Script Gods Must Die - Chicago Screenwriting Consultant

Video Smorgasbord 2
Sep 25th, 2016 by paul peditto



Because there were a ton of great videos left over from my last Video Smorgasbord post, I figured I get them out to you, Good Reader. Here, without further ado, is V.2. Vamos!


“Remixing is a folk art but the techniques are the same ones used at any level of creation: copy, transform, and combine. You could even say that everything is a remix.”

Thanks to Kirby Ferguson and his cool site for this video essay on the recyclable nature of creative work. It’s begins as an observation on music sampling covering everything from The Sugar Hill Gang to Led Zeppelin. It then takes the blasphemous stance that George Lucas himself “borrowed” from a dozen previous movies for the Star Wars series. This illustrates Picasso’s words yet again that “good artists copy. Great artists steal.”


I have a natural attraction to anger. I’m Type A, Southern Italian and yes, have a bit of a temper. So, of course, I have an affinity for a website titled The Bitter Script Reader. It’s funny, but whoever is the bitter script reader– he’s actually pretty mellow. Check out this post on how you too can join the legion of judging people’s screenplays and the changing nature of the business. Hearing about the landscape of script reading is incredibly valuable in allowing us to get into the mind of that “dying” profession. Bitter Script Reader, being a pro for a very long time, is the go-to guy here. Whoever came up with the puppet idea is damn genius.


Here is a sampling of four must see YouTube channels that go above and beyond. While the Mystery Science Theater 3000 channel is a ton of laughs and Filmmaker IQ will enlarge your mind, my fav was Every Frame A Painting, which makes Michael Bay look downright lyrical. Many thanks to Tony Zhou, a freelance filmmaker and editor, for these insightful essays. If you like this one, check out the Scorsese video essay called The Art Of Silence.


Talk about not being to avert your eyes, yes, I’m gonna pass on using the breakdown of the Jessica Alba dance scene for something a bit more useful to you, Good Reader. This is a dissertation in ten-minutes on how to shoot the shootout. Writers take notice for what is included and excluded. Rodriguez’s movies always have relentless movement and this is the reason why.

Top 101 Screenplays (V.3)
Sep 18th, 2016 by paul peditto

Once more we go back to the well of the Top 101 Screenplays as voted by the Writer’s Guild Of America. As with the first two times we visited this list, I will find a famous scene from each script, then find the corresponding scene on YouTube. You can roll the video and the scene to see what was changed, what was kept, how both dialogue and action lines are laid on the page, if they used CUT TO’s….

Ah, yeah, kidding on that last one…

These scripts could have been hand-written in purple Sharpie or submitted in 20-font Comic Sans MS– they still would have got bought. Story trumps and triumphs, as it always does.


  • #90: SIDEWAYS: The Life Of Wine

Great subtext scene. Seduction and nothing but, yet they are talking wine and nothing but. Shows that the way to write a love scene is to talk about everything but the lovers. It’s a toss-up between two monologues that happen back to back. Miles and Maya (hey, two characters with short M names — a definite no no!) sitting, drinking, mellow, talking about their love of wine. Before this, Miles talks about Pinot (brilliant stuff by Paul Giamatti). Then follows this one, about the life of wine. I like the script over the final movie scene, it ends faster, tighter….

Miles laughs.

                         No, but I do like to think about the 
                         life of wine, how it's a living thing. 
                         I like to think about what was going 
                         on the year the grapes were growing, 
                         how the sun was shining that summer 
                         or if it rained... what the weather 
                         was like. I think about all those 
                         people who tended and picked the 
                         grapes, and if it's an old wine, how 
                         many of them must be dead by now. I 
                         love how wine continues to evolve, 
                         how every time I open a bottle it's 
                         going to taste different than if I 
                         had opened it on any other day. 
                         Because a bottle of wine is actually 
                         alive -- it's constantly evolving 
                         and gaining complexity. That is, 
                         until it peaks -- like your '61 -- 
                         and begins its steady, inevitable 
                         decline. And it tastes so fucking 

               Now it is Miles's turn to be swept away. Maya's face tells 
               us the moment is right, but Miles remains frozen. He needs 
               another sign, and Maya is bold enough to offer it: reaches 
               out and places one hand atop his.

                         Bathroom over there?


               Miles gets up and walks out. Maya sighs and gets and American 
               Spirit out of her purse.

