Sell Your Story To Hollywood: Writer's Guide To Show Business – Dr. Ken Atchity [FULL INTERVIEW]



can as a tenured professor in your mid-40s what made you think that you could change careers well this is America and you can do whatever you want to do it's one of the great things about this country and I was what I was doing was very related to a career I'm in now it was developing stories developing writers and of course teaching a number of things that I no longer teach like classical literature and Italian literature and I do miss I do miss that part but it was basically an extension of what I've been doing all of my life which is developing stories analyzing stories publishing stories helping people publish stories and now getting stories produced into movies so it's all united by storytelling I had no idea which world was sort of the bigger world of ideas the world of academia that I had been in for 17 years or the world I went into and I discovered that the world I went into was really the world of ideas because it's a world in which people are tracking ideas across continents to find out who owns the rights to a story they're you know they they pay lots of money to acquire the story they use least they used to pay a lots of money and they spend millions of dollars to turn the story into a movie and they're fiercely competitive about the world of ideas it's the motion picture business is the jungle of ideas and it's survival of the the best idea and the best business people I always say it's it's called show business for a reason it's not just about show it's about the business of how stories get developed into movies that the whole world can see I'm hoping we can go back to maybe right before you made this transition into wanting to be in film was there something that happened was there just a time in your life in your mid 40s where you just felt like you know what I want a new challenge you know that's a good question because that's my I reflected on it all my life since then and it was actually provoked by my receiving tenure I actually belonged to a untenured faculty committee against tenure and one day when I was a Fulbright professor in Bologna Italy I got a telegram from the Dean of the faculty at Occidental College telling me that I'd received tenure in my absence and my reaction to it was not very understandable to my friends and colleagues I I became deeply depressed for about a year and it took me a long time to figure out why it was depressed and it was because I had really never asked to be in this golden cage where nothing can happen to you it was like the most secure place you could be and I realized at the time that my father's chief value in life was security he was a child with a depression and security was all important to him and I had to admit to myself that it wasn't that important to me I never worried about being secure I published lots of things and I was in demand as a speaker and just never had to worry about it and what my value was was freedom and I didn't feel freedom when under a structure where you had to behave a certain way and you had to know a year in advance that on the week of October 12th you'd be teaching book eight of the Iliad and that it was wonderful to be teaching the Elliot but to have two to know that a year in advance you're gonna be somewhere I now live in a world where I don't know where and get a B tomorrow literally and and it's complete opposite it's the world it's a free world and of course I realized as I got older that freedom is as much an illusion as security both of them are illusions but it was my illusion security was not my illusion and so I've lived with complete insecurity but with the freedom to express myself creatively in every possible way which is what the film business allows me to do and so that was very exciting to me do you ever tell people that that if they're looking to be in a creative pursuit whether it's being an author or screenwriter actor that security is something that will probably not be part of what they'll encounter and you okay with that absolutely I mean this is not a career to wish on anyone you have to have a burning desire to do it and you have to be willing to sacrifice anything to do it and to persist despite every setback and I can tell you that this is a business in which a career in which this never gets easier I don't care how many movies you've done the next one is going to be the biggest challenge you've ever faced the world changes all the time it's been changing ever since I've been in it which is around 30 years now and it never gets any easier and it never gets any more secure and you know even if you had windfalls and lots of money you would put it into your next you know your next project because people in this business believe in what they're doing that's their most important common belief you can see it at the Academy Awards you you hear the stories as they receive rewards that they never thought they'd get or have been waiting for a lifetime for they all have one thing in common the ability to sacrifice what everyone else considers the most important things in order to achieve the dream of getting the story told to the whole world and that's Nestle the great thing about the career there's no limits to it it's infinitely challenging it's constantly challenging there surprises every day and it's completely unpredictable I'm almost thinking of a sales position like door to door where you have to just suit up and and go on your you're in work your farm and it sounds like with this industry it's it's an everyday sort of you have to be that person sort of drumming up leads and things like that yeah it's a completely self-starting business you hear repeatedly from actors and from writers and from everyone that being represented by a agency does not really help because everyone said I always get my I've always gotten my best jobs by myself and I hear that from musicians and from every member of this business that they get their own work and and suiting up is every morning is putting on your brain and telling it that it's got to be happy and go out there and it doesn't matter how bad things are in reality you have to put on a happy face and I have gone to many meetings that I absolutely did not feel like going to because something had just happened that was a setback and I just thought I want to stay home lick my wounds but I go to the meeting and it always turns out that those meetings are the best meetings that you go to and when you walk out you think thank God I went I mean what would have happened if I hadn't gone and that that is suiting up that is definitely a kind of a nightly encounter to put on your armor and go out there and you're working with people who are doing the same thing and that's part of the exhilaration of it is that you know that the person sitting across from you may have had worse things happen to him in the last 24 hours but he's still there on the job and putting on a happy face and getting it done it's it's very deceptive and seductive when people come here for the first time especially clients of mine I I warned them that they will be experiencing what's called the development dance where everyone will be extremely nice to them and extremely positive and then they'll never hear from them again and that's because people are doing their job and their their job is to find out what this person has to offer the world and if it's extremely exciting which is rare very rare then you'll hear from them but most the time it's not extremely exciting and exciting enough and/or it doesn't fit the agenda of the of this person's company at the moment they have something too much like it in development or they have a boss who does not want to do that particular kind of thing etc but their job is to be the best audience possible for any story that comes along it could be a dramatic story that people would you know that would attract audiences and so they'll they'll be happy and then in the meeting and then at the end of the meeting you know behind the back of the person who came to the meeting they'll make a decision about whether to pursue it or not and that's what you're up against so you are like a door-to-door salesman I always say there's a great black Florida in the sky that has every know you'll ever receive in your life written on it and finally a yes at the end of the nose and the only catch is you can't see it so what do you do you you go through the nose as fast as you can that's the only way to deal with that blackboard and that's what successful people do in the business they just keep getting those nose until somebody says yes what key steps did you take to go from being a tenured professor most people would do many things that probably aren't good to be in those shoes to a movie producer what I'm sure first of all you had to deal with social pressure people probably trying to talk you out of it maybe not what steps did you take well in retrospect you can always make it look more you know planned and logical then that it was at the time but I basically I ran into a very inspiring man whose name was Norman Cousins who was the editor of Saturday Review world in those days and he came to speak in a class of mine at Occidental College and it turned out we shared a motto that no one else in the world had ever and the motto was a was a single sentence by the philosophy anis philosopher or take a guess a that said I think the only immoral thing is for a beam not to use every instant of its existence with the utmost intensity and I had never heard anyone else quote that but after after his talk in my class I asked him to come to my office and showed him that it was framed above my desk and so needless to say we bonded and long story short I asked him you know what I should do when I grow up which I asked male authority figures all my life basically and he he told me after we got to know each other that I should consider the entertainment business because it was much broader than the academic world and people can basically do whatever you know it anything creative you're encouraged to do basically you could find your own way there are no rules and schedules and all of those kinds of things that we find in academia and I love academic you know the world and the ideas that are exchanged and all of that but it was restricting and it was you know for me suffocating which is a word that his means a lot to me personally it's my most ancient nightmares being suffocated and I've never been suffocated and you know in the entertainment world I'd been terrified a lot but not suffocated and so he encouraged me and I thought well I don't know anything about the entertainment world other than movies that I've seen that's it and he showed me a passage from a book by William Goldman that I hope everyone know is called adventures in the screen trade and the passage was that the only important rule in Hollywood is that nobody knows anything and I thought well that's that's good means it's a level playing field so I set out to learn as much as I could and I realized that I wasn't 18 years old in the mailroom that William Morris and I wasn't you know infinitely wealthy and I didn't have relatives in the film business those are like the three main ways to get into the business normally so I thought I just have to be smarter so I started writing reading contracts I remember a producer I'll never forget I asked him if I could read a distribution contract and he said yeah I can let you read it but I can't let you take it out of my office you can go up the other room and have a cappuccino and but you know do that so I read it and I came back an hour later and I said I'm confused about some things I read here can I ask you a couple questions and he said sure and he I said this paragraph number 48 in the fine print section at the end says that accounting terms used in this agreement shall be redefined by the twentieth century-fox accounting department at such time if any that litigation is entered into among the parties I said what does that mean and he said that it's not in there I go yes it is let me show you how I showed it to him and he said I can't believe that that's still in there my my attorney should have crossed that out he had just signed the agreement and I said well they didn't so I started learning that's how I started learning by reading contracts because I think whatever kind of thing you're trying to do if it's successful ends up with being a bunch of contracts so you might as well start backwards with the contracts and long story short while I was preparing myself that way over a six-month period I I came up with an idea that I sold basically on a wing and a prayer not knowing how to do it but it ended up being within the next 12 months 16 movies that I was completely in charge of and raised half the money from Warner Brothers and half the money from from a company in Canada went up to Montreal and shot them all back-to-back meaning one movie ended on Friday and the next one be on Monday and it was a series of romantic comedies and it came out of my teaching romantic literature and also teaching publishing because a publisher was talking in one up in my publishing class the visiting publisher was talking to my class and he was telling me he was telling us what goes on the cover of a romance novel and I realized as he listed the things that were on the cover that he was basically reciting the rules of courtly love that I was teaching in another class that were written in the 12th century by andreas capital honesty the Chaplin of Marie de France and and I thought so maybe romance novels that everyone makes fun of are just an extension of these ancient courtly stories these love stories and I came up with the idea of doing a series of movies that imitated these love stories and were marketing friendly because they all had colors so you could have put all the DVDs on the you know on the shelf and they would form a rainbow said they were all called things like The Rose cafe sunset court indigo autumn etc and we did 16 of them and by that time I was I was fully in the business because I was in charge of production as a creative production and within three movies my assistant I were you know we knew we were doing whereas we did not have any idea what we were doing before the first movie started shooting and then I came back to Los Angeles and became a literary manager because I didn't have resources to option properties but as a literary manager you can produce properties by managing the property and that's what got me going and ever since then so was that was how the transition occurred and it was just because I thought of an idea and I didn't know better if I known now what you know what if I'd known then what I know now I would never have sold it the way I sold it I simply went out with the concept and convinced several Studios to look at it seriously and none of them had looked at a script or anything like that and one of them Warner Brothers wanted to see a script and I wouldn't show it to them until they'd signed an agreement and they ended up signing an agreement in three days and then I showed them they manufactured the scripts over the weekend by putting out a call to the romance novel community and getting back you know ideas for the script and so on so it was a fluke and one of the hardest things about being in the business when you're been in it for a while is the there grows up this huge accumulation of experience that you have that makes you know that you shouldn't just pick up the phone and call the head of a studio and and I have to overcome that I just reached out to the head of a studio this morning but every time I do it it's like having a 500-pound weight in your hand to pick up the phone because you know that's wrong but somebody like me back then I didn't know was wrong so I you know it was light there's the light motion to pick up the phone and call call somebody and so whenever I get a new partner who's not involved I always say don't be afraid to tell me your craziest ideas because this is a world in which crazy ideas work and you know it's it's the traditional ideas that have a harder time working so it is a completely wild and entrepreneurial frontier it's probably the last frontier of American culture though the movie business and it's been changing ever since I've been in it it constantly changes from a world in which videocassettes dominated and you could find them everywhere and to a world in which we're down streaming from Netflix and Hulu and so on and the delivery methods have always changed and what doesn't change and this is the encouraging thing for writers is that the need for stories has only gotten greater and greater with the proliferation of hundreds of channels they all have one thing in common they need programming they need content and writers are the ones who create the content the intellectual property so they should be hugely encouraged you don't have to understand all the distribution methods you just need to know how to tell a story and and you're in good shape just keep telling stories how did you learn to tell a great story you know I learned how to tell stories