Let’s talk about connecting to the audience — Why is this important?

Greetings Everyone!

I will be teaching a Webinar for the Writers Store on Thursday, June 25, 2015 1:00 PM / 4:00 PM ET
The Audience’s Connection to a Screenplay: Engaging through Conflict

Screenwriters sign up now for my webinar on June 25 on writing engaging conflict. Use the code CARLA20 to save 20%  bit.ly/EngagingConflict 

At a Glance

Whether you are a novice, intermediate or seasoned screenwriter, this webinar will fuel you with insightful and important information to help you create a story with universal appeal.
Gain a deeper understanding about the fundamental importance of conflict in a screenplay.
Learn how conflict affects the pacing of your story, helps develops your main character, and connects the audience to the hero.

Please note: If you purchase any webinar, you will get a recorded version of the webinar sent to you after the presentation day. So if you can’t attend live, you will still get all the materials.

ABOUT THE WEBINAR

Screenwriting is a rigorous process, and for a story to work in this medium the audience must connect to the hero – you must make the audience care! However, this does not come about by giving your character good personality traits. The audience needs to see strength in overcoming; they need to see “reality” through conflict.

Carla’s passion for storytelling begins with her connection to the journey of the hero, and for an audience to root for a hero; there must be a relationship with the character based on weakness and character defect. With a background in the dramatic arts, and English literature, Carla will share with you her process for creating relatable, “realistic” characters through the use of conflict.

Discover why so many scripts fail at the get go, how good characterization is based more on weakness and need than personality traits, and how both internal and external conflict is used to move the story forward and bring the hero to transformation.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN:

How conflict helps to deepen the main character
How conflict works in a storyline
About the many faces of conflict
Why audiences must have a connection to the hero
How to make your audience “care” about the hero
The importance of dramatic tension and how it works with the hero
The essence of storytelling, no matter what the genre
The importance of universal appeal

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?

Screenwriters who want a story that connects to the audience
All-level screenwriters
Screenwriters who want a better understanding of dramatic conflict and how it is used in the story
Screenwriters who want to expand their writing skills
Screenwriters who want to impress readers and (hopefully) sell their scripts

Participate Live or Watch Later

This webinar includes both access to the live webinar where you may interact with the presenter and the recorded, on-demand edition for your video library. Each registration comes with access to the archived version of the program and the materials for one year. You do not have to attend the live event to get a recording of the presentation. In all webinars, no question goes unanswered. Attendees have the ability to chat with the instructor during the live event and ask questions. You will receive a copy of the webinar presentation in an e-mail that goes out one week after the live event. The answers to questions not covered in the live presentation will be included in this e-mail as well.

BONUS: With purchase of this webinar, you will receive $79.99 off of a yearly subscription to the Screenwriting Tutorials website, which has specialized tutorials from experts that explore screenwriting topics covered nowhere else on the web!

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: This webinar will be broadcast using GoToWebinar. To see if your system is compatible with GoToWebinar, please review this page, which lists the system requirements for the software.
Meet the Author: Carla Iacovetti

Carla Iacovetti is a published writer, awarded poet, and screenwriter. She has authored more than a half dozen screenplays, and her poetry is featured in over a dozen anthologies. Carla, who works as a freelance writer, script editor, ghostwriter and copywriter, is also a regular feature writer for the Ventura County Reporter and is a screenwriting instructor at Santa Barbara City College Center for Lifelong Learning.

SIGN UP HERE: The Audience’s Connection to a Screenplay: Engaging through Conflict
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Storytelling for the screen

Storytelling is instinctive to the human condition, and screenwriting is storytelling.  At the core of storytelling, is a cerebral, emotional, social and psychological connection.  Every screenwriter has the responsibility of creating a story (even if comedic) that will connect with the audience.  What do the works of famed literary artists like: Shakespeare, Homer, Aesop, Chaucer, Euripides, Virgil, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain, Jane Austen, Oscar Wilde, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Leo Tolstoy, and Dante all have in common?  They have been able to characterize simple life truths into stories – stories that are connected to the human condition.  This connection is experienced by the reader/audience as they identify with the characters.

Psychologist William Indick says, “Through the unconscious process of “identification,” the people in the audience [readers] actually become the characters that they identify with in the film, and they experience, vicariously, the same psychological development and catharsis that the characters on the screen [or in a book] experience.”