  • #76 RAGING BULL: It Was You, Charlie…

With all due respect to Shakespeare In Love at #28 or Sullivan’s Travels at #29, what the hell is Raging Bull doing at #76? Near impossible to pick just one scene. There’s a YouTube channel with 12 great clips, check them out. Back to the wall, let’s go with a riff off another Top 101 film, On The Waterfront. Here’s the script:


	Same as Scenes One and Eighty-One.
	JAKE is alone preparing to go onstage. He rehearses.
	      You know, I'm not a philosopher or
	      anything like that but I been
	      around a little and the way I look
	      at it is -- We're, all of us,
	      lookin' for the same thing: a shot
	      at the title. No matter what you
	      wanta be... you wanta shot at bein'
	      the best. Well, I had mine and
	      it'll always be in the record
	      books... it don't make no
	      difference what happens to me from
	      here on in -- I got my shot and
	      that's a fact. Some guys weren't
	      that lucky... like the one Marlon
	      Brando played in "On the
	      Waterfront" -- an up and comer
	      who's now a down and outer. You
	      remember... there was this scene in
	      the back of the car with his
	      brother Charlie, a small-time
	      racket guy, and it went somethin'
	      like this -- "It wasn't him,
	      Charlie. It was you. You 'member
	      that night in the Garden you came
	      down my dressing room and said.
	      'Kid, this ain't your night.
	      We're going for the price on
	      Wilson.' You 'member that? 'This
	      ain't your night!' My night -- I
	      coulda taken Wilson apart! So what
	      happens? He gets the title shot
	      outdoors on the ballpark, and what
	      do I get? A one-way ticket to
	      Palookaville. I never was no good
	      after that night. It was like a
	      peak you reach. Then it went
	      downhill. It was you, Charlie. You
	      was my brother, Charlie. You
	      shoulda looked out for me a little
	      bit. You shoulda taken care of me
	      just a little bit so I wouldn't
	      have to take them dives for the
	      short end money... You don't
	      understand! I coulda had class. I
	      coulda been a contender. I coulda
	      been somebody -- instead of a bum,
	      which is what I am. Let's face it.
	      It was you, Charlie."
	A shadow goes by the frame; it's a STAGEHAND.
	                STAGEHAND (O.S.)
	      Hey Jake, how you doing?
	The shadow exits.
	      How long do I have?
	The shadow pops in again.
	                STAGEHAND (O.S.)
	      About five minutes
	The shadow exits.
	JAKE pauses, then starts to shadow-box in his dressing room.
	His breath comes in quick gasps. His feet pop up and down
	like they were on canvas. His tiny fists jerk forward with
	short bursts of light.
	Still alive. Still a contender. A 42-year-old man fighting
	for his shot.
	The CAMERA DOLLIES into a FULL SHOT of his fists as they hit
	the empty air -- in and out of the frame.
	This quote appears: (Music in)
	"Verily, verily I say unto thee,
	  Except a man be born again,
	  He can not enter into the kingdom of heaven..."
	                                                 John 3-3
	The CAMERA goes into DARKNESS.
	The END CREDITS roll up.
	                       THE END

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Xtranormal, Again
Sep 11th, 2016 by paul peditto


I preach Micro all day long here at Script Gods. The ultimate in Micro and a serious guilty pleasure, is Xtranormal. Whilst I wait for L.A. to discover my genius and hire me for the Petticoat Junction reboot or Rubik Cube, The Movie, I’ve got to add to the Collective Schadenfreude with an Xtranormal movie. I’m not quite sure why I laugh at these animated movies and never, never, ever laugh at YouTube superstars like PewDiePie. Bukowski teaches us that “anger is vindictive, disgust is the Holy Water” and these Xtranormal flicks are nothing if not disgusted with the state of affairs concerning whatever topic they address.

You not only don’t need Hollywood cash to make one of these, you don’t need Kickstarter cash either. There’s a free trial here and it’s $99 a month after that.

This being a screenwriting blog, I gravitate toward the filmmaking areas, but I also like the education stuff, so here’s a combo of those. I’m not recommending procrastination in writing your script, but sometimes it’s good to pull back and power down with some bright, angry laughs.

Here are some of my favs, spanning the globe from entitled Film School grads, to what it’s like to be an Adjunct (screenwriting teacher) in today’s world, to trying to get a reference for her PHD application in Film.




Round Up The Usual Suspects
Sep 5th, 2016 by paul peditto


Perspective is the key to understanding. Put yourself in the shoes of the Unknown Screenwriter. You want to learn about screenwriting craft. It’s a priority. You’re going to make time for this.  You’re bringing energy to the game, making it a priority. And you’re spending cash on books, and webinars, and sage advice by the likes of me.

The bigger fields questions are puzzling: Can you be taught to be funny? Can you be taught to write better dialogue?

The smaller stuff like format you’d think would be a slam dunk. Grab Final Draft, buy the Screenwriters Bible, study scripts on Drew’s Script O-Rama, should be good to go.

But what happens is the opposite. For every script you read, seems like “the rules” are being broken…scripts vary tremendously not just in story, but in the actual look of the screenplay. 500 websites tell you to not write unfilmables–what the camera can’t see–and then Peditto tells you pros break the rules all the time. So that means you can too, right? Well, Peditto tells you…sometimes. And now you’re like, ok, WTF….

To start with, if you have a track record as a screenwriter, if you’re a pro, you get more slack. If your script has tons of format issues but is making some noise at a production company it’s doing so in spite of the format errors, because the story is overcoming the small stuff. Nobody is sweating the Birdman script using WE SEE/HEAR and TILT UPs on page 1 because it’s an Oscar winner. Write Birdman and nobody will debate your use of CUT TO’s outside of screenwriting message board trolls.