on the porch in Louisiana when I was growing up because I had I was growing up in the country and born on a farm and my uncles were all you know farmers and storytellers and we sat on the front porch and told stories and every conversation started as a conversation but quickly went into a story even a trip to town was a story everything was the story and I noticed a chorus quickly that some people could tell them and some people couldn't I mean a lot of stories down there were jokes and you know what uncle I had the minute he started talking everybody seemed to leave the porch because he was the dullest storyteller I have ever run into in my life you know I loved him dearly loved to go fishing with him but don't let him get to telling the story because it takes him forever to tell it and at the end you can't even remember how it began but the other uncle was mesmerizing and you loved listening to his stories and when he started telling stories people started showing up on the porch and I think that's really where I learned where I realized that this was a basic form of human communication that I wasn't getting in Kansas City which was much more businesslike and conversation was for the sake of getting to the next point in the day and down there it was a it was a focus in itself you know everyone looked forward to getting up at 4:30 and sitting on the porch for an hour telling stories before the day began and and and then reassembling at 7:00 and telling stories until everyone conked out at the end of the day so that's definitely where I got the start in loving the power of stories I mean I think that those stories changed everyone's lives and you never forget a story I mean you can you can forget your your mathematical equation and you can forget you know your chemistry but you just don't forget a good story and that's made me fall in love with it from the very beginning and I you know I've been very lucky because they spent my whole life dealing with stories that's all I deal with every day what three things does a great story have to have with three things hmm well it has to be it has to have a hook that gets people instantly involved in the story and and that is a huge part of the story itself and it's it's got to have a very strong character in the story that you care about and other than that it has to have twists and turns that lead to a surprise ending and like if I had to just say three things I guess that's what I would say the three things are every every story needs that because a story about nothing is not gonna hold anyone's interest and and sometimes writers when they begin their careers think that they just if they just write they can write about anything but the truth is they need to write from their heart about met things that matter to everyone and if they do that you can hardly go wrong because stories are really not about words or word choice or anything like that they're about conveying the power of a character facing a dilemma that you have no idea how he or she will will resolve and when you do that you've got everyone's attention and with in ancient times they there was a thing called the oral tradition which I used to teach as a professor of Homeric Greek the Iliad and the Odyssey were a son you know at campfires and everyone in the culture knew the stories it's we're publishing a book right now on Homeric song and how it worked and how it held culture together and my first book was about those I call those stories the shield of memory then it was because of those stories that a person you had a deal with himself in battle or when facing a attacking or when facing an angry wife you know or when facing the pillagers trying to burn down his village they he would instantly think of the story of Heracles who did this and that or the story of you know a gia and who did this and that and that's all they had they didn't have books you know for learning it was all passed along through the oral tradition and I think stories have never failed to play that role in human life when you think about it you know what your story is probably the most human response to any encounter and it goes from the court of law where the jury is trying to decide which of the two stories do they believe to a political campaign where the voters are making that decision to a first date where you're going do I believe his story I just don't believe it I can't buy his story that's that's the ultimate human turned out you can't buy the story and it goes through everything advertising is conveying stories that people will you know so that people will want to buy the product this is how humans operate on a daily basis so to me it's absolutely amazing that an industry has been created where people will pay millions of dollars for stories and where stories can basically conquer the world and I believe unites the world I mean look at all the work Weird Al doing with China in the movie business I just saw Lara Croft in Tomb Raider the new version of it where the male lead is Chinese and she is Western and clearly as a producer I'm watching and going this was a Chinese financed movie because I understand how it works for the market you know the Chinese hero makes it perfect for the Chinese market and he looks pretty good but she's the real the real protagonist in the story and she's great for the Western market and she's a woman so it's all very contemporary and etc so you see the structure behind it is actually a cultural change because now the values of the West are being inserted in the Chinese market with the Chinese co-op cooperating with them and as I believe China is becoming more capitalistic all the time partly through the influence of movies the audience wants to see individual people doing what they want to do in life and going out there and kicking ass and not being under the thumb of some you know Emperor or despot so I think that this is why the whole storytelling thing is so exciting because it really is a universal experience the question is what stands in most people's way of achieving their dreams it sounds simple we can achieve dreams and you know there's a million books on it but what do you think is actually the block for many people I know I've written a book called quit your day job and leave the life of your dreams based on my own experience and that of others one of my favorite stories that was on Joyce brothers television show years ago with a couple of other people and one of them was that the man in his it was then in his 80s and just had received his law degree from the University of Chicago and he was Ito he told her that he was standing in line for registration four years earlier and one of the young people and lying behind him said sir are you sure you're in the right line and he said and I turned around and I said what line should I be in and I thought that is America that's the essence of America you you are in whatever line you want to be in in this country and he fearlessly walked up and stood in the line and got his law degree at the age of 86 or whatever he was and to me it what stands in people's way is fear and they're their friends inflicted on them so one of the chapters in my book has to do with distinguishing between friends and friendly associates because when I left the academic world I had a few friends and I had lots of friendly associates I learned the difference when I decided to leave because I retained a few friends but most everybody I did not retain as friends because they thought I was absolutely crazy they either thought that in a kind of benign way or they just thought I was I mean they were they just were extremely angry that I was leaving a tenured position they thought that was completely uncool and crazy and I can also say that they were fearful about it and I knew well I knew them well enough to know that many of them were envious wish they could do it but just wouldn't do it because they're set in their ways and that's one of the reasons I didn't like tenure because it once you had tenure you didn't have to publish anymore you didn't have to do anything anymore and of course if you're truly motivated that's not going to stop you and there were a few people who were unstoppable but mostly they weren't unstoppable and they just stopped and to me that was a crime because I didn't understand anything other than the merit system as you know something that should rule an academy of ideas you know so I think what makes people afraid of being out on the street you know it's an image that that I've had you know in the first 10 years of getting into a new world where I realized I wasn't gonna get a check every two weeks regularly you know you you have that image if you were raised by depression your parents and and you also have the other image of the wolves at the door I remember that one because I found a quick way around it go to the door open the door and if you don't see any wolves at the door then there are no wolves at the door but it is it is an image that pops into your mind in the middle tonight as as does the homeless image and many other things but if you're afraid of images then you shouldn't be in the world of images I mean that's what I do is I create images and develop images and turn them into movies so how can I let you know images that are in my brain control my actions you have to learn to overcome that and so I think people have to clearly understand selves and and decide on who to listen to you know if you truly are a friend and you love somebody you encourage them to fulfill their dreams and I always did that to my students I always felt like you have a dream and you're afraid of accomplishing it what if your dream is the most important dream that ever came along in the human race and you don't do anything about it it was your dream and you do nothing about it to me that's a sacrilege you know you you had the dream for a reason you know it's in your mind for a reason either God put it there or it was born in your mind from some other source why aren't you going to do something about it well because I'm afraid that my father and mother would be really upset and I go so this is a hypothetical fear about something that hasn't happened yet right yes then why not just do it and deal with the possibility that may never happen at all and that's it's a matter of knowing yourself I mean that's one of the things I talk about first in the book I was raised on Greek philosophy and what it said over the Oracle of Delphi was know thyself that that's was the most important piece of knowledge that Plato and Aristotle and Socrates taught and knowing yourself means you know you're gonna be haunted by this dream if you don't do it I mean I've had a partner who said once when her movie was in trouble maybe this is one of those dreams that should never have happened and I know that is complete blasphemy you know you say that now but later you will see that that was that when there was some other voice talking to you other than your own voice because you you made this thing happen and you know you will be proud of it as she was and that's I think the simply fears the number one impediment to people going for their dreams and it's fear you know everyone knows the acronyms about fear it's fear is about things that haven't happened yet that may never happen just like worry and we all do it we all have fears we all have worries but overcoming your fears is what you know valiant people do it's what you know people that you would like to be like do so why not do it yourself and and not have to live with the regret which is the big monster equal to fear that you live with if you are sitting on that proverbial front porch and your rocking chair thinking about the dreams that you had and didn't do me to me that's a terrible waste of life to have that happen also stripping away illusions and you talk about knowing thyself and being comfortable enough to know that if you have to stand by yourself for a while because you've lost the illusion of some of the friendships or peer group that you thought was going to be there with you if for whatever reason socially they've gone the other way knowing that that's okay as well yeah I mean that's a very good point because I think as you get older you realize that you cannot govern your life by what other people think and it's you know I live on the 11th floor and I look out over the millions of lights and in Los Angeles and it's a great comfort to think that there are you know a few lights out there that love me you know there are maybe fewer that hate me and but there are millions that have no idea that I exist that's comfortable and it's sort of the cosmic view of life when you think about it you're you're just one little tiny piece of a massive cobb cosmos that is going about its massive mechanism with on its own without any need for you to consult with it and for you to be worried about what you know some other person somewhere else thinks about you it's a complete waste of your energy in every way your job is to do what your dreams tell you to do and to do it with all your might the way the cosmos does and what other people are saying and thinking and doing first of all because most of them are not spending any time thinking about you at all could care less what you do or don't do most of them are thinking only about themselves so that's a natural condition and why should you be any prynt you know if you have a dream just do it and you fear that the crazy painter that it's been turning out paintings in the garage down the street and everyone thinks you're cracked laughs but then they learned that you sold one of your paintings for a million dollars and now it's gonna be in the Louvre you know suddenly they go I always knew that that gal was a genius you know she she really had talent from the very beginning people change instantly which shows how much value of their opinion really has right and that's why I just think it's you know you've got to really listen to yourself and and not listen to everybody else and the few people you can tell your friends because the ones that support you in doing that are your true friends amen yeah if the person who's not supporting you is I've had several clients in my career who whose spouses did not support them and you know my advice is divorce your spouse I'm sorry you know like I take this seriously I do this is a profession this is a vocation and if you know someone close to you is telling you don't do it it's selfish you need to get somebody else close to you you know who will encourage you because I'll let all the monumental great things in life I think are done by people who go for it and who are not afraid of taking the chance and who are there for it's supported by a few true friends you know or loved ones who tell them to do it you know it's many examples from my own life but when I decided to leave the tenured position my daughter was a junior at Columbia and one thing that would be jeopardized would be her senior year at Columbia and I brought her up to Montreal where I was shooting movies and we had a long talk about it you know off set and she said Dan you absolutely have to do this you have to do it don't worry about that and of course that problem got solved and didn't have being a problem but it was a concern but she had no concern for it and that's how I know know who my true friends are and that's how you would know too if you decide you want to do so listen carefully to what the people around you say because when people are telling you know they're expressing their own fears and some of it may be good-hearted they're afraid that the things they fear may happen to you but if you're willing to take the risk you know don't let them influence you because they're not taking the risk you know I'm unless they depend on you and then you have to figure that out and I and I did certain things when I left that career to make sure that those who depended on me would not you know end up being left without resources so I did what I had to do to make sure that happened and then once I did that I like my conscience was clear and I was able to embrace it fully with all the risks that it entailed and I you know no regrets even though there were some very dark times and and there always ups and downs in a business like this one and you know career that is bereft of security you know the other side of that coin is that as much as security as an illusion rejection is also an illusion because you can take as many chances as you want you know I constantly hear people tell me even on the phone this morning you only get one shot that was a distributor telling me we only get one shot and I thought well okay maybe that's true for you but I get as many shots as I want to take and Hollywood is you know personal doesn't exist what is Hollywood right it's just a concept but in reality the business that I'm in all you have to do is tell somebody I've got a great news story and they are all ears immediately they don't care that it's been ten years since you talked to them you know you spend a few seconds in chitchat and then they want to hear the story so you can take as many you know as many chances as you want to take