Before I write a new screenplay on spec, I like to think about the Johnny Cash biopic movie, "Walk the Line." There is a moment in this movie that is just so awesome. So powerful. I decided to post it on my site.
Here's the quick setup: JOHNNY CASH is broke, married and desperate. His dream is to play music. He gets a chance to play a song for well known producer SAM PHILLIPS. He starts playing one. But Sam stops him only a few verses in. Johnny is defensive at first, but Sam gives Johnny a reality check that will change his life forever.
SAM: We've already heard that song a hundred times. Just like that. Just like how you sing it.
JOHNNY: Well, you didn't let us bring it home.
SAM: Bring it home? All right, let's bring it home. If you was hit by a truck and you was lying out there in that gutter dying, and you had one time to sing one song. One song that people would remember before you're dirt. One song that would let God know how you felt about your time here on Earth. One song that would sum you up. You tellin' me that's the song you'd sing? That same Jimmy Davis tune we hear on the radio all day, about your peace within, and how it's real, and how you're gonna shout it? Or... would you sing somethin' different. Somethin' real. Somethin' you felt. Cause I'm telling you right now, that's the kind of song that truly saves people. It ain't got nothin' to do with believin' in God, Mr. Cash. It has to do with believin' in yourself.
JOHNNY: I got a couple of songs I wrote in the Air Force. You got anything against the Air Force?
JOHNNY: I do.
The rest is history.
I love you.
You're really beautiful.
Let's be friends forever.
Isn't the sunshine just lovely?
My, that sure is a nice looking haircut you got there.
I'm just a janitor.
I'm never sad.
My mother says the sweetest things.
Her Facebook picture is pretty.
I'll be back.
I'll have what she's having.
Can these seemingly uninteresting lines of dialogue actually be used effectively and with more meaning? Of course, they can. It all depends on the scene you create.
Here are some examples:
Line: I love you.
Have a romantic couple kiss each other, say the line, then pick up their axes and run through a crowd of flesh eating zombies.
Line: You're really beautiful.
Use this line during a touching first kiss scene between a human being and a ten-eyed, two-assed, green alien from another planet.
Line: Let's be friends forever.
Go for a tearjerker moment and have this line come out either on the battlefield or at the "just about to die" moment in a hospital bed.
Line: Isn't the sunshine just lovely?
No, it's not, because the sun is GMO BOB: the genetically modified firefly with shark teeth! Have GMO Bob bite the head off the character who initially thought the sunshine was lovely.
Line: My, that sure is a nice looking haircut you got there.
I like a prison setting for this one. Have the line come out in a shower scene between two death row inmates, the day before one of them will be executed.
Line: I'm just a janitor.
No character should be who he says he is. Make sure this line is used after he uses his super cool Jackie Chan moves on three baddies and sends them to the morgue.
Line: I'm never sad.
This line can only be interesting if we know the character is actually really sad.
Line: My mother says the sweetest things.
A line Norman Bates might use after sleeping with his dead, naked mother in a prequel to Psycho. (You know Hollywood wants to make another Norman Bates movie, don't you?)
Line: Her Facebook picture is pretty.
Have some creepy stalker character say this line while drinking a glass of milk and massaging his hands with baby oil. Your thriller practically writes itself, doesn't it?
Line: I'll be back.
Watch Arnold in the original Terminator and remember the moment he throws out this great line. Timing is everything with lines.
Line: I'll have what she's having.
I hope you know what classic movie this line is from, especially if you're trying to write a comedy. A great scene, and the famous line was delivered by the director's mother.
So there you have it. Some quick tips on how you can make your very non-fancy lines more fancy and meaningful for your script.
It's all about the scene you write.
Hasta la vista, screenwriters!
Love it or hate it, sales is part of the game and you need to learn how to do it if you want to get your script read by the right people.
Here's an updated list of Sales Twitterisms (based on what I've learned over the years in my day job as a sales professional) that hopefully will help you when you're ready to show your screenplay to the film business world.
1) Many sales leaders today believe it's no longer about selling something to somebody, it's about "coaching" somebody into buying something.
2) All people buy something because of what the product or service will do for them.
3) Selfish, emotional instincts drive an artist's creativity, just like an executive is driven by his selfish, emotional buying instincts.
4) If you do have to leave a voicemail (sometimes you do) then space your messages 3/4 days apart. You don't want to come off like a stalker.
5) The best time to try and contact an agent, producer, CEO or manager by phone is between (5:00 PM- 6:30 PM).
6) Matching and mirroring is a great way to build trust and rapport. It's normal human behavior.
7) Matching and mirroring in meetings. It's a way of subconsciously telling another that you like them and agree with them. Very persuasive.
8) What are executives really thinking before buying? Is the screenplay (product): a safe bet, proven, enjoyable, entertaining, creative and guaranteed.
9) Most people think in pictures, not words, so create vivid word pictures in your sales pitches to keep your audience emotionally involved.
10) When pitching your script to those who can help your writing career, speak with confidence about your project.
Now go write, rewrite, rewrite again, and again, and again... then begin your sales process.
-- WRITE FAST! You want that first draft completed in less than 14 days. Sound impossible? It's not. Write quickly, trusting your first instincts and you will reap the rewards of having a more original, creative, first draft screenplay.
-- Don't overthink your idea, and don't worry about story structure yet. As long as you have a major problem that needs to be solved, you will be able to write a first draft.
-- Know who your hero/ine is and what he/she wants and fears most. (This will allow you to mess with his/her life.)
-- Know who your baddie is and what he/she wants and fears most.
-- Make sure your hero/ine and baddie want the same thing, then in the end make sure your hero/ine wins.
-- Create some kind of plot twist for your hero/ine every 10 pages, and try to make each twist bigger than the last one.
-- Give all of your supporting characters unique personalities, and make sure they serve the needs of your hero/ine and baddie.
-- Have a lot of fun when you write! Don't censor yourself. Be rude, crude, funny, perverted, violent, creepy, angry, romantic, jealous or overly sensitive, if that's how you're feeling at the time your quill is moving.
-- End your screenplay with your most emotional and exciting scene possible, bringing closure to your hero/ine's problem.
-- Your screenplay should be no less than 103 pages and no more than 120 pages, with very few exceptions. And lastly...
-- Don't procrasterbate! Write now!
1) Don't overthink things - just let the words flow through your fingertips.
2) Don't worry about spelling and grammar.
3) Show don't tell (think of every sentence in a screenplay as the next picture you will see on the screen).
4) Only sit your butt down and write when you are feeling good and confident with yourself.
5) Make sure to write without distractions. If you have a distracting roommate, tell him to beat it. If you have a wife/husband and kids, let them know you're locking the door to the den (bathroom works, too) and writing your screenplay for the next 2-4 hours.
6) Don't ever drink and write dialogue unless you're Irish and over 21 (Europeans are exempt from this rule).
7) Write a quick blog post about "keeping your focus while writing a screenplay" before focusing on writing your screenplay.