Valentine’s Day is the day to celebrate all things romantic – including movies! And with our first ever Romance and Comedy Award closing just last week, this seemed like the perfect time for us to put together a small list of our favorite romantic films that we think all writers should watch.
The list isn’t intended to be comprehensive, and these aren’t categorically the best the genre has to offer! But they are our favorites, and there are important lessons for writers to learn from all of them this Valentine’s Day…
1. DOCTOR ZHIVAGO
David Lean was on a roll by the time he came to make DOCTOR ZHIVAGO, having just made BRIDGE ON THE RIVER KWAI and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA – and it shows. The bleak wastes of Russia make for a beautiful backdrop, but center stage is a sweeping love story that carries us through the brutality of the country’s political turmoil of the early 20th century. This film is the very definition of the term “epic”. At over three hours long, it shows that if you make the human elements of your story strong enough, it’s still enough to keep an audience engaged for however long.
2. ROMEO + JULIET
There was no way we could compile this list without mentioning the original pair of star-crossed lovers – it was just a question of which version! Special mention goes to the 1968 version, but it’s Baz Luhrmann’s modern re-imagining which gets our vote. The beginning of the film is too hectic, but once the lovers meet it becomes a sumptuous, tragic tale full of stolen moments and forbidden love.The original script was written by some guy called Shakespeare, who seems to have been pretty good at his job: he fills the story with passion, jokes, despair, tragedy and revenge all in one go.
3. ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
Memories of a failed romance can be painful – and that’s why Joel and Clementine choose to have theirs erased in Charlie Kaufman’s Oscar-winning script. Like much of Kaufman’s work, it’s a mind-bending concept (literally, in this case), but it’s also a touching exploration of love, loss, and the nature of heartache. Jim Carrey turns in a surprisingly subtle and understated performance that suits him, while Kate Winslet picked up her fourth Oscar nomination for hers, but ultimately it’s the script that powers this beautifully poignant film.
4. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
The first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST is either a film about Stockholm Syndrome or how true love looks beyond mere appearances – but we choose to believe the latter. With fantastic animation, catchy songs, and a tale as old as time, this is the perfect example of how to tell a fairytale romance. Just don’t get us started on the live-action remake, which turned the Beast into a jerk and featured a bit too much auto-tune.
Okay, so here’s a bit of a strange one: a man falls in love with the operating system on his computer – and it falls in love with him in return. Another winner of the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, writer-director Spike Jonze takes his unique premise and weaves a touching story about the nature of human relationships… despite one half of the central relationship not being human. But then, that’s part of the reason why it works. It’s an insightful look into the psychology and emotion of love, demonstrating both its vulnerability and its boundlessness.
SPECIAL MENTION: TITANIC
James Cameron’s epic is the gold standard for a lot of people, even if it’s a bit overwrought in our opinion. Its impact and technical achievements can’t be ignored, though.
SPECIAL MENTION: 4 minutes of UP
The “Married Life” segment of Pixar’s UP brings all but the hardiest to tears, charting the entire marriage of Carl and Ellie without a single word being said. Frankly, we’d have included it in our list if it were a film in its own right, but since it’s just a small part of one, it’ll have to make do with a special mention instead.
So there you have it – our favorite romance films. We don’t claim that they’re the best, but they’re the ones that have touched us the most and we think that all writers can learn something from them!
What are your favorite romance films that you’ll be watching this Valentine’s Day? What would make your list? Let us know by getting in touch on Twitter or Facebook!
The Oscars is always an interesting night, no matter how things turn out. The films that get the biggest awards aren’t always the best (consider this: SUICIDE SQUAD won more Oscars than THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION), but no matter what, there’s always something to learn. Here are our thoughts on the Oscars 2020…
- The big winner was South Korean film PARASITE, winning Best Picture, Best Director (Bong Joon-ho), Best Original Screenplay (Bong Joon-ho and Han Jin-won) and Best International Feature Film. Considering this year’s Oscars had been criticized for a lack of diversity – an issue which was still definitely a problem in the acting and directing categories – it was great to see a non-English language film winning big. Add to that Taika Waititi’s win for Best Adapted Screenplay for JOJO RABBIT, and HAIR LOVE winning Best Animated Short, and things no longer look quite so bleak from a diversity standpoint.
