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Issue 4                                                                                                   October 20, 2009

A-List Screenwriting's
Craft & Career
Dear Writer,
Welcome to our fourth issue. 

My craft topic is short and sweet this month, because I want you to use your untapped attention span to check out A-List Screenwriting's blog, follow us on Twitter, or become a fan on Facebook

If you do, you can find exclusive discounts and giveaways, play our A-List Quiz of the Week, take part in discussions, suggest topics and, of course, get A-List screenwriting instruction.
We have some Champion Screenwriting Competition news to announce now and more in a few weeks. 
Heather Hale graces us with her presence and an informative article on the value of screenwriting contests.  It's a great resource and it has inspired me to do a follow-up blog about contests.  Heather has also agreed to share some time with one of the Champion winners.
Back for more is the remarkable David Gillis and his recurring Style Matters.  I broke up his article into two parts so I can show him how easy a regular column would be.  He also offers to answer format questions if you email him.  If you do, be vewwy vewwy quiet, I am hunting columnists.
I look at the fundamental definition of theme in WWTBD?  I am going to hold off the Alex Tse (Watchmen) interview for an issue or two until I finish the contest and can schedule a sit-down with him. So keep sending questions.
If you're thinking about attending one of the weeklong classes, get in touch.  I will soon be closing them to the public and filling them up with Champion entrants.

Please let us know what you like about and how we can improve our newsletter.

Jim Mercurio

Jim Mercurio

The 2009 South Dakota Film Festival invited me out to Aberdeen, S.D. last month to be a judge and give a screenwriting talk.  When I found out I was going to open for or follow Kevin Costner, I came up with a bulletproof topic: "All I ever needed to know about scene writing I learned from A-List actors."  How could I mess that up? Heck, I could even show a clip of Costner if I had to.
Costner gave a great presentation to 1,000 people on Friday, the night before my talk.  On Saturday morning, I found out that half of my audience was college and high school students who were up on the stage with me in a theater-in-the-round setup.  A few minutes before I went on, I noticed that most of the kids' eyelids had that Saturday-morning droop, so I decided to do what I saw Costner do the night before: improvise.

Jim in SD

Me in South Daota
I cut all of the theory and all of the clips except for the Heath Ledger/Joker one.  I decided to talk about the Costner interview the night before, which most of the kids had seen.  A storyteller to the bone, Costner in his hourlong interview showed more than half of what writers need to know about scene writing. 

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Jim Mercurio
Participants submit their scripts in advance and I hand-select excerpts to use as teaching tools and as inspiration for parts of the weeklong workshop. 
"I had the privilege of attending (this class) in LA in 2008. This was not just a class. It was a reconditioning of my creative mind. It was, for me, as well as the others who attended, a life-changing experience."
- Jill Wallace
Save $500 
A limited number of writers may take the class without submitting a script for half of the $999 full price: $499. 
Their scenes will still be workshopped, but the lecture and exercises will be less tailored to their writing.
If you want to submit a script, you can still save $200.
New York City - Nov. 7-11
Los Angeles - Dec. 7-11 
To schedule a 5-minute chat (no- pressure) about the class or if you have questions, email Jim.

