Category Archives: Uncategorized

Guest Post: Thoughts on Long Day’s Journey into Night

A student in one of the courses I teach for Antioch University’s Individualized Master of Arts wrote a terrific, concise critique of O’Neill’s classic play, which is shaped from true story. This is her first foray into the world of …

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The Shape of an Essay

As some of you may know, I love to shape true stories. Recently, one true story that I shaped into an essay was accepted for publication in the online literary journal Full Grown People.  If you have a chance to …

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For Your Consideration

FSP3824_WILD_SCRIPT_BOOK_C3 The only way I know how to write a great script is to read a lot of them. Here is Nick Hornby’s Oscar-Nominated screenplay, adapted from Cheryl Strayed’s gripping memoir WILD.

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5 to 7 opens Starz Denver Film Festival

Saw it last night. I can’t argue with this Review. If you’re one of those people who likes that sort of thing (and I am!) you’ll enjoy it. 

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The Grief Garden

THE GRIEF GARDEN During the months that my stepson Ryan lived with us last year, he borrowed some books from our guest room bookshelf. He especially liked one called Native American Wisdom. When he wasn’t feeling well, which was often, …

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Biopic Review: Papusza

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ydta0PDscYc&feature=player_embedded] Last night I saw the Polish film Papusza, a black and white period biopic about a poetess who belonged to a band of Polish Roma (Gypsies.) She suffered incomprehensible loss of innocence and love in her lifetime, until she …

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NEBRASKA Film Review

NEBRASKA Film Review Nebraska, directed by Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Sideways) packed the Ellie Caulkins Opera House on Saturday night for the Starz Denver Film Festival “Big Night” Red Carpet Presentation. This was a hilarious and sweet look at family, …

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Film Review: Labor Day

The Starz Denver Film Festival opens tonight, November 6th, at 8 p.m. with its Red Carpet Presentation of Labor Day. Labor Day offers a disturbingly effective trifecta of performances by Josh Brolin (Juno) Kate Winslet (Titanic, The Reader) and 14-year …

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How to Write a Biopic in Six Steps

When you’re writing a screenplay about a real person, it can be a challenge to find the right shape for the story. In most cases, the lives of interesting people span a period of many years, so choosing your angle, …

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Story vs. History

Last year, I was hired to write a script by the descendants of Denver’s 20th Century mob boss.   This project, which will be based on the book Smaldone: The Untold Story of an American Crime Family, by Dick Kreck, …

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The Laramie Project: As True as it Gets

Events in the news of late make you wonder what has gone wrong with the human race. There is a production at Evergreen Players/Center Stage right now that attempts to answer that question, and it does so with grace and …

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How to Achieve Universality in our Writing

Whether we are writing fiction, nonfiction, a screenplay or even a poem, the only way to reach people, to create art that matters, is through universality. Many have claimed that there are only so many stories humanity has to tell, …

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Writing Real Life: Changing the Characters’ Names

The other day I found a hundred pages I’d forgotten I even wrote. It’s from a while ago, of course, but I’m looking at it now and thinking I might be able to do something with it. It still speaks …

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Let The Frame Find You

Finding the frame for your true story is essential, but not always easy. If you think of a frame as the story device that allows questions to be raised and gives your story shape, you can see how nebulous a …

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Real Life Makes Bad Drama

These words were hammered into us relentlessly by our first Dramatic Writing professor at NYU, and it’s as true today as it was then. Because the most important shift in consciousness a screenwriter adapting from real life needs to make …

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Flipping the Switch: A Method for True Story Screenwriters

There’s something I call “Flipping the Switch,” and I think it’s a really useful tool when adapting a true story into a screenplay. When you’re writing anything, there are always two different sides of your brain at work. There’s your …

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Dolphin Tale vs. Soul Surfer

Is it just me, or does anyone else find it odd that there were two films last year about amputees in aquatic settings? Both based on true stories, and both aimed at a PG/family film audience. Neither one manages to …

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J. Edgar Doesn’t Quite Mesh

Saw Hollywood’s latest biopic the other day: J. Edgar. Hmmm. I guess aside from the obviousness of the makeup and the slightly melodramatic performances (sorry, Clint), it was pretty well done. The structure is classic Hollywood formula, but with a …

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Come with a Concept, Leave with a Logline

And now…let’s pause for a word from our sponsor: Shaping True Story into Screenplay Workshop: Come with a Concept, Leave with a Logline 4-Hour Workshop in Venice, CA Sunday, February 19, 2012 1:00-5:00 p.m. Only $40.00 with advance registration! From …

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Extreme Screenplay Scenes

Over the weekend, I had the chance to watch the illustrious documentary filmmaker Alexandre Philippe (THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS) deconstruct a scene from a classic must-see film THE PUMPKIN EATER. In the beauty parlor scene, Anne Bancroft’s character is …

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Brighton Beach Memoirs in Colorado

Saw this Neil Simon classic over the weekend at Evergreen Players @ Center/Stage, and what a great show. A triple-Tony Award winner who has also written over fifty produced screenplays, Neil Simon is iconic, and known for his autobiographical work, …

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How do you Slice it? Using Theme as a Guide for Screenplays Based on True Stories

Had a great time in Boulder this weekend at the Moondance International Film Festival. It’s always gratifying to meet talented screenwriters who are working on making their stories as compelling as they can be.  During our workshop on Shaping True …

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Screenwriting as Catharsis

Webster defines catharsis as “purification or purgation of the emotions (as pity and fear) primarily through art.” Those of us who have a burning desire to write a screenplay based on something that happened to us sometimes feel like the …

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Based on a True Story: THE HELP

The film THE HELP, based on the novel by Kathryn Stockett, is coming out next month. (They’ve bumped the release date up from 8/12 to 8/10). This is a great book, and promises to be a good film as well. …

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Writing True Story

In the last chapter of my book, Shaping True Story into Screenplay, I talk about the importance of taking your time in revisions. Whereas the first draft can be, and often should be, written quickly in order to access your …

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