- It’s pretty rare for a non-English language film to win Best Adapted Screenplay, but it just goes to show that great stories transcend the limits of language. Given how unlikely it is that most voters would have read PARASITE’s screenplay in its original Korean, the lesson to remember here is that fundamentally, your script is a blueprint for a film – and it’s how that film turns out that determines how good your screenplay is!
- Apart from making Taika Waititi the first person of Maori descent to win an Oscar, JOJO RABBIT’S win for Best Adapted Screenplay was an interesting one for other reasons. In many ways it was unsurprising – having already picked up a BAFTA and Writers Guild Award in the same category – but it’s certainly not the usual take on World War 2 that usually wins over Academy voters. It might not mark a lasting shift in tastes, but it’s still great to see that you don’t need to follow the same route as everyone else to achieve success at the Oscars.
- Superhero films continue to get more recognition. Last year, BLACK PANTHER picked up three awards and SPIDER-MAN: INTO THE SPIDER-VERSE won Best Animated Feature. Now, Joaquin Phoenix has won Best Actor for JOKER – the second person to win for playing this comic book character after a posthumous Best Supporting Actor award for Heath Ledger’s performance in THE DARK KNIGHT. On top of that, JOKER also picked up Best Original Score. Will the trend continue? We’ll have to wait and see.
- Netflix had more nominations going into last night’s ceremony than another studio, with 24 across all its projects – but it went home with only two, with Laura Dern winning Best Supporting Actress for MARRIAGE STORY and AMERICAN FACTORY taking home Best Documentary Feature. This repeats the pattern from last year, where ROMA was the favorite for Best Picture but lost out to GREEN BOOK; it seems the Academy still isn’t ready to reward streaming services just yet over traditional release platforms and studios.
For us here at WriteMovies, this was the Oscars 2020 was an interesting one to watch from a writing perspective. Both PARASITE and JOJO RABBIT were welcome diversions from the usual Oscars films to win in the screenwriting categories, and the fact that a non-English language film won Best Picture for the first time feels like a big moment, proving that stories really can break down borders.
It still remains to be seen whether the issues around diversity in the acting and directing categories can be resolved for next year, but PARASITE winning big at the Oscars 2020 was a great moment – and we hope it’s part of a continuing trend.
To give a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes at WriteMovies and TalentScout International Management, our Director of World Wide Development Ian Kennedy is sharing a week of his Hollywood/L.A. Diary with us at the start of March.
Expect news of meetings at major studios and with Elite producers, screenwriters and other adventures in Hollywood, plus a string of fresh images of iconic Hollywood locations.
In the meantime, we’ve brought together two of our Elite Mentors and a former WriteMovies winner living in Los Angeles to share their L.A. industry pitching tips. Here’s what they had to say… first, about staying there and getting around town.
ALEX ROSS, WriteMovies founder, film producer and former LA agent
BOBBY LEE DARBY, Screenwriter and WriteMovies Elite Mentor
KATHRYN NAWROCKI, Screenwriter and former WriteMovies Award Winner
HOTELS, BARS AND PLACES TO MEET
KATHRYN: “The funny thing is that often tourists from abroad come to LA and imagine that downtown is hub OR that Hollywood Blvd is it. They don’t know the “outsider’s INSIDE guide”… Sunset Strip has some amazing places and you will be RIGHT In the mix. You have to walk to Sunset Towers nearby which is phenomenal.”
ALEX: “I like the area near Sunset Plaza. Lots of great little outdoor restaurants: http://www.lepetitfour.com great for celebrity spotting. There is great hotel within walking distance: https://www.standardhotels.com/la/properties/hollywood.
If you are on a budget, the best hotels are near the airport: Hilton etc. Also, when there, you need to watch REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE with James Dean, then go to the Hollywood observatory. Eat at C&O Trattoria on Venice Beach and Barney’s Beanery.”
KATHRYN: “The Standard is actually a terrific choice. They have a lovely pool, casual bar. There is one of my favorite bars EVER within walking distance that is relaxed, unpretentious, with fantastic apps/drink specials when it opens at 6. The TROCADERO. No need to book. They have these amazing Happy Hours deals 6-8 on drinks and FANTASTIC apps from filet mignon tips to shrimp cocktail etc. I usually just order a ton of those and a drink or two but I do believe they have dinner.
