129 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, 188 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

    Tiger King Part. 1: What Gets You Hot?

    Tiger King Part. 1: What Gets You Hot?

    Tiger King: Part 1. What gets you hot?

    This week we’re going to be talking about Tiger King, the most appropriate possible topic for this crazy time. It’s most appropriate because it’s been a source of escape for a whole country who desperately needed one, and it’s also most appropriate because it shows the power we have as artists to shape reality, for better or for worse, and the risk we take when we let go of the ethical implications of every word we write.

    We’re going to be talking about Tiger King as a documentary. But we’re also going to be talking about Tiger King as a film. We’re also going to be talking about Tiger King as a miniseries. We’re also going to be talking about Tiger King as an adaptation of a true life story.

    We’re going to talk about why people got so hot and enthusiastic about it as a story. And we’re going to talk about why people got so hot and angry about it’s ethical and political failings. 

    As many, many articles have pointed out, Tiger King does not function like a typical documentary, in that, well, not everything in there is, um, exactly, true…

    Rather, Tiger King has been rewritten like a work of dramatic storytelling, with the repurposing of certain clips and the exclusion of others,  in order to make you fall in love with  a character who you probably should be reviling. 

    It’s one thing when that happens in Breaking Bad, with a totally fictional main character. But what is our responsibility as filmmakers when the subjects of our documentary are real people with real lives? When the issues at stake are real issues that are actually happening, right now, in the world? 

    So we’re going to look at the ethical implications of Tiger King, and the ethical implications of writing any movie or TV show. But we’re also going to be looking at Tiger King without judgment, just like we do every film we analyze, to discuss what we can learn from it as screenwriters, documentarians, TV writers, and adapters of true stories. 

    Because there’s a reason Tiger King is successful. And that success has actually shockingly little to do with the questionable ethical decisions of its directors. Rather, it has to do with certain foundational ideas of screenwriting. And those are the ideas we want to learn from the film.

    Whether you’re writing Tiger King or Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or Save The Tiger or Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, what your audience is coming for is a feeling.

    We call that feeling “a genre experience,” and it is the only reason anybody ever comes to see a movie or turns on a television. 

    Because it is the only reason you ever go to see a movie, or ever turn on a television. 

    You turn on the television or you go watch a movie because you want to feel something. And our genre experiences, our genre preferences are very strong. 

    Oftentimes when we think about genre we break it down into categories like; romantic comedy, drama, documentary, thriller, horror film. But this is the most oversimplified possible way to think about genre. 

    And if you are making a documentary you know that Super-Size Me and Bowling for Columbine and Tiger King are as far different as three documentaries could be that in fact they live in completely different genres.

    If you are writing a TV series, you know that Westworld and Succession, even though they are both TV dramas, are as far away from a genre perspective as they could possibly be. You know that Fleabag and Arrested Development are as different genre wise as TV series could ever be even though they are both TV comedies. And similarly, you would recognize that A Quiet Place and Chucky are as far apart genre wise as two horror movies could be.

    And you start to realize that genre is not a label that you put on a movie, it is a feeling. 

    The easiest way to find your genre as a writer is to start writing

    • 20 min
    Why Am I Procrastinating?

    Why Am I Procrastinating?

    I want to start today’s podcast with a personal story, something that happened to me early in my writing career. I had just sold my first screenplay, which meant I got to do the thing that everybody dreams of doing, the thing that I had always dreamed of doing.

    I got to leave my job and I got to devote every hour of every day to the thing that really mattered to me. I got to spend every moment being a writer. 

    And I was primed for success. I was ready to create, and create, and create and write screenplay after screenplay. I was filled with passion and excitement and I felt like the dream was finally coming true.

    And what came instead of the dream that I had planned was months of the most intense writer’s block and procrastination that I have ever experienced. 

    What followed was three months in which I accomplished pretty much nothing. And what followed was emotionally probably the hardest three months in my career.

    I was very lucky.  My dear friend and writing partner, John Wierick, drove down to Venice Beach, took me for a walk on the beach and he said, “Jake, I’m worried about my friend.” 

    And I said, “You know, I am really struggling. Every idea that I write is not as good as the one I just sold. I start something and then I abandon it. And lately, I am not even starting at all… And I am not having fun procrastinating, I am not flying to Tahiti or going for a walk or working out or painting or playing my guitar or doing anything that gives me joy.  I’m sitting in front of my computer just staring and not writing or I’m reading the Hollywood Reporter or the Daily Variety cover to cover or I’m playing that stupid MineHunter game” (if you remember 20 years ago that crappy little game you’d play on your computer where you clicked on little boxes on a grid and tried not to get blown up by mines) “this is what I’m doing with my days and I’m miserable. But somehow, I can’t seem to find any time to write, even though I have all the time in the world.”

