I’m competing in the SKRAWL SCREENWRITERS ROOM CHALLENGE. Now I ain’t gon’ lie. I wanna win and wins don’t happen by accident. Also, I always like to set an intention before I sit down to write anyway and winning is as good a goal as any (coffee and nachos at Aroma are on me next time if I do!) Besides, stuff like this helps keep my head in the game and it’ll make it more fun for you guys. Kinda like the way putting two dollars on a random horse makes you a lot more interested in the outcome of the race.

Okay. Here’s the competition…

Carl Gotlieb (yes, the legendary “JAWS Carl Gotlieb”) has written a fun scenario for myself, four other professional writers and one amateur to play with. Like jazz, we’re supposed to pick up where he left off and take it the next few bars.

Here are the details. Take a look at Carl’s first page. It’s fantastic!

Okay. So here are the elements. I’m thinking of them as toys I can play with…

  • MEL and CHERIE. Their relationship is not defined so I can play with it but I don’t think I will. Making them coworkers or whatever… all of the other choices are a lot less interesting from an emotional standpoint than just letting them be a married couple so I’ll leave these particular toys in the shrink-wrap.
  • A hole in a suburban backyard is the kind of thing that makes writers salivate so I’ll put on my bib and dive in. It’s probably the most important “character” in the scene. So let’s write “HOLE” on a Post-it note and stick it to the door.
  • The unnamed “voices”. Everybody’s going to give them different names and they could become fun to play with. Maybe they’re retired detectives or nosey neighbors with a neighborhood crime blog. You see where I’m going here? I’m building passive antagonists. Intention… obstacle. So I’ll write “define voices” on a Post-it and putting on the door.

If I’m going to win this thing I have to keep one thing in mind. All six of us are going to put a body in that hole. Why?

Here are the other options…

  • What if they’re planting flowers? Boo! Even if they’re brilliant flowers, it’s going to feel like the writer didn’t take the bait of the assignment. Nobody’s going to vote for “burying flowers” in a dark comedic short film.
  • Maybe they’re digging a hole. Maybe their next door neighbor is El Chapo and they’re digging into his living room to break into his safe so they can support their lavish lifestyle. The perfect crime. What stops me here is the conversation that Mel and Cherie have about whether or not the hole is deep enough. A tunnel is never deep enough. You’ve gotta take what they give ya. So move on.
  • Maybe they’re burying The Treasure of the Sierra Madre or something else valuable. The visual is going to be a box and it’s going to take forever to pay off. We’ve only got six bites at the apple. A box seems like it doesn’t have anywhere near the emotional value of… say putting Donald Trump in that hole. His comb-over wafting in the night breeze as the last shovel of compost covers his spray tanned nose. How fun was that to read? How fun was that to write? It’s gotta be a body.
  • Maybe they’re burying an alien, a vampire or a zombie. I like these ideas more than words can say because I’m a sci-fi geek at heart. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s gutsy enough to bring home the gold.

Yeah, it’s going to come down to whoever puts the best body in that hole. Now I can’t go any farther without giving myself away (the submissions are supposed to be anonymous) so I’ll stop here and spill the beans after this round of competition. After that I’ll give you a look inside my head and I’ll explain my reasoning for why I picked the direction I did, right or wrong. And, by the way, I’m not above trash talking either way… at heart I’m just a kid from Detroit.

Of course, the most important part of my strategy is to get actual votes.

To that end, I’ve set up a Twitter account (Why didn’t I have one before? Because vodka, computers and four AM don’t mix.) Anyway, here it is…  @IamRobEdwards

I’m sure there were more creative names out there but I did it during the football playoffs. Please subscribe. I’ll keep it fun and informative and, when the time comes, I’ll let you know when it’s time to vote. Please vote for me. Worst case scenario, you’ll read some writing that’s better than mine and you’ll vote for that. It’s win win!

Next time we’ll talk about how I intend to structure these six sequences.

Your homework is to click around the Skrawl page and take a crack at the assignment yourself.

See you on the other side. Class dismissed!


Happy Memorial Day and Free “Screenwriting 101” Panel

I hope that you are having a happy Memorial Day weekend and celebrating with family and friends. I know we all appreciate those who have served or are currently serving in our armed forces.

I am enjoying my day and also preparing to speak on a free “Screenwriting 101” panel in Santa Clarita, California, with Gary Tieche and Jacques Thelemaque. That is correct. It is FREE. Do join us this Wednesday, May 27, from 7:00-9:00pm. We will be discussing how to overcome the hurdles associated with screenwriting, and provide you with some tools you can use to write your own award winning screenplay.

This workshop is in conjunction with an artist development program that the City has developed called New Heights. The New Heights series is designed to assist artists, performers, and arts organization representatives to expand their knowledge and to learn valuable tools to increase success. The series is comprised of workshops, panel discussions, and art excursions that are designed to engage creative individuals, no matter what level of experience.

The Santa Clarita City Hall is located at 23920 Valencia Blvd., Santa Clarita, CA 91355. For more information on the panel: or for questions email Anne Marie at annemarie@robedwards.net.