Sunset Strip is fun. Make sure you go to CHATEAU MARMONT and even propose a meeting there if someone wants to come to you. This spot, along with THE MONDRIAN are amazing and just fun, iconic, central spots… PINCHES TACOS (not PINK Taco which is fun but not yummy food) for a meal. Authentic and fun and a walk away.
Also THE DEN is a very unpretentious pub/bar with apps too you could do for informal meetings. Jason Segel and Jon Hamm routinely hung out there. It is kinda a local gem. WALK Sunset Strip and enjoy. Greenblatt’s deli isn’t far and has genuine NYC Jewish deli food and vibe. A ridiculous silly but MUST see is SADDLE RANCH which you can walk to. Great food, mechanical bull, bottomless Bloody Marys with brunch And SUNSET TOWERS is iconic as well!”
ALEX: “Traffic [is a big problem]… So, the car hire is the cheapest part. The insurance can be more. Use a CC that covers insurance. The place has some of the highest petrol prices in the country.
If you are staying in central LA for a few days use Lyft or Uber. Drivers are really aggressive, if you use your indicator they will speed up at you to cut you off…
Parking is really expensive. Avoid valet parking… Hotels love to charge you $30+ for over night parking. Take a Lyft from the airport. And everyone wants a tip… the waiters in restaurants like to get about 20%. Natives usually double the tax. Whatever you see on the menu, add 30%.”
BOBBY: “The most meetings we ever had was 4 in a day, and that was a rough day – the logistics across LA get exhausting. Arrive really early. The studio lots are massive – Warner Bros is huge – it can take you half an hour to walk to your meeting even once you’re inside. If you’re meeting at a bar at say a hotel, make sure it’s the right one! There’s often another one at the pool level at the top of the building, and finding the right lift and the way there can make you late. So book a maximum of 4 meetings a day; Uber drivers may know the best routes, if you’re not driving yourself, but you should leave plenty of time to get between things.”
BOBBY: “The dress code for these meetings is very relaxed – jeans and any shirt.”
ALEX: “Also, LA is about sunglasses! Look into some fashion mags and get yourself the coolest you can afford. The rest is all about jeans (designer) you can literally get away with a T-shirt (as long as it is cool!)”
See Bobby’s other L.A. industry pitching tips – and tips for Europe and the UK – HERE! And find out more about what he can do for you as an Elite Mentor HERE.
Find out more about Alex Ross HERE and about our other Elite Mentors HERE.
It seems like just yesterday that we were announcing the third WriteMovies genre prize: the Romance and Comedy Award 2020. But the final deadline is already here – you’ve got until the end of this Sunday, February 9th, to submit your scripts!
If you’re feeling in a funny mood or a romantic one with Valentine’s Day coming up – or even a bit of both – then this is the contest for you. We’ll be accepting scripts in the romance, comedy, and rom-com genres – so if you think you’ve got what we’re looking for, make sure you submit by the deadline!
There are great prizes to be won, too. Our winner will receive two sets of Development Notes from our expert script analysts, further advice to fine-tune their work, and guaranteed pitching to industry. Plus, all submissions receive FREE, automatic entry to the Winter 2020 Screenwriting Contest!
The winner of our last genre prize, the Horror Award 2019, was MONGER by David Axe, and he also walked away with the Grand Prize in the Fall 2019 Screenwriting Contest: $2000! If you’d like to follow in his footsteps, then this is your chance.
WriteMovies has been helping writers succeed since 1999, and we’d love to help you, too. Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to get your script out there. Click here to submit to the Romance and Comedy Award 2020 by this Sunday, February 9th!
From guest author Amelie Bronson comes 6 simple tips for better writing…
If you’re a writer, you already know that it’s not easy. No matter what people say, writing can be a grueling process. And even with your strongest efforts, the writing can still be…well, bad.
The bad news is that there are certain mistakes most writers tend to perpetuate, especially when they’re inexperienced.
The good news is that these mistakes can absolutely be rectified, and your writing can improve before your very eyes, as long as you are willing to apply some lessons.
