199 episodes

Rather than looking at movies in terms of "two thumbs up" or "two thumbs down" Award Winning Screenwriter Jacob Krueger discusses what you can learn from them as a screenwriter. He looks at good movies, bad movies, movies we love, and movies we hate, exploring how they were built, and how you can apply those lessons to your own writing. More information and full archives at WriteYourScreenplay.com

Write Your Screenplay Podcast Jacob Krueger

    • TV & Film
    • 4.8 • 290 Ratings

Rather than looking at movies in terms of "two thumbs up" or "two thumbs down" Award Winning Screenwriter Jacob Krueger discusses what you can learn from them as a screenwriter. He looks at good movies, bad movies, movies we love, and movies we hate, exploring how they were built, and how you can apply those lessons to your own writing. More information and full archives at WriteYourScreenplay.com

    Baby Reindeer: Writing the True Life Story

    Baby Reindeer: Writing the True Life Story

    This week, we're going to be talking about Baby Reindeer, the hit limited series on Netflix, written, created by and starring Richard Gadd. 

    We're going to use Baby Reindeer to talk about how to adapt a true story into a limited series, into a feature film, or into a TV show. 

    You would think that we fully understand our own stories better than anybody else’s. But the truth is you are the hardest person to write because you are the hardest person to see. 

    You can see everybody else. But your own life is processed mostly internally. And that's the opposite of the way that screenplays work. Screenplays externalize those internal feelings. 

    So we're going to be talking about how to get yourself on the page: how to tell your true story in whatever form you want to. And we're going to be looking at the structure of Baby Reindeer and how Richard Gadd does it in this fantastic little limited series.

    Before we get started, I do want to warn you there are going to be some spoilers of Baby Reindeer ahead. I can't talk about it in an effective way without sharing some of the details of the script. So if you have not yet seen the show, I will warn you before we get to the big stuff.

    If you've listened to my podcast on Beef, you've probably recognized that the structure of Baby Reindeer and the structure of Beef are basically the same. 

    Baby Reindeer and Beef are both essentially “two-handers.” 

    “Two-hander” is a term from playwriting, where the story is almost exclusively driven by two main characters. I’m using that term a little loosely when it comes to Baby Reindeer and Beef, but nevertheless, both limited series focus almost entirely on the escalation between these two main characters. 

    Baby Reindeer and Beef are about two characters who at any point could end the escalation that's happening between them, but who keep making choices that drive the escalation forward. In this way, the game of both the Baby Reindeer and Beef is basically the same: 

    You keep giving the main character a way out, and you keep watching them not take it. 

    Now why would the writers of Baby Reindeer and Beef construct a show this way? Well, it's one of the profound ways to deal with the lies that your character is telling themselves.

    Every character lies to themselves. Every person lies to themselves. 

    We don't lie to ourselves on purpose. We lie to ourselves because we have identities. 

    We lie to ourselves because there are things that we don't want to look at. 

    We lie to ourselves because we want to see ourselves in certain ways. 

    We lie to ourselves because there are mythologies that have been foisted upon us since we were children, that we've internalized, and that change the way that we see ourselves in the world. 

    There are all kinds of reasons that we lie to ourselves, but some characters' primary problem is that they are not being honest with themselves.

    If we look at Walter White in Breaking Bad, for example, his primary problem is he's telling himself a story that he's created a crystal meth empire just because he wants to leave something to his family, to protect them. 

    But since he keeps getting a way out, we realize this is not about his family. It’s not until the final episode that Walter's actually going to be truthful...

    Monkey Man: Expressionism in Action Movies

    Monkey Man: Expressionism in Action Movies

    This week we're going to be studying Monkey Man, the new Dev Patel movie. With a screenplay by Paul Angunawela and John Collee, story by Dev Patel. 

    This is a special film for me because one of our students, Joseph J.U. Taylor, has a wonderful small role in the piece. We're really proud of you, Joseph.

    I do want to warn you that there will be some moderate spoilers in the first half of the movie. We're definitely going to spoil the sea change (the midpoint of the film), but I'll give you a heads up before we get into where it all goes.

    Our focus today is on the epic scope of Monkey Man and how it uses the power of action movies to deliver something much more profound than your typical popcorn movie. We’ll be discussing the difference between naturalism and expressionism in all kinds of movies. We’ll be discussing a profoundly important element of 7 Act Structure called The Sea Change and how it functions in Monkey Man And we'll also be examining a small but significant moment that demonstrates how to create a sense of reality and fully realized characters, even within such a heightened, action-packed, expressionistic piece.

    Many people have described Monkey Man as essentially John Wick in India. It's a giant, bloody, revenge fantasy told through almost non-stop action sequences. 