    And it was John Wierick who pulled me out of that tailspin with some very powerful advice. 

    He said, “Jake, it doesn’t matter which idea you choose. It doesn’t matter if the idea is good or bad. And it doesn’t matter if it is the right one or if the script is any good at all.” 

    He said, “You have to choose an idea today and you have to start writing it today and you have to finish it and you can worry about making it good later.”

    And that was some of the best advice I ever got as a writer and it was the first step of pulling me out of a very, very dark time and really saving my career. 

    And so, I want to do for you today what John Wierick did for me early in my career.

    Because, for many writers in our community, we’ve, in a different way, just experienced what I experienced all those years ago.

    Our lives suddenly and irrevocably changed. And we found ourselves suddenly with this strange thing that we’ve never had before called time.

    And I’m hearing from so many writers their frustration with themselves, feeling like “I have all this time but I’m not doing anything with it. I have all this time but I’m still stuck. I have all this time but I’m watching Tiger King and checking Facebook instead of doing something that matters. I have all this time but I feel lazy and scared and I can’t seem to get myself focused on anything. I have all this time but all my ideas seem so unimportant in light of what’s actually happening out in the world.”

    “I have all this time, but somehow, I don’t seem to have any time.”

    And so, I want to tell you how I was able to pull myself out of my writer’s block. 

    With the benefit of some good 2020 hindsight, I want to talk to you about what actually causes writer’s block and procrastination. 

    I want to talk about why you’re doing it, and some very concrete

    • 43 min
    Parasite: Theme, Tone, and Structure

    Parasite: Theme, Tone, and Structure

    The transcript is edited for length and clarity.

    Parasite: Theme, Tone, and Structure

    In my last podcast, we discussed Parasite and the way tone is used in the film. We compared Parasite to Little Miss Sunshine, another Academy Award-winning film that uses tone in interesting and unusual ways, and we talked about the difference between tone and genre and how that plays out in both these films.

    In this podcast, I want to dive even deeper into Parasite and look at the place where tone meets theme. I want to look at how the theme of Parasite ends up informing the tone and structure of the film. 

    Bong Joon-ho, the writer/director, created this film without even knowing where he was going or what happens in the second half of the story. We’re going to talk about how he achieved that, by allowing tone, structure, and thematic exploration to help the movie unfold in front of him. 

    Parasite is built around a question: Who is the parasite? 

    Previously, we talked about how Bong was interested in the idea of infiltration when he started writing the script. But in the title, Parasite, he really focuses on the meaning of that theme. This is a story about parasitic infiltration. This is about the way our society views each other as parasites. It’s about the way the rich view the poor as parasites, the way the poor view the rich as parasites, and the way the poor view the underclass as parasites.

    In a way, what he’s really looking at is our political situation and the ongoing class wars we’re experiencing around the world.

    The question Bong is asking is one that he doesn’t necessarily fully know the answer to, and that’s what makes his exploration so interesting and compelling. 

    Many writers, especially political writers, confuse the concepts of theme and moral. 

    They think they’re exploring a theme, but what they’re actually doing is trying to impose their moral point of view on the audience. Often, the result is very bad movies– movies that not only fail dramatically but also fail to influence anyone politically, at least not anyone who doesn’t already believe what the writer believes. 

    A great writer, instead of pretending they have the answer, admits it’s never that simple. They try to instead pose a question to themselves that they’re not fully capable of answering, a question they’re going to have to wrestle with on the page in order to make some sense of it.

    When you work in this way, you not only take the audience on a journey, you take yourself on a journey. 

    You force yourself to challenge your assumptions and easy answers and to look for something closer to the truth. Along the way, you’re going to end up writing a movie or TV show that’s a lot more convincing to your audience, especially to those who may believe something different than you. 

    The bad version of Parasite, from one political point of view, might say, “You know what the problem is? The problem is the rich.” 

    It might say “The rich are parasites living off the poor, sucking up all the resources off the backs of the good, poor, hard-working folks who just want to do right. These rich parasites are taking everything for their own selfish aims. Those nasty one-percenters.” 

    The bad version of this movie from the opposite point of view, says, “You know what the problem is? The problem is the poor. The poor are parasites feeding off the rich. They need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps because anyone can make it. I started with nothing, and now I’m a one-percenter. The poor just need to stop thinking of themselves as welfare cases and take responsibility for their lives. They need to stop being parasites.”

    A more complicated, but also bad, version from this point of view would be, “You know who the problem really is? It isn’t the middle class.

    • 32 min
    Parasite vs Little Miss Sunshine

    Parasite vs Little Miss Sunshine

    Parasite vs. Little Miss Sunshine

    In today’s podcast, we’ll be talking about Parasite by Bong Joon-ho. This is such an exciting film to discuss because Bong is a master of tone. 