Make your characters flawed
The no. 1 mistake authors make is that they make their main character fundamentally “good”. The best. They’re a saint, and practically a superhero. Everyone loves them, they’re nice to everyone, they have every positive trait imaginable, etc.
The reason for this is that authors tend to base their main characters on ideal versions of themselves. Thus, it’s not difficult to see how they would end up creating a very subjective, completely unrealistic, idealized self.
But that’s bad writing. It’s not about creating a perfect world for you to live out your fantasies. In real life, people are flawed, and there are no Mary-Sues. People have mean streaks, they are messy, they hurt other people, and they make mistakes.
Consider this: If it’s difficult for you to separate yourself from your characters and give them flaws, then perhaps you should consider basing them on someone else, entirely, or just imagining characters that are primarily realistic, and not necessarily based on someone real.
Give your characters individuality
Along the same vein, a lot of authors display a staggering lack of creativity and imagination when creating supposedly different characters. Not all your characters can look the same, think the same, and talk the same. Especially if they’re all modelled after you, consciously or not.
Just like people in real life, your characters must be unique individuals. That means giving each of them specific quirks, different personalities, conflicting ideas, and like we said, some unsavory traits.
There’s nothing worse than reading a screenplay or a book where every single character talks in the exact same way, because it quickly becomes obvious that they are all alter egos of the author.
Consider this: Make an active effort to make each character as different as possible. Compare and contrast between characters, and if you find that some of them are similar, ask yourself “What can I do to make this character unique?”. It doesn’t have to be something tragic or “weird”; just don’t make them the exact same as everybody else.
Give your world diversity
In 2020, there is no excuse for a lack of diversity in your characters, in the world you are creating, etc. You can easily fall into the same trap of sticking to what you know. And it’s not that writing about what you know is a bad thing, but it’s unrealistic and unchallenging at best, and racist, sexist, and otherwise bigoted, at worst.
Your world needs to be populated by diverse, well-rounded characters of all types. That means both men and women, people of different ethnicities, sexualities, etc. More importantly, each and every one of these people needs to be a properly fleshed out individual. No strawmen, stereotypes, or offensively lacking characterizations.
You know how TV show creators are criticized for writing entirely white worlds? Or how male writers are bashed for including no women, or just very badly written ones? You want to stay as far away from that as possible.
Consider this: If you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with writing characters that are way out of your own experience of the world, then put some more time into research, read more, talk to more people, ask questions, and form some more complete ideas about a more diverse human experience.
Show, don’t tell
If you’re an aspiring writer, there’s no way you don’t already know this: telling your audience instead of showing them is the greatest sin you can commit in writing. When you go on and on with an exposition, especially in screenplays, you are taking away an opportunity to make your piece dynamic, interesting, and natural.
Your audience should be able to see the action unfold and learn about your characters and about new developments from the dialog. Otherwise, the action may feel static and lackluster.
It doesn’t matter how visually stunning a show is or how big your flatscreen TV, if the plot is explained to you, rather than shown. That is, unfortunately, a problem a lot of TV shows suffer from nowadays.
Consider this: Instead of writing about what happened or explaining it, start working on the scene that would convey that idea. Say, you want to say your character doesn’t have a good relationship with their mother. Instead of literally saying that, why not include a scene where they have a tense conversation, or your character ignores mail from their mother, or she is critical of your character, etc. There are a million ways to show something; pick one, instead of telling.
Keep it tight
You know how sometimes you read a script or a book and it just doesn’t seem to…go anywhere? You’re pretty sure there’s a plot buried in there somewhere, but there’s so much crap surrounding it, that it all becomes just one big ramble.
It’s distracting and boring. That’s why it’s super important to have a clear structure, and then stick to it. If you’ve got a plan of action, then keep things tight around it, and don’t waffle.
Consider this: The audience doesn’t need to hear every thought you’ve ever had. Not because they’re not good thoughts, but because they take away from the point of your screenplay. Plus, it makes it really difficult to actually put in practice. Don’t be afraid to “cut the fat”, so to speak. We’ll go more into that in the next section that talks about editing.
