The Bulletproof Screenwriting® Podcast shows you how to make your screenplays bulletproof by interviewing the top screenwriters, story consultants & authors in the film industry. They discuss the craft and business of screenwriting. This is the screenwriting podcast for the rest of us. No fluff. No BS. Just straight talk that will help you on your screenwriting journey.
Some of the past guests include 3X Oscar® Winning Writer/Director Oliver Stone, James V. Hart (Dracula, Hook), John August (Big Fish, Aladdin), Jim Uhls ( Fight Club), Peter Rader (Waterworld), Diane Drake (What Women Want), Daniel Knauf (Carnival, Blacklist), Derek Kolstad (John Wick) and Pen Densham (Robin Hood, Backdraft) to name a few.
BPS 120: The Essentials of Screenwriting with Richard Walter
BPS 119: Screenwriting Inside the Studio System with Joe Cornish
You guys better get ready for a hell of a ride because our guest today brought a great conversation. We have accomplished screenwriter and director Joe Cornish on the show today. The English comedian and filmmaker burst onto the scene in 2011 with his very successful film directorial debut, Attack The Block, starring John Boyega, who played Moses, a low-level crook, teenage gang leader, an orphan looking for respect around the block. The British sci-fi comedy horror film centers on a teenage street gang who have to defend themselves and their block from predatory alien invaders on Guy Fawkes Night.
Commercially, the film did not perform as it was acclaimed critically. It is rated at 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, won the Audience Award for Best Film (Midnights) at SXSW 2011, and many other awards from all major film festivals that year.
Cornish and his comedy partner, Adam Buxton form the successful duo, Adam & Joe an ironic pop culture sketch show which gained a lot of success in the UK alongside Cornish’s long-term work in the UK TV entertainment industry.
In 2011 he joined iconic directors, Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg as a writer for the screenplay and story for the 3D animated action-adventure film, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn --- co-written alongside Edgar Wright and Steven Moffat.
Intrepid reporter Tintin and Captain Haddock set off on a treasure hunt for a sunken ship commanded by Haddock's ancestor.
This $135 million budget film grossed $374 million at the box office and received a plethora of nominations including Oscars for Best Original Score, a Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature Film, two BAFTA nominations for Best Animated Film and Best Special Visual Effects.
Cornish co-wrote the screenplay for the Marvel Comic character, Ant-Man, along with Wright, Adam McKay, and Paul Rudd in 2015.
Rudd, starring as Ant-Man is armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, cat burglar Scott Lang must embrace his inner-hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world. Similar to most Marvel Studio movies, the film carried a big budget of $169.3 million and grossed $519.3 million.
His latest film, The Kid Who Would Be King (2019), which I highly recommend everybody to watch, joins a band of kids who embarks on an epic quest to thwart a medieval menace.
Joe honestly, was extremely forthcoming and transparent about a lot of things; like what happened behind the scenes of Ant-Man and what it's like to write inside the Marvel machine. And we also discuss his craft, how he is as a director, how he likes to approach his writing and many more.
Enjoy this conversation with Joe Cornish.
BPS 118: From Short Film Script to Spielberg with Sacha Gervasi
BPS 117: How to Be a Screenwriter in Hollywood with Marshall Herskovitz
Our guest today is the former president of the producers Guild of America, established producer, writer, and director, Marshall Herskovitz. Much of his production projects have been in partnership with his long-time filmmaking friend, Edward Zwick whose films, he’s produced and written half of. Their decades-long filmmaking partnership was launched as co-creators of the 1987 TV show, ThirtySomething.
Now, Marshall had already written for the TV show, Family, in 1976. So his understanding of TV was pivotal in the success of 30 Something.
Other projects he’s credited for executive producing or creating include Traffic (2000), The Last Samurai (2003), Nashville (TV show 2016), Blood Diamond, and Women Walks Ahead(2017), starring the incomparable, Jessica Chastain.
Marshall show, ThirtySomething, which only ran for four-season was quite successful. Co-created with Zwick, the follows the stories and journeys of seven thirtysomethings living in Philadelphia who struggle with everyday adult angst.