Catharsis is a term that was set into motion by the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle (384 -322 BCE).  Aristotle established the guidelines for literary tragedy that are very much in place today.  In his famous Poetics (350 BCE), Aristotle defines “catharsis” as follows:  “Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude…in the form of action, not of narrative, through pity, and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions (section 1, part VI).”  Purgation is actually more literally translated “catharsis,” and comes from the word, “Greekkatharsis,” and means cleansing.

*More on Catharsis: http://www.bookkaholic.com/what-to-read-part-6-catharsis/

“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.” F. Scott Fitzgerald

It is no mystery as to why the classics (movies, literature and theatrical plays) have stood the test of time.  How is it that an audience today can still relate to the heartbreak of two young lovers in Romeo and Juliet?  Why do we feel empathy for Topol in Fiddler on the Roof when her father Tevye disowns her for choosing to marry outside the Jewish faith?  It is because these stories represent real people with authentic issues, while illuminating simple truths about life.  In essence, we “feel” the characters pain.  When Willy Loman is cast aside at 60 years old in the play, The Death of a Salesman, we again are moved by his troubles and so many disappointments of his past.

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As screenwriters, we have a responsibility to create stories that are relatable.  No matter what the genre, every good story must have a protagonist who will be forced to make a choice.  The classic hero struggles with human flaws, psychological reactions to conflict from the beginning of the story all the way to the end, where we (the audience/reader) see the protagonist’s transformation.

Story is not to be confused with plot.  Screenwriter and author Kate Wright says, “Story and plot are intricately woven inside story events, and while the audience cannot tell them apart, each us distinct: Plot is self-evident, and we experience it objectively, scene by scene.  Story is the deeper meaning behind the plot, and we subjectively infer its moral truth—or absolute truth—sequentially, by identifying with the inner moral struggle of the main character.”

So, with the realization that “story” must connect to humanity, we (as writers) begin the journey of unfolding the premise, from FADE IN to FADE OUT.  It cannot just be about an idea, or bang-up and shoot-out events.  A screenplay (like fiction) has a beginning, middle and end, and it is a combination plate of unfolding events that will bring the hero to transformation.  Of course, it’s not just “any” event.  All events must play a part in defining the world of the story, addressing the theme or central idea (which needs to be addressed in the first 5 minutes, pushing the plot forward, revealing the journey/plight of the protagonist, and so on.

“A STORY EVENT creates meaningful change in the life situation of a character that is expressed and experienced in terms of a VALUE.” – Robert McKee, Story

The values that McKee speaks about are those universal qualities found within every human experience.  No matter what the characteristic, whether it be fear or confidence, joy, anger, hope, despair, wisdom, truth or lies, morality, and even death and life, these (and many more) are the catalyst for conflict.

According to McKee, “Look closely at each scene you’ve written and ask:  What value is at stake in my character’s life at this moment?”  Identify the value/emotion in the scene from the beginning to the ending. Looking objectively at every scene, and asking this question is a great way to identify the significance of the scene, and according to McKee, it will lead you to a second important question:  “Why is this scene in my script?”

A Great Rule: Enter late; exit early.

Go back to every scene (and every conversation) and find the latest possible point you can enter that conversation or scene.

a)     Begin your scene there. Cut everything that comes before it.

b)    Next, find the earliest place you can exit the scene, and end your scene there (cutting everything after it).

c)     Try to cut your scene before it resolves.  Leave something dangling, and end with a question—something unanswered, or as David Ball says, “End with a forwarding action.”

It really is all about the STORY.  Without a story, you don’t have characters.  Without a story, you don’t have a screenplay, and without a story you don’t have a movie.

There is a correlation between story and life, and it’s a connection that must not be missed.  McKee says, “Story is metaphor for life.”  So, it doesn’t matter what genre you’re writing in; what does matter is that your story must have a relationship with human experience.  Ask yourself the question, “Is your story life-like?”

It’s not about figuring out the marketplace, but mastering the craft of screenwriting, and that is no small quest.  David Ball, author of Backwards & Forwards recently said, “Screenwriting is a group art form.  It is largely technique, plus art and inspiration. If you want to play, you have to learn how the game is played.  Successful writers master a technique before they reject it.”

