MUSINGS OF A STORY MERCHANT



"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."
—Muriel Rukeyser
____________________________

Revisiting Betty White and The Lost Valentine to NY Times Arts Beat - R.I.P



August 6, 2010, 8:58 am

It’s Friday, So Why Not Talk to Betty White?

By DAVE ITZKOFF






Betty White doesn’t need your approval. She’s such a rock star now that in addition to her regular role on the TV Land comedy “Hot in Cleveland” (which was recently picked up for a second season), she can also accept a recurring guest spot on the NBC series “Community” and call its cast delightful to their faces and no one can stop her. And she will turn down your offer to appear in a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie until you ask again nicely, and then tell you it’s a lovely script, just to let you know who’s boss. And if you tease her sarcastically at a public event, be prepared to face the full force of her endearing rejoinders.

ArtsBeat was recently offered the opportunity to speak with Ms. White about her work on “Community,” her perpetually busy schedule, and the risks of overexposure, and we were too afraid to say no. These are excerpts from that conversation.

Q.

You’re able to juggle this at the same time as your work on “Hot in Cleveland”?

A.

Right, but we’re on hiatus now — we don’t go back until the 1st of November. That’s something lovely to look forward to, because the girls are so great, and the chemistry between them is so wonderful. But in the meantime, I’ve got a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie to do in Atlanta.

Q.

What’s it about?

A.

It’s a lovely script that was sent — it’s two weeks in Atlanta, and I always try very hard not to go out of town. I try to stay here [California] as much as I can. Once in a while, like a “Saturday Night Live” thing, I had to go back for. But I keep it down to a minimum. So I turned it down, because of the being out of town. But they made it as easy for me as they can, and I get to come home on the weekend, between the two weeks. I’ll come in on Saturday and go back to Atlanta on Sunday to go to work Monday morning. So I was able to say O.K. The name of it is “Lost Valentine,” and it’s a love story. I do a lot of supposed comedy work — I mean, I hope it’s comedy work. This one is a love story so it’s a nice change of pace for me.

Q.

Do you get a love interest in the film?

A.

No, in this case, it’s a love that I’ve lost. The reason it appealed to me so much, it’s a deep, deep love story, like the one I had with my beloved Allen Ludden.



How To Be Productive: Understanding Time, Work and Creativity

 

 



BUY THE BOOK - SELL YOUR STORY TO HOLLYWOOD: Writer’s Pocket Guide To The Business Of Show Business - https://amzn.to/2JlWBaC BUY THE BOOK - WRITING TREATMENTS THAT SELL: How To Create And Market Your Story Ideas To The Motion Picture and TV Industry - https://amzn.to/2Hakwcl MORE VIDEOS WITH DR. KEN ATCHITY https://goo.gl/dRBg3F

15 Screenwriting Lessons People Learn TOO LATE

In this Film Courage video series, screenwriters share their thoughts on screenwriting lessons most people learn TOO LATE.



1) 0:06 - Work On New Projects

2) 4:24 - What No One Else Can Create 3) 5:44 - Six Scripts 4) 11:08 - Script Comparison 5) 12:30 - Nothing In Return 6) 15:16 - Story or Character 7) 15:56 - Name Of The Game 8) 18:55 - The Great Weakness 9) 21:03 - I’ll Take A Look At It 10 27:04 - How To Build Empathy 11) 31:05 - A Participatory Experience 12) 35:35 - Writer’s Mindset 13) 41:46 - Not Good Enough 14) 47:43 - Value Of An Idea 15) 50:40 - Story Structure Myth Bonus) 56:10 - Never Forget This One

MORE VIDEOS WITH DR. KEN ATCHITY
https://goo.gl/dRBg3F

BUY THE BOOK - HOW TO QUIT YOUR DAY JOB AND LIVE OUT YOUR DREAMS: Do What You Love for Money - https://amzn.to/2LkduUj

BUY THE BOOK - SELL YOUR STORY TO HOLLYWOOD: Writer’s Pocket Guide To The Business Of Show Business - https://amzn.to/2JlWBaC

BUY THE BOOK - WRITING TREATMENTS THAT SELL:  How To Create And Market Your Story Ideas To The Motion Picture and TV Industry - https://amzn.to/2Hakwcl

The Story of My Life! Ken Atchity's My Obit: Daddy Holding Me



Anyone who enjoyed Mircea Eliade’s autobiographical multi-volume Exile’s Odyssey, Oliver Sacks’ The Man Who Mistook My Wife for a Hat and Awakenings, or Richard Feynman’s Surely You Must Be Joking, Mr. Feynman, will find My Obit: Daddy Holding Me a page-turner filled with poignant family experiences, explosive sibling rivalry, literary adventures, ethnic cooking, wide-ranging storytelling, the workings of the brain itself--and what can be learned about life from playing tennis for decades. The jokes and recipes alone are worth the entrance price.

