Script Gods Must Die - Chicago Screenwriting Consultant

Screenwriting On The Pale Blue Dot
Dec 16th, 2014 by paul peditto


Seasons greetings, oh ye Script Gods Must Die writers! I wish upon you all seasonal goodwill, Christmas cookies, reindeer bells and snowy nights, stressless shopping and travel, Mom’s lasagna and pizza fritas, jello molds and Ice Box cake, multiple viewings of Charley Brown’s Christmas and A Christmas Story. And, of course, THE BREAKTHROUGH in your writing for the year 2015…

What’s interesting–in the great galaxy of screenwriting information available to you, Good Reader–what’s interesting is that perspective isn’t often challenged. By perspective I mean stepping back and seeing the big picture. Awhile back, I tried to go there with a post on Screenwriting & Mortality. Why is it, exactly, do you write? And why screenplays?

When I punch SCREENWRITING into Google, what I get back for search numbers is “About 2,000,000 results“. In those millions of results are every movie script you ever saw or read. Every consultant’s website and every book written by every guru claiming they could make your writing better, claiming that employing such-and-such structural model will give you a better shot at getting into the Old School L.A. Country Club. Every subscriber website charging you for access to “industry professionals”, every screenwriting contest charging $50 or more in your hopes of making it to the semi-finals and maybe bagging an agent or manager–is found here, in this search.

If I’m sounding like Carl Sagan here it’s because I DID think of him. And the perspective he brought.

I meanwhat the fuck…sure, fame and fortune would be great. It’s beats the alternative–which is the world imposing itself on you. No no no, no matter what, Good Reader, endeavor to impose your order on the world before the world imposes itself on you.

If that strikes you as philosophical mumbo-jumbo, then I ask you, have you ever asked yourself WHY you are writing? With all the desperation that surrounds the tens of thousands of writers pumping out tens of thousands of screenplays EVERY YEAR, why are you joining their ranks? Will your contribution mean anything in the grand, cosmococcic scheme of things?

Before you start writing today, take a peek at this. It might mess with your mind, and change your POV.

And have a wonderful holiday, dammit!


10 Tips For The Unknown Screenwriter- Part 2
Dec 9th, 2014 by paul peditto


Hey guys, ’tis the Season for giving. Not really sure what your Humble Narrator here at Script Gods can offer you this holiday season, other than a few Life Lessons on how to improve your writing and avoid making the same mistakes that I have throughout the years. Had an article on some basic improvements you can make to your writing style published at Script Magazine this week. It–believe it or not–gives a firm rationale for why I walked out of BENJAMIN BUTTON for PAUL BLART, MALL COP. Also, the four most important words when it comes time to sell your script.


Check out the link to the article here.




One For Mike Nichols and the Millennials
Dec 1st, 2014 by paul peditto


Teaching = constant learning. It’s a two-way street. The notion of teaching as lecturing, one way communication, simply doesn’t cut it these days, if it ever cut it at all. I’m constantly learning from students. I’d better be. I’d become antiquated faster than a VHS remote if I wasn’t watching or at least up to date on what THEY–the Millennials– are watching.

I’ve also learned not to be shocked when my references for greatness are completely unknown to them. Not long ago in a Columbia class, a room of 16 film students, I made reference to Sunset Boulevard, The Elephant Man, Deadwood, and The Wire. Not a single student had seen ANY of them. I was shocked, but I shouldn’t have been. Scientific studies of the M2 Generation tell us the 8 to 18 year-old demographic are viewing almost 8 full hours of media a day. Their content of choice is not necessarily pre-Star Wars movies.

Which brings us to Mike Nichols. While I never met the man, I was in awe of his talent and saddened to hear of his passing. I’m a 25 year Chicagoan and know about his history here in town as far back as the Compass Players in the 50′s. He is for the ages.

Which doesn’t mean he’s on the tongue of sleepy Millennials taking Screenwriting 1 on a Friday morning at Columbia College. When I opened my class with: “Who died last night?” only one them came back with “Mike Nichols”. “Correct. Now raise your hand if you know who that is.” I was actually surprised when half the class raised hands. The other half were like, who’s that? “Director of The Graduate” “Oh, yeah” they said, moving faces back into computer screens. “Put the screens down, turn off the cell phones. Mike Nichols directed The Graduate, yeah. He also directed a few others movies.” Then I screened this:

100 years from now, folks will watch Mike Nichols movies. And if you think a lot of the YouTube phenoms now considered hot by Millennials will pass that 100-year test, I’m willing to give odds on that to all comers.

