Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Writing a screenplay based on personal experience

... is much more exciting than I expected.

While I was living it, it didn't feel nearly as dramatic, but then there is this thing called artistic license. Still, the adventure itself was plenty engaging so there's no need to embellish - better to grind down to the innate truth of each character and the story worthy of an audience's attention.

It's made me pay attention to the truths that all the characters in the story experienced, rather than focusing only on my own point of view of what took place at the time. It's enlightening and entertaining for me - I'm working hard to make sure it translates for everyone watching as well.

Engaging with the central character, a truly unique and terrific teenager worth knowing, will hopefully give every viewer the chance to grow just a little, and feel good for having known him.

It is hard, however, not to make my own role in this scenario too complimentary! I have to tell the truth, the whole truth, yadda yadda. Maybe in the second draft.. ;-)

Labels: , , , ,

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

PNWA Screenwriting Workshop News!

Folks attending my "A Practical Guide for Screenwriting" seminar at the 55th Pacific NW Writers Association Conference July 24 (Sea-Tac Hilton and Conference Center):

Script Fly, my favorite resource for professional scripts, is giving you a generous discount on any scripts you buy from them!

I'll let you know how to get the 25% discount after you've registered; of course shipping is not included, but you can receive most in .pdf (no shipping fee) as well as hard copy form. I prefer hard copy, because I like to hold the script and make notes on pages along the way.

I'm not getting any money from this offer, I just want to let you know about Script Fly and what they have to offer student and professional writers. I believe one of the best ways to learn about writing great screenplays is to read more scripts than books about how to write them!

There are free script outlets online as well, but Script Fly has a great selection of very current and classic screenplays from their original sources you can't find anywhere else, and I've yet to find a transcripted movie "script" that is helpful.

The Script Fly offer runs from now through August 31, 2010.

The workshop focuses mostly on the script writing creative process, helping you decide how best to create the story you want to tell onscreen. Practically.

Here are a few hints to get you started:

1. If you have not written a screenplay, don't sweat the format - too many people get swept up in worrying about whether the terms and pages look "right" rather than concentrating on the story and characters. If you read several great professional screenplays, you'll see similarities and differences.

2. Look around. What is in your environment that tells us *visually* who you are? Notice those things that are apparent and those things that are more subtle. Then, most importantly - what is missing. What is not in your surroundings that tells us something very important about you.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, February 15, 2010

A Practical Guide for Screenwriting

That's the title of the seminar I'm presenting at the 55th Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference this summer.

My workshop takes place Saturday, July 24th, 10am, at the Sea-Tac Airport Hilton Hotel and Conference Center. The room number will be made available after you register. Workshops normally run 90 to 120 minutes; I hope it's a full two hours, but won't know until the schedule is released.

I'll be talking about the ins and outs of screenwriting that I've never heard at other screenwriting workshops, most of which are held by folks who are script analysts and writing teachers rather than professional screenwriters who actually write and create scripts. So expect different.

It's down to earth, hands on, from the trenches information I've learned over the years from actually doing the work. These insights should help experienced screenwriters as well as those who wish to be screenwriters.

It's about telling our onscreen stories from the page: how to do it most effectively, how to build successful habits, how to have fun doing what is ordinarily a solitary, stressful endeavor. Myself, while I work harder than anyone I know, find writing enjoyable and exciting - even its most isolating, grating, tedious aspects.

Being a writing coach as well, who has worked with dozens of writers one on one, I plan to fill the room with wall to wall effective writing tools, then show you how to use them IRL (in real life).

Warning: my seminars are not for the humor impaired. The material may be serious, but our time is designed to be enjoyed, so we'll definitely share a laugh. Or two. Or three!

Several literary agents will be on hand for conference participants to meet - be sure to check out the PNW Writers Conference website as their names and material they seek are posted over the next few months; appointments are scheduled with them on a first submitted, first considered basis.

I'll also be autographing my book The 100% Solution Friday evening, July 23, at the Barnes and Noble mini-bookshop at the Conference Center, in case you want to drop by and ask any questions about anything you want me to cover at Saturday morning's workshop. And perhaps even pick up my (autographed!) book!