unless your own psychology disallows that because it wants you to get depressed and you know spend go into a coma of unhappiness and take rejection seriously etc I just don't have time you know one of my essays is called the waiting room and it's about what you do while you're waiting for an answer on a creative project well you don't wait you do something else you know you make another creative project you get it going and by the you know if you keep doing that every project has its own clock you can't do much to control that clock but you can be doing another project and sooner or later you have projects all around you that are in various states of ripeness and they will happen in their own time and your biggest problem will be what if two of them happened at the same time and I always say don't worry about that I mean that's the kind of problem you want to have you don't want to have the problem of nothing happening so no you don't wait at all and I think a lot of writers torture themselves because they wait you know they sent off a manuscript hypothetically into the snail mail no one does that anymore of it they send it off and then they wait for an answer why would they wait for an answer that's complete waste of time instead you instantly work on something else and that way when something comes from the first thing you're just surprised and you're you deal with it meet it immediately without wasting any kind of psychological energy on it you just if it's a rejection you take take it and you move on and if it's a if it's somebody offering you a deal then you consider the deal but you don't writers feel like they have to spend an additional 90% of their time fretting over they're all analyzing it you know soul-searching over it and you do that when you're younger and it's fine to do some of it because you may get a lot of creativity out of it but once you've gone through it and tortured yourself you know to your own satisfaction you don't have to do that all the time you can just go back to work and Ray Bradbury used to say that to writers get back to work it'll get rid of all these moods you're having you know and I always thought that's the most brilliant advice work is the solution what do you wish someone had sat you down and said to you in the beginning of embarking on the tainment side of your don't waste your time I wish somebody had told me don't waste your time because I've wasted some time in my life leave or not despite you know what I've said about not wasting time and not waiting and I think that's maybe the only advice that I would have liked to hear but you know they also try to put you in a niche like I was constantly told find your niche find your niche and I found it a magazine once called DreamWorks and it was about the the relationship between dreams and the arts and it was an interdisciplinary journal with Ursula Le Guin and Joyce Carol Oates and John foals and Carlos Puentes on the advisory board and many others I mean 20 people of equal stature and it covered all the arts and I was told by one publisher it was too general you need to find a niche and then another publisher accepted it and publishing it for ten years and so listening to the advice of telling someone telling you to find a niche so the reason I'm fumbling about the answer to your question is I really never had that that issue in my life of what it would what I wish someone had told me I kept finding people that I respected who told me the exact right thing that I needed to hear and and one person around this whole issue said what's remarkable about you is your diversity never give up your diversity no matter what and that piece of advice was the most wholesome piece of advice I could have received and it was from a person I respected tremendously so I never really had that question of what I would like to hear because I did hear it and it meant that I wasn't afraid to go into feature films with with the major studios in two independent films or into television and I you know produce movies and and projects and all those places and categories because I never let anyone stop me from being diverse and I thought that was that I needed that piece of advice when I can I got it diversity is something that I've always been in love with because I was when I was in college I was in English and classics kind of double major because I couldn't decide you know which one to go for and when I heard about comparative literature my last year at Georgetown I thought this is perfect it's the study of different cultures and it's about putting things together you know so I've written crazy pieces like comparing Wallace Stevens to Peter arc and you know Dante with Joyce and so on and that's what I just think is the most interesting thing is when you juxtapose two things or three things rather than focusing on one thing and that's one of the things the academic world annoyed me about sometimes until I discovered comparative literature and took that degree at Yale and and then ended up teaching that and I think that the rest of my life has been an extension of do it working in more than one discipline I mean in addition to movies I'm very involved in books I've just finished another book of my own and I've a published books because four years ago I realized that I was having a hard time after published after selling books to New York for 20 years or more and having nearly 20 New York Times bestsellers I realized that because of all the conglomeration that was going on among the publishers purchased by large corporations around the world there was no longer much chance for a young new voice to be published what they're looking for is established brands and you know the old joke that Stephen you can publish you know the phone book with his name on it and that's that's just the way it is in this you know huge country where marketing and branding is what it's all about to get the attention of this 300 million audience so I came up with the idea and what was happening to me is because I didn't couldn't publish things as easily as I could before I published 250 books I mean sold them to publishers and I could take those books to Hollywood and sell them to Hollywood so I no longer had books to take to Hollywood so I decided to start my own imprint story emergent books which I did and that was you know five years ago and we've published over 200 books now and I now take them to Hollywood and set them up as series or set them up as movies and no one seems to mind that they're not Random House books they don't even look at the publisher basically they listen to me pitched the story at lunch and then they take the book home and read it and so I've always been involved in you know it's sort of like comparative situation because I've got New York publishing and Hollywood and I've used them back and forth against each other one time because Hollywood has this huge respect for books and New York has this of movies primarily because of the marketing money associated with movies that they can then write along with when they reached the book so I'm hoping to have a big auction coming up soon on a movie that's appearing this summer after 22 years called the Meg from Warner Brothers and we sold it 22 years ago that's how long it's been we developed it through one of my companies and then sold it to the publisher and then we sold it to the studio and it's been 22 years in development hell until finally it's it's getting made and one of the good things about stories is if they're timeless well one of my favorite examples of which was no solace to its author Mel Herman Melville is that Moby Dick sold about 60 copies prior to Melville's death and within two decades after his death it became not only an international bestseller but the Great American Novel so the stories are timeless and that's what writers are capable of doing of creating something timeless which is a immense value obviously to the human race the Iliad The Odyssey were composed thousands of years ago and yet they're still on every book stores shelves you can find them all over the Internet and so the power of stories I've always loved the fact that they were story grows up to be couldn't be a book or it can strain story grew up and be a movie I mean once said a screenplay that I loved that won the Nichols award one of the highest you know awards in the business and it it was placed almost at the top not quite at the top but I read it loved it tried to sell it to the studios they all thought it was too original they didn't know who the author was and they they end up passing so I told the author let's turn this story into a book and so long story short we did and I sold it to a major publisher and within a couple of weeks of selling to a major publisher we had an option in Hollywood and so led to a major studio and it went into development and we've done it kind of the opposite way as somebody was starting to write a project in one form and I told him to write it in the other because of a random conversation I had with a with an editor and she thought it was sounded like the best novel she'd ever heard and he wasn't a novelist but long story short within three months he wrote a novel and we sold it and then sold it for 1.2 million dollars to you know a major studio in Hollywood so I thought you know that's my comparative literature background that the idea of having two different worlds to put together and recognize how their you're related to each other I learned that there are wormholes between New York and LA because when I was just beginning to shop the the novel in the second case to New York I send it to only one publisher which is the person that told me it wasn't sound like a great idea she didn't know I only sent it to her but I sent it to her alone and three days later I got a call from George Clooney's partner asking if he could option it and I said how did you hear about that he said I can't tell you and I said well you know if you can't tell me do you want to read it I mean what do you want to do any cause no no we've read it already and we want to we want to make an offer on it so that began an auction for that property too but I learned that there was a wormhole going on because I called the editor and fished around talking to her and she denied that anyone had ever read it outside of her office which is couldn't have been true because clearly someone had read it he's got snuck out through the wormhole so I thought I could only have done this if I had the whole mentality that I will not find my niche and only be working in films I will not only work in books I want to work in both I love them both and they're just two different forms of storytelling and why can't any story that's dramatic end up in both camps and that's kind of what I've done throughout my career is tried to get a story for both camps it's funny too because I would think that the entrance into the literary world the New York literary world is much more based on you know pedigree and different you know whereas Hollywood and you've got a great script anything goes you're in the front door if they like it so it sounds like that's not always the case that sounds like that's my perception of it it's yeah I mean that that's a you know without no finding you it's an old-fashioned perception okay it's kind of an all-american old 50s 1950s before I was born because you can have a great script and get nowhere in Hollywood it's getting it to the right person that matters and even with the great script as that one was where I talked to guy into writing the book and then sold it too you know and in option two he had a great script and and and he was able to get it to people but they didn't buy it because they were afraid because what's happened in the last 20 years is that Hollywood and New York have become corporatized they've all been acquired by international conglomerates you know there isn't a single studio that isn't owned by some foreign you know accumulation with the exception of Disney which of course is itself international conglomerate right but Sony gilens Columbia and you know paramount is owned by CBS Viacom you know so because of that the executives have totally changed from a world in which and the same is true in publishing from a world in which people with guts and vision made decisions about doing the story publishing it or green-lighting a movie now it's it's it's corporate people wearing suits who are very worried for their jobs you know whose I always say their main focus is on their you know their their gold cards and their new Mercedes and they don't want to do anything to jeopardize that whereas the heads of Studios in the old days would just take chances this is a great story I love it I'm gonna I'm gonna do this story and but now they can't they have to show marketing reports and this is true in New York just as well because fish yet has bought you know the world warner books and CBS owns Simon & Schuster and touchstone and all those things every one of the big companies hold Springs owns McMillan and Thomas Dunne books and tour books and st. Martin's Press and you know being when Random House Doubleday right they're all part of one huge foreign conglomerate Bertelsmann and so on so because of that everyone has to think like corporate employees they have to provide marketing pnls you know to the editorial department in the in the marketing department and the marketing department has the last say not the editorial department you know if they go how do you know we're gonna sell 100,000 copies of this book well I just have a gut feeling well sorry your track record doesn't justify your having to get feeling so they'll let a really talented brilliant editor make a couple of decisions like that a year but if she doesn't prove it out by those books becoming bestsellers you know she gets less leash every year and the same is true in Hollywood and the studio's have gotten even worse because they their focus now entirely on brands and in the last six years or so they are now doing a fraction of the number of movies they used to do because they'd rather spend two hundred million dollars on a brand or then take a 50 million dollar chance on a great story that has no track record that's why Twilight got kicked out of Paramount because it was sitting there you know in development hell for several years then paramount didn't get it and they didn't understand why it was gonna be great summit came along and bought it from Paramount and cashed out on it and paramount goes okay well they didn't have any regrets because there's no they there you know no one sits around wringing hands that they're all doing understandable logic and no one lost their job over it that's the important part whereas if you greenlight a movie and it goes down the tubes you could lose your job you know then you're you're out shopping for a new Mercedes you know you're leasing one yeah yeah had another in place so that's kind of what's happened to the world but in the meantime this the need for stories continues and storytellers are still hugely in demand you just have to find a new path each time that's how I started you know the imprint so I can get around that issue and now I just take new to new york big brands like something with the word kennedy on it or the word dracula i can sell those still but i don't i just i know i can't sell smaller books i'll try sometimes because i love the book so much but it variably comes down to that are published this ourselves one of your mini books can is right time right and so you say that the world can be divided into two people productive people and non productive people and that you say productive people have a love affair with time so I would love to know what makes someone on the right side of time whereas what's makes someone sort of time is our enemy well yeah that's a very good question and put in a very intelligent way that makes it hard to figure out the handle on it because time is uh time is this it doesn't really exist I mean time is a human construct we we created time squirrels and you know Chipmunks don't have much idea of time you know the Sun rises and the Sun Goes Down and they know that rains but they don't think the way we do we're you know they don't keep track of their birthdays for example like only humans do that and it's unfortunate because it you know you're only as old as you think you are that's the way a squirrel looks at it and nobody's arguing with the squirrel about it you know but but humans know better and people some people look at time as the enemy and some people look at as a friend there's an old Spanish saying this is there's more time than life which I always thought was a wonderful way of looking at it because its net sort of productive person would say there is more time than life and another Spanish or Italian saying says that life is law is is short but wide and that's another way that productive looking at it like people say how could you do as much stuff as you do well because that's what I do I don't do anything else and I used to give classes on time management and do a lot of studies on it in fact right time is filled with time management theories and one of the things I