    In many ways, that is what Monkey Man is.

    It’s like so many Quentin Tarantino movies. It's like Kill Bill, with its larger than life action sequences that are almost expressionistic in their nature.

    So, what exactly is expressionism? And how does it differ from realism and naturalism in film?

    Realism means that the film is playing out almost exactly the way things do in real-time.

    A weird thing happens if you actually hang out in realism in films, which is that realism doesn't feel real. 

    Movies move faster than real life. They have to because they only have an hour and a half, maybe two hours, to tell a story that, if you were just gonna retell it beat by beat, would feel like forever.

    Most movies actually don't take place in realism. They take place in naturalism. 

    In other words, they take place in a heightened, faster, more extreme reality that feels like it's real, but it's actually happening at a high-pitched pace. 

    In reality, half of our language is:

     "Hey, how you doing?” 

    “Good, good. How you doing?" 

    Half of our language is not even connected. 

    Half of our language isn't doing anything. 

    There's no want, there's no need. Half the time we're not even making choices. 

    "I really should… but I don't want to… but I'm not ready to… but I want to…  I should..." 

    That's realism. 

    We're in these states of limbo most of our lives, in which every now and then we have those punctuating moments like, "bang, this matters."

    So if we really were to write in the world of realism, we would have all those boring moments and end up with a diffuse storytelling in which it's hard to actually capture the journey in the short period of time we have.

    Of course, in TV we have even less time. Even though we have more episodes, the episodes are even shorter. So both movies and TV tend to happen in the world of naturalism. 

    What naturalism means is that the volume is turned up.

    • 36 min
    Civil War vs Apocalypse Now: The War Movie

    Civil War vs Apocalypse Now: The War Movie

    Hello, I'm Jacob Krueger, and this is the Write Your Screenplay podcast. This week, we are going to be looking at Alex Garland's new film, Civil War.

    Civil War explores what happens when we become polarized, stop looking at each other as human beings and instead view one another as enemies.

    Structurally, Alex Garland’s Civil War is essentially built like Apocalypse Now, with a touch of The Last of Us. 

    But in the case of Civil War, the characters’ journey into the “heart of darkness” takes place in an America on the brink of collapse, rather than the Vietnam War. The zombie-like tones of Civil War won’t come as a surprise to those who know Alex Garland's work. He wrote 28 Days Later. 

    We're going to be talking a bit about the structure of Civil War and it’s similarities to the structure of Apocalypse Now and The Last of Us. We’ll also look at key differences in the socio-political implications of building a war movie by contrasting Civil War with Top Gun: Maverick. (Check out my Top Gun: Maverick Podcast).

    One of the interesting choices that Alex Garland makes in the writing of Civil War is not to tell you what the hell is going on. We only have snippets of what's happened. 

    We know that a president has stayed in office for three terms against the will of the American people, or at least against the Constitution. 

    We don't know exactly how or why that happened. There's virtually zero exposition but we know that has happened.

    When we first meet the President, played by Nick Offerman, we suspect he’s making a “disinformation” speech about a victory tha doesn’t reflect what is really going on. 

    We know that in this world, in Washington, D.C., the press are shot on sight. We know that the press are seen as enemy combatants by the President. 

    That is all we know.

    We don't know the President's politics. We don't know if he is left or if he is right or if he’s somewhere in between. We don't know if he is a fascist. We don't know if he is a communist. We don't know anything about his point of view except that he has violated the constitution and he is against journalism. He is against the truth coming out.

    We know that America has fractured and that some kind of alliance called the Western Forces (WF) has been created in opposition to The President.

    In our society this seems like an impossible alliance. It's between California and Texas. And quite frankly, we don't know what that alliance is about. We don't know their politics. We don't know what they believe in. 

    We don't know if they're liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, communist or fascist. But we know that they are fighting against the President, trying to retake the country.

    Alex Garland has come under some fire for his depiction of the Western Forces– the fictional alliance of California and Texas– in Civil War.

    Some critics have essentially said “This is crazy. This is just ridiculous whitewashing. California and Texas- they're so far apart politically. This choice to imagine them as a combined force is just Alex Garland obscuring of the actual political message to avoid offending anyone.” 

    And if you've listened to my Top Gun: Maverick podcast, you know that that's something that I criticized that film for.

    In Top Gun: Maverick, like in Civil War, the nature of the political conflict,

    • 47 min
    Steve Molton: Internal Antagonists and the 7 Forms of Conflict

    Steve Molton: Internal Antagonists and the 7 Forms of Conflict

    As many of you know, every Thursday Night, we host a free screenwriting class called Thursday Night Writes. A recent installment with Steve Molton was so groundbreaking that we decided to release it as a podcast for our whole community. Enjoy!