So many great moments in the work of Mike Nichols, it’s hard to know where to start, but here’s a sampler of 7 of his best, grabbed from Huffington Post.


10 Thanksgiving Movies
Nov 24th, 2014 by paul peditto


Thanksgiving dinners take eighteen hours to prepare. They are consumed in twelve minutes. Half-times take twelve minutes. This is not coincidence.” -Erma Bombeck

It’s Thanksgiving week, and as with many holiday scenarios, my own Thanksgiving will be spent with family and friends.

In my case, actually, ex-family. I spend the holidays with my brother’s ex-wife’s family.


Being as I live in Chicago, it’s been convenient through the years to head up to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving. Quick 90-minute car ride, nice scenery. Those folks always liked me more than my brother, even when he was still married to their daughter.

We’re Packer fans, you see… Not that I’m hating on the Bears. They are too sad a team to hate on.

No use beating down the Beaten Down…

Here is a list of my Top 10 Thanksgiving movies. If you’ve missed one of these, maybe while you’re recovering from the tryptophan high of dark meat, mashed potatoes, yams with marshmallows, cranberry sauce and all the rest of it, you can catch one of these….



A demonic turkey is unleashed…and he’s one fowl-mouthed bastard! Five college kids: a jock, a good girl, an overweight red-neck, a slut, and a nerd head home for Thanksgiving break, each thankful for the chance of holiday hookups. But when their car suddenly overheats, they trespass into the woods for a night of drinking and bonfire debauchery. Little do they know, these are the same woods where an ancient turkey was necromanced 386 years ago by an Indian curse after the very first Thanksgiving. Now, The Killer Turkey is awakened and ready for revenge on the first white men he comes in contact with!”

Now THAT’S a concept! Tha-tha-that’s entertainment!

  • 10: SON-IN-LAW

As good as it got for Pauly Shore, the family Thanksgiving dinner is proceeded with the immortal words, “Let’s munch some grindage!”


John Hughes is for the ages. John Candy, also gone. They are missed. I’ve seen this and Weird Science about 20 times. An advertising executive who just wants to fly home to spend Thanksgiving with his family is stuck with a loud but lovable salesman during an unbelievable succession of blizzards, transfers, strikes, and delays. The Citizen Kane of Thanksgiving movies.


Woody Allen’s 1986 drama about three sisters. The film’s set piece is Thanksgiving, where Hannah’s (Mia Farrow) clan gathers together in a tremendous Central Park West apartment for the holiday celebration. Hearts are broken and mended, everybody talks way too much, a typical Woody Allen drama, but one of this best.


NOT a popcorn movie. Totally depressing, actually. But with a couple scenes that can match any movie. I’m talking about the swinging 70′s key party, and the tragic climax coming down on Thanksgiving Day. Starring Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and young rising stars Tobey Maguire, Elijah Wood and Christina Ricci.


It’s the holidays, it’s Charlie Brown, what more do you need to know?


Hoping to earn extra money over the Thanksgiving break, an innocent and reserved scholarship student at an exclusive prep school agrees to look after a blind, retired Lieutenant Colonel, who takes him off for a wild weekend in New York City. Has the famous Pacino dance scene at the end.


Maybe my favorite Paul Newman flick in his later years. Earned him an Oscar nomination. His character is an old codger who takes no shit from anyone. Set in and around Thanksgiving.


Parker Posey won a Special Recognition award at the 1997 Sundance Film Festival for her out-of-control eccentric performance as Jackie-O. Truly warped in her pill-box hats, flying into a rage when her incestuous relationship is challenged as her older brother (Josh Hamilton) brings home a girlfriend (Tori Spelling) for Thanksgiving.


Terrence Malick takes his time unfolding this new take on the Pocahontas story. Some people don’t have the patience for Malick. I’m not one of them. This is pure poetry.