Reply to let me know if you will be there!


Rob Invites You To His April Master Class and Sunday Coffee Talk

Hey everyone. Sorry that Rob has not been posting. He’s been very busy working on a number of projects. He definitely misses interacting with you and wanted to let you know he has two events coming up!

RE - Aroma_2014_Coffee Talk

The first is a “Coffee Talk” again at Aroma Coffee and Tea in Studio City this Sunday, March 29th, from 2:00-5:00pm. Please grab your beverage and or munchies from the front and join us in the back corner in the patio. Rob would enjoy hearing what you have been up to and may shed some light on his most recent projects too. Email Anne Marie at annemarie@robedwards.net to RSVP for this Sunday.

On Saturday, April 18th, Rob will be teaching a half day Master Class on “How to Construct Engaging and Dynamic Characters” from 9:00am-1:00pm at the Animation Guild: 1105 North Hollywood Way, Burbank, CA 91505. Street parking is nearby and free.

RE-Class CTN

In this Master Class, Rob will share how he and the story teams create Oscar nominated movies with dynamic and emotionally engaging characters. Thorough character development is the key to award winning storytelling. As a professional, this class will hone your skills. As a student, you will walk way with tools used by many top studio writers.

Tickets are available at robedwards.net/master-class or on Eventbrite: http://robedwardscharacterclass.eventbrite.com and are $55 for presale or $65 at the door. There is a 10% discount for students, Animation and Art Directors Guild, WIA, ASIFA, OBS and VES members. Contact Event Producer, Nancy Bates: nancy@robedwards.net with any questions or for your discount code. Tickets are fully refundable until April 11th and after that will be refunded at 50% of the ticket rate.

We look forward to seeing you there!



Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays Class,

Tis the season to eradicate bad screenwriting! In that spirit, I’ve been Santa Claus-ing it all over town. I’ve been spreading holiday cheer in the form of articles for Talentville and ScriptLab and doing interviews for a few magazines, so let’s give a warm welcome to everyone who has enjoyed the science I’ve been dropping and then decided to click over and check out all of the fun you and I have been having for the past few years.

I encourage you all to check out TheScriptLab.com for their incredible articles and Talentville.com for their amazing resources. We will be partnering with both websites next year to give you guys outlets to share all of the thoughtful, emotional and well-crafted screenplays that you’ve learned to write on this site. Stay tuned for those announcements.

Also, 2015 is going to bring a few changes to RobEdwards.net. I’ll be announcing those in January, along with two Master Classes I’ll be teaching next year… that are basically excuses for me to get away from my computer for a few days. I’ll also be announcing a few book deals in the works along with release dates for some of the movies I’ve been writing while I’ve been doing this blog.

This is the first of a 3 part series I’m doing for TheScriptLab. If you’ve ever been looking for a way to go to film school in three essays, this trilogy should do it for you. The first article explains why we should break down other great filmmaker’s styles. Every other type of artist on the planet does it. If we’re going to get great… well, just read the articles and let me know what you think below.

http://goo.gl/4RNvAL

This is the second of my 3 part series for TheScriptLab. It explains what I look for when I’m breaking down a filmmaker’s style.

http://goo.gl/xtzVGa

This is supposed to be the third part of my three-parter but, as you guys know all too well, I went way long and had to split it into two. Yes, it’s a four part trilogy. My choice was to cut it and leave out a bunch of stuff or split it into two and let you guys see more of the observations I made after spending a few weeks watching Quentin Tarantino movies. Enjoy! And let me know what you think in the comments below…

 And here’s the fourth part of my three part series. By popular request, I’m taking on CHRISTOPHER NOLAN next. I’m getting to watch some of my favorite films again and I’m having a ball finding the “Nolan-isms” that have made his movies so spellbinding and wonderful. Keep tuned to the Facebook page for my progress. I’ll be sharing some of the gems that I’ve found on the internet and I might be reaching out to you guys for some help on this one so be ready. Enjoy part four!

Fear not, those of you who have been tuning in every week for the step-by-step breakdown for how to write amazing screenplays! We’ll get right back to that and take it through to its bitter end right after a quick review for newcomers next week. Until then, enjoy these articles and the ones to follow. Happy Holidays! Class dismissed!


A Recent Screenwriting Interview

I hope you guys are enjoying your holiday season. Personally I had a fantastic time last weekend as a guest lecturer at U.C. Riverside. It was great seeing so many students who were eager to make their mark on the entertainment industry.
A few weeks ago, Ebony Gilbert, Masters of Fine Arts candidate at Loyola Marymount University approached me to do an interview about screenwriting. She asked some fantastic questions and I enjoyed the exchange so much that I wanted to share it with you. Joyeux Noel!

EG: What types of stories do you find yourself writing about most often?

Rob: I gravitate to the stories that resonate the most with me. I have two sons, so father and son stories are my favorites. I can turn just about any relationship into a father and son story. I also gravitate to stories about American tribalism. I grew up in Detroit and then boarded (in 7th grade) at an elite prep school (the same one Mitt Romney went to). I got to see both sides up close and I love stories that exploit those differences. That’s what drew me to “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”… that and Will Smith. Every great writer will tell you, there’s nothing like a great actor to make your words look good.