The show's success earned over a dozen Primetime Emmy and Golden Globe awards, and personal honors for Marshall from the Writers Guild and a Directors Guild.
Herskovitz's filmography is pretty adventurous. We discussed as many as we could in this interview and he was totally down for the ride. But if we are to highlight some must-mentions, Traffic will get the spot. Herskovitz co-produced Traffic in 2000 alongside esteem producer, Laura Bickford and directed by Zwick.
The film holds a constant 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and won numerous Oscars BAFTA, Screen Actors Guild, and Golden Globes awards in 2001. It followed through grossing a total of $207.5 million on its $46 million budget
The President appoints a conservative judge to spearhead America's escalating war against drugs, only to discover that his teenage daughter is a crack addict. Two DEA agents protect an informant. A jailed drug baron's wife attempts to carry on the family business.
Another classic of his is the 1999 TV show, Once and Again. A divorced father and a soon-to-be-divorced mother meet and begin a romantic courtship which is always complicated by their respective children and their own life problems.
Marshall was the absolute best and an excellent guest. You have to listen to the episode to hear all those extra deets he shared with us about the attempts at rebooting ThirtySomething and many more.
Enjoy this conversation with Marshall Herskovitz.
BONUS EPISODE: Richard Linklater - Slacker, Indie Cinema & How to Become a Writer
Well I put out an episode back in 2019 putting my dream list of guests out into the universe and in the past four months I've been humbled to have some amazing filmmakers and screenwriters on the show. Incredibly one of those dream guests has made his way on the show today.
We are joined by indie film icon and Oscar® nominated writer/director Richard Linklater. Richard was one of the filmmakers who helped to launch the independent film movement that we know today with his classic 1991 indie film Slacker. So today, we will not only dive into the extraordinary career of Richard Linklater but also that of collaborator and longtime friend writer/director Katie Cokinos.
If this is your introduction to Linklater and his work, here are a few highlights you must know; Linklater helped launch the 90s indie film renaissance with his film Slacker.
The producer, director has juggled the TV, film, short-film, and documentary genres seamlessly over his career - typically focusing in fine detail on generational rites and mores with rare compassion and understanding while definitively capturing the 20-something culture of his era through a series of nuanced, illuminating ensemble pieces which introduced any number of talented young actors into the Hollywood eco-system.
One of the talents to emerge from this era is the Texas native, Matthew McConaughey in Linklater’s third movie and VHS smash hit, Dazed and Confused. Based on Linklater’s years at Huntsville High School and the people he encountered there, the film shadows the adventures of high school and junior high students on the last day of school in May 1976.
Throughout his career Richard has chosen to tell stories about the human condition, while many times making us laugh and cry at the same time. I found an immense philosophical under current to most of his life's work. From The Before Trilogy to Boyhood, his films tackle topics in an honest, raw and deeper way that is not normally seen in filmmaking.
Many of the actors who work with Richard call him the "Zen Director" on set. His philosophy can be felt throughout his work. He often tells long and transformative coming of age stories over years, if not decades, something that is unique to him.
His Oscar® nominated film Boyhood is a groundbreaking story of growing up as seen through the eyes of a child named Mason (a breakthrough performance by Ellar Coltrane), who literally grows up on screen before our eyes. Starring Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette as Mason's parents and newcomer Lorelei Linklater as his sister Samantha, BOYHOOD charts the rocky terrain of childhood like no other film has before.
Snapshots of adolescence from road trips and family dinners to birthdays and graduations and all the moments in between become transcendent, set to a soundtrack spanning the years from Coldplay's Yellow to Arcade Fire's Deep Blue. BOYHOOD is both a nostalgic time capsule of the recent past and an ode to growing up and parenting. It's impossible to watch Mason and his family without thinking about our own journey.
Now the other remarkable filmmaker in this conversation is Katie Cokinos. She has made over ten short films and in 2000 wrote, directed, and acted in the feature film, Portrait of a Girl as a Young Catwhich premiered at SXSW. Katie produced Eagle Pennell’s film, Heart Full of Soul (1990); was a publicist for Richard Linklater’s Slacker, (1990). She was the Managing Director of the Austin Film Society, 1990-95.