noticed about people is they had no idea where their time went and and they go I don't know where you get find all the time and I would say like I don't know where you lose it I mean we all have the same amount of time and I go how much time do we have by the way how many hours are in a week and like two out of ten people can answer that question right off the top of their heads because they've never really multiplied 24 times seven and realized exactly how many hours there are in a week and so everyone has the same amount of time so what I would do in a time management class at UCLA or elsewhere as I would say let's keep chart your time this this week I just want you to make a chart of what you do with your time and let's come in and talk about it next week when we come back together and they come back in and went and that was before I asked them how many hours were in a week I would wait for the third week to ask that question and they would some people would come in with ninety eight hour weeks and some people would come in with sixty two hour weeks nobody seemed to agree in general how many hours there were in a week because the hours they gave me didn't add up they didn't make sense you know they'd say I sleep like six hours a week but it turned out in the third week of analysis that there actually I mean six hours a day it would turn out that actually they were sleeping 10 hours a day they just were telling themselves they slept six hours a day how much time do you spend talking on the telephone so most people thought they spent maybe 15 minutes a day when in fact they might it might be an hour every day but they're spending on that and watching television of course some people were saying that they only spent maybe an hour a day when they were released spending three hours a day and but but a productive person knows exactly how long it takes to do something like when I write a screenplay or a book I can tell you how many hours it takes to to do it and so I know that I can get it done in a certain amount of time I mean Agatha Christie apparently wrote as many as 10 books a year she had to use four or five pen names because she just kept writing when you think about it writing is a function of how fast do you type you know because if you have you're always say in my writing book including that one I always say if you don't if you make it a rule not to sit down to write before you know what you're going to write then you'll never waste any time and you'll never have writer's block so simply don't sit down until you know what you're gonna write but then it's just a matter of how fast can you type so it's better to be walking along the beach thinking about the structure of your story then it is to be wasting a lot of time sitting in front of computer typing stuff and throwing it away and all that stuff just figure it all out in your head and we'll what if I forget it well guess what if you forget it that's probably good you're forgetting forgettable things you won't forget it when it starts getting really good because then it'll do what Faulkner said it'll start honk haunting you and you won't be able to forget it and then you'll just write it down William Saroyan was asked once how long it took him to write the human comedy because somebody had told the journalist that he took in with three days I love drugstore and he said no I took me all my life to write it I just took me three days to type it out and and that's so if you're productive you've already figured out that there are certain things that are completely unproductive such as sitting in front of a blank screen trying to figure out what to put down next and other ways to do things that make you productive and productive people don't waste their time as I said when it comes to waiting you don't wait you just do something else you what I call it rotate from one thing to another so that you still have you have new energy constantly all day cause you're switching activities and when you switch to a new activity you have new energy just because of that but you're also pulling energy from the previous activity that's kind of pulling you back and wanted you to do more on it but that's good instead of listening to it and going back and doing more on the previous activity it's better to have that kind of little anxiety going on there because then the next time that activity gets a chance at your time it'll be ready and it'll be more productive during that time compartment so I think that's the whole difference is between productive and unproductive people have never figured out how to you time they don't even know how to measure time and they confuse they confuse things I mean there are two functions in life or two entities that we deal with one is time and the other is work and one of them is it is eternal and and timeless and endless and the other one is not and but people get it wrong the one that's timeless and endless and eternal is work not time unless you're God you know but if you're not God then guess what you have a limited amount of time and the only problem is you don't know what the limit is but that doesn't matter because you just have to operate anyway but what's infinite is work because good work produces more work and so does bad work right so no matter what kind of work you're doing it keeps going and you cannot manage it therefore because it's a given that you can't manage an infinite thing but you can manage something that is finite and that's time so managing time is what we have to do and let's say if you're writing a book and you know that you type seven pages an hour at least then you give yourself one hour every day to write your book well at the end of a hundred days you've got you know how many pages 700 pages right so that's it's not complicated to figure it out but you have to manage the right thing you're managing your time because the work will happen only if you give it time to attend it to it and what happens to the people procrastinate because they they think they're trying to manage the work and they they don't know that you can't manage to work like I'm going to get this book done if it takes me all summer and then nothing happens they don't do it that isn't what you should do you need to say I am going to work from 7:00 to 8:00 every morning you know without fail four five days a week it's better than seven days a week because your brain revolts when you make it stop something that it's actually enjoying so if you make it stop after the fifth day it's very upset and it spends the whole weekend thinking about the project and it's really raring to go on Monday when you start again whereas if you keep it going it'll get worn out and it'll get bored eventually because that's what brains do so it that's so productive there's two kinds of productive people to you know the unproductive ones let's not talk about I mean they have their own thing going and I hope they're enjoying life but productive people are divided into two kinds and those are the happy ones and the unhappy ones the unhappy ones are the ones who've never figured out the psychology of creativity and so they're constantly surprised by it and upset by it and that's why you have Virginia Woolf and Hemingway and you know Sylvia Plath offing themselves at the end because they'd never figured it out they've never figured out that at the end of a project they're gonna get depressed and they're going to go into this postpartum depression that they may never come out of but if if you're on the other side of the thing the happy productive person you figured that out already so what do you do before you end a project you start another project and then you can't wait to get into the new project so you don't mind finishing the first project so you've eliminated postpartum depression and that's simply because you figured out how your creative mind works which is what writers time-it is all about and that's what I mean by you know productive happy productive versus unhappy productive people you don't have to be miserable and suicidal to be a writer you can be perfectly happy by knowing your system and not letting it do it to you this might be an old wives tale as well or an older version of this the unhappy writer is having more depth in which to write about and more and more in which to pull from whereas the happy writers are just scratching the surface and it might be too much a movie of the week instead of something that pulls at your sort of emotional core and you put yourselves in the the characters shoes I don't know again is that does that de can we just spell that then that you have to be unhappy in that sense yeah you know this is a famous dilemma that people have been talking about for my whole lifetime there was a book that came out years and years ago called the drama of the to trial Alice Miller yeah and thank you for a very but but it's a very very interesting book and it basically says that writers should fear therapy because it might Farrah pies you know take away their their angst from which came all of their you know their brilliant ideas and it's just they're simply not true because there's just too many examples of productive writers who have plenty of inks and one of my favorite examples of Stephen King who published in my magazine DreamWorks we sent out a letter to artists all over the world including him and said could you please tell us whether dreams have any influence you know on your creativity and if so give us an example of a dream and in a creative work that came from us for came from it so Fellini sent us a cartoon that he dreamed in the middle of the night that led to eight and a half is movie eight and a half and we got great stuff from all kinds of people and Stephen King finally up six months later after everyone else sent us a very short letter and he said this is my constant nightmare I am sitting alone in attic typing away and a little door on the floor of the attic opens and a hideous face comes out of the door and I start typing as fast as I can because because the faster I type the more the door closes and if I slow down you know the face keep coming out and he says does that count and you know it's an example of what you're talking about because he has plenty of angst going on he has plenty of terror in fear and dark things in his some of his most brilliant works like the Shawshank Redemption and you know of The Shining and he's not an unhappy writer like he's he knows that he needs to put the time in every day he's figured it out and he's prolific and so on so there's just too many examples of balanced writers let's call the mentally balanced writers one of my favorite statements from the world of art is Salvador Dali said one time the difference between myself and a madman is that I am not mad and I love that because only an artist who knows how close sanity is to insanity knows what that means you know akise he's one of those madmen who isn't mad whereas a lot of other bad men are mad and you know okay they kill themselves or they kill somebody else or whatever so it's it's all about knowing yourself I mean it's all about figuring out how your mind works improving it and testing it until you know that before you know it you look back and you go oh my god I've written you know all these books that all these things going on and I don't think I'm crazy and on the other hand I don't think I'm saying either you know it's it's like you've just figured it out and so you can doesn't mean you're not having dark spells it's just that you you kind of look at your dark spells from the outside instead of from the inside you know they it's very common in meditation and yoga to understand that you can either be inside yourself all the time and drive yourself crazy by letting your mind run it you know what's going on or you can like stay above your mind and look down on all these thoughts going by and all this stuff and recognize that you the one looking is in charge not all the thoughts and the writers time has a whole theory about how the creative mind works that way where there's what I call the managing editor looking at the the fight going on inside your mind and realizing that this can be controlled if you trick the two sides of the mind and force them to work together that's kind of what it's all about to become productive and happy at the same time in it you know seems to work for a lot of people can any book be made into a movie any book any book no my I don't think so like an instruction manual that's been done though people have made instructions else into movies but no not any book but what makes the movie is is absolute drama you have to have drama and I'm not talking about a bad movie I'm talking about a good movie a movie of people will not you know fast-forward through or switch channels on or anything so to make a a worthy movie a book has to have drama and that means it has to have a very clear three acts beginning middle and end and what defines the beginning is is something that hooks the audience into the story so that it will not abandon the story and an ending is something that makes you leave the theater or turn off your television very satisfied with the way the story ended whether it's happy or sad isn't the point but it's satisfying like the end of witness where we realize that the lovers cannot stay together even though we want them to because it just wouldn't make any sense and the way the last shot is Peter we are taking a long time to let the car drive down the lane away from the farm onto the road it's such a long shot that it gives you a chance to go through your head and think oh come on slow down turn around make a u-turn or run after him and none of that happens because your mind is now going you know what that wouldn't make any sense this is sad but it's got to end but it still was beautiful and that's good drama and good moviemaking and the middle has got to be something it's the hardest part for any writer it's it's got to be something that keeps you there meaning filled with twists and turns and reversals and unexpected events and so on so that you don't want to turn out and that's what if a book can do that then it can be a movie and if a book isn't doing that but has potential because it has a strong protagonist and a strong antagonist that's where a treatment comes in you write a treatment and and fix all the problems with the book in the treatment and pitched the treatment I've sold a number of movies based on a treatment because the book had problems and I almost wouldn't let the buyers read the book because once they said they want to do it I go okay let's just go with the treatment please but at the end if you know they're ready to sign they have to look at the book and then they'll say I see what you mean but the treatment solves the problems you know if the middles not dramatic enough most especially a problem it happens with novels is that the ending is not powerful enough and clear enough the third act is not clear enough in many novels where you don't see that there's a turning point that goes from act 2 to act 3 because the editors in New York are not as demanding as audiences are in a movie theater they don't really look for turning points the same way an audience does and and they're exceptions to all you know all this stuff it's none of it as rules but basically a three act structure needs to be there and it has to be dramatic all three acts have to be dramatic and you have to have a protagonist that you're gonna relate to you don't have to like her or that you have to relate to her and you have to have an antagonist who is worthy of her and it's in every way as strong as she is because otherwise the ending is predictable and the stronger the antagonist the stronger the the protagonist and the stronger the story is so I hope that answers the question but books that have at least some of those elements can be turned into movies we actually I used to have a class that is called designing your novel to be a film because the best place for that to happen is on your original drawing board make sure that when you design your novel that you include these got these things in the novel and that way you won't be disappointed when nobody wants to make it into a film why does the book fail to become a movie if somebody wants to adapt a book and they think they buy the right whatever it is and just somehow doesn't translate it doesn't work out well there are hundreds of reasons why that can happen but but they come back in in categories that you get used to every book that's submitted to Hollywood is what's called covered and in my various webinars I talk about coverage and coverage is a industry term for a story report where a reader in the story Department of a agency or of a production company or a studio or in any part of the business where stories go to be covered and they're covered because the executives who make the decisions can't possibly read all the stories that come in too many things are submitted too many stories are submitted and in the coverage it covers every single part of the story from a one-line pitch of the story to the genre of the story the category the length of the story the quality of