Hollywood High Concept

 
Studios today are producing, for the most part, two kinds of films. One type is pre-established franchises (comic books, TV series, famous novels, toys, such as Star Wars, Captain America, and The Hunger Games. The other type is high-concept scripts that are either conceived of in-house by executives, producers, managers, and agents who know what the market responds to — or by “spec” screenwriters determined to break the bank.

Writing even the greatest screenplay that isn’t high concept is choosing either the indie path or willful self-indulgence.

Dealing with “high concept” is one of the most challenging and frustrating tasks of the Hollywood writer, agent, or producer; reducing the story to a compelling logline is what high concept is all about. As a former academic not prepared for a world focused on marketing, it took me years to realize that the term “high concept” means almost its opposite. It means “simple concept,” as in Fatal Attraction: An innocent smile at a party turns a married man’s life upside down and put his family in mortal jeopardy.

Sometimes a title is its own high concept, as with Margaret Mitchell’s best-selling novel Gone with the Wind, the extended logline of which would be: “Against the backdrop of the great Civil War, a narcissistic Southern beauty obsessed with idyllic love struggles to reconstruct her life and finds that her true love is closer than she thinks.”

High concept is a story that will compel the broadest audiences to watch the movie after hearing a pitch of only a few, or sometimes even one, word(s):

Psycho
Sleepless in Seattle
Armageddon
Unwanted Attentions
Vertigo
Jaws
How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days
American Sniper
Unfaithful
Four Weddings and a Funeral
San Andreas
Black Hawk Down
Panic Room
Selma
Runaway Bride
Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead
Home Alone
Cabin Fever
Die Hard
Ex Machina

These examples of high concept are pitched by their very titles. It’s enough to hear the title—and know that Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson star—to compel audiences to the box office for Anger Management. 

Die Hard on a boat,” was allegedly the logline line that led to the sale of Steven Seagall’s Under Siege.

Titles like The Fisher King, Seven Days in May, Snow Falling on Cedars, The Shipping News may be evocative, but do not express a high concept that will instantly lure audiences. Though such titles may get lucky and become successful movies, in today’s blockbuster market they’d be swimming upstream.

Nothing is more important to marketing your story than a “high concept logline” that makes it immediately stand out from all those stories that are subtle, nuanced, and difficult to pitch, and that depend entirely upon “execution.” Here are some more examples that have led my companies or others to sales:

• “Jurassic Shark!” (the two-word description given AEI client Steve Alten’s Meg by ICM-agent Jeff Robinov, who spearheaded a “preempt” from Disney for $1.1 million; the story was then re-sold to Newline, and then to Warner Brothers)

• When the most obnoxious guy in the world realizes he’s become an asshole on a false premise, he makes a list of all the people he’s wronged and sets out to repay them one by one. (John Scott Shepherd’s Henry’s List of Wrongs, sold to New Line Pictures for $1.6 million).

Life or Something Like It: An ambitious and self-involved reporter is sparked into action to change the pattern of her life when she interviews a street-psychic who tells her that her life is meaningless—and that she’s going to die—soon.

The Madam’s Family: The true “Canal Street Brothel” story of three generations of madams and their battle against persecution by the FBI.

The Lost Valentine: A man and woman find the love of their lifetimes when they’re brought together to memorialize the bittersweet story of a doomed World War II pilot and the wife who promised to wait forever for his return.

Consider these further examples, grouped by “genre”:

A woman or a family in jeopardy

The Shallows: While riding the waves at a remote beach, a young surfer finds herself injured and stranded just twenty miles from shore on a buoy—as a great white shark begins stalking her.

Room: After being abducted, abused, and imprisoned for seven years in a small windowless room a mother devises a bold escape plan.

An ordinary woman in extraordinary circumstances

The Danish Girl: What happens if the husband you adore needs to be a woman?
Woman in Gold: Six decades after World War II, a Jewish octogenarian begins a quest to reclaim the artwork confiscated from her family by the Nazis and now proudly celebrated by the Austrian government—including a famed Gustav Klimt masterpiece.

Men on a mission

Saving Private Ryan: US soldiers try to save their comrade who’s stationed behind enemy lines.