I'll mention this a couple more times before the conference. Hope to see you there!

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Blessings are counted

I'm feeling a little schizophrenic - my personal and professional lives are pretty fantastic these days, but my heart aches for our fighting men and women in Iraq, their families and the innocent Iraqis caught in the middle of the most bizarre, ghastly war there that has destabilized the world politically and fomented the cause of terrorism everywhere.

I saw President Bush's assessment and pronouncements, and all I will say is that Joseph Goebbels would be proud. It was astonishingly effective propaganda. I can't imagine the Democrats coming out fighting for the truth because those pictures and the cast were terrifically orchestrated.

So I'll just concentrate on my work.

I've been hired to write a feature film that I know will make everyone involved with it incredibly proud. The producer is terrific. Truly great producers are the salt of the earth - down to earth, honest, truthful, generous and open. They also know how to find the best professionals with whom to work, which makes for a mighty happy team. I'm very fortunate that we found one another.

So, I'm currently working on three feature film scripts, which is pure heaven for me. I'm fortunate that none of them bears the slightest resemblance to the other so there's no chance of becoming confused with any of them. More, each is in a much different state of completion, which makes for a pretty wonderful fall.

One is a comedy a kiss away from market, the next a comedy in the throes of a major second draft rewrite, and this script, which is a gripping drama in the development phase following the completion of the short film version - which we decided to table in favor of going directly to the feature length story.

Between these three feature projects, coaching, other writing commitments (two magazine columns coming up soon), catching the preview of my pal screenwriter Michael Brandt's new film 3:10 to Yuma tomorrow, and preparing a sensational seminar for Seattle actors with LA-based Bob Bledsoe Saturday, October 20, life is thriving.

Unfortunately, it means that I'll have to catch up on all the blog posts I want to write as soon as I have a little breathing space. Believe me, I'm teeming with ideas, thoughts and stuff to say. It also means I may severely limit my camera acting coaching practice sooner than I had planned, depending on how good a juggler I turn out to be!

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, August 13, 2007

Tired of "twisted" "blood-drenched" films?

Even "good" ones with great acting?

I am.

I think a lot of people are, which is why we're turning out in droves to watch some good clean fun films for the whole family.

After having been a journalist and seeing too much of the real thing I had no stomach for fake blood and guts, thank you, so I was pretty much out of the Quentin Tarantino fan club before it formed.

I think our troops in Iraq are seeing more blood and guts and gore than any movie could capture, and as much fun as it is to portray phony horror and grisly murders, I'd really rather find a reason to laugh these days - on set and in private.

It's why most of the scripts I'm writing are edgy comedies.

I'm really looking forward to the LA script conference I'm having this week for one of my new screenplays. Hopefully they will experience it as a pee-your-pants funny film that is, as one screenwriter who has read it declared it, a "one of a kind" family movie that will stay with you and make you smile for a long, long time.

I'll keep you in the "loop!" ;-)

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, July 30, 2007

My new projects

Last week I wrote the script and did all the preproduction work for directing a commercial I'm shooting this coming Thursday.

Preproduction means: working the set into place (designing it), props, cast, hair, make-up, costume, lighting, camera angles, sound, working with my lead actress (who will undoubtedly be a star after this) - the script is letter perfect, not a single change needed.

I'll also be working with a 3 year-old boy, whom we'll put on the set at the very last minute because he has one word to say - several times - then he has an action to perform. I have an understudy in case the first boy doesn't quite get what to do quickly.

I expect to get it done fast anyway because we don't want any cranky kids to deal with! And I work really well with kids.

Especially the kids who want to be returned to their mommy if they do what I tell them ... ;-)


I'm very fortunate to know a writer/director whose fantastic equipment we'll be using for the shoot, making it just a cut above technically while still looking not too polished so it can resonate with the audience.

As soon as we finish shooting Thursday, the video is being whisked to the editor, whom I shall join when I return from an out of town trip to fine tune it, frame by frame (I'm one of those hands-on directors).