Can cute, edgy Katie Holmes really cook a turkey? The ex-Mrs. Tom Cruise plays the black sheep of her family, working to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner for the clan in her tiny apartment with a broken stove. How can Mrs. Tom Cruise be the star of my favorite Thanksgiving movie? I don’t know, but she is. This movie packed a punch when I first saw it almost a decade ago, and still does. Check it out if you haven’t yet.

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”-John Fitzgerald Kennedy


Indie Screenwriting: What I Learned From Roger Corman….
Nov 15th, 2014 by paul peditto


One of the best screenwriting teachers around is William C. Martell. You should check his site out. Quite some time he penned this article about writing for Indies on a budget. It’s an ode to Roger Corman and has some timeless lessons that can be applied to writing for digital D.I.Y. movies today.

Now, to show the love and care I have for you Good Reader, and all Script Gods readers, I am resurrecting this article, and presenting it here. It has nothing to do with the fact that it’s November in the year of our Lord 2014 and I am feeling a bit shut in today.

Therefore, without further ado…



I think there are three good reasons why any look at writing Indie films needs to include the only film producer in the world who has never lost money on a single film… and made more films than most studios.

Let’s start with “Piranha”, or that “Star Wars” rip-off “Battle Beyond The Stars”, or the T&A gangster movie “Lady In Red”. All three were written by John Sayles, the king of Indie film makers. “Piranha” was his first produced script… Sayles learned from Corman how to write films that could be shot on a limited budget, and took that knowledge (and his script earnings) to the art house world with “Return Of The Secaucus Seven” in 1980. Sayles wasn’t the only one who started with Corman: Francis Ford Coppola, Patrick Shane Duncan, Martin Scorsese, Terence Malick, Carl Franklin, Jonathan Kaplan, and hundreds of others began their careers with the King of the Bs.

Second: Corman is an actual Indie producer. He’s not affiliated with any studios, he makes whatever he wants to make, his films are privately financed. He makes Indie genre movies…


But even if you do have a great Indie script and want to direct and produce your own film, there’s a lot that you can learn from Roger Corman. The first rule of Indie films: There’s never enough money and there’s never enough time. Studios can solve problems by throwing money at them, but Indies have to use ingenuity, imagination, and pre-planning. Indie films are made by design, and the set is the last place to discover that your script is too expensive to film on your budget. The key is to DESIGN a script that is both easy and inexpensive to shoot.

Time is money. Even on a credit card film where the cast and crew are friends you’ve talked into working for free, there’s a limit to how long they’ll donate their time. These people don’t want to spend their entire lives working on your dream, they have dreams of their own!

So here are over a dozen techniques for writing a film that can be made on an Indie’s limited budget. I learned all of these things the same way John Sayles did, from writing genre movies for low budget producers like Roger Corman.



Every new location means a crew move. The producer has to pay the crew to pack all of the equipment into the truck, drive to the new location, and unpack the truck. That is wasted money. So the fewer crew moves in your script the better.

Say you wanted to do a movie about a pair of Lesbians who share a drive cross country, begin hating each other, but end up falling in love: “When Harriet Met Sally”. That’s hard to do on a limited budget because it’s a “traveling story”, with lots of different locations and lots of characters at each location.

So, let’s change it to a more budget friendly concept: A pair of Lesbians become reluctant room mates, begin hating each other, but end up falling in love. “The All Gyrrl Odd Couple”. Easy to do on a limited budget. There is a central location where most of the story takes place (the apartment). The focus is on the two lead characters (which actually improves the story) and secondary characters either come to visit, or are people they encounter in the corner coffee/poetry shop. Because half of your script shoots at the central location, you can “walk away” at the end of the day – no time or money wasted on crew moves.


If you’re filming about half of your film at the central location, you need to find a place where drama and conflict can take place. “Reservoir Dogs” takes place in the warehouse a bunch of armed robbers are going to meet in to divide their loot. My “Steel Sharks” movie for HBO had two central locations: The sub control room where Gary Busey guided the submarine and the Aircraft Carrier control room where Billy Dee Williams ran the whole operation. We cut between these two locations and the half dozen others so that every couple minutes we were someplace new – no boring backgrounds. Take care to find a location where different types of people will bump into each other – that leads to conflict.

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