    Jake: Hello, everybody, welcome to Thursday Night Writes! Our guest tonight is Steve Molton. 

    Steve is a former HBO and Showtime executive, Columbia film school professor, and Pulitzer nominee. He wrote a movie with Frank Pugliese of House of Cards. He wrote limited series for Showtime. He has worked in television, novels, nonfiction, and film. He’s even penned an opera! 

    He's also just one of the great human beings in the world and a good friend. We're so lucky to have him back on our team, mentoring students in our ProTrack program and offering a new TV Drama Writers Room.

    Steve and I are going to be exploring the concept of internal antagonists in screenwriting and the role they play in your character’s journey. 

    Often, when we're thinking about the “antagonist” or the opposing forces in our script, we think about the “bad guy” or the “obstacle.”

    But today, we're going to focus on internal obstacles, things that get in the way of our characters on the inside, and the things that get in the way of us as writers on the inside. 

    Steve: Part of the reason I wanted to do this subject tonight is that, having walked the picket line in the last year, we were besieged by the notion that somehow machines will be able to replicate what we do.

    But as some great person had written on his sign while picketing, "Computers can't have childhood trauma." 

    We are still human beings. The fact that we live and die, that we are shaping the world and must still shape the world, sometimes in ways to protect ourselves, requires us to go really deep. So that's what we’ll do today, working from the inside out.

    I've been teaching at the French National Film School, doing a masterclass there for producers. These weren't people who were naturally thinking like writers, although they were storytellers of a kind. 

    I pulled together notes from a series of talks I did there on the seven forms of conflict. 

    There are seven forms of conflict that drive just about every great story.

    Writers have probably heard about the seven forms of conflict. We forget them because they're so common and ubiquitous. They are: 

    1) The self versus the self

    2) Self versus another 

    3) Self versus society 

    4) Self versus technology 

    5) Self versus nature 

    6) Self versus the supernatural 

    7) Self versus God, fate, or destiny

    The first three of these are present in almost all strong movies and stories. The last four are genres unto themselves, but they often include those three forms as well.

    For example, you might find the self versus the self, the self versus the other, and versus society within a movie about the self versus technology. These conflicts are ubiquitous and they flow into each other.

    Jake: A question popped up in the chat. What's the difference between supernatural and God?

    Steve: That is a fantastic question. 

    Self versus the supernatural involves conflicts with inexplicable, otherworldly phenomena that defy scientific explanation.

    • 35 min
    Poor Things: Theme and Meaning

    Poor Things: Theme and Meaning

    This week, we are going to be talking about Poor Things, by Yórgos Lánthimos and Tony McNamara. 

    You could describe Poor Things as a hyper-sexualized, dark, feminist, Forrest Gump. But what is the movie actually saying? 

    How does Yórgos Lánthimos get away with such wildness while still telling a story that is both interesting and commercially successful? How does he both break the boundaries of what we typically think a movie or a screenplay could be, but also invite viewers in?

    We’re not only going to be exploring the theme, structure and character development of Poor Things, but also connecting these concepts to profound questions about what holds us back as writers, and as human beings, from expressing our pure voices. 

    Along the way we'll look at some of the countless movies that are referenced and twisted in the structure of Poor Things, from Frankenstein to The Wizard of Oz, and hopefully simplify this tremendously complex screenplay by exploring the core thematic oncepts that underlie its structure.

    What is Poor Things actually about? What does the story mean? How did Yórgos Lánthimos and Tony McNamara build it as a screenplay? And what can we learn from Poor Things as screenwriters? 

    The weirder your movie is, the more you need to understand what you are building. The more complicated your movie is, the simpler its premise needs to be.

    Where does this begin in Poor Things? Like all screenwriting, it begins with character. In Poor Things, it begins with Emma Stone's character, Bella.

    In order for you to understand the premise of Poor Things, I'll need to give you a couple of little spoilers from the beginning to the middle. I'm not going to spoil it all the way to the end without first warning you.

    So here's the premise: God, or Godfrey (Willem Dafoe's character) has attempted to create a woman who has no shame, no past, no history, no external or internal factors standing in the way of just being herself. 

    He has attempted to make a girl who is pure voice. 

    God is the product of horrific experiments that his father performed upon him. Unlike Bella, he bears the scars of his history on his face and has spent his whole life trying to rationalize them. Bella, on the other hand, bears none of the scars of her history. She is coming at the world with fresh eyes. How has she been created?

    I am going to spoil it a little bit more now.