Click here for Discount Codes


Heather Hale 

"Are screenplay contests worth entering?"
I get asked this all the time as a screenwriting consultant and teacher. Well, the answer is the same answer for everything else in Hollywood: "It depends."
It depends on a lot of things. Is the screenplay contest legit? And I don't mean just: is it reputable enough for you to ever see your cash and prizes? Has anyone ever even heard of it? And does anybody care?! Who are its "judges"? Do they have any credits? Are they even identified? And what else do you get for winning? Don't get me wrong, $50,000 in prize money (if you actually ever see it) buys some serious writing time - but let's be serious, what your screenwriting career needs more than a cash bump from a win is access and promotion to the right people.
While the Nicholl Fellowship $30K stipend will undoubtedly ease the economic circumstances of five talented people for a year, it's really the rare endorsement of eight Academy Members agreeing that these scripts are indeed good enough to endorse to their industry peers that has the potential to change the winners' writing lives.
Even the 321 quarterfinalists (out of 6,380 submissions) benefit by being validated as "watch-worthy" to over 200 potential buyers or deal makers. Yeah: the Nicholl is undeniably worth entering. Period. That is, if you're eligible (you can't have earned more than $5K as a screenwriter).          
David Gillis
I'll be the first one to admit that I'm a lazy writer.  Sit me down in front of a blank screen and that damnable blinking cursor (why not just spell it c-u-r-s-e-r, right?) and suddenly I just have to rearrange the books in my office by subject now.
Then, once I do get something down on screen - or, for that first draft, longhand in pencil on paper - I'm often still foolish enough to think that maybe, just maybe, I got it perfect the first go-around and there's no need to make it better.  After all, who needs to rewrite something for the umpteenth time?
Well, for one, Hemingway.  A consummate rewriter, he wrestled with his stuff till he got it right, even reworking the ending to A Farewell to Arms thirty-nine times.  Yeah, I know, he was a misogynistic S.O.B. And maybe you don't like his writing, especially the later stuff.  But there's no denying that he was dedicated to his craft - and thus I could argue that we screenwriters can learn loads from Papa, particularly his "iceberg theory" of writing.  Google it when you're done here if you don't know it.
But I'm drifting like an old man on the sea, so let's toll the bell, class, and move on.
OK: You've bested the flippin' cursor and have at least one draft that requires a rewrite or two (or thirty-nine).  You know that all good writing comes from rewriting - and that great writing comes from revising it again ... and then again.  But what to do?  Where to start?  Well, to help you along, I offer three tips - the first one below, the next two in next month's newsletter.
Now maybe none of this applies to you: You have Papa's discipline and you've already excised (exorcised?) the little demons that make writing mediocre.  But if you're like most writers then at least a dozen of these albatrosses burden your screenplay.  Let's toss 'em overboard, shall we?    
I love the verb be.  What's not to love?  Like Kevin Faulk of my New England Patriots, be is a utility player, arguably the hardest-working verb in the English language.  In fact, this versatile verb is the star of my favorite quotation about writing, which is this: "ACTION IS CHARACTER." 
That brilliant insight by Scott Fitzgerald holds true for all writing - but especially screenwriting.  And because action is character, I'm afraid that I now must sling some arrows at my little friend be and accuse him of helping to make you a lazy writer.
"Whoa," thou doth protest (too much, methinks), "talk about pulling a Hamlet.  To praise be or not to praise be?  Dude, like make up your mind already."
All right.  We all know that we must use present tense in scripts - at least I hope we all do.  So what's the problem with using the present tense of be - with using "is" and "are"?
Because it just is.  It's boring.  And we use it too much.
Ordinarily that's not a problem.  For example, this article is riddled with the verb be.
So are a lot of scripts.  But in scripts, be is a lazy lout.  Of course, sometimes it's the right choice, the only choice.  But too often it just serves one purpose: as the verb of least resistance, the one that helps fill space and little more.  Be is the staple of first drafts, especially in those places where the writer gets lazy and writes a lame scene because, damn it, something needs to pad out those lines. 
Believe me, I could load this article with dozens of examples from dozens of scripts, but the following are typical enough to make the point: In screenplays, be just doesn't cut it.  Take a look at these:
There's [there is] a smile on his face.  Or: There's a [fill in the blank].
There's the sound of a twig snapping.
They're [they are] walking down the street as they sing.
Wordy, wordy, wordy.  And in each case the verb be is to blame.  Your goal is the "good read."  So you must, in the words of Strunk and White, "omit needless words," because "vigorous writing is concise."
So let's tighten all three examples:
He smiles.
A twig snaps.
They walk down the street and sing.
Can you see how in each former example the verb be induced wordiness, especially in the first one?  We can't just write "There's a smile," because that begs the question: where?  On his butt?  Of course the smile is on his face.  But we're forced to say "on his face," unless we rewrite it. 
Worse still, can you see how using be affected word choice in the rewrite?
Again, take the first example, which we trimmed to "He smiles."  Well, "smiles" is a perfectly good word, but it's vague.  How much character does it reveal?  Very little.  Aren't "smirks," "beams," or "grins" better choices?  Don't they tell us he's a jerk; or in love; or a cool dude?
But consider this: While you might have first written "There's a smirk ..." or "There's a grin...," you certainly wouldn't have written "There's a beam ...," because that makes no sense.  And what if your perfect fix is "He beams"?
I submit that by starting with the phrase "There is," you push from your creative mind the vigorous verbs that will make your script stand out.  Maybe you eventually emerge from the clutter and find that perfect verb, but probably you just settle for "smiles."  And that's a shame.
Now what about "a twig snaps"?  How can you improve that?  Well, maybe you can't ... and maybe you can think up another sound to better achieve what you want with your scene - instead of using the cliché.  BTW: In your script it's A TWIG SNAPS, because we always capitalize the sound and the thing that makes it.
On to the last example ...
Too many screenwriters pair "is" and "are" with the "-ing" form of another verb (the present participle, for you grammarians).  For example, they write "is watching" instead of "watches," or "is getting" instead of "gets" - or any number of such verb combinations that start with "is" and "are."  And that's never a good idea.
Yeah, I know: The present participle implies continuing action.  But that's implicit in what our characters are doing on the pages we write.  It's a script, after all, for something that we hope see on the screen as a moving or motion picture.  Therefore, "is [doing something]" is redundant.  One word is always better if it does the job of two.
Then there's the business of word choice.  As with the construction "There is," I maintain that pairing "is" and "are" with an "-ing" verb almost always means choosing the weakest possible verb.  That's why I used "walking," "watching," and "getting" for my examples.  In most if not all cases those are the types of vague verbs that make it to the page.
Let's look at our revision "They walk down the street and sing."  How does "walk" reveal character?  Well, it doesn't.  Again, it depends on who "they" are, but the verb should tell us - show us - something pertinent.  Are they bullies?  Then: "They strut and bellow 'Bad to the Bone.'" Lovers?  "They stroll and hum their song."  You get the idea.
The next time you take a pass through your script, be on the lookout for "is" and "are" (in contractions, too) and especially any "-ing" verbs.  Use the find command if you must.  But hunt them down.  Then replace them with a better, active verb that reveals character.     
The age of texting has dumbed down good writing, and for some people the rules no longer matter.  Maybe.  But remember this: Even if a producer or reader never cracked the spine of his or her Little, Brown Handbook - or doesn't remember doing so - they know when a story leaps off the page.  And it ain't gonna do that if its ankles are tied by lazy, verbose writing.
Next month: When lean means lazy, and cheating is just plain wrong.
Have a question about grammar, or how to format that INTERCUT?  Email me.
David Gillis was a journalist for more than 20 years, including 15 as an editor on the Living/Arts and Business copy desks at The Boston Globe. He has written for newspapers and magazines nationwide. His screenplays have garnered several awards. He offers several proofreading services for screenwriters.