EG: Do you think what you write about is influenced most by what you desire or by what you feel will sell today?

Rob: I think, if you chase box office, you’re going to end up heartbroken. Movies take a long time to make. They take years to develop, months to pre-produce, shoot and edit and then add more time to promote and distribute. If you’re trying to copy something that just did well at the box office this weekend, you’re just going to embarrass yourself and make a crappy movie that doesn’t do business.

Andrew Stanton at Pixar (FINDING NEMO, WALL-E) has a saying, “Be a filmgoer first and a filmmaker second.” Put yourself in the movie seat. Write the movie you and your friends would most like to see. If you’re writing your own favorite movie, you can’t go wrong. More importantly, you won’t get caught following trends with movies that mean nothing to you.

EG: My all-time favorite, THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, captures the authentic voice of Blacks and their experiences, while also being able to have a universal message. What do you think contributes to your ability to capture such a story?

Rob: First off, thanks for the compliment. A lot of people worked very hard on that movie so I share credit with hundreds of incredible artists and craftsmen at Disney. I think all filmmakers are looking for that crossover between the intimate and the universal, so I’m glad you thought we got it right. For me, the most important part to get right is the specific emotional truth. The fun part was sharing those stories with the directors and story artists and finding out that everybody else is just as stupid about relationships as I am.

For THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG, I drew heavily on my courtship with my wife of 25 years. I was the son of a doctor. I was in my early twenties. A private school, sports-car spoiled kid. I think I’m easy on the eyes. She was working three jobs. Three crappy jobs. I was all play and no work (my job was writing jokes for television, how easy is that?) She was all work no play. Just transcribing our conversations and fights from memory (and adding a little flair) gave the movie a reality and a believability that it wouldn’t have had if I hadn’t drawn on my personal experiences. Black, white or purple everybody should be able to relate to Naveen and Tiana in one way or another.

EG: In addition to film, you have worked on television shows such as “The Parent ‘Hood”, “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”, “In Living Color”, “A Different World”, and plenty of other shows that made an impact on television and American culture. Why do you think it was important for you to have a career outside of film writing?

Rob: Television is the greatest bootcamp in the world for movie writers. The demands are tremendous. The hours are ungodly. There were times on “Fresh Prince” when a joke wouldn’t work on the first take and we would have to rewrite a new one before the cameras were ready for the second take. And it had to be funny. That’s pressure! Movies are different. You write a joke and you have to wait years to hear somebody laugh at it. You have to be absolutely certain that it’s going to get a laugh. For me, I was glad I had all of those years in television to give me that certainty.

The fun question here is “why did I decide to write for television first?” I was a film student at Syracuse University. I should have gone right into features. The answer is simple. When I started writing I got the advice to read every biography I could…so I did. Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Larry Gelbart, Neil Simon…everyone I read had the same pattern. They all started as TV writers, so I did that. Some went on to do standup, so I did that. Then, after ten years in TV, they all broke out and started writing movies. Great movies. So, I figured, if it was good enough for all of the guys I admired, it was good enough for me.

EG: How has the business changed from when you first started?

Rob: Ha! It changes every 18 months. If you’re not paying attention, you’re going to get swamped. Every new movie has the chance to change the course of movie making. THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG was the first of the Disney princess road pictures. TANGLED and FROZEN followed in the tradition and improved on the model. Once Chris Nolan’s BATMAN came out, it changed superhero movies forever. BRIDESMAIDS owes a huge debt of gratitude to THE HANGOVER. So, to answer the question, everything has changed… I wrote my first teleplay on an IBM Selectric typewriter; now you can’t even buy one.

With all of that, good old-fashioned craftsmanship still rules the day. I still break stories on 3×5 cards. I still write my first draft with pen and paper. I go to the computer long after I’m done creating. The end product is much different, but I still use the tools that I’ve grow comfortable with over the past 30 years.

EG: What advice would you give to an aspiring screenwriter?

Rob: Forget everything they tell you in film school. Ha! Just kidding. Read as many screenplays as you can. Break them down. Study them. Rinse and repeat. If you want to be a great painter, you study the works of the great masters for decades. The same with musicians. Why writers feel like they can just start typing and have their work compete with somebody who actually knows what they’re doing is beyond me.

Also, there are a bunch of fantastic blogs out there, including mine — RobEdwards.net. I try to share everything I’ve learned about screenwriting as do a lot of other fantastic writers. These kinds of resources weren’t around when I started. I had to take guys out to lunch and buy scripts from bookstores. Now, all of that magic is a click away.


My Trojan Vision Interview.

Hello Class,

Last week some wonderful people over at USC invited me to be interviewed for their “CU@SC” TV show. The host, Haley Spence Brown, asked some great questions and, for once, I wasn’t embarrassed by my answers. Enjoy the interview and let me know what you think below.

-Rob.