the writing the dialogue the characters supporting characters you know main characters supporting characters plot etc so you get a full report in four or five pages that analyzes the story and that ends with recommendation pass consider with development you know or accept with development or just accept and and accepts are extremely rare I mean probably 1 to 2 percent or in that category and the reason that most books are turned down I've already mentioned some of them but has to do with not clear who the protagonist is not strong enough antagonists too many characters if you can't figure out what's important what's not important too much repetition the dialogue the characters don't sound different from each other they all sound the same and we all know from literary you know literature graduate school that one of the common questions Inuit asked as you're just given lines of dialogue from plays and asked to identify the character by one line of dialogue because the great playwrights make their dialogue characteristic to each character and lady even get that Macbeth would not be sounding like Juliet you know there there always be clear who's talking and and that's another reason for a frequent turndowns the audience isn't big enough you know a story about Latvian Americans take in a small neighborhood in Detroit you know may get made as an indie movie if you know somebody like Meryl Streep wants to be in it because she's Latvian you know but other than that the chances are that Fox is not going to develop it because they're looking at audience appeal you know they're looking at demographics so any of those reasons and all of those reasons are are reasons why a book gets turned down sometimes a book is to internal and screenwriters struggle with it but they can't figure out how to externalize the constant thinking and philosophizing of a character there are examples of books that have done that well like the world according to GARP you know is an example but they're usually internal stories are very hard to turn into films and in what happens is halfway through the attempt to do that you realize you're inventing all the dialogue and then how much that and therefore how true is this movie to the book at all you know is it even the same book because if the book did everything internally and you're inventing all the dialogue you know what I mean it's so there are a lot of reasons but they all have to do with with drama drama is about scenes and scene is which is is a place and time in which there is conflict two forces come together in conflict and the conflict is resolved and that scene is the unit of drama and if the scenes in a book are not clear enough scenes are very distinguished in books and Vonnegut for example his scenes can be two sentences long in you know in Faulkner his scenes can be 20 pages long and but but still they'll be clear scenes my favorite example of I think is shortest story in American literature is goes like this have you lived next door to a man who's trying to play to learning to play the viola that's what she asked the police when she handed them the empty revolver it's a it's a short story by a Richard Brautigan and but there's a whole scene write a whole story a whole scene told in a couple of lines and just as the tour de force to show that you don't need a lot of words to make a scene we get it right away and and that's drama is a scene like that and there are two kinds two components of drama as I talked about in my various books I mean one of them is action she hands them the empty revolver and the other is dialogue have you tried living next door to a person learning to play the viola you know that those are the two components of action and drama dialogue and action and dialogue like good morning how you doing today is not dramatic and yet many novels are filled with it with that kind of dialogue so the great novelists that have been made into great movies have vital dialogue that is really action dialogue like so line from Hemingway that I love to quote and creative writing classes these two people sitting near a train station and at one point she says to him would you please please please please please please stop talking and that's a great example of a piece of dialogue that is pure action you know that there's no hope for their relationship after she says that and and and it goes on to say the man did not say anything for a moment then he asked would you like a beer and we know you know it's all over between them but there's an example of how great dialogue does you know like from Chinatown you my mother my sister my mother my sister my mother my sister remember that she said tell the truth and she keeps saying the same thing over and over again until he finally realizes that she's telling the truth and that's when you have you know that the writer knows what he's doing and that's right it's why screenplay writing is so much more difficult than novelists because there are the harshest rules in writing screenplays and in the harsh rule really is only one harsh rule every single word in the screenplays connected to every other word and in a novel that's just not true I mean you can't you know the 600 page novel that just can't be true and it isn't true but it is true in the screenplay because if you say a word and the audience you know leaves the theater and they loved it otherwise you know at the bar they're gonna say but why did he say that one thing to him like it made no sense you know take care of yourself why do you say that at the end of that scene and they won't let go of that until they figure it out and if they can't figure it out thinking oh there's something wrong with that story you know because it's all you know like you can't focus a camera on a red hat in a movie without making that payoff later and and that's just not true of novels for one thing novels kind of float in in the air of the reader you know as you read the book you paint pictures in your head and movies are much more demanding than that because they have to make decisions what does she look like and you you have to cast her with the right color here and you know one of the most famous lines in history is from the Iliad when everyone knows Helen of Troy is supposed to be the most beautiful woman who ever lived right but homework is not going to deal with that because that's just impossible so what happens is it says when she appeared he says the elders of Troy were standing on the walls of Troy chattering like locusts with each other until Helen tell tell a hush fell among them as Helen appeared and one of them says terrible indeed is her likeness to that of an immortal goddess and that is the entire description of Helen of Troy which you know can't be beat because it leaves it completely to your imagination what'd she look like and he wasn't about to say she was no 5 foot 2 red hair blue eyes etc which immediately will kill her beauty and some people's minds and so it's that's why drama is so much more challenging it's the ultimate expression of storytelling and it's why movies are you know hugely powerful instruments around the world correct me if I'm wrong I'm sorry was all the President's Men and adaptation from Woodward Bernstein's book okay yes the dialogue and that and and and the the the running I just remember in so many scenes that were running and and can you talk about that script in any way you know I'm not as familiar with it story is I mean with the script as I'd like to because I mean I'd like to have recently read the book and full script but one of the things that you do in a story like that there's the you you add the running because there probably isn't a lot of running in real life I mean these journalists are probably too heavy to be running and they don't look like Robert Redford probably either yeah some other might but they're not you know but but I think that that's what the big challenge like spotlight is an example like they took a lot of a lot of reporting from Boston Globe and turned it into a dramatic movie that covered you know collapsed many years into a few years you have to take those liberties and that's why you end up saying it's fired by a true story instead of based on a true story etc I've been through that many times but adding action adding drama is what you have to do right in the scene in spotlight where Stanley Tucci you don't see him yet you just hear him yelling and his assistant and so I think something's thrown and then the look on Mark Ruffalo's face and then that right there is enough to threaten of set the stakes exactly and it's exact it's it's good drama because it involves the audience immediately because you don't see what's happening so you see a reaction to what's happening so you have to figure out what's happening and one of the common mistakes that you know younger writers make is that they patronize the audience by explaining too much by thinking that every single thing has to be you know there and when I always say that when you're editing like the top ten rules of editing are all the same cut cut cut cut cut cut because when you're in doubt about whether you need something that alone is a reason for cutting it just cut it you don't need it the audience will make the jump and will fill in the blanks and if you don't let them fill in the blanks it's called painting by the numbers then you come across this patronizing to the audience and they they get bored they don't want to hear every detail you don't have to say your honor in a court scene every every single sentence you don't have to say the character's name every time you talk to the character I mean these are people get get that out of their system after ten years of writing but at the beginning you don't know where the lines are and the sense of the audience I mean one of the things I like to talk about is the psychology of the audience like it's not the psychology of the author that makes you read a book you don't care about that you know it's just like you're listening to your friend talk about his latest ballad in the hospital I mean how much do you care about how he felt about every day you know you pretend you care as long as you can but he has any sense at all he'll keep it keep it you know cut it down right and truth is you don't care about the psychology of the characters either that's not what's important what's important is your psychology as always the audience of psychology and that's why a Hitchcock and Peter we're really know what they're doing that that drive away in witness is one of the most brilliant parts of the film because of the length of the driveway so it was a location choice he's telling the location manager I need a place that has a long long long driveway that will give me a 60-second tracking shot you know and in the birds when the heroine takes this flashlight without even testing whether it works or not and starts heading up the the wooden steps because she hears rustling in the Attic you know that is the longest walk up the steps you've ever seen a film because it is so stupid that the audience needs it leads three or four steps to get it out of their system saying oh come on why is that every actress but why does she have to have white underwear on anyway so always at the end of a horror film and why doesn't she test that you know so once you get past that okay now she's on the middle step and then you go through like oh my god why is she you know this doesn't make any sense oh I can't stand this I don't want to watch this and then a few more steps and by the time she gets to the top step you're ready like okay I paid to get scared this is it and and that is using the psychology of the audience that's the timing that the audience needs to get into the exact right mood you know it's just like the speech and Julius Caesar where Marc Anthony comes up after Brutus is brilliant speech on the you know corpse of of Caesar and Anthony comes up and praises you know Brutus and speech and calls him the Honorable Brutus and by the end of his speech the kree's turned the entire crowd against Brutus even though they were all cheering for Brutus at the beginning of his speech he takes the psychology of the audience and twists it around in a way that you know you can see it coming but you don't care you just want to go there with him and it's not about anthony's nobody cares about Antony's psychology you know and nobody cares about Brutus and psychology there that's not important in nobody cares about Shakespeare's psychology because nobody knows what is chicken psychology is they said you know the greatness of homer and Shakespeare that they themselves were nowhere to be found in their work their characters were everywhere and the characters speak directly to the audience you know and that that's the hardest thing about writing is figuring that out what are the biggest mistakes you see new screenwriters make our first screenplay I mean literally or structurally dialogue character um because the biggest mistakes they make is usually their personalities but but of the actual writer or yeah okay but that aside I think the biggest mistake is over explaining and not knowing how to tunnel the background of the story into the story instead of laying it out like we just developed a brilliant screenplay the last several years in which the opening conversation just is not convincing because there is no other explanation for the words and the conversation other than explaining to the audience what's going on and and that's a hard to avoid mistake because you know you've got to explain what's going on but if you do it overtly the audience is gonna not believe the dialogue they're not gonna believe you know they're gonna not be able to suspend their disbelief so you have to sneak these things in to the story at times when they're needed and not too much too soon one of the common mistake that the the root mistake beneath that mistake is thinking that the audience is not as smart as they are it's it's looking down on your audience because respecting the audience is essential to good storytelling you have to believe in the audience and you know imagine sitting on this country porch and telling the story with no audience right I find that very hard to a man because storytelling is about audiences you you can immediately start telling this story if even one person shows up but sitting there and telling about yourself that isn't what a story is right so if one person shows up and it's Jackie you're gonna tell it differently then if Sally showed up first and if Sally and Jackie they're together you're gonna tell it differently than you would have to either one of them by themselves that's just the nature of human communication so not respecting the audience or not realizing that it's all about the audience it's probably the biggest mistake and it takes a while to get out of that mistake because the only way to get out of it is through constant feedback that tells you it's not necessary because somebody told me once like an editor is a person who tells a writer when to stop writing and I thought that was a actually a lot of truth to that because how's the writer gonna know unless somebody says you don't need that and I think that that is often the case with first green writers as they they put a lot of things in they don't need we need much less than then you think we do we don't need a scene to come to an you know to come to an end it's okay to cut out of it I mean writers are constantly have a great line at the end of the same but then they add a couple of more lines their insecurity lines they call them so we instantly just cross them out because they already had a great line that's the end of the same and yes everything hasn't been quite wrapped up but that's that adds energy when you cut that you're pouring energy into the story when you leave it there you're sucking energy out of the story because the audience is like bored through those last two lines and going or do we need that I was I'm out of it it you know you had me at a low kind of you know and I think that's probably the most common mistake is right over writing just over writing you said earlier personality just well screenwriters have to be careful with their personalities because by nature they're very overtly at least self you know aggressive people mostly that's a mask for lack of self-confidence which is a normal thing for a writer to have we all have that no matter what stage you reach you'll always have the lack of self-confidence but then the world's divided into those who do it anyway and those who let that stop them from doing it you know every actor has that before he goes on stage some of the greatest actors Richard Chamberlain used to throw up before he went on stage and and but he went on stage I mean it was just part of what he did you know you get nervous before you sorry and that's not a bad thing that's a good thing you know if you weren't nervous then you're not doing something important so you know if you're going into battle on the battlefield or you should you be afraid yes if you weren't afraid HP you'd be nuts so I think that that's what happens in personality is that sometimes people are compensate