Psst, down here.  It's Jim.  Hey, if you liked David's article, you might like Zen in the Art of The Final Polish.
Costner was at the fest in part to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Dances With Wolves.  There was a sincere reverence and obvious appreciation for the experience and his time spent in South Dakota.  But then in a candid moment, he said the last thing you would expect him to say about his costar wolves: He hated them.  The audience roared with laughter.
The lesson here is about the power of the unexpected and the ability to surprise by destroying clichés.  Do you remember Jack Nicholson as the Joker in that Batman.   Jerry Hall looks at him in the mirror and says: "You look nice."  Remember how Jack replied? Not: "Thanks.  That's so nice of you."  But: "I didn't ask."
Before I get hate mail from PETA or a cease-and-desist order from Tig Productions, let me clarify.  Costner was frustrated by the fact that the wolves weren't behaving as the trainer had promised when he had met him before the film.  In fact, Costner had to use the trainer as a stunt double in the longshot where Dunbar "dances" with the wolf.  So Costner stands up, takes on the character of Dunbar/stuntman and acts out the scene, running back and forth, back and forth.  But then, he suddenly runs off stage.
Two cool things.  First, suspense.  Why the hell did he run away?  Second, this is a great usage of space and setting.  He knows he's on a stage, so he finds a way to use the setting (and shock value of running backstage) to tell the story.  So Costner walks back on stage as himself and plays out the conversation between himself and the trainer: "What happened?  The trainer replies: "He bit me."   

