2010 is already here. Can you believe it? With the New Year in full swing it’s time to buckle down and carry out those copious resolutions we made. I for one have decided to take a swing at television writing.
Do you have a writing resolution this year? Well if you are one of those late birds still looking for a course to help you meet your writing goals, the Writers Studio is the perfect solution. It’s held in Westwood Village from February 4-7, 2010, and some workshops are still open!
If you’re a movie lover like me, I suggest checking out a brand new studio course called Creating the Script’s Wow! Factor: Writing for Emotional Impact, with Karl Iglesias. I recently spoke with Karl about the key ingredients in all successful screenplays.
Writers Program: We’re excited to offer your new studio course Creating the Script’s WOW! Factor: Writing for Emotional Impact this winter. Why is the “emotional impact” important to writing screenplays?
Karl Iglesias: The impact I refer to is the emotional response of the reader reading the words on the page that make up your screenplay. In this competitive field, the writer cannot afford to be boring. Your job is to seduce the reader, to make them have to turn the pages to see what happens next, to interest them so intensely that they are captivated, taken “out” of themselves into the world you’ve created. You want them to forget they’re actually reading words on a page. In order to do that, you have to find the most exciting and emotionally involving way to tell your story well. That’s the WOW! factor, and I feel it’s the most important aspect of the craft of screenwriting, in addition to structure, if you want to sell a script.
WP:You’ve published a popular book on this topic. What inspired you to write it?
KI: Actually, I never meant to write it. It came as a result of students demanding it based on the amount of information I was giving out in classes. I kept putting it off for a couple of years because I knew how demanding it would be. Eventually I gave out a deadline months in the future, hoping students would forget about it. But when the deadline came, I got tons of emails from students wondering where they could get the book. I had to give them another deadline and then get really busy to meet it with an actual book.
WP:You’re also the author of The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters. What’s the one habit that all aspiring screenwriters should have in their arsenal?
KI: Well, the one habit that trumps all of them is the one that led to this topic of emotional impact and that is Habit #69 in the book — “Evoking emotion on the page,” which is another way of saying, Wow the reader, be interesting and original and surprising and compelling, because you only have one chance to impress. This is what craft is all about — your technical ability to create an emotional experience in the reader, whether it is curiosity, anticipation, tension, surprise or laughter. If writers can master this one habit, I guarantee they will have a successful career in Hollywood. But until they master this habit, another important one is the discipline to write every day.
WP: What will students learn from your course that might be different from a traditional screenwriting class?
KI: I feel most classes focus on structure, as they should, since it is a key foundation to storytelling. Problem is that you also need to fill the pages in between all these plot points writers are learning about, and since they don’t often learn the craft aspect, they end up with well-structured screenplays that fail to impress. So in my teaching, I try to focus on how to create on the page the emotions I just mentioned above. These are the emotions we pay money to feel in the theaters and the emotions readers MUST feel if you want your screenplay to receive that coveted “Recommend” or “Consider.” Aspiring screenwriters must understand that Hollywood is in the “emotion-delivery” business, delivering emotional experiences carefully packaged in movies and television to the tune of ten billion dollars per year. If you doubt this, take a look at newspaper ads for today’s movies. Notice how the review blurbs are emotional blurbs, which are promises of the emotional experience you’ll feel by watching the movie. Words like, “energetically funny, gritty, intense, and unpredictable, a staggering, haunting movie-going experience, pulse-pounding, powerfully seductive, hugely satisfying, etc.” I never saw a movie ad that said, “Well-structured… great plot points… three-dimensional characters.” Why? Because it’s not what sells movies. And yet this is what most novice writers focus on at the expense of craft. My teaching philosophy is based on a simple premise: Hollywood buys and sells emotional experiences. Therefore, if you want to become a successful screenwriter, you must create emotional experiences in your scripts. Other classes are helpful in building a solid foundation, but in order to succeed, you need the skills and tools to create these emotional experiences. You need dramatic techniques. You need craft.
WP: What are some of your favorite recent films that embody the elements of that “WOW! Factor”?
KI: The one studio that consistently evokes this WOW! feeling is PIXAR, whose most recent film, UP, was a satisfying emotional experience from beginning to end. Their previous nine films had the same effect on me, so I’m a huge admirer of their storytelling skills. Before UP, the movie District 9 made me go WOW! On many levels from the story to the characters’ emotional journeys to the overall spectacle.
Want to learn how to create the WOW! Factor in your script? Enroll in Karl’s Studio course now. But hurry. There’s only a few spaces left.
Chae Ko is the Program Assistant for Screenwriting Onsite. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310-206-1542.