    A woman has killed herself for reasons we don't know. Even God, (the character), doesn't know. She has hurled herself from a bridge in the opening frames of the movie. And, as we'll find out later, the stories God has told Bella about her past aren’t true. He’s made up a false history to preserve her innocence and sense of herself. The truth is that God, a brilliant scientist and doctor, discovered the body of the suicidal, pregnant woman from the beginning of the movie, and he has implanted the baby's brain into the body of the woman. 

    Poor Things is a Frankenstein story, inside out. 

    In this case, the scientist, God, as Bella calls him, is a long, suffering, twisted, deformed creator, who carries the wounds of his tortured past. He's the one who looks like Frankenstein. 

    And Frankenstein's monster looks like Emma Stone. She looks like perfection, or, to quote the film's ironic joke, like " what a very pretty retard." 

    And she has no past.

    Bella has been brought up inside a world that has been cultivated...

    • 19 min
    BEEF: Improv Tools For Screenwriters

    BEEF: Improv Tools For Screenwriters

    This week, we're going to discuss Beef, a fabulous limited series created by Lee Sung Jin.We will use Beef to explore two related and extremely valuable concepts for screenwriters: Game and Escalation. 

    Game and Escalation are concepts that we're taking from improv. But as we look at the screenplay for Beef, you’ll see that the same tools used for improv can also be hugely valuable for screenwriters.

    Usually, when we think about Game, we think about it as the funny thing in the scene. 

    If you're doing something funny, they teach you in improv to do it again. That becomes the Game. 

    And Escalation means you don't just want to do it exactly the same way again. You want to do it in a slightly different way that escalates it. You want to keep on building up, up, up, up. 

    Now, many people think of Game as a comedy thing.It’s obvious how you might Game if you're writing a sitcom or a sketch. But what if you’re writing a drama? What if you’re doing a historical epic? Do you still need Game? Does Game matter outside of comedy? 

    I'd like to suggest that dramas, and limited series like Beef, which mix dramatic and comedic elements, have Game, too, and that understanding Game is vital to writers in all genres. 

    Game is also part of the way the audience tells themselves the story of who the characters are, of what's really happening in the story, of how the character is changing or not changing, and of how the character is relating to other characters.

    Game and Structure are connected. When you become a master of Game, you also become a master of Structure. When you become a master of Escalation, you also become a master of Structure. So, we will be talking about all of that and more in this podcast.

    Note that there will be a couple of spoilers for Beef. But we’re going to limit most of our conversation to the way the pilot is structured so that we can start to understand how Game works and how Escalation works. And I’ll warn you before we get to any major spoilers for the rest of the season…

    Now, before we get rockin', there's some stuff I want to talk to you about that is coming up at the studio that is hugely valuable to you. So, if you enjoy this podcast, check us out live every Thursday night for free. We have a wonderful class with hundreds of writers from all over the world called Thursday Night Writes. So I'd like to invite you to join our community, where you can learn for free from me and top members of the Jacob Krueger Studio faculty. 

    We discussed the idea that Game is a concept taken from improv. If you are a screenwriter, if you've taken any of our classes, you know that we integrate many concepts from improvisation into screenwriting. 

    There’s a good reason for that: because most of what we are doing as screenwriters is improvising on the page.

    We are faced, just like an improv troupe, with a blank page. We might have a sense of who our characters are, but we also might not. We might have, like an improv troupe, just a suggestion, a word, an idea, a premise, a hook…  maybe just an image that came into our minds. We have the barest sense of who are characters are. 

    The truth is, even if we've done a whole outline and think we have figured out everything,

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
290 Ratings

290 Ratings

Death Scrod ,

Incisive, no tangents, positive approach to the craft

I’m always searching iTunes for good screenwriting podcasts, and this is by far the most well thought out, clearest, and most helpful I have found.

Once I found this podcast, I quickly binged it very episode and attending his free, Thursday night writing workshop a few times, which I also recommend.

It seems like what a great lecture in film school would be like (never went but took some so-so courses online) and because Jacob Krueger does the podcast solo, it’s not about banter and gossip and tangents that often come with a two-person show.

This is pure education wrapped in an approachable, compassionate approach to fundamental aspects of both the craft itself, and explain the self-compassionate, constructive ways to approach both the business and art of screenwriting.

I also really enjoy the use of current films and TV series as examples of what works and what doesn’t work in context of various aspects of filmmaking and storytelling, without the sometimes cutting take downs that earn clicks for film critics.

I’m not trying to sell you classes at his film school, but I just started his “Write your TV series” course online and by the end of the first class, I *really* “got” the fundamentals of storytelling for the first time and was surprised the price was half of typical course.

Laurie Kirk ,


Tremendous podcast. Entertaining and informative. Jake has a wonderful knowledge base and his delivery is the best.

SpongeBobbyHil589 ,



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