Costner at SDFF

Kevin Costner at South Dakota Film Festival
Great actors and directors always have their characters interface with the setting and location.  If you have two characters angry at each other, the scene and dialogue will be very different if they are stuck in rush hour in a car as opposed to stranded in a barren desert.  For example, expressing anger at someone in an elevator has its own unique manifestation:  Maybe one character presses all of the buttons, crowds the other into the corner, or (as all classes eventually stumble to) passes gas.
Costner then talked about the closer shot where he had to dance with the wolf.  The only way to get the wolf to follow him was to fill his pockets with meat.  He has already done the "running back and forth" bit, so now he runs one way on the stage, and then tosses an imaginary piece of meat over his head the other way to keep the imaginary wolf at bay.  As a storyteller he knows how effective a prop - even an imaginary one - is to the scene.
Instead of telling us that the wolf trainer was like a door-to-door salesman and that the product (the wolves) didn't live up to the hype, he shows us what it was like.  Suddenly, he is standing in the middle of the stage with another imaginary prop: a vacuum.  Now, he's a vacuum salesman.  He throws imaginary dirt, dust, jelly, and syrup on the floor and "shows" how the vacuum cleans it up. 
See how important props are?  If Ben Affleck's character gets bad news in a movie and his facial expression doesn't change but suddenly the pitcher of water he pours from starts shaking, who gets the credit for his "multifaceted" performance?  Him or the pitcher of water?
So Costner buys the imaginary vacuum from the imaginary salesman and now he is himself and he tells us his friends are over at his house watching a football game.  And he lures them over to see this vacuuming feat for themselves.  He quickly throws the same imaginary stuff down on the floor and repeats the back and forth, but this time to no imaginary avail.  He looks perturbed as he speeds up the vacuuming motion.  But clearly it's not working for him like it did for the salesman.
But then something really cool happens.  The sort of thing that separates A-List actors from your Uncle Charlie, who offers to invest 10k in your film for a cameo: Costner gets down on his hands and knees on the stage/floor to see what the hell is going on with the vacuum and the imaginary goop.  In my class, we look at scenes from an actor's (among others) point of view.  This is a perfect example of what acting coach and author of Audition Michael Shurtleff would call IMPORTANCE.  The "Costner" in this scene is really invested in this moment, which at first might appear only silly.  Getting down on his knees brings visual variety and humor, and, along with the presence of the imaginary onlookers, heightens the stakes.
The guy who interviewed Costner is a super smart and funny guy who was so prepared that Costner playfully chided him a few times for his "sticking to the script."  Costner was just paying attention and playing a lot of the interview by ear.  So what does "paying attention and going with the flow" have to do with screenwriting?  Well, not only do you have to pay attention to your characters, you have to make sure they are paying attention to each other.
Oftentimes writers will have a predetermined idea of how a scene will go.  Or they will favor the point of view of one of the characters in a scene and create a monologue.  But let the characters - and, in the latter case, especially the passive character - listen to each other.  If they pay attention to the other character, they will want to respond.  Let them. You can always rewrite or tighten later.
I could TELL you that great filmic storytelling isn't people sitting around in opposite chairs saying things back and forth.  Instead, I hope I demonstrated how Kevin Costner SHOWED this.   Even if you start with two characters in a visually static situation, think about how Costner's instincts were to get the hell out of that chair, move around, use the props (imagined) and space (real and imagined), and use blocking to illustrate a shift where the stakes got higher. Think about how to incorporate opposite and anti-cliché moments in your scene and make sure your characters pay attention to each other.
If you want the two-hour lecture with all of the theory, and clips starring Ed Norton, Sean Penn, Meryl Streep, and Nicole Kidman (and, if we make our day, Marlon Brando), come and hang out for a week with me and a half-dozen Champion Screenwriting winners.
If you want to read a little more about how thinking like an A-List actor can help your scene writing, check out this article's evil, or should I say silly, twin brother on my blog.  But if you do, leave a comment so I know that you were there.

