Do you know Robert McKee? Chances are, if you've ever written or attempted to write a screenplay, you know McKee as the master of story structure. He's the author of what's known as the screenwriters' bible, Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting. His philosophies and methods stretch across a number of storytelling mediums, so many novelists and playwrights are disciples of McKee. Author and marketing expert Jonathan Fields did an excellent six part interview with the story structure guru that's well worth watching.
This series is a wide-ranging, long interview (that's why it's split into 6 parts) that covers everything from McKee's career in theater, film and his ascendance as the world's storytelling-master to the use of story in books, film, TV, blogging, business, marketing and selling. McKee is frank, not all that concerned about being PC, immensely generous with his knowledge and insights and tells some incredible stories. Be sure to tune in to the future session where he tells how he met Kirk Douglas. And, he even puts me on the spot to improv a provocative headline and gets me to talk about why I rarely publicly share my dark-side in my writing.
Long on Talent but Short on Marketing Funds during Awards Season
Sporting a tighter belt when you're a small independent studio often means you have an uphill climb during awards season in Hollywood. Bigger studios spend mega-bucks on advertising campaigns in industry trades to try to influence voters in award competitions. Awards, after all, can mean more earnings and greater prestige. How can the independents compete? An article in the Los Angeles Times tells how one small studio is trying to get noticed.
Amid all the spare-no-expense campaigning, Andy Garcia can be found driving his own car around town, trying to drum up award voters' interest in "City Island," a tiny movie that has proved its doubters wrong at every turn. "We can't compete" with the money big studios spend for awards, Garcia said. "All you can do is your best effort with what you have."
Finally, I Have Something in Common with Jon Bon Jovi
Eighties and nineties rock superstar Jon Bon Jovi has announced that he is bored and fat. To which I say, welcome to the club, Mr. Bon Jovi. It seems that age has tempered the rocker's feelings of immortality. The way he tells it, he's not so much going down in a blaze of glory as much as he's creeping into old age.
"I'm not the fat Elvis. At 48, I look OK. But you know ? I'm coming to real good terms with getting older."You become that thing that you looked at your parents and the older people in your life, and said: 'No! I don't want to live to be that old! I don't want to!' But it's actually ? much better than dying."He added: "And there are too many people that are my age, that are dying. God, I didn't want to be that! That would be awful! You can see why people get fat, grow old, give up!
What do you know about audio or video or photography? Your primary talent may be words, but in today's online, high-tech world, grabbing your reader's interest may take a little more than words on a page (or screen). There may come a time when you have to wow them with all the bells and whistles you can muster. Has Web 2.0 has skewed readers' expectations somewhat? Here's what author JC Hutchins has to say.
Based on anecdotal and professional experience, I believe in my marrow that now is the time for talespinners to get savvy with several storytelling media. Within years, I expect we'll see an explosive rise of enhanced ebooks, app-based fiction and transmedia narratives that will leverage technologies and trends that have already become mainstream.
Isn't it ironic that they use something called "stop" motion to create animation? It's a long, tedious process that can sometimes take years to complete. Today, a software exists to simulate the effects of stop motion, but some animators still prefer the traditional way of moving a figure's various body parts a fraction, shooting a single frame of video, and then moving the same body part another fraction. But for those of you interested in the software route, The New York Times takes a look at what's available.
To simulate movement and expression, animators bend or twist their objects ever so slightly between shots, a painstaking process that makes it difficult to achieve consistency from frame to frame. But now, software can help remedy that, with programs that help check the alignment of the camera and the lighting of the scene while letting the animator flip between recent images to see if the items are moving realistically.
It may sound a bit counterintuitive, but musician Phil Elverum says he owes about 80% of his success to the practice of file sharing, a practice that allows people to share his music freely. And by freely, I mean he doesn't make any money when Billy shares one of Phil's songs with Sandy. How can that be? Elverum explains.
My approach to the question of making a living off this "work" has been to make physically attractive objects that seem worthy of purchase. Of course there will be people who don't care about owning an object, or maybe don't have any money, or maybe who live in Siberia, and so they can just find a way to hear it for free if they want to. I don't think there's an inherent moral duty for the listener to support the singer.
What is transmedia and why should you care? Transmedia is way to take your characters and story beyond the restrictions of a single medium. Expand your fictional world and create more opportunities for yourself.
So, editors everywhere are collectively giving the literary world a big old "I told you so." Everyone needs an editor, even Jane Austen. The novelist extraordinaire has been caught with her typos down. She's known the world over as a crisp, clean writer with not so much as a comma out of place, but Oxford professor Kathryn Sutherland has been combing through some of Austen's personal papers and handwritten drafts, and she's discovered that spelling and grammar errors are plentiful. This is from a phone interview Sutherland did with NPR.