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Good writers are the ultimate eavesdroppers

In his book, The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell says, “Modern literature is devoted, in great measure, to a courageous, open-eyed observation of the sickeningly broken figuration’s that abound before us, around us, and within.”  In other words, story telling is really about observing humanity.

Let me be perfectly candid: Screenwriters are not exempt from these important observations.

I truly believe that the best writers are not afraid to ask questions.  Maybe my work as a journalist is seeping through, but in order for us to create convincing characters, we need to have a real grasp on psychology.  We should be open-minded, and never write with an agenda, but write as an expression of what is within and about what is external.

I have never understood the writer who hides away from humanity.  Naturally, writing is solitary by nature, but when I am not writing, I am out and about—watching and listening to people.  Perhaps good writers are the ultimate eavesdroppers.

If you’ve never seen Norah Baumbach’s film, The Squid and the Whale, I’d like to recommend it. The story is about a family in crisis, and Baumbach successfully utilizes the themes of divorce, infidelity and relational dysfunction (sounds like Psychology 101), and we are drawn into the drama of a family as they all try to make sense of life.  You know, something that happens around us everyday.

Baumbach hits the audience with a scene-by-scene depiction of a family that is jaded by denial.  One of the greatest universal appeals in this screenplay is the author’s ability to write a brutally honest story about a family being forced to change in the midst of serious crisis.

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Whether the story is dramatic or comedic is not even the issue, because, according to Joseph Campbell, comedy and tragedy work parallel.  He says, “The happy ending of the fairy tale, the myth, and the divine comedy of the soul, is to be read, not as a contradiction, but as a transcendence of the universal tragedy of man.” Regardless of our station in life, we are all evolving.  Campbell’s hero never sits idle, but moves through time and space—changing from the inside out.  This is a reflection of life. Life, as we know it—a “call to adventure,” as Campbell puts it.

Good stories and well-drawn characters remind us of life.  In them we see reflections of history and unforgettable moments.  Moments comprised of birth and death, heartache and rapture, conflict in relationships, pain and suffering, love and war, happiness and sorrow, and justice and injustice.

Fellow writers…good writing is not something that just happens.  It’s not like picking up a journal, writing your thoughts down with utter abandonment while sipping a latte, and then suddenly getting published or produced.  There’s no magical formula, and no genie to wiggle her nose with the promise of a next best seller.  Like anything in life, if a writer wants to excel, he or she must surrender to the process, and it’s rigorous.  It means letting preconceived ideas go, and not holding onto writing that’s redundant just because you like a scene or a character.  It means to scrutinize your work and hold it against other works that have stood the test of time.  It means to be thoroughly honest while being captivatingly creative and transcendent.  “Story is about eternal, universal forms, not formulas…story is about mastering the art, not second-guessing the marketplace,” says Robert McKee.  The truth is…there are no shortcuts.

Having an open mind means to step outside of the box.  Writing is a journey that all of us creative minds must embrace, and like the characters we create, there is a moment in time where we “must” choose to drop all predetermined plans and welcome with open arms the challenge set before us.

Writing is a sacred place of both discovery and methodology.  It’s an amalgam of both worlds, and that process for me has been to find a balance between creative artistry and theory.  Part of that discovery is observing the way we humans respond to life. To not be afraid to let go of writing that doesn’t work (a couple of screenplays ago, I deleted 30 pages of script and laughed hysterically).  Letting go is a part of embracing the art of storytelling.  It’s not just about myth.  It’s about life.

So, are you (as a writer) ready to embrace the journey of storytelling?  Are you ready to be honest and transcendent?  Are you willing to learn what “really” makes a character tick?

“The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure.” – Joseph Campbell

For Information about screenplay coaching, script doctoring or classes.

Flawed Characters — Looking at life Sideways!

I love flawed characters.  Perhaps it’s because they seem so much more real.  Join me for a little analysis of the screenplay Sideways, which is wonderfully written.