A wise man said that you shouldn’t be afraid to kill your darlings. May have been talking about characters – and you should, if it adds to the plot – but mainly we’re talking about editing. It’s extremely important for any kind of writing, because it takes away the excess in order to allow the brilliants bits of your work to shine.
It can be incredibly hard to self-edit, and it’s understandable that a lot of writers struggle with this part. You wrote every word, so going through them and deleting them can feel like you’re being cut with a knife. The difficulty in “killing your darlings” is precisely the fact that sometimes, you need to make some hard choices and get rid of the parts you love the most.
Consider this: It’s important to be able to see beyond your own vanity and how much you love everything you wrote in order to recognize the potential of your story. A diamond only becomes valuable once you buff out all the flawed bits.
All in all, as you can see, your writing can definitely be improved. It doesn’t matter if you’re making some rookie mistakes; you can always work on doing better in the future. All you need to do is pay attention to what you’re doing wrong and how you can improve on each point.
Whether that’s characters that are too perfect, stunted and unnatural dialog, or a tendency to ramble too much, these are all aspects that can be changed. The more you practice, the better you will get, and as long as you keep these tips in mind, you will improve faster than you think.
To reflect changes to other roles in the business, we and our agency partner TalentScout International Management are looking to recruit a new Industry Liaison based in Los Angeles, initially in a part-time role with potential to grow into a full-time role in future.
The aim is to hire someone already based in Los Angeles with a demonstrable track record of engaging with industry and promoting high quality scripts, who will support the company’s ongoing talent pipeline and film production activities – opening new doors every day to help writers get their scripts optioned and produced, get their films made, and provide dynamic ongoing content for the company’s marketing platforms in the process.
The appointment is intended to be the first in a series of steps to expand the company’s Los Angeles presence as both a promoter of exciting new talent and a production company: the right candidate should be ambitious, can-do and proactive to make every aspect of this a reality, including through working in film production, budgeting and packaging as well as marketing, pitching and script development.
At the heart of our business is solving problems with scripts and proposals, to enable them to fulfil their potential without compromising the writer’s vision; championing them to industry; and doing what it takes to get them produced to the right standards. We’ve been doing it for over 20 years, working with Elite Mentors including Tom Craig (RAIN MAN, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE etc) throughout that time and getting films made including THE LIST (with Wayne Brady and Sydney Tamiia Poitier, 2007).
Candidates should be able to prove their successful track record of working in person in LA to promote great writing and promote their activities on digital platforms. Industry references will be needed and interviews will be held in LA on March 2nd – 6th.
This is a freelance ongoing position, on potentially flexible terms but with monthly minimums required and guaranteed, plus additional responsibilities and additional profitshare available to incentivize growing our client base and productivity.
To apply, please send your resume and a cover letter to email@example.com. Some aspects of the role may be negotiable subject to guaranteed minimums.
Script Sales tend to drop off in November/December as everyone gears up for the new year, but there were still some significant November 2019 script sales, as reported by Script Pipeline.
You can check out our pick of the sales below. But before that, a reminder that the final deadline for the Romance and Comedy Award 2020 is fast approaching; you’ve got until Sunday February 9th to submit!
- The life rights for a Michael Jackson biopic have been picked up by GK Films, and John Logan (Oscar-nominated for GLADIATOR, THE AVIATOR, and HUGO) is set to write the script. It remains to be seen how some of the more controversial aspects of Jackson’s life will be handled – but it’s hard to see how the rights could have been sold unless the script promised to treat its subject kindly.
- It’s been a few years since STAR TREK: BEYOND, and talk of potential sequels – including one from Quentin Tarantino – has stalled, with Chris Pine and Chris Hemsworth both walking away from negotiations. Now it’s set to be revived by Noah Hawley, creator of the TV shows FARGO and LEGION.
- One of the more unusual looking sales is THE UNBEARABLE WEIGHT OF MASSIVE TALENT, in which a fictionalized version of Nicolas Cage – played by Cage himself – is forced to recreate the characters he’s played at the birthday of a super fan. We’re getting serious BEING JOHN MALKOVICH-type vibes from this project. However it turns out, it should certainly be interesting!
Click here if you’d like to see the full report from Script Pipeline, which features plenty of other interesting information!