in an over aggressive way and it's an automatic turnoff because one of the several things about succeeding in Hollywood is don't get on everyone's life is too short list yeah I mean and it's really true being that it's sometimes you get on it immediately and you'll never get off of it it's very hard to break it and and you have to you know realize that you you need to act with the people in the business the way you would act with true friends and who will tell you you're an asshole if you're being an asshole and Hollywood won't they'll just say thank you so much for coming well we'll be in touch with you and you know that'll be the end of it but I'll go assholes you know as soon as he's out of the room and demanding it's part of demanding because there's a kind of petulance that sets in the longer a writer has worked without you know reward and an acclamation and compensation and it's almost like I deserve this you're going to give it to me now you know I had an actress at dinner one night in the middle of dinner she said you know a lot of other people she said I demand attention now and it was really funny because the men thought that was cute and the women did not they did not but she was not reinvade 'add oh no no the women definitely did not like that petulance because you know men thought it was sure-sure cute because she was sexy and so on but in today's world Pecha especially Hollywood where the stakes are so high everybody wants to get in you know thousands of people are lined up for every single position you could ask for and they want people who are cool and professional not hot-headed and demanding and when I see a writer is of the latter category I just kind of run for the hills and I can n onac writer is not that way when he's modest and so on I will continue talking doing for years even before I represent him or work with him until I find something that no I can work with because he's so respectful and so you know not on I choose to short list you know he's that that's a very rare thing but it's it's important when you think about it any walk of life you know you're not gonna the the uncle who you can't stand to see it Thanksgiving is not the one that you want to be representing or making a movie with is that I'm sorry to interrupt is that when someone's to self-aggrandizing like it's just this is the greatest thing and there they won't take no for an answer and it just comes yeah I mean that's part of it because you don't tell us how great it is just tell us the story get out of the way you know of the story we don't want to hear about we want to hear this – your first pitch we don't want to hear you know you haven't done this much we want to hear that you practice this and that you know exactly what to say we want to see if you've got the goods and that is the story like Mark Twain said don't tell us the fat lady is going to sing bring her out let her sing you know that that's that's what we want to see in other words don't draw attention to yourself because that is not what we're interested in we're interested in the story and maybe we'll get interested in you later like after you brought a couple of good stories and then we go way you know where you from and you know what's your story but we don't want to deal with it at the beginning because the truth is no matter who you are if your story is good we love you you know we look because you told this story and that's that's a great you know kind of equalizer when you think about it it's a real world of ideas but if you start telling us about yourself and give us the chance to hate you before where you even started telling the story that ik how stupid is that and I have to say that years ago I rarely I stopped taking writers to pitches of their stories because they most of the time unsold the story after they sold it for a very simple reason they weren't looking at the buyer they were in a coma they were telling the story and they weren't watching the buyers eyes which is all it matters in a pitch like I can see immediately if you're bored and I'm gonna you know if I'm any value at all I'll switch to another story to pitch you you know because there's that's what the the buyer is thinking can I do do I like this story can I do something with it but sometimes you'll just hear one word dragon and that'll be it click my eyes go like let's see I've got a 350 and then I've got a 330 like my brain is thinking about other things because I know I can't acquire a dragon story so why am I wasting this person's time well the person's not even listening and looking at he so he goes on talking and and but the other thing happens too he's already said enough to sell you you're totally this is what you're looking for I can see it in your eyes but he keeps talking so after a while now the buyer is looking at him instead of listening to the story he's looking at him going why is this guy still talking I love this I want to ask some questions you know what I mean so that's an example of a writer forgetting about the most important part of his story which is the audience his audience the reader the audience is the most important part of the story and when you forget it they know the reader knows that you forgotten them you and then they're there to doubt they closed the book can of the many books that you've written yeah you have one in you co-wrote entitled writing treatments that sell and maybe you can hold it up so up and see it it's a cool cover there and first off do we define what is a treatment well this is one of the things that try and I looked into when we wrote this book because we kept getting asked that question by clients you know what is the treatment we have to explain it over and over again and it suddenly occurred to us what is the treatment our selves and what is their definition so we did a survey of about 30 execs in television and film and asked them that question how would you define a treatment and we asked them about ten other questions and we really based the book on their answers and basically the answer is that a treatment is a relatively brief written pitch of a story intended to be dramatized as a motion picture for film or television and it's written in user friendly grammar free quick language that is easy to follow and it contains highlights the most important characters and events the obligatory scenes in the story that's what a treatment is now so how long is the treatment relatively brief three pages to say 15 pages once it's passed 15 20 it's getting no longer relatively brief and there was no industry agreement on it and basically treatments range from 5 to 10 pages good treatments and we recommend that because of the attention span of the who you're dealing with the audience your reader the buyer his attention span is limited and you do not want to extend it because he won't be there she won't be there at the end of the story if you make it too long so it's basically what a treatment is and it's used for two purposes it diagnoses the faults in a story so you write a treatment of your story to see the faults in it so it's a diagnostic tool and then you fix them and then it becomes the sales tool because it people are willing to read a treatment when they won't read a script because the script is serious engagement or as treatment can be read relatively quickly and those are it's used in every part of the industry and and it's different from a synopsis because the synopsis is a dry fully detailed summary of a story you'd find a synopsis in a coverage for example but the treatment is a pitch it's the substitute for a live pitch I can't be doing a webinar called pitch perfect which is about pitching and when you get the rare occasion to do that but now with the internet we're going to do a virtual pitching so that people can actually pitch to a producer and get an answer and a pitch is extremely fortunate chance to sell your story and again you do not want to be preface it with anything you don't want it reveal your personality that's not what it's about you want to just tell how strong your story is by showing the story and a treatment is the best you can do if you don't have the opportunity to pitch life so the treatment replaces a pitch and it's what most people use and they use it through email and through any other method they have to hand a piece of paper to someone else is there a chapter to that you were surprised that people commented on they had questions or even from Amazon reviews was there is there a point in the book where people are there's it's just a topic of conversation more so than others you know I'd love to say that there is but honestly we got in pretty strong response positive response to the whole book but I think the parts that that caused people that make people the most curious have to do with our analysis of a movie of the week and that when we first wrote the book there were a lot of movies of the week in which we talked about the seven act structure of a television show and the 7x structure you know there is a 3x structure two stories all stories have a three-act structure but in the Renaissance for example stories had five acts and that's because they divided the horrible act to that everyone hates I call it the Serengeti Plain because it's you know it's the hardest part of the writing they divided it into three acts and now there's a five acts story and it's easier to write because each act has some beginning middle and end and each act can be subdivided into twists and turns and scenes so television duels goes even further it makes it seven acts and that's because of commercials that have to come after each act etc so people were curious to see that but when they saw that that the executives at the studios actually had a chart some of them actually took the chart into a pitch meeting and wrote down jotted down what you know in the chart what the writer with the pitch was saying about what happens in each act and so on so here's the filled out one I'm based on a movie that we produced and it shows one liners of the scenes that occur in each act and I think people realized that this was they didn't realize how mechanical it was and honestly when I hear that which I do often from writers when I'm in the old dates at least when I was teaching at university extensions all over the country I realized that they didn't have them in hella D to be writers so it may be given a great example well mama named Millie Mayer god rest her soul wonderful wonderful lady was a client for years came up to me at a Riverside UC Riverside workshop after she goes I didn't want to say anything in front of the classic I didn't want people make fun of me but I took my favorite book The Grapes of Wrath and I outlined it and is that stupid and I said no you're the only craftsman in the class I mean that's what a carpenter would do if he wanted to make a table he would take a table apart and see how it was put together that's what a mechanic would do if he wanted to build an engine he'd take an engine apart so that's exactly what you do and when they see this kind breakdown they understand you know exactly how the mechanics of it work and honestly until you get to that point you're really not ready to be a professional writer because if you thought that writing was a magic you know magic trick that you have to pull off every time or a miracle which I guess most writers probably would think a miracle rather than magic trick then it's impossible right but it's not possible I mean unassign impossible it's possible to be a writer people have been writers for centuries they've been storytellers and storytellers tell stories in parts and they know what the parts are and they do them in a way that makes sense and so the sooner you get down to the mechanics of how it works the better and that's what we try to do in our books is to show people the mechanics I'm looking through for another there's another page in here where we show what we call an intensity chart where you kind of type one-liners of your whole story on it on a single piece of paper one-liners of all the important scenes in the story then you go between the lines and let's say you put hyphens two hyphens for a non dramatic scene or a scene with relatively little drama and like five hyphens for a scene with much more drama and ten hyphens with maximum drama right so now you've got a page that has all these hyphens on it underneath the sentences right then you draw a line across the hyphens connecting the hyphens and then you turn it on its side you turn the piece of paper on its side in which you've got is something that looks like a rollercoaster and because it shows you the ups and downs and your stories based on the drama the intensity of the drama in your stories and that is a great diagnostic tool because if you see that there's a whole slope that in which the thing keeps going down down down and doesn't go up for a while or it levels off then you know you need to work on that part of your story so that's what I call the mechanical approach you know what I mean by mechanics like when you when you want it outline the screen or a book you just use three three by five cards and you put on those three by five cards the obligatory scenes in the book and you won't fill up a whole card because it'll just be a couple of words on each card and what you understand when you start doing that is that creation of the literary work is what araceli called an imitation of reality it's not reality you're not rebuilding the cider house and the world around the cider house you're faking it you're making the reader believe it's there and you do that mechanically by like I would if I were making the movie I build a house front that looks like the Souder cider house right but it wouldn't have a back because I'm only gonna shoot the front of it so that's what you're doing when you're writing your you're just doing what's necessary to create the illusion that you're trying to create and the audience believes that the lusion is real because it wants to believe that and you've given them enough evidence to make them believe it so you know when you're watching one of the old movies when they were just nobody was dealing with production value the way we do now you know it just takes a little bit to make you believe in the story even if the acting is bad right even if the set is laughable but you still are in the story if the story is good you know if if the characters are good and the dialogue is good and that's one of the things that we try to instill in writers has learned that I can't accept it because it's easier than then you make it you're not having to recreate a whole world you're you need to do the right strokes to make the painting look like a person and that's what we try to do and you know the treatment book when Millie approached you after the course in Riverside and said I'm so silly I did this you saw something in her that if the other writer said well I don't want to take the grapes of wrath' and and outline it well then they're kind of they believe in this romance of being able to write and just sort of sit down and I'm gonna take a bottle of scotch and a cigarette and pound away all the things that happened to me the image of being a writer you know it's the romance from being a writer the struggle the torment the agony and the ecstasy all of those grandiose concepts that writers have done to get bigger payment paydays you know that's all good like I had a writer it was a client four years dear friend who make we sold like 12 of his screenplays and it took him honestly a week to write a screenplay Wow and it took me three years to train him never never to admit that in it and so where I got him an agent and the agent was always beating him up and saying you can't say that you you have to you have to say you need three months six months or whatever you can't say you do it in a week they won't you know we're trying to get a million dollars for this you know and that's the truth is you can do it in a week but you can you know put it aside for two months and then go back and work on it some more and so on but because the reality of writing is is much easier than then the the myth of it and welker Percy one of my favorite novelist I wrote The Last Picture Show said perhaps this the secret of speaking is having something to say and that's that's what it's all about you have a story to tell then you can tell it's not a problem just don't start writing it until you know the story like you don't start telling a joke before you know the joke right you don't walk in with three by five cards until a joke from a three by five card you you know the thing by heart and then you you tell it and it's not the agony doesn't need to be the agony and when you don't have a structure as when you have learned the mechanics of it like the productive two kinds of productive writers when you learn the mechanics you can be happy and you can do it whenever you want to do it like any writer who knows them will tell you they can write on trains buses planes they can write standing up sitting down I had a dear friend Nancy Friedman in my client for years who wrote on her back for the last ten years of her life because