Speaking of scenes, stay tuned for a free chance to submit scenes and have them critiqued on the A-List Screenwriting Blog.   
James P. Mercurio
Jim's clients have sold projects to Roland Emmerich, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg.
 October Special:
20% Discount on Professional Analysis



Contest-winning scripts rarely get bought, much less produced. But they are great writing samples to open doors - and that's half the battle at any stage of your career. Extensive research of all the old contest information-source standbys revealed shockingly outdated and even misinformation. Screenplay competitions, like entertainment industry professionals, companies and careers, tend to shift, change and merge - and staying on top of them could be a full-time job. 
Case in point: The Chesterfield Writer's Film Project. Originated in 1990 and based at Paramount with the undeniably awesome vision of Stephen Spielberg, this program boasted the likes of Steven Zaillian as a mentor/board member and its alumni have gone on to win a Pulitzer Prize, get bought by celebrities, studios, networks and cable outlets - and to secure attachments and productions galore. But alas, this program has long been on indefinite hiatus (they're all busy!). But it further evidences that of the value of getting into a wonderful program while the people behind it are excited about it.
So, let's figure out how to cull through all the scams and wastes of time to find these golden needles in globes of haystacks and how to identify the many reliable milestone- and momentum-building opportunities that lay before you - and parlay them into career traction.

Which contests are worth entering?
I could give you the easy Usual Suspects line-up but that's just handing you the fish instead of teaching you to fish. Not to mention, half that list would outdate as I typed it as the landscape of Hollywood personnel (and money sources) is a complicated square dance shell game. Better, let's discuss the characteristics to look for so you can make your own assessments on a go-forward basis. There's obviously overlap on all these elements, but here's a rough break it down: 

 What to look for in a screenplay competition?


Who is sponsoring the contest? Who is funding it? Who are the judges? Are there educational, mentorship or production opportunities? What kind of promotion will you get? Is there a trade magazine or an event highlighting the winners? What caliber of people or events will you have access to? 


Sundance, Moondance, Slamdance - pick your dance - they all have screenplay competitions affiliated with their film festivals (not all film festivals do).  Sundance ya'll know about. Moondance's competition has historically favored female-driven stories with non-violent conflict resolution. Slamdance seems to cater to the younger, snow-boarding (read: truly slam-dancing) crowd.
The Austin Film Festival
was the first film fest dedicated to celebrating the writer as the "heart" of the collaborative filmmaking process, honoring winners with their coveted bronze typewriter trophy. The Houston WordlFest Int'l might be the oldest film festival (with a screenplay competition, at least) tracking in at 42 years.


