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Links and Additional Resources for the Aspiring Screenwriter

July 23rd, 2014 by Kelly Lin

Editor’s Note: This post is in conjunction with a special summer program on Hulu called Hulu Summer Film School. This summer, Hulu is using some of your favorite films to explore how filmmakers use elements such as sound, cinematography, and lighting to tell powerful stories and create moments that are unforgettable. Learn more at hulu.com/film-school. 

Want to expand your knowledge of screenwriting but not sure where to start?

Here are a couple extra credit resources to get you on the ‘write’ path.

- Go into the Story’s Script Database – Free and legal copies of some of the most recent and popular screenplays. After perusing the screenplays, check the website’s blog for screenwriting lessons and interviews with famous screenwriters.

-BBC Writer’s Room Guide to Script Formatting – A script about how to format a script.

-Andrew Stanton’s TED Talk - The man behind Finding Nemo and Wall-E gives his take on the keys to a great story.

-Dan Harmon’s Guide to Story Structure- The creator of Community provides his own interpretation of the Three-Act Story Structure, the story circle. See how the structure plays out in Breaking Bad here.

-The ScriptNotes podcast from John August and Craig Mazin - A weekly podcast from the writers of titles such as Big Fish, The Hangover Part II, and Frankenweenie, covering topics such as story structure, character development, and the nuts and bolts of entering the industry. A must-listen for any aspiring screenwriters.

Happy writing!

Famous Screenwriters: Not Always an Oxymoron

July 21st, 2014 by Christopher Rowe

Editor’s Note: This post is in conjunction with a special summer program on Hulu called Hulu Summer Film School. This summer, Hulu is using some of your favorite films to explore how filmmakers use elements such as sound, cinematography, and lighting to tell powerful stories and create moments that are unforgettable. Learn more at hulu.com/film-school.

Screenwriters never get any love. That’s the conventional wisdom when it comes to film. Even the most brilliant writers toil to bring an idea to screen, but their fate is the same: indifference and obscurity for the writer, praise and immortality for the director.

Television and theater are different. Here, writers are seen to have primary creative control and may go on to have successful, respectable careers. But adjectives like “successful” and “respectable” are far too healthy for screenwriters. If you’re not a writer/director, you can be fairly certain that your name won’t even register in the mind of 99% of your film-going audience.

Occasionally, though, a screenwriter flouts conventional wisdom and gains recognition and success for their winning personality, thoughts on cultural issues of international importance, and charming physique. Ok. A screenwriter has never gained recognition for any of those things. But if I said the following writers became famous for their screenplays, you never would have believed me, would you?


Charlie Kaufman is probably the closest thing we have to a modern screenwriting auteur – that is, someone whose authorial voice seems to overpower a work so as to leave an indelible creative fingerprint. Though he’s taken the plunge into writing/directing with 2008’s Synecdoche, New York, Kaufman first gained widespread notice for his screenplay for 1999’s Being John Malkovich. From there, cinephiles eagerly awaited projects with Kaufman attached as writer. Kaufman wrote for directors like Spike Jonze, George Clooney, and Michel Gondry, but the thread that seemed to most strongly link Adaptation, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind wasn’t that it fit into a particular director’s filmography. It was that it came from the mind of Charlie Kaufman.


Other writers have succeeded in writing movies, too. Nora Ephron came from a journalism background. Ephron reportedly helped in shaping the script for the Watergate-thriller All the President’s Men (she was married to Bernstein). She gained critical and commercial attention for her scripts for movies like Silkwood and When Harry Met Sally before writing and directing movies like Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. Listen to Nora talk about her experiences as a screenwriter on Charlie Rose here.


Shane Black is a writer-turned-filmmaker who gained attention when he sold his screenplay for Lethal Weapon in the 1980s, thus helping to launch one of the most successful action franchises. Black became a symbol of the confident, financially successful writer and made his directorial debut with 2005’s Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Though Dustin Lance Black (no known relation to Shane Black) had quite a bit of experience writing and directing, he gained notoriety and celebrity after winning the 2008 Oscar for best original screenplay for Milk. In 2011, Dustin Lance Black penned the Clint Eastwood directed J.Edgar, and his name was a selling point in the film’s marketing.

What does this mean? That screenwriters live in a time when they’ll be loved and admired? That it’s easy to write something that gets made into a movie? A good movie? That writers who face disillusionment and rejection will one day be vindicated – an object of adoration in the center of a circle made up of beloved family and friends? No. It just means making it as a screenwriter is hard, but if you’re lucky enough to pursue a dream in writing movies, there are some stars on the horizon to help you out.

Visit the Hulu Summer Film School page to watch films from some of our favorite screenwriters and get a crash course on the classics.

