171 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 • 249 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

    How to Transition from Playwriting to Screenwriting

    How to Transition from Playwriting to Screenwriting

    How to Transition from Playwriting to Screenwriting 

    This episode is for the playwrights among you. We are going to talk about how to make the transition from playwriting to screenwriting, the difference between plays and screenplays, and how you can use some of the incredible skills you have as a playwright in order to make the transition into screenwriting or TV writing. 



    What is the difference between playwriting and screenwriting? And how do you make the transition from playwriting to screenwriting or TV writing?

    There’s an interesting phenomenon happening in TV writing. TV producers are looking for playwrights to staff their writers’ rooms. 

    There’s a vast number of playwrights who are making that transition into screenwriting– a field that’s very different from the one that they’re used to