Active Voice vs. Passive Voice with Calvin & Hobbes

Active Voice vs. Passive Voice

I get into trouble sometimes with students.  I will tell a student something doesn’t work.  The student will say, “Gotcha.” I will think all is well.  Till the next time I see the student’s writing and the student will still be doing what I said doesn’t work.  And I’ll say, Listen, you really can’t do this.  And the student will say, “Gotcha.”  Add water.  Rinse.  Repeat.

This happens with passive voice a lot.

Screenwriter & Producer Richard Dane Scott

Guest Post: Screenwriter Richard Dane Scott: 15 Warning Signs You Might Be THAT Guy

This is a guest post from Richard Dane Scott.  Richard wrote a piece for the AFF blog AFF IS MY BFF.  It’s hilarious.  Read it.  [If it is not hilarious to you, you have not been doing this long enough.]

I immediately emailed Richard and said —

Three Reasons Someone Might Not Read Your Script

Three Reasons Someone Might Not Read Your Script

NUMBER 1: You Have No Idea In Hell Whom You Are Talking To – And You Don’t Try To Find Out Before Shooting Off Your Mouth

Conversations With Students; AKA, The Grand Illusionist

Convo’s With Students: The Grand Illusionist


[names have been changed to protect the innocent, that would be my students — the non-innocent would be me.]

MAX: Each story is like getting thrown into a room with a blindfold on and trying to find a door out.


MAX: You might make it through one on innate intuition and luck.

MAX: But the next one? And the next one?


MAX: Craft is sort of like the blind man’s walking stick in those blindfolded rooms.

STUDENT B: Nobody has any idea what this is like.

MAX: Writers all do.

MAX: Civilians don’t.

Dinosaur Cloning!

High Concept Writing: The Crichton Model

If there is one writer who regularly nailed high concept [and did it over and over again] it was Michael Crichton. He was one of the first writers to write a story about a scientific and military response to a plague hitting the U.S. [Andromeda Strain]. Not to mention the only guy talking about space probes bringing back plagues. One of the first writers to address how organ harvesting could go really REALLY wrong [Coma*]. Was the writer who took the concept of cloning and said, Forget cloning sheep and humans, let’s clone dinosaurs [Jurassic Park]. He took on the Japanese/American business clash [Rising Sun]. Looked at sexual harassment from the perspective of a man being sexually harassed in the workplace instead of from the [much more common] perspective of a woman [Disclosure]. If there is one thing Crichton was continually capable of doing, it was looking at current trends and issues before anyone else did and not only nailing them before anyone else did, but taking them to their extremes.

“Extreme” and “first” define “high concept.” And while you don’t always have to be first, to be high concept you do have to go extreme.

Contortions of the Modern Day Screenwriter

The Logline; Or, Contortions of the Modern Day Screenwriter

So I am talking to my students about pitching.  And I’m talking about pulling information for a short one liner describing story.  And someone gets stuck.

In every pitch, the short pitch, the medium pitch, the long pitch, the phone pitch, the lunch pitch, the elevator pitch, the wow nice to see you in line at the store pitch – in every pitch – you have to be able to —

Screenwriter & Consultant David Trottier

Guest Post: Screenwriter & Author David Trottier’s Favorite Flubs

My Favorite Flubs
~by Dave Trottier

I’ve read a gazillion screenplays over the past several years, and the following are my ten favorite clichés and glaring goofs. Avoid these flubs in your screenplay or handle them in a creative way.

Screenwriter Terry Rossio

Guest Post: Screenwriter Terry Rossio: Ten Things TO DO When You Get Your First Writing Deal

Ten Things TO DO When You Get Your First Writing Deal
~by Terry Rossio

1. Immediately try to leverage it into another deal. Ask the people you are working with if there is something else they need done. See if the deal can lead to an agent. If you have an agent, see if the agent can set up meetings on the basis of this deal. Projects can drift away quickly, the trick is to sustain a career. You may need to work on 10 projects to get one produced.

The Wishing Well

What Not To Do – When You Get Your First Writing Deal


1. Don’t spend the money before the check arrives.
People writing those checks are collecting interest
they are not in a hurry to cut your check.

2. Don’t spend money before the check clears.
Checks don’t always clear.

It's the Concept, Stupid

It’s The Concept, Stupid

“Most aspiring screenwriters simply don’t spend enough time choosing their concept. It’s by far the most common mistake I see in spec scripts. The writer has lost the race right from the gate. Months — sometimes years — are lost trying to elevate a film idea that by its nature probably had no hope of ever becoming a movie.”

~Terry Rossio [Shrek, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Mask of Zoro]