When it's finished, by the end of this coming weekend, we'll upload it to the sponsors, and my blog if my webmaster can put it up here framed, then you can judge for yourself.

It's fun, funny and memorable, so I think the product reps as well as audiences will appreciate it.

I'm working with some GREAT people -- cast and crew. Hopefully I can post it here - it will be :30 seconds, and it will be available other places online and possibly even network TV. I'll keep you updated.

I'm also doing a lot of unexpected in-depth research for my new screenplay. Even though the story is very serious, I want to present it as a comedy because it would be tough to take in as a drama - but you'll get what you need to out of it while you're laughing. I'm really in favor of enlightening experiences with as little suffering as possible....

The two leads are put on the "horns of a dilemma," which means that just about any answer or solution they come up with is uncomfortable to both of them. They both have a lot to lose by getting what they want and need.

And of course whatever they do affects everyone around them. So do we go for our passion knowing that in the end everyone will benefit? Or do we spare everyone any discomfort by trying to compromise what in the end we know is the truth?

I'll leave it at that.

All the research is about how do we deal with dilemmas, rather than problems.

Dilemmas deal with two choices, neither of which is "acceptable." -- problems can usually be worked out with everyone winning in one way or another because one choice is generally best.

Lots of philosophical reading, because these characters have to do it poorly - mess up along the way -- as well as figure out how to properly figure out what to do in the end. And there can be no "tricks" or phony secrets that suddenly pop up to make the work any easier.

In fact, every obstacle they face has to be greater and make their work more difficult.

In the end, does one give up? Is it just too hard to figure out?

Or are they both equally as committed to work it through, no matter what it takes, while still being sensitive to the needs of others involved?

Mind you, both have a *lot* to lose no matter which way they turn ... and they must figure out if that loss is worth the journey. Is this issue really worth the immense loss? Is it a short term gain, long term loss? Or a short term loss with a long term gain?

Defining their personalities is something they can help me with as I fill my mind up with all the choices we can possibly have; they'll pick and choose based on their background and personalities.

I also outlined three more screenplays, one of which is very commercial and would sell the quickest, but I need to go through this journey with characters suffering the process of seeking their way out of a dilemma because it's so complex, difficult and challenging for me.

I figure between this work and all the others I've done, I should be able to make it through any writing challenge after this.

Back to work, me!

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, July 13, 2007

Crunch time

If you are a faithful blog reader, you know I've been completing the first draft of a new comedy feature script I'm writing for a deadline the past couple weeks.

It's the hardest writing work I've ever done because I've learned some new things recently that deepen my screenplay with character, structure and story details, and want to apply them. But dealing with these enormous changes and challenges consistently, persistently, paid off yesterday.

When I awoke yesterday - the full day dedicated to writing - everything fell completely into place. It all made sense; everything was factually and common sensibly logical -- even though you will be surprised at every turn.

The fun twists and turns may be perceived as unexpected, but in reality all the groundwork is laid for the film to show exactly the way characters I've created would actually react! Well, OK, there is some exaggeration in a couple of scenes. After all it is a comedy.

The key to making it to the point of joy was to stick with it day in and day out, to tough it out, to keep researching, do the ground work and put words on the screen.

It is like making my way up a steep roller coaster rail, one click at a time, until I reach the top and have a blast on the ride down! Especially since I'm coming in for a landing soon.

Honestly I was surprised at the quality of work I read when I reviewed it. Not that many changes in store for it so I did not have to spend additional hours rewriting or editing.

Still, make no mistake. The definition of writing is: rewriting. Rewriting to the 10th power.

I love this creative process - every bit of it. The highs, the lows, the yes's, the no's, the night sweats caused by trying to figure out how the heck he does that and she doesn't, the sleepless nights, the headaches, heartaches, victories, joy, laughs, frustration, dedication, devotion, artistic expression, personal fulfillment and success that only happens with persistence, persistence, persistence.

The creative spirits and forces share our journey; as long as they are with us we can't go wrong.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, April 30, 2007

feels like home

I've joined a professional group of screenwriters in LA to become not just a better screenwriter, but a great one.