she couldn't and she couldn't stand up and so she running on her back and she just kept writing books and you the writing is easier if you know what you're doing and you know whether it's Harlan Ellison or Ray Bradbury they'll all tell you the same thing but when you think it's this huge agony and it is like Virginia Woolf you know and so on she's never figured it out that's why she's believed that it has to be an agony to to be good and I don't think Shakespeare was an agony I think he was just dashing the stuff off as fast as he could right because he was reading everything that was coming from Italy and from you know south of Europe and stealing it like crazy redoing it copying it you heard stories all around and he just couldn't wait you know before going to the pub and after going to the pub to sit down and – it off and he revised you know he spent a lot of time revising we know that from the folios but it's it's not the it's not the living in the garret starving thing that has to happen at all it's just figuring out what you're doing it's a craft you know it's a craft that has to be learned and the art comes in there are brilliant people who do the craft and there are not so brilliant people who can do the craft so there's plenty of room for art but it's not doesn't have to be cutting your ear off kind of thing can we go back for a moment for the graph you were referring to and just show the intensity on the side as you mentioned yeah this this shows you what you know this is what you're doing as you do it you you're writing little search sentences and you're putting hyphens and then you're drawing a line connecting them all but then when you put it on the side you can see the shape of your story and you can see where it needs some attention you know where that you know there is all these peaks here but no real valleys so it would be much more dramatic if you drop some of the intensity or you added less intense scenes in here so that the Rises would be greater etc and you know it could be that everything is just fine when you do this and it looks really perfect but most the time you'll discover that it's a rollercoaster ride which is what you want you know dear reader to go on you want them to to be screaming all the time basically and then toward the end you see the highest peak and then it levels down yeah levels down although you know in today's storytelling world maybe this is not the right way to end a story you know it might be better to end on a higher peak okay sorry no no this is this is just a made-up story that we use as an example here yeah so but you should that mean that's just like my client Millie Mayer outlined The Grapes of Wrath you sit and sit down with a movie like jaws or like the Meg that's coming out in August from Warner Brothers and and chart it and and you'll see how conscious the story is of these ups and downs I mean people that they know what they're doing directors are known for their ability to do that and if you want you know you want a crazy all-out screaming ride go see Lara Croft or one of their James a lot of movies and you'll you'll see that that's that's what they tried to deliver to you and if you want a more tempered ride where you can get deeper into the story because you have a moment to rest between Peaks then you'll see another kind of story sorry I cut you off but you were saying that today's Peaks might end a little higher would that be because of there's a possibility of a sequel or yeah I mean usually it's it's that and it's also because we are – ever since the moment that Star Wars hit the screens I'll never forget that moment because when I watched that movie I thought this is a watershed in the history of movies we will never look at movies the same way again because the scenes were the shortest scenes I've ever seen you know the scenes before that probably averaged two to three minutes but when in Star Wars the seams seem like they lasted six seconds or 10 seconds and you could not see everything in the scene which made you instantly fall in love with a movie because you believed in the world if it was so chock-full of stuff you couldn't see it all you just have to go see it again and I thought this is brilliant and it was a foreshadowing of the attention span that we're now fully living with we weren't quite there yet when it came out it was a little ahead of its time but it totally predicted the world we live in now where our attention span is just minut because we're being bombarded by so many pieces of information from so many directions we're distracted all the time and you know the text is ringing the phone is ringing that the email was ringing you know our head is ringing our eyes are buzzing from you know somebody said Americans look in 52,000 commercials every day in a normal day and I think that's true I mean if assuming your commute to work and you're looking at everything out there bus is going by you know billboards etc so I think that there's another example of a filmmaker who understood the audience psychology and who directly addressed it who directly addressed that that's what he's all about is grabbing your psychology and playing with it and you love it because nobody's done that to you before nobody's nobody was making movies that you had to immediately go see again because you wanted to see what that little gizmo wasn't in the far corner that you didn't happen to focus on and now the scenes over and you're all out to another scene and you missed that so you got to go back and train your eye to watch for that corner and you know how that is you you're always thinking next time I want you I'm gonna really watch this corner or something this corner because I know I don't have a chance to see it all and that is really screwing with the psychology of the audience love that yet another book of yours is sell your story to Hollywood the writers pocket guide that the business of show business I know there's lots of great nuggets in there something I saw from the Amazon page there are four things in order that I'm about to read that will guarantee success I think and this is in the foreword or something perseverance and this is in this order or determination or stamina connection be fun to work with and lastly talent really that's the order yeah that's definitely the order I mean actually I mean I've in my mind I've added another one before Talent which is luck okay luck is definitely important but yeah you can think about it some movies get made just because of perseverance somebody keeps persevering and though they can get the movie made and somebody can make a movie because they have connections you know Sophia Coppola you know she got to make a movie she's got incredible connections and many other people in Hollywood and being fun to work with that happens all the time movies get made because of that but I've never really seen a movie get made just because of talent so of all these things the three that that I started with like perseverance etcetera being fun to work with these are sufficient causes of movies in other words all you need is one of those and you're able to make a movie but telling is not sufficient you have to have talent plus one of those other things to make a movie and there's plenty of talent around the good news I mean that's so that's the bad news talent is not enough to make a movie but the good news is that if you have talent it's what el everybody's looking for in Hollywood looking for somebody who's truly talent because they don't want movies that are just made with perseverance or being fun to work with or having connections they want truly good movies so if you've got talent that's great but you need to get those other things you need to persevere it's not a you know a career for the faint-hearted you know if you say I'm going to give myself five years and then I'm gonna go back to my horse ranch and Utah you'll be back there before you know it because life loves little deals like that and you'll always get you back to the horse ranch if you say that it'll be no limit on my career I'm going to continue no matter what then you've got a chance to do it and maybe you'll get lucky along the way but I always say build the tracks for success don't build them based on luck so yeah that's luck is an important part of it because sometimes you can have everything ready to go and somebody comes out with a similar movie and you can't do it going back to the school of thought of two types of people unproductive negative versus positive what about unhonest talent versus harness talent and I'm making my little genre here but people that there's so much talent here but there's a lot of people that don't harness it and they spin the reels talking about these ideas how does someone go into the harnessed category well it going to the hardest category just means discipline to sit down and actually figure out time and use the time and just you know determined to do it you have to be determined you have to persevere there are a lot of people that have what I call artistic syndrome who would like to be creative who say they're creative who shy who show some signs of creativity but creativity is actually having finished a script you know having finished a novel and continuing to write another one while you're waiting for the reaction on the first one creativity is like I can't stop writing this I keep getting stories and I keep can't wait to get to the next one so you don't really wait at all when you send it out you you just now I can do the next one you keep writing and that's somebody who's harnessing their talent unhonest means when you've booby-trapped your talent by either not sitting down being a fear of failure or whatever your reasons are procrastination you know Tony Robbins always says the best way to deal with procrastination correct procrastination is to just postpone it oh yeah you can do that later but right now get to work so harness talent is all a matter of discipline and determination you know starts with determination turns it into discipline discipline turns into work work is based on time allotted to it as the ancient philosopher he's the odd said if you put a little upon a little soon it will become a lot that's it you do five pages a day that's 60 pages you know after 12 days right so it's it's just inevitable it's the law of accumulating capital and if people aren't doing that then they're they're completely out of hardest and the only person who can really harness the writer is himself so you can't nobody can harness for you you can get a manager to help you with that you can get a disciplinarian to help you with it but at the end of the day there are more ways to evade discipline than there are to impose it that's the genius of humanity right lastly you said something about being called back to the horse ranch giving yourself five years someone just commented on our Channel the other day and they had a very valid point about give yourself three years they were referring to acting and I agreed with a lot of their their statements but they said they gave up this acting pursuit and they should have done it sooner and now they have a corporate job and things are much better for them should someone really put this like I mean my argument was well what if they know they're never gonna be sort of this corporate type I mean it takes a certain type to sit behind a desk or attend meetings and pretend like you really want to be there some people aren't cut out for that and what if you know that about yourself should you really give yourself this time limit what if you know that you're not cut out for the corporate world yeah their point was give yourself three years max to come to LA whatever become an actor you could insert writing that's that's like saying give yourself a year to go to Europe and get your wild oats out of your system before you settle down and get engaged or something you know if that's the way you're looking at it then it will just be a three year lark you know it's not a career commitment you know there's a great great moment in a movie called burlesque I don't know if you saw that movie but it's Christina Aguilera isn't it and then one of the opening scenes in her little town she goes to the bus station and she stands in front of the ticket window and she says I mean I wanted to get to a light and he looks at her and goes one-way or roundtrip and you gotta be kidding me and as its it's lying in the movie that defines career commitment you know she's not going to go to LA and come back she's going to LA period that's the end of the story and that's why movies like that in la-la land you know put artists in tears because they're true true examples of true stories about what artists go through when they make decisions to give up things and you know I used to give a class and you see like all keeping your spirits up for creative people and one day I was going around the circle the first day of class and having people introduce themselves they were mostly actors and actresses who signed up for it for obvious reasons and the first one I said please give us your name so we'll remember your name and where you're from or you know give us your name and where you're from and what is to tell us what is the question that you hate to hear most you know and a party in LA and so the first woman says my name is Carol and I'm from Detroit and the question I hate to hear the most is when are you gonna go back to Detroit and work for the post office and I said and how do you react to that she goes usually by bursting into tears and running out of the room I go oh okay so we're gonna work on that in this class so I asked for next class next person my name is Ellis I'm from Southern California and the question I hate to hear the most at parties is what have you been in big lately that I've seen and I said it how do you react to that she goes I say the Pacific Ocean so there's an example of a harnessed person and a nun harness person right the hardest person knows that she's gonna get stupid questions from stupid people insensitive people who aren't really thinking and that there's nothing in the world that's gonna stop that from happening so she's gonna protect yourself by coming up with an answer beforehand so she doesn't have to running out of the room and cry and the other person is unhonest cuz she goes out of the room in Christ she's the one that believes this artistry thing is some magic you know miracle that has to happen and she doesn't understand it's mechanical you know first thing you have to do is protect your biggest asset which is your brain and if you haven't figured out how to do that then don't go out in public yet because people are not gonna stop start suddenly being sensitive the moment you appear in public they've never shown any sign of it in the human history right I always loved this book I read ago years ago as a graduate student call it began in Babel the history of the world you know told with a sense of humor and m'p at half of the book at the beginning is when you really think about it people on the whole are extremely stupid and it's a carving on the walls of Nineveh 3200 BC and it's kind of comforting to read that because you go well nothing's changed you know we're still there we're still stupid and you know that's part of the human comedy but don't be stupid if it's your you know your whole career at stake you're the one has to build the you know use the tools to build a defense around yourself so you can continue your career and people are not going to help you until they see that you've got that figured out then they'll help you you know just the way they are that goes back to what you said about the sort of crackpot neighbor and the garage making these paintings and then everyone thinks they're crazy until they sell one for a million or two and then all of a sudden everyone wants to know him so yeah everyone thinks you're a genius and and and predicts and said I always knew you would do well like my father told me I was an idiot when I became a professor like he didn't understand how I was gonna make a living because I didn't sign up for pre-med I signed up for classics in college and 19 years later when I told him I was leaving being a professor for you know being a producer he told me how it's crazy that how is I gonna make a living and in 4 weeks later he was on the set of one of my movies and said this is great keep do Nestle and host so if you put a lot of truck on what other people think you'll be a mess all your life I mean one of the things I really hate to see is someone who is all about just pleasing people and will say whatever they need to say to please the people in front of them and then you know you realize they don't have a mind of their own and that's that's too bad too bad to lose your life to spend your life without a mind of your own it's a terrible a mind is a terrible thing to lose as they say and the writer is somebody I think who's exploited their mind to the to the max and and take it you know followed its lead into places that it would never have imagined they would go and I think that's heroic you know right way of life and and the world needs more storytellers