All this as prelude to look over a couple pro scripts and some of the format stuff that bugs me and that you might want to skip. Remember, you being the Unknown Screenwriter, you’re on a shorter leash. Until you write Being John Malkovich you’ll need to abide by these rules…or let’s not even call them rules…let’s call them tendencies…

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Point Of Entry 2: Bad Guy movies
Aug 28th, 2016 by paul peditto

"The Beginning" Road Sign with dramatic blue sky and clouds.

A while back I wrote a post about Point Of Entry. I got pinned down by classic movies with famous first scenes. Today, I want to add to that subject with some other great movies that nailed their openings. Remember what we talked about last time concerning point of entry:

Point Of Entry is a tricky one. Robert McKee, one of the original Script Gods, in his book Story, wrote about inclusion and exclusion. One of the most important skills a screenwriter will ever need is knowing what stays, and what goes.

So where do you start your script? Any rules that can help guide you?

Couple things. Events should be interconnected, not random. It’s not A happens, then B happens, then C happens. More likely, it’s A happens, therefore B happens, which in turn causes C to occur. Causality. We want the Point Of Entry to set off the chain of events that will become the movie.

I look for four things to be established in the first pages:

  • The world
  • The tone
  • The key characters
  • Beginnings of conflict

So, let’s look at the opening of The Mummy…

28_days_laterWith period-piece epics, sci-fi or action flicks, I’m a sucker for information, right at the top. That’s what we get here. This opening satisfies the criteria for causality. If the Pharaoh doesn’t catch that smear of paint on her shoulder he never discovers these two fooling around and there’s no Mummy or Mummy movie. Of course there’s also no way you’re opening an action without some major visuals at top, and this movie has it in spades. This roles on for five pages so I’ll give you just the end of the opening sequence, setting up the world-tone-title character and conflict:

INT. EMBALMER’S CHAMBER (necropolis re-vamp) – NIGHT

Inside a TORCH-LIT CHAMBER, Imhotep is held by Anubis-headed
EMBALMERS. He cringes at the flickering, impressionistic
glimpses of his Priests being embalmed and mummified alive.

The horrid-looking Embalmers, using knives, needles and
thread, calmly perform their ghastly surgery on the SCREAMING
Priests, who are going insane from the procedure.

A red hot POKER is pulled out of a pit of burning coals. A
Priest’s head is wedged between two strong boards. His eyes
widen in terror as an Embalmer moves to insert the red hot
poker up his nose.

All twenty-one of Imhotep’s Priests squirm inside their
wrappings. Imhotep is forced to his knees. His arms are held
back. His mouth is pried open.

I was condemned to endure the HOM-DAI. The worst of
all ancient curses. One so horrible, it had never before been

Using a pair of tongs, an Embalmer slowly pulls Imhotep’s
TONGUE out of his mouth, then places a very sharp knife on
top of it. WE-GO TIGHT on IMHOTEP’S EYES as his tongue is
apparently cut out.

The Embalmer flings Imhotep’s tongue onto the floor. The
Mumia’s dogs attack and quickly eat it. Imhotep is WRAPPED.
Only his mouth, nostrils and fear-filled eyes are left free
of the slimy bandages. Detritus muck boils inside a black
cauldron. Embalmers scoop out the fetid muck and apply it to
Imhotep’s wrappings as he squirms.

He’s then laid in a wooden COFFIN inside a stone SARCOPHAGUS.
An Embalmer with a BUCKET steps up and looks into the coffin.
Imhotep’s wild eyes stare back. The Embalmer empties the
bucket over Imhotep’s chest: dozens of SCARABS, disgusting
dung beetles. They scurry across Imhotep’s SCREAMING face.
Some vanish into his tongue-less mouth and up his nostrils.

By eating the sacred scarabs, I
would be cursed to stay alive
forever. And by eating me, they
were cursed just the same.

The lid to the coffin is SLAMMED SHUT. Then, using a strange
four-sided KEY, the Head Mumia locks the coffin lid tight.
The heavy sarcophagus lid is shoved into place and with a
loud WHOOSH seals itself airtight. Once again, the Head Mumia
uses the strange key, locking the sarcophagus lid tight.

I was to remain sealed inside my
sarcophagus, the undead for all of

The blue-skinned, strangely tattooed man carefully collapses
the sides of the key, –turning it into a little puzzle BOX.

  I would arise a walking disease, a plague upon
mankind, an unholy flesh-eater, with the strength of ages, power
over the sands, and the glory of invincibility.

Imhotep’s sarcophagus is dropped into a DETRITUS PIT. The
disgusting muck SPLASHES up, drools down it’s sides, and then
is mysteriously sucked into it’s seams, vanishing clean.

And if I could raise my beloved
Anck-su-namun from her place in
hell, together, we would be an
unstoppable infection upon this
world. The Apocalypse. The End.

Imhotep’s horrifying tongue-less SCREAMS can be heard coming
from inside his sarcophagus as grave diggers shovel dirt onto


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