Logline: Two old friends setting off on a wine-tasting road trip…only to veer dizzily sideways into a wry, comedic exploration of the crazy vicissitudes of love and friendship, the damnable persistence of loneliness and dreams and the enduring war between Pinot and Cabernet. (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

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Failure is a part of the human condition, and whenever we see a character in a screenplay that reveals this aspect of humanity, we are somehow reassured.  In the screenplay Sideways, the protagonist has been hard-hit by the failure of his marriage and the rejection of his novel.  Through the use of good character development, well-written dialogue and conflict, the authors take the audience/reader on a metaphoric journey filled with universal appeal while covering complex life questions, such as:  depression, mid-life crisis, honesty and infidelity.

The opening scene in Sideways reveals a lot about MILES RAYMOND’S character.  Miles is hung-over, and running late for an appointment that he had forgotten about.  The opening line says it all:  “…the fuck….” A worker [painter] is standing at the door asking him to move his car.  Dressed in only underwear, a bathrobe and a pair of clogs, Miles proceeds to move his car, and ends up falling asleep in it.  It is clear that he is somewhat out of sorts as he races back into his apartment in frenzy and shouts out the repeated one-liner, “Fuck!”  He is late for an appointment.

Miles is an eighth grade English teacher and a want-to-be novelist who has not moved on after going through a divorce.  He is a loser.  In fact, he seems to be going through the motions of life passionless, with the exception of his love for wine and his fascination with Pinot.  When asked about his love for pinot his response is not only informative about the nature of the wine, it somewhat mirrors him.  Note the following excerpt:

MAYA

Can I ask you a personal question?

MILES

(Bracing himself)

Sure.

MAYA

Why are you so into Pinot? It’s like a thing with you.

Miles laughs at first, then smiles wistfully at the question.  He searches for the answer in his glass and begins slowly.

MILES

I don’t know.  It’s a hard grape to grow.  As you know it’s  thin-skinned,       temperamental, ripens early.  It’s not a survivor like Cabernet that can grow anywhere and  thrive even when neglected. Pinot needs constant care and attention…

Weaving in Metaphor:

Is this explanation a metaphor that describes him? Is he admitting to his inability to weather the storms of life and his need for constant attention and affirmation?  He has not survived his divorce well, and exhibits the signs of someone who is not just down on his luck in life, but most likely depressed.  This middle-age man has been rejected in love and in his career as a writer.

In the middle of their vineyard adventures, Miles and Jack sit on the hood of Miles 12-year-old Saab sharing a bottle of wine.  Jack encourages Miles to simply write another book.  “Another” is the operative word, because Jack does not know that Miles book has been rejected.  In this moment, Miles’ loser mindset and lack of self-esteem is exposed to the audience/reader with his response to Jack.  Miles not only has no new writing ideas, he believes that he is washed up.  In fact, he tells Jack that he is not a writer!  “No, I’m finished.  I’m not a writer. I’m going to spend the rest of my life grading essays and reading the works of others…the world doesn’t give a shit about what I have to say. I’m unnecessary (a dark laugh). I’m so insignificant, I can’t even kill myself.”

Not only is Miles on a journey of self-discovery, the authors humorously use the contrast between Miles and Jack’s characters; they are alive!  The diversity between these two men is as broad as the Grand Canyon, but it works well in the storyline. In fact, there is continual tension between the two men, even though humorous, that really adds color to the story.  It is human satire at its finest.  Jack’s apparent manhood is centered on his ability to land a woman in bed. By contrast, Miles inability to get past rejection brings even more tension into the mix as they discuss their adventures with the two women the night before.  Shirtless Jack wants ever detail, but Miles is not amused, nor is he willing to share anything about his time spent with Maya.  Clueless Jack continues to try and force the conversation with big bear hugs, and flinging Miles on the bed kissing his cheeks, while affirming how “Proud” he is of him.  Miles considers this a private matter, and Jack says, “You’re kidding, right?  Tell me what happened you fucker, or I’ll tie your dick in a knot.”  The comical conflict continues until finally, in a near triumphant moment, Miles stands up to Jack and tells him that he cannot take it anymore.  “Just leave me alone, okay?  You’re fucking me up.”

While enjoying his passion for wine, Miles is on a journey of self-discovery. In Sideways, the author’s successfully use the banter between two old friends (Miles and Jack), the development of their opposite characters, and the conflict that arises in their relationship to push the plot forward and bring resolve in the end—Miles is able to move forward with his life.  There is resolve and resolution, which is essential in every story.