Well, it's very hard across the phone. I mean, lots of this evidence is visual. But what I can give you is a little passage from William Gifford, who I believe is the man who corrected her English for the press. And this is what he says about the manuscript of "Emma": It is very carelessly copied. Though the handwriting is excellently plain and there are many short omissions which must be inserted, I will readily correct the proof for you.
When Times Were Tough, People Used to Go the Movies to Make Things Better
The New York Times has a story about a new movie by director John Wells called The Company Men. Essentially, it's about two executives who lose their jobs and face the stark reality of losing their income and identity at the same time. The article takes the angle that movies used to be tools of change. Filmmakers used to create such powerful messages that society and government adopted said message and ran with them. That doesn't seem to be the case with movies about the current economic downturn.
"I'm always very careful," [Wells] cautioned, "about making it seem like a film or a piece of literature is telling you to eat your vegetables." But, he said, it may be time for the movies to take a look at what's happening on underemployed Main Street, and to applaud those fighting their way out of the problem. "One of the things that makes America great is that we actually do kind of suck it up," he said. And, who knows? A good movie might move us, and our dismal economy, through the bottom of the second act.
Stories are rampant on the web these days about how hard it is to make money in the modern music business. Some have even used the word "impossible." But, fear not! There is a way to make it according to Grammy-nominated mastering engineer Adrian Carr. His take?
Here's my insight for success in the music business: try referencing a positive balance to the two factors that have created the most change in our industry: internet and technology. For example, I might lose a job over the internet because the band had no budget for mastering and they went to the cheapest guy they could find. However, if they love what I did, and I've made some new friends on Facebook, I'm betting that when they do have a budget, they'll be back.
Ah, the sweet, sweet smell of rejection. Sweet? I mean it. If we're never rejected, how else are going to prove people wrong? All the greats faced it. Lincoln lost five elections. Michael Jordon got cut from the high school basketball team. The Beatles were told by a record company they'd never make it because they were a guitar band. The "experts" get it wrong all the time. Want more proof?
Stephen King's first published novel sold four million copies in paperback. And garnered 30 rejections from publishers. One of them wrote, "'We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell." Tired of rejection slips, King reportedly threw the manuscript into the garbage - but his wife fished it out again, and he decided to try one more time.
Go Ahead, Make My Day...with a Memorable Line from a Movie
The New York Times is wondering where all the memorable lines from movies have gone. And I'm wondering if we were really better off when everyone was telling their co-workers to "talk to the hand" or replying to praise or acknowledgment with a "Yeah, baby." I love a good movie line, but there are times when hearing "we're going to need a bigger boat," grates on you just a tad. Here's an excerpt from the article.
It may be that a Web-driven culture of irony latches onto the movie lines for something other than brilliance, or is downright allergic to the kind of polish that was once applied to the best bits of dialogue. Thus one of the most frequently repeated lines of the last year came from "Clash of the Titans" which scored an unimpressive 28 percent positive rating among critics on the Rottentomatoes.com Web site after it was released by Warner Brothers in April. "Release the Kraken!" thundered Liam Neeson as Zeus - spawning good-natured mockery on obscene T-shirts and in Kraken-captioned photos of angry kitty cats.
There are fans and then there are superfans. The two are similar in that they love and appreciate your work, but fans leave it at that. Superfans take real personal interest in your work and, in some ways, take ownership of your success. To truly make it big, you need the superfans. Make no mistake about it, you do owe them a debt of gratitude, but how far should you take your gratitude? According to singer/songwriter John Roderick, it's a tough line to draw in the sand.
Superfans want access, but bands, especially bands on tour, have to CONTROL access to themselves...Time is limited and demands are high. As bands get bigger, the demands increase and the time available shrinks. Access to the band, especially the kind of unmediated and casual access a superfan treasures, is one of the first things to go after sleep and good nutrition. It's never apparent to the fan how much energy it takes a musician to sit and have a relaxed one-on-one with them... before... a show.
Finding time to write is a huge stumbling block for a lot of writers trying to get their careers off the ground. The issue is probably amplified for working mothers. The kids, the husband, the boss, the coworkers, you name it, distractions and obligations abound. Los Angeles Times television critic Mary McNamara knows the dilemma all too well because she's been there and done that. She's written a piece that gives advice for those blessed by family, but deprived of time.