The Three-Act Structure: The Repeating Phantasm Of Story

July 18th, 2014 by Jonathan Katz

Editor’s Note: This post is in conjunction with a special summer program on Hulu called Hulu Summer Film School. This summer, Hulu is using some of your favorite films to explore how filmmakers use elements such as sound, cinematography, and lighting to tell powerful stories and create moments that are unforgettable. Learn more at hulu.com/film-school. 

Before anyone ever utters “Lights! Camera! Action!” another famous triplet makes its appearance in the filmmaking process: Act One, Act Two, and Act Three.

The Three-Act Structure is the most basic and traditional form of structuring a story for film.  While plenty of films can, and do, deviate, the Three-Act Structure remains the tried and true staple of screenwriting. Let’s dig a little deeper into each act, using the comedy classic “Ghostbusters” as a guide.

!!!SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

ACT ONE:

The purpose of the first act is to introduce the audience to our hero’s world: We experience his status quo.  We see what’s missing in his life. We need to know how things are so we can see just how drastic the eventual changes can be.

In Ghostbusters, scientist Peter Venkman and his colleagues live a mundane life as paranormal researchers at a university.  Venkman is especially lonely for love, to the point of messing with his own experiments to get close to a woman.

But Act One isn’t all about playing the name game with the hero.  It also contains the inciting incident – the first time the hero’s status quo gets shaken up.  Sometimes it’s an invitation for change; Other times, the change just lands in their lap.  This call-to-action is irresistible: Though heroes may resist, they always give in.

When the university decides to strip their funding, Venkman and his colleagues are dismissed from campus.

Now, with nowhere to go, they decide to start their own little business – the “Ghostbusters.”

ACT TWO: 

The second act in the three-act structure is the main meat of the film and is usually separated into halves by the midpoint.  The first half finds our hero embarking on his new journey. He reacts to the inciting incident and follows that path until the story swings in a new direction at the midpoint.

After a crazy yet successful ghost-bust,

the team’s business booms and they quickly become a national sensation.

However, Egon notices that the ghostly activity has been growing quickly.  Our midpoint occurs when Zuul, the demon-dog appears.  This event twists the story from happy-go-lucky scientists catching cute little ghosts to something much more sinister than they all anticipated: The apocalypse is coming.

After the midpoint, things get dangerous for the hero.  The villain makes considerable progress, the hero is in mortal danger, and outside forces from a third party sometimes affect the hero’s fight. The end of Act Two puts the hero at the bottom of the proverbial pit, with the stakes higher than ever and hopes lower than ever.

In Ghostbusters, the government cracks down on the team, shutting them down and releasing all their captured ghosts into the wild.

So while the world is one step closer to the apocalypse, the Ghostbusters find themselves in jail, stripped of their equipment.

ACT THREE: 

In Act Three, the hero must use everything he’s learned over the course of the story to fight back.  He’s overpowered, but not outsmarted. The experience of Act Two has armed him with information, skills, and confidence to defeat the villain and restore order to the world.

In Ghostbusters, Venkman and the team convince the city to free them so they can fight Zuul and stop the apocalypse. Zuul is their toughest foe yet, and they fight harder than they ever to save humanity from destruction.

These three scientists go from disrespected fools at a university to the men who save the world.  Even lonely ol’ Venkman finds a little bit of love.  This is the final function of Act Three: to show how the character’s world from Act One has changed as a result of the story.

Starting with “getting to know you” in Act One, then navigating the labyrinth of Act Two, and ending with the pulse-pounding climax of Act Three, the Three-Act Structure helps divide up a story into the satisfying emotional experience that we’ve all come to know and love: a “movie.”

 

Last comment: about 20 hours ago 3 Comments

Criterion Update: Finding Great Films Faster

April 7th, 2011 by Ben Collins Editor

Want to delve into the Criterion Collection but don’t know where to start?

We’ve just introduced some changes that make sifting through the Criterion Collection on Hulu Plus a lot less daunting. Some brand new features will help you discover new films to love as we continue to additional titles from Criterion — more than 100 since launching the section in February, nearly all of which stream exclusively on Hulu Plus, with many others to come in coming weeks.

Since Criterion has compiled so many great works by the world’s greatest filmmakers, we’ve added new functionality that allows you to sort by director. So now you can devote an entire weekend to watching 10 Charlie Chaplin films from just one page.

Movies are now sorted into themes, too. Want to see Francois Truffaut’s first film? It’s “400 Blows,” and you can find that out under the First Films section in Themes. We’ve grouped together titles into categories such as Oscar winners, documentaries, and titles from independent American filmmakers.

Additionally, we’ve begun adding supplemental videos from the Criterion Collection on Hulu Plus. You can find these as you watch a film, and they include some fantastic highlights, including:

We’ll continue to roll out supplements as quickly as we can digitize them.