Affiliation with a trade magazine or newspaper is helpful because the promotion is essentially guaranteed. It's in the publication's best interests to publicize their finalists, profile their winners and tout the successes of their alumni in their print magazines and online.
"The trades" (The Hollywood Reporter and Variety) aren't usually motivated to run information on screenplay contests (there's just too much other news out there to cover) unless it's for a high profile program (such as Sundance or the Nicholl) and even then, they usually require famous or powerful industry professional photo opps. THR won't even cover an event 'til its survived five years, that's their policy. 2010 will be The Writer's Digest's 79th contest - but then, they have their own magazine. Sponsoring organizations (such as UCLA Extension
) though can actually pay to take out ads (or negotiate sponsorship agreements).
Scr(i)pt Magazine's
"Big Break"contest is usually co-sponsored by Final Draft. Watch for contests endorsed by The Writers Store as well as they are a funnel for lots of great information in the biz. The quality of sponsors (who've already done their own due diligence) is a clue to help you vet what screenwriter-activities are worth your while.

Some of the greatest benefits to participating in these programs are the educational opportunities.


Sundance is perhaps the gold standard of screenplay labs (and the only way to garner entrance into their prestigious Director's Lab).


Warner Bros. Writers' Workshop includes not only simulated writers room practice but staffing on a Warner Bros. show upon successful completion of the program.

 Walt Disney/ABC Television Writing, perhaps the most coveted, pays its winners a salary of $50K (plus benefits) to work one-on-one with current programming and development execs to write spec shows.


 Look for every opportunity or door available to you:


Many of the screenplay contests have genre divisions but there are several niche programs out there - read their mission statements to figure out what kind of scripts (or writers) they're actively soliciting:
Christian screenplays: Kairos
' $50,000 award for spiritually-uplifting screenplays is just one of many, but is perhaps the most lucrative thanks to its sponsorship by MOVIEGUIDE®'s Founder and Chairman of the Christian Film & Television Commission.
Horror: If you want to feel like you've really "hit Hollywood," Screamfest
, with its events at Hollywood & Highland and screenings at Graumans Chinese, is hard to beat for ambience.

High School Students: The Sally Picow Foundation is an amazing program for LAUSD high school students - with mentorship and opportunities galore.
International: The Hartley-Merrill
is an impressive program most Americans have never heard of (because they're not eligible). Originally for emerging economies, it's what I call the "Screenwriting Olympics" as it encompasses 21 countries. Talk about track record: of the 42 scripts that have won over the many years, 29 have been made into movies. And one has won an Oscar. Name another competition that can claim that kind of ratio!
Regional: Like all things in life (and especially in the entertainment industry), these regional programs come and go (example: Monterey
is on hiatus), but programs like Set in Philadelphia boast successes like Mike Rich's Finding Forrester (he also did The Rookie and Radio).
With incentive programs in 40 states and 15 countries now, if there's not a screenplay competition in your hometown, I'd sure encourage you to organize one! That does not mean make up your own fake contest and award yourself the grand prize (yes, this has been done before - many times - don't try it). With film commissions, tourist bureaus and chambers of commerces desperate to lure production companies to film in their locales, take advantage of your knowledge of your own home turf and discover whatever homegrown contacts there are to be capitalized on. Become part of your local solution - and the driving force of your own career!


Winning a contest to many writers is a bit like getting their first agent: they just kick back on their excited heels (and talk a lot about it) while waiting for some miraculous stranger to magically make their careers materialize. They won't. You have to make it happen.
It's all about personal accountability, resourcefulness and due diligence. Do your research. Ask around. Figure it out. A screenplay contest is but another tool in your arsenal to help YOU create momentum and buzz. As in all things in life, some people do more with a place than others could ever do with a win.
Heather Hale is a Writer/Director/Producer who has read or judged more screenplay contests worldwide than she can remember. Heather is a judge for the ABC/Disney Fellowship, The Hartley-Merrill International Screenplay Competition, 
a trustee for the Sally Picow Foundation and a Mentor Board Member for Kids Making Movies. Heather lectures and consults globally on careers in entertainment, screenplay and project development and her trademark PowerNetworking strategies.