    What’s happening with tone in Parasite is really unusual. We’ve seen comedic horror movies filled with horror genre elements, like Scream or Tucker & Dale vs. Evil. We’ve also seen hardcore horror movies like Drag Me to Hell and Friday the 13th slasher films. We’ve even seen elevated horror movies like Hereditary or A Quiet Place, films I’ve talked about on my podcast, which are really complicated character dramas built against a horror landscape.

    But what Parasite is doing is much wilder, because Parasite begins like a character-driven comedy and ever so slowly evolves into a horror movie.

    We’re going to do a two-part podcast on Parasite. Today, we’ll be looking at the film’s use of tone. In the next podcast, we’ll discuss its theme and structure. 

    Let’s start by talking about how Parasite accomplished this unique tone. How did Bong build a horror movie that satisfied horror fans in a form that looks more like a Sundance comedy? How did he evolve the horror? How did he make that tone work? To explore that, I want to talk about the connection between tone and genre.

    Tone and genre are some of the concepts almost every writer freaks out about. Almost every writer who sets out to write a comedy is afraid it’s not going to be funny enough. Every writer who sets out to write a drama is afraid it’s not going to be dramatic enough. Every writer who sets out to write an action movie is afraid the action isn’t going to be good enough.

    It’s important for films to have a feeling of genre because genre is what your audience is actually buying, but how we define genre is complicated. 

    Back in the old Blockbuster video store days, if you’re old enough to remember them, you’d go to Blockbuster, be looking around for a movie, and not be able to find it. This was back in the ‘80s. So, you’d ask the clerk, “Where’s First Blood?” The clerk would reply, “Oh, it’s in the Drama section.” You’d think, “Hold on. Isn’t First Blood supposed to be in the Action section?” You could never quite find the right genre the film was in because it was hard to break the movie down into the one specific genre it belonged to. 

    Today, the way genre is defined is much more complicated. If you look at what Netflix is doing, they’ll list a film as “a critically acclaimed, gender-bending movie popular in Williamsburg.” It’s that specific. In fact, what Netflix has actually done, and I don’t have the exact number, but I believe they’ve created 278,000 different tags which can be linked together in any number of combinations to define genre. That’s pretty complicated, right?

    How are you supposed to think about genre in your movie when movies like Parasite win an Academy Award and seem to not fit specifically into any genre at all?

    So let’s talk about genre; let’s talk about tone. First, I want to give you a way of thinking about genre that might be a little bit different than the way you’ve thought about it before. 

    Instead of thinking about genre as a category or a combination of 278,000 different tags, I want you to think instead of genre as the overall feeling that the movie gives you.

    It’s the feeling you’re craving when you go to watch the movie. It’s like going to a Chinese restaurant because you’re craving Chinese food, or if you go to a Mexican joint, you’re probably really craving some chips and guacamole. 

    If you go to see The Fast and the Furious, there’s a very specific genre to that film.

    • 17 min
    The Irishman: What’s Your Character’s “Thing”?

    The Irishman: What’s Your Character’s “Thing”?

    The Irishman: What’s Your Character’s “Thing”? 

    This week we’re going to look at The Irishman, written by Steven Zaillian and directed by Martin Scorsese. 

    Let’s set aside for a moment the all-star cast. Let’s also set aside whether the age-enhancement technology was distracting or valuable. Let’s set aside the pacing of the film and whether it should have been shorter or starts too slow. And let’s set aside thoughts about where this fits in the Scorsese canon. Let’s even set aside any questions about whether this is the true story or not.

    Instead, I want to focus on what this film can teach you as a screenwriter. 

    At slightly more than three-and-a-half hours long, we could probably teach a 15-hour podcast on this film and still not mine all the value in it for you as a screenwriter.

    I want to focus on one very important aspect that’s going to give you the most value as you watch or rewatch the film and look at how Steven Zaillian’s script is powering these extraordinary performances. 

    The Irishman is a primer on how to write a script to attract an A-list actor and create an unforgettable character. 

    This script is a primer on how to adapt an extremely complicated true story with a man at the center who doesn’t seem like the kind of character you would build a movie around. It’s a primer on how to take that story and create something compelling, to ask a profound question and build it around this vast array of characters we need to fully understand.

    I’m going to talk about how Steven Zaillian does that, then take you on a deep dive into what I consider to be the seminal scene in the film. I want to show you how Zaillian’s script allowed the actors to take that scene and push it to an even higher level.

    We’re going to talk about adaptation, rewriting, and the whole process a film goes through not just by ending at the finished page, but by how it’s transformed and shaped into becoming something even better on the screen.