We think these updates will enhance your experience as you enjoy the Criterion Collection on Hulu Plus. Let us know what you think!

Last comment: about 7 hours ago 23 Comments

indieWIRE @ Hulu Docs Double Bill: LGBT Youth & Iraq in Perspective

October 13th, 2010 by Rebecca Harper Editor

Editor’s Note: “indieWIRE @ Hulu Docs” is a regular column spotlighting the iW-curated selections on Hulu’s Documentaries page, a unique collaboration between the two sites. Be sure to check out these great non-fiction projects each week.

For indieWIRE’s Hulu Documentaries selection this week, we’re presenting two separate themes: LGBT Youth and Iraq in Perspective. The first is a reaction to the recent spate of LGBT youth suicides, and also ties into this week’s National Coming Out Day, October 11, while the second uses the anniversary of the declaration of war on Iraq on October 16 as an opportunity to reflect on the soldiers who risked their lives there. — Basil Tsokios, indieWIRE

LGBT Youth:
As the head of NewFest: The New York LGBT Film Festival for many years, I was often able to bring stories about LGBT youth to NYC’s gay community, which is more aware than the larger general public about the risk this population has of suffering the verbal, emotional, and physical abuse of bullies, which sometimes unfortunately leads to suicide. The recent news coverage about this issue, and its dissemination over social media, has brought much needed wider exposure. I hope this mainstream exposure can continue in some small part through the spotlight Hulu can provide in showcasing these two docs.

Out in the Silence comes from directors and life partners Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson. When Wilson decided to place an announcement in his rural hometown’s newspaper that he was marrying his partner, the result was a series of letters to the editor condemning the listing and the men’s relationship. It also resulted in a plea for help from Kathy, the mother of 16-year-old CJ, whose coming out in school led to ostracism, hazing, and threats of violence. Returning to conservative Oil City, Penn., Wilson and Hamer set out to meet his critics and to try to help CJ deal with the homophobic bullying he’d been experiencing.

After Erin Davies discovers that her rainbow-stickered VW Beetle has been vandalized with homophobic slurs, she decides to use this as an opportunity to spread awareness about hate crimes. Traveling around the US and Canada in her car, still defaced with the words “fag” and “u r gay,” she visits other LGBT individuals who have experienced more severe abuse and learns their stories during her two month trip documented in Fagbug.

Iraq in Perspective:
While combat operations did not begin until March 2003, the Congress’ resolution to authorize military force against Iraq was signed on October 16, 2002. While President Obama declared an end to combat operations this past August 31, the legacy of the conflict remains. Regardless of their filmmakers’ politics, the four selections below share a concern with the soldiers and the impact that the war has had on them.

On May 1, 2003 President Bush gave his infamous speech that major combat operations in Iraq would cease. Seven months later, in Mission Accomplished, a celebrated BBC journalist travels to Iraq for a first-hand look at the new Iraq. Sean Langan speaks with civilians, representatives of the growing insurgent movement, and US soldiers, gaining fascinating insight into the varied perspectives of life post liberation/occupation, and how the soldiers made sense of it on the ground.

Patriot Act: A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie takes as its inspiration legendary USO frontman Bob Hope as comedian Jeffrey Ross participates in Drew Carey’s USO comedy show to entertain the troops in 2003′s newly liberated Iraq. Focusing more on the behind-the-scenes of the comedians’ experiences of the aftermath of the invasion of Baghdad than the performances, the film gives their impressions of being in a war zone, meeting soldiers, and hearing their stories.

Civia Tamarkin’s Jerabek focuses on the story of the titular family who lose their 18-year-old son Ryan to Iraq’s battlefield in 2004 and must face their other son Nick’s decision to enlist. The family finds strange comfort in honoring Ryan’s sacrifice by decking their house in Marine Corp regalia, perhaps unconsciously influencing Nick’s decision. Fellow Marines who served with Ryan give their own impressions of their fallen brother-at-arms, and about the challenges faced during their tours of duty.

In When I Came Home, director Dan Lohaus turns his camera on Iraq War veteran Herold Noel, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, but denied veteran’s benefits and forced to live in his car. As the film shows, Noel’s story is not a unique case, with the shameful history of homeless veterans going back from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting against bureaucracy to claim their rights. While Noel tries to get attention for the issue in the media, he faces a frustrating uphill struggle to make a difference and affect real change.

About the writer: Basil Tsiokos is a Programming Associate, Documentary Features for Sundance, consults with documentary filmmakers and festivals, and recently co-produced Cameron Yates’ feature documentary The Canal Street Madam. Follow him on Twitter @1basil1 and @CanalStMadamDoc and visit his blog.

Last comment: about 18 hours ago 1 Comment