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All the best,
I had a momentary lapse in the way theme works in stories and how I had defined it myself: as the intersection of possible meanings.  The line from the song has several possible interpretations, but I took just one of them and clung to it.  
Writers do the same thing with their scripts.  They put in something like, say, a divorce or breakup. And they think to themselves: There is no way for anyone to interpret this as anything but a loss or an ending.  However, in conjunction with subplots, dialogue, and motifs, you can actually turn the meaning of something like a couple breaking up into something else.  Freedom.  A new beginning.  The moral thing to do.  A sacrifice.
Each element in your story has its own baggage and connotations, which are its possible meaning or its most likely meaning. But it's not until you collide and combine it with other elements that you can see what facet of that element is relevant to your story at hand.  The gestalt that is created by the mathematical intersection of all possible meanings of all of your story's elements is theme.

Theme w/o heading

Okay, this is a column about a rock star and songwriter - sorry for the theory. But if you want to get more intimate with this concept, you can get a room
Back to the song.
I watch the moon trace its arc with no regrets
This line does not mean that the moon has no regrets. It means that the narrator has no regrets as time passes, because he is in love with his partner and cherishes every day with her.  I know this not from the line itself but because of what it has in common with the other lines in the song.  You can read all of the lyrics here.  But here are a few of the lines that help to narrow and constrict the meaning of the above line and the ultimate meaning of the entire piece:
With you, I don't hear the minutes ticking by
I don't see the summer as it wanes, just the subtle change of light upon your face
I watch the sun as it rises and sets [implied and]
I watch the moon trace its arc with no regrets
And I count my blessings that you're mine for always
We laugh beneath the covers and count the wrinkles and the grays
This is our kingdom of days.
Damn, even the title is thematically perfect.  I might not be able to know its meaning before I hear the song, but after I find the intersection -- what is in common -- of all possible meanings then it's really easy for me to understand the results, the ultimate point: The character has no worries about time or his immortality, because his love for and time spent with his lover transcend all of that and bring him peace in the here and now.
Notice also how the word kingdom and blessings are an example of the "iceberg theory" (see David's column) that subtly hint at the concept that his experience of right here and now on earth is his heaven.
In addition to the tidy lesson about how elements work together to create theme and meaning, remember that all of this is moot if you don't have a story with a passionate core.  In a three-minute story, Bruce aims to tell a love story as emotionally true and big as Casablanca
Make sure you're aiming at least as high in your 100-minute story.
Here's the
video for the song.
Champion Logo 
from Jim Mercurio
I am still wading through the feature quarterfinalist scripts and am aiming to have the semifinalists announced by November 7.  To keep things lively, let's announce the top 6 shorts that are in contention for the $1500 in cash as well as the other prizes.
The Anniversary by Stephen Mack
The Blackberry That Saved LA by Keith Blackwell
Kitten by Magali Rennes
Shoe by Nick Kelly
Sparkle by Jan Ducker
Stalker: A Love Story by Pamela Nash
In the next two weeks, I will be giving away 5 seats to A-List Screenwriting: The Immersion randomly to feature quarterfinalists.  I may also add a shorter class in December in Los Angeles to accomodate other Champion entrants.
Announcements are made through Constant Contact, so make sure you are signed up.
More soon!

In This Issue
Scene Writing with Kevin Costner
Are Screenplay Contests Worth Entering?
Style Matters with David Gillis
Praise from Readers
Champion Screenwriting Updates
WWTBD? Column
Quick Links

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What Would the Boss Do?

Intersection of Meaning
The first time I listened to "Kingdom of Days," my favorite song from Bruce's new album Working On a Dream, I was struck by a line:
I watch the moon trace its arc with no regrets
That line really resonated with me.  I immediately thought about it in terms of being true to yourself.  Like, dude, I am who I am.  No regrets.   "Can a leopard change its spots?"  
There is something powerful about a stellar body following its destiny without question.  I thought that by anthropomorphizing the moon with an unwavering focus on following its essence, Bruce was able to celebrate and elevate that trait when it appears in humans.  Personally, this idea resonates with me.   
But after I listened to the song again, I realized I was completely off.
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