Her latest film is the coming of age story I Dream Too Much, co-produced by Richard. Here's a bit about the film:
Presents a day in the life in Austin, Texas among its social outcasts and misfits, predominantly the twenty-something set, using a series of linear vignettes. These characters, who in some manner just don't fit into the establishment norms, move seamlessly from one scene to the n
BPS 116: From Horror Indies to The Revenant with Mark L. Smith
I've spoken to many people in the film business over the years but today's guest is one of the hardest working craftman I've had the pleasure of sitting down with. Today on the show we have screenwriter, producer and director, Mark L. Smith. If you look at his IMDB you'll see a list of 15 projects at various stages of development. He's come a long way from entering the Hollywood scene some 15 years ago with his fear-striking horror screenwriting and directorial debut, Séance in 2006.
Mark stumbled onto writing as a hobby during off-seasons at his family’s ranch where he worked after college. Self-taught, some workshops and an inventory of specs later, his path crossed Mel Gibson’s - who bought Smith’s first-ever script written in 2001.
From then onwards, he’s been credited for successful writing and producing for hits like The Revenant (2015) and Overlord (2018) and The Midnight Sky which was just released in 2020, starring the incomparable, George Clooney.
In Overload, a small group of American soldiers finds horror behind enemy lines on the eve of D-Day.
While producing his directorial debut horror, film Séance, with friend of the show and veteran producer Suzanne Lyons, Smith was also a writer on Vacancy in 2006. You will hear more in the interview of his experience navigating the world of filmmaking on both sets, as a rookie, and the village of support he received.
Vacancy follows the unfortunate adventure of a married couple who becomes stranded at an isolated motel and finds hidden video cameras in their room. They soon realize that unless they escape, they'll be the next victims of a snuff film.
After Vacancy, many horror projects started to open up for Smith. He worked those for a while until it felt old and he had the urge to do something different. That's when he co-wrote the revisionist western script for The Revenant with legendary director, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu. The film was based in part on Michael Punke’s 2002 novel by the same title.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy, Will Poulter, and Domhnall Gleeson, the story sets in the 1820s, where a frontiersman, Hugh Glass, sets out on a path of vengeance against those who left him for dead after a bear mauling.
The twist and turns that caused delayed production of the film and its eventual success will pique your interest. The Revenant became was an instant commercial and artistic success. It grossed $533 million worldwide, earned 11 Oscar nominations, 3 Golden Globe awards, and 5 BAFTA awards
Mark recently wrote The Midnight Sky that released last year, starring George Clooney. It is a screen adaptation of Lily Brooks-Dalton’s novel, ‘Goodmorning, Midnight’ which is a post-apocalyptic tale that follows a lonely scientist in the Arctic, as he races to stop Sully and her fellow astronauts from returning home to a mysterious global catastrophe.
I had an absolute ball speak ing to Mark. He's one of the hardest working screenwriters in Hollywood. We discuss everything from The Revenant, genius-level tips on how to adapt a book to the screen to what it was like work with Quentin Tarantino on the Star Trek script that has yet to be made. If you pray, please pray to the Hollywood Gods that Mark and Quentin's Star Trek gangster film sees the light of day.
Enjoy this conversation with Mark L. Smith.
W/ Paul Chitlik
A must listen to episode. New listener. Alex’s discussion with Paul was exceptional. Think of a semester class easily cut down this. Alex lets Paul share these smart lessons of experience to the new and not so new screenwriter. I listened and knew I wanted to go back and take some notes. This is time well spent.
Energetic, Entertaining and Educational
Just listened to my first episode with Paul Chitlik. Great takeaways for rewrites. Also loved Alex’s tip on writing 3 screenplays and wait until you’re finished with the third before you start revising the first one. The key is you’ll be a better writer by that time. Well done. 👏
Bulletproof Screenwriting Review: Thank Alex When You Accept the Oscar
I’ve learned a tremendous amount of information about screenwriting from this podcast. It has helped me understand and avoid many pitfalls in writing and in the business. It is evident that Alex cares deeply about distributing quality work. When it came time for me to have a screenplay covered I chose Bulletproof Script Coverage because of this podcast. I’m thrilled with that part of Alex’s business as well.