    It’s important to understand that Frank Sheeran, the character at the center of The Irishman, is an extraordinarily challenging character to build a movie around.

    This is not Goodfellas, a fun film built around a tragically flawed and open book of a human being. This is a film built around a man who seems like ice and whose primary characteristic is that he doesn’t share his emotions. He doesn’t allow anyone to see what he’s feeling; he’s not actually connected to anyone. He’s the kind of man who can murder anyone for any reason and not even feel bad about or regret it.

    This is an extraordinarily challenging character. 

    Typically, when we think about a character, we think about an arc. We think about a character who’s going to go on a journey of change, usually a positive journey of change.

    Even if we’re building a movie like Goodfellas, we’re going to watch a character fall into the vortex. We’re going to take a relatively good guy and push him off the edge into the ocean.

    What’s happening in The Irishman is something much more challenging and complicated. You have a character at the center who is not going to change. 

    There might be a tiny glimmer of change toward the very end of the film, but this character is never going to have that cathartic moment you’re waiting for. This character is so busy protecting something he doesn’t even fully understand that he’s never going to be able to see himself or step into the kind of change we would normally see.

    The question then becomes, how do you build around a character like that? How do you make that character compelling? 

    In a traditional film, you would carefully build the relationship between Frank Sheeran and his daughter Peggy, for example. You would build that relationship because you would know that ultimately — and there’s a tiny spoiler here — Peggy is going t

    • 44 min
    The Power of The First Image

    The Power of The First Image

    The Power of the First Image

    Show Notes

    Write Your Screenplay Podcast

    Hosted by: Jacob Krueger

    In an age where people make instantaneous decisions about the entertainment they consume, do you know what makes a reader, producer, or star swipe left or right on your script? It’s all based on the very first image they read on the page.

    “Remember, your first image is the first moment of your audition.”

    Your first image is that powerful, which is why choosing the right image to open with is so important. Every person who encounters your script is going to decide how invested they’ll become in your story based on that first image. Even whether your audience chooses to set down the remote or change the channel hinges on the opening scene of your show or movie. Your first image should accomplish three main goals right from the get-go:

    It’s something your audience hasn’t seen presented in exactly this way before.

    It’s the beginning of your main character’s journey.

    It sets the tone and feel you want your audience to experience.

    “That first image never goes away...that first image of your script becomes a window through which every other thing that happens is experienced.”

    In screenwriting, you have to hook your audience immediately and give them a reason to stick around for the rest of your story. But a powerful first image is much more than a trick to lure in your audience:

    It’s a structural building block you can keep coming back to and exploring.

    It creates a blueprint informing everything that follows.

    It piques your audience’s curiosity, which allows you the time and space to develop your story.

    “The way you structure your January as a screenwriter is your opportunity to show yourself that you are a genuine writer. This is your first image, the place you’re starting from, and the way you want to build your life.”

    The concept behind using a powerful first image in your script can also bring powerful change to your writing career. How do you see yourself as a writer? If you’d like to start the new year with a new attitude toward yourself and your writing, put the power of the first image to work and begin to see yourself in a new light by:

    Setting small, consistent writing goals you know you can achieve.

    Noticing how you feel when you meet those goals.

    Celebrating your successes!

    As you meet and celebrate each goal, you’ll see yourself more and more as a real writer. You’ll find more and more time to write begin building a writing lifestyle you love because, just like a captivated audience, you can’t wait to see what happens next.

    If you’d like a full transcript of this podcast or information on our screenwriting classes available in New York City and online as well as any of the other wonderful community events happening at Jacob Krueger Studio, please visit our website at www.writeyourscreenplay.com.

    • 32 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
188 Ratings

188 Ratings

Jaime Randel ,

Packed with Inspiration & Insight

This podcast has been a huge source of inspiration for me as I write my first feature. Jacob's meticulous breakdowns are incredibly inciteful and cut to the emotional core of every script. As he breaks down craft, he does it in a way that opens your mind to how many possibilies there are, instead of putting you in a box and telling you the "right" way to do it. Thank you Jacob for creating such valuable content for screenwriters everywhere!

BlockBrine ,

The play button’s up there.

No, seriously, though. Play it! Helpful and informative. Silly and fun. Awesome.
Whenever I get stuck with my writing I come here. Just don’t listen to the one on horror when you’re writing sci fi or you’ll want to write horror. It’s that good.

Sparkygirl713 ,

Review Ladybird: about writing coming of age movies

I love this podcast so much and how you dissect the films so precisely, bringing meaning to parts of movies I never would have thought anything of. I am currently writing a coming of age story similar to the structure and aesthetic of Ladybird and Booksmart. I would love to hear your dissection of Ladybird and use that to help make my script the best it can be. Thanks!

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