I'm working with them long distance from Seattle (with the possible trip to LA now and then), and have to say, it feels like home.

These folks are only interested in quality work, and after a long discussion with two of their leaders, I'm quite happy to be working with them.

It's going to mean far more intense devotion to my screenwriting, and I have to say it's time.

I do so many things - coach actors, writers, stand-up comics, singers and other performers, write (all sorts of things, including this near daily blog that enjoys a readership of tens of thousands of readers in 68 nations), direct, sing, and of course enjoy being a convivial, entertaining dinner party guest!

While I may be good at just about everything I do, I want to devote more of my life to writing and directing quality work. Having produced/written and directed some 16 short films and videos for the sake of improving my craft and my art, as well as written some 10 feature scripts, I want to get down and dirty and very serious about my writing and directing -- not to mention often produced.

The team I joined yesterday will help me make that happen and as I say, I'm thrilled they contacted me. One member who read my script Nothing But The Truth pronounced it "boffo!" It still has some improvements in store, but to start with that positive a review can't be a bad thing.

Anyway, I'm delighted, I'm organized and ready to work harder, learn quickly and continue to do what I love and love what I do but on a notably advanced professional level that will put me where I want to be in my career for the rest of my life.

When I speak of such things, my coachees have near heart attacks, fearful they're losing me -- nope, I'm still here for you! I'm just restricting new people I take so I can devote more time to writing and soon directing at a level I've prepared myself to perform - honing my craft, studying, researching, analyzing and doing the work - over the years.

For some reason I thought this experience would feel intimidating; overwhelming or scary.

Nope. It feels like home. The folks I've met speak my language. I feel like I'm right where I belong.

I'll take you on my journey with me, as always - only I may not be able to blog as often as I do now because of the changes in my schedule.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Wanna take an *affordable* online Romantic screenplay writing class?

I've worked with Sally and can vouch for her dedication to empowering writers - her specialty is the romance genre (remember there's lots of hyphen genres that go with that, too -- the romcom - romantic comedy, romantic action, thriller romance, yanga yanga yanga).

Even though the course is designed for everyone - from beginners to professionals - *I'm* taking the course because Sally's such an expert in the genre I know I'll learn and receive lots of insights from her!

Here's the 4-1-1:

"Romantic Screenplays 101" Novelist-Editor-Screenwriter Sally J. Walker will walk you through an 8-Session course on the fundamentals you need to understand BEFORE you actually tackle a romantic screenplay.

This is not a course on formatting, screenwriting technicalities, fundamental concepts of screenwriting itself or how to adapt your novel to a screenplay. This is a course about "how to think" a romantic story in a cinematic structure. From essentials through character casting to plot outline, this experienced screenwriter and screenwriting TEACHER can explain the mental tools you need to create your own screenplay.


May 3...........Fundamental Concepts of a Romantic Screenplay

May 7...........3 Approaches to Romantic Screenplays

May 10.........The Unique yet Universal Hero & Heroine and Cast

May 14.........Hollywood's Need for "Sex & Violence"

May 17.........Sexual Tension vs Plot Complications

May 21.........Considerations: Time-Place and Theme

May 24.........THE Romance as Main Plot or Subplot

May 29.........Plotting YOUR Romantic Structure

Lesson Format: Definitions, Elaboration, Examples, Definitive Directives, Concluding Exercises Sally's responses to posted questions will be shared with the entire student list.

Workshop Dates: May 1 -31, 2007

Pay-Pal registration Available RWA members: $20 Non-RWA: $25 (ALL monies to go to the Chapter)

NOTE: RWA is the Romantic Writer's Association, a nonprofit educational organization --cp

Send payments via Paypal to: cameowriters@yahoo.com

For Checks or Money Orders:

Send payments to:

CAMEO Writers Inc.
Lori Arnold-Mann
3763 So. 78th St.
Omaha, NE 68124

Check out the Instructor's Bio at http://members.cox.net/sallyjwalker

Labels: , , , , , ,