24 thoughts on “Sell Your Story To Hollywood: Writer's Guide To Show Business – Dr. Ken Atchity [FULL INTERVIEW]

  1. I have blockbuster stories but no one will talk to me. in fact they already steal my Scripts. so I have the ability, just need somebody who knows where the market is.
    I look at your stuff, Meg is a huge idea. yes maybe it's Jaws or a more clasic monster in the deep story. But can engineere hotness.. I need to turn my quality into pay. http://theubie.com/k.htm

  2. i like the way you work. you seem to know the market.
    i love the art.. the visual the concept, the composition, beauty, aura, the fun, the motive.
    true nobody knows nothin in hollywood. but.why does everybody i call say they are not interested in talking at all ? then they steal my scipts.
    you will be innundated with calls now.. but we should talk.. there is more to life than comic book reunion films. i couldnt even go to ultron.

  3. 33:50 Ya don't want to have regret, worse than fear so JUST DO IT. Figure it out or you will be in the rocking chair seething with regret….good one!

  4. I hate to complain but those adds are like an electric jolt to the pineal gland abruptly bringing you out of a sublimely splendid dmt trip.

  5. Before I disagree with Dr Atchity and suffer a deluge of explanation from folk that point out his success compared to mine (zero by the way, but trying) He mentions around the 2 hr point that the audience or viewers in general have evolved to now have a short attention span. This is my point where I would dare to differ in perspective, when in the history of viewing/consuming content have we ever lived through a period where we can sit down and "binge watch" 3 seasons over a weekend? Putting in 8hr shifts of viewing. That's nothing like a short attention problem. I think it offers writers, producers and brand builders a fantastic marketing tool to bring us a 6 or 8 hr movie!! Or be safe in the knowledge that if the product is strong, the viewers are ravenous for 8 seasons of good story. #Breakng Bad #House Of Cards #Game Of Thrones.

  6. Interesting interview, but there is one concern: taking risks with one's career is universal. Not American. I'm not an American, and I know quite a few friends and colleagues who have done this.

  7. Thankyou I have another question where's does screenwriters sell screenplays? Who do they communicate with

  8. The way you capture intellectual property through your in depth interviews is absolutely outstanding. Thank you so much.

  9. Yes I have a question as a screenwriter , film director, & producer how do I sell stories I wrote alot who can I sell it too that's what I need 2 know

  10. incredible discussion of time and productivity. First time hearing a lot of these thoughts put into words. Thank you

  11. This man is a legend but wise and humble like Master Yoda!Anyone who wants to make it in the entertainment industry should listen to what he has to say!!!!

  12. What I would really like to know is, is Youtube a good platform for a person just starting out (no experience, no degree, no money, no connections) who just wants to see their "story" get done?

    A success would, of course, that 20+ people like it.

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