Bridge of Spies: At the height of the Cold War in 1960, the downing of an American spy plane and the pilot’s subsequent capture by the Soviets draws Brooklyn attorney James Donovan into the middle of an intense effort to secure the aviator’s release.

Man against nature

The Martian: He was left behind—on Mars.

The Revenant: A frontiersman fights for survival after being mauled by a grizzly and left for dead by his own hunting team.

Man or woman against the system

Spotlight: A Boston news team sets out to expose numerous cases of child molestation and cover up on the part of the local Catholic Archdiocese.

Concussion: A pathologist uncovers the truth about brain damage in football players who suffer repeated concussions and comes up against the corporate power of the NFL.

People Vs. Larry Flynt: A pornography publisher becomes the unlikely defender of free speech.

Class Action: A female attorney finds that her nemesis is her own father, and must choose between her corporate client and justice.

A woman escaping from something or someone she loves.


The Perfect Guy: After breaking up with her boyfriend, a professional woman gets involved with a man who seems almost too good to be true.

Enough: On the run from an abusive husband, a young mother begins to train herself to fight back.

Sleeping with the Enemy: A young woman fakes her own death in an attempt to escape her nightmarish marriage, but discovers it’s impossible to elude her controlling husband.

Filmmakers long to spot in our onslaught of daily email queries a high concept logline that makes a story out of universal—

• human emotions: fear, love, hate, envy, etc.
• deadly sins: anger, greed, lust, etc.
• plot motivators: betrayal, vengeance, discovery, rebirth, survival, etc.
• virtues: loyalty, faith, responsibility, etc.

—and embodies those elements in characters we can care about, relate to, and root for to shape an “original story” that feels both fresh and relevant to today’s global market.

If you can do that, and your writing effectively expresses your vision, you’re only steps away from recognition in the toughest story marketplace of all.

Excerpt from my forthcoming Sell Your Story to Hollywood, at http://www.realfasthollywooddeal.com

The Story of My Life! Ken Atchity's My Obit: Daddy Holding Me

 



I’ve lived a lifetime of literary adventures by refusing to be relegated to a niche. In My Obit: Daddy Holding Me, my storytelling passion and family and professional anecdotes provide humor and insight into my hugely self-determined life.

I hope it makes you laugh, spares you some of my grief, and leads you to insist on telling your story to anyone who will listen.






The Story of My Life! Ken Atchity's My Obit: Daddy Holding Me

 


Anyone who enjoyed Mircea Eliade’s autobiographical multi-volume Exile’s Odyssey, Oliver Sacks’ The Man Who Mistook My Wife for a Hat and Awakenings, or Richard Feynman’s Surely You Must Be Joking, Mr. Feynman, will find My Obit: Daddy Holding Me a page-turner filled with poignant family experiences, explosive sibling rivalry, literary adventures, ethnic cooking, wide-ranging storytelling, the workings of the brain itself--and what can be learned about life from playing tennis for decades. The jokes and recipes alone are worth the entrance price.

I hope it makes you laugh, spares you some of my grief, and leads you to insist on telling your story to anyone who will listen.


Mental Health Monday: Night Terrors Featuring Dennis Palumbo

 






"Authentic and fast-paced, Night Terrors is a thrilling plunge into the mind of an obsessed killer. This is something you don't want to miss!" —Stephen Jay Schwartz, LA Times bestselling author of Boulevard and Beat

Retired FBI profiler Lyle Barnes is falling apart mentally. Psychologist and trauma expert Daniel Rinaldi thinks he can help Barnes through his terrible night visions. Barnes, however, is also the target of an unknown assassin whose mounting list of victims paralyzes the city and lands Lyle in protective custody. Then Barnes disappears, drawing Daniel and the joint FBI-Pittsburgh PD Task Force into a desperate manhunt.

Meanwhile, the mother of a youthful confessed killer awaiting trial is convinced that her son is innocent and appeals to Daniel for help. Against his better judgment, he becomes involved, and soon suspects that much about the case is not as it appears.

Can Daniel and the law officials find the missing Barnes before the killer does? Are these two seemingly unconnected cases somehow linked?



Ian Bull's The Danger Game Winner of the 2021 NYC Big Book Award in Action, Adventure



The world is playing and the stakes are real.   Julia and Steven are trapped in The Danger Game and making a fortune for their captors while fighting for their lives.

The Danger Game is author Ian Bull’s final installment in The Quintana Adventures trilogy, published by Story Merchant Books, about Army Ranger photographer Steven Quintana and actor Julia Travers. 

On Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08DVDNW9C