So here's the answer: It's very difficult. But so is losing 30 pounds or learning French or growing your own vegetables or training for a marathon or any of the many other things working parents often manage to pull off. While it's tempting to keep the idea of writing wrapped up in a glittery gauze of muse-directed creativity, it's just another sort of work, one that requires dedication, commitment, time and the necessary tools.
Hollywood comes with strings attached. A studio deal does come with prestige and money and notoriety, but you also lose your power. The film is no longer just yours. It may not even be primarily yours. It belongs to the people who put up the money. It is a business, after all. The indie route carries a lot of responsibility, but it also allows you the freedom to make your own choices. That's why indie filmmaker Carl Bessai prefers it.
"I get to make the movies I want to make. I tell the stories I want to tell and I tell them the way I want to tell them." A hardcore auteur, Bessai is proud of the way he oversees almost every element of the creative process -- writing, directing and shooting. It's not about being a "control freak" he says, it's just a way of condensing what could be a sprawling, fragmented and compartmentalized process. If he does most of the work, he doesn't have to explain himself to myriad personnel -- and that saves a lot of time and money, and for Bessai, it's always about keeping at least one plate spinning...
Sure Facebook has 500 million members. And, yes, its founder made a lot of money. And, it's a great place to be inundated with Farmville updates that you have no interest in. Many musicians are finding it to be a useful tool for marketing, but is there a danger of getting sucked into the Facebook vortex and posting a dozen pictures of your cat playing with a string rather than focusing on making music? Can you resist the distracting nature of Facebook? Musician Mr. Tunes studies the issue.
If you are a fellow musician, do the hours you spend on the site trump the hours you spend writing new tunes? For many out there, I am going to guess the answer is yes. And this isn't necessarily a bad thing, I will imagine that many people have substituted that time they would've otherwise used for watching television. At least in this scenario you have the opportunity to be heard. I am wondering if The Social Network adds to the distraction of the site itself, making us believe it is more important than it really is. As you immerse yourself in this story, I want you to think pretty hard about the important things that needs to be done here. Is it building your network and promoting your work, or is it sitting down to do the difficult task at hand: creating something great?
Don't look now, but publishing companies are starting to look a lot like film studios. That might be because a few publishing companies have created Film/TV units. These departments are actually involved in the production of the film version of a book, usually partnering with a studio. Macmillan is the latest to jump into the Hollywood lights, but they aren't first and probably won't be the last. Brendan Deneen of Macmillan explains the move.
"We are mostly looking to develop book ideas that work both as novels and movies and TV shows," Deneen told Deadline. "We will develop the ideas in-house, and hire writers who'll share in the success of the projects. We will retain all rights and hopefully set them up." Macmillan Films properties will be shopped in Hollywood by Sylvie Rabineau of RWSG?"It's a new way to control intellectual property because in this changing world, he who controls IP wins," Deneen said. "Books will always be the core business here, but if you can be attached to the movie, the videogame and the Happy Meal, why not?"
Documentaries are an increasingly popular form of expression in the filmmaking community due to a never-ending supply of cultural topics to cover. If you're a master of the documentary genre, how can you make money with your film? Marke Andrews of The Vancouver Sun tackles that question.
Makers of documentaries got some sound advice Wednesday at a Vancouver International Film Festival trade forum session on the film acquisition business, even if those advising them disagreed on many points. Get your documentary into film festivals to create a buzz, but don't enter too many festivals because the buzz may become over-exposure?Think about niche markets, but make sure your film's content doesn't scare off those in the niche.
My T-Shirt Proves I've Been a Fan Longer Than You.
When it comes to concert t-shirts, it seems the older the better. In fact, if you're seen at a concert wearing a t-shirt from that very concert, you risk judgment from the masses. It's even preferable to wear another band's t-shirt to show your diverse musical tastes. Yes, even in the world of rock and roll, etiquette abounds. It appears that it's okay to be rebellious and different as long as you do it like everyone else who's different and rebellious.
However, fans will often wear the T-shirt of band playing if it is from a previous tour. The older the tour, the higher the prestige and the greater likelihood the shirt will initiate conversations about the fan's experience. On the Wedding Present's current tour, which revisits their Bizarro album, some fans are wearing shirts from the original 1989 tour, much to the delight of fellow fans.
Way back when, I once worked in a marketing department for a small two-year college. When I say "way back," I mean a time when we'd all get absolutely giddy if we actually got an e-mail, or we'd curse a website that had images because it would take forever to display on our 45-pound monitors. In other words, in an ancient, distant time before e-commerce was a viable form of business and social media wasn't even a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg's preteen eye.
In this time, advertising was done mostly though mainstream outlets: radio, television, and print. I was working with a graphic designer on a billboard when I learned an invaluable lesson in marketing and advertising that is still applicable for today's online media. We sat in a small conference room and brainstormed idea after idea. A lot of paper ended up in the trash can and gallons of coffee were consumed before we came up with an ad that made us both happy. It had lots of registration information, our school logo, and images of students having a fantastic time.
We handed the concept to our marketing director and she quickly shot it down. It was too busy, she said. We were devastated and on the verge of collapsing from an overdose of caffeine. "Tell us what you want," the graphic artist demanded. The marketing director very coolly said, "I want seven words or less, our logo, and no more than two students. Your priority is to sell our image in as few words as you can." Before we could protest, she smiled and asked "Got milk?"
She was reminding us of a simple rule we had forgotten in our effort to be creative and clever. People don't stop to read billboards. You have to assume that they are only going to have a few precious seconds to see your billboard as they race by in their car. The best way to get your message across is to not overload them with information and visual stimulation, which actually meant we had to be even more creative and clever to capture their attention. The graphic artist and I instituted a self-imposed rule from then on out: we would never again hand in anything for a billboard - or any other print ad concept - that had more than 10 items (pictures and words).
Today's billboards are banner ads. Traveling down the highway at 70 miles-per-hour is very similar to surfing the web. People aren't going to stop to read your banner ad. They have a high-speed internet connection because they want to travel from page to page quickly. The best way to get your message across is to treat a banner ad like a billboard. Try to stay within the rule of 10, including no more than 10 elements in your ad, including words, logos, and images. Remember, you're not creating an ad to sell your book. In a weird way, you're selling them on the banner ad itself. You have to give them a compelling reason to stop surfing and click on your ad. The act of doing so means they are open to your material and sales pitch at that point. Be creative, keep it short, and make it pop. My experience is that simplicity rules the day with any kind of advertising. The most successful ads have people saying, "That's so simple, why didn't I think of that?" To give you a jump start on developing a banner ad, here's an article that should help: 58 Online Copywriting Power Words & Phrases. After you draw them in, you will have more of an opportunity to get across all the information about your title.
Have you ever tried banner ads when marketing your work? What are your dos and don'ts for this form of advertising?
Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.
Have you heard? The world's gone digital. I will admit to having an affinity for books in the printed form, but here's the thing: I'm old. I like my books on paper and my coffee to be? well, coffee. But that doesn't mean that I won't adjust to digital books. The day is going to come when they dominate the market and like everything else, it will be the youngsters that drive the change. A recent study revealed that children would read for fun more if they had digital readers. Here are a few stats from the study.
About 25 percent of the children surveyed said they had already read a book on a digital device, including computers and e-readers. Fifty-seven percent between ages 9 and 17 said they were interested in doing so. Only 6 percent of parents surveyed owned an e-reader, but 16 percent said they planned to buy one in the next year. Eighty-three percent of those parents said they would allow or encourage their children to use the e-readers.
There seems to be a growing trend to make smarter movies in Hollywoodland these days. This ultimately means there will be more people whispering in the theaters to their friends and family trying to figure out what's going on in the story, but it also opens up opportunities for more satisfying movie-going experiences. The trick, it seems, is to make them smart and entertaining. As Olivia Cole of the London Evening Standard puts it:
Cleverness is making a comeback in film-making. From the adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel Never Let Me Go (school movie with some scary science), which opens the London Film Festival on October 13, to Eat Pray Love (chick-lit plus philosophy) and The Town (brainy Bostonian crime caper directed by and starring Ben Affleck), it seems we now have an appetite for genre films with added depth. At the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month, a taste-maker for autumn successes, the phrase being used was "elevated genre." The idea is that clever is OK: a movie can be as profound as you like so long as it's still recognisable as being in a familiar genre. In terms of sales and marketing, it's crucial to be able to package your film simply.
Nine Inch Nails founder Trent Reznor is known as a great musician, a talented songwriter, savvy businessman and avid tech-head. He's been at the forefront of the digital movement and knows the power of the internet to create brand recognition, so it came as a bit of a shock when he revealed in a Mashable interview that he doesn't use social networks. Here's what he said.
I can't participate as a civilian because I have a level of celebrity that makes me not able to use Facebook in the way that someone who's not a celebrity can use it. I watch people, friends of mine, and see how they portray themselves online and I find interesting that it's kind of a hyper-real version of yourself, how you'd like to be seen, in a way. And I question the generation or two coming up who are used to engaging people in that format and wonder what the repercussions will be down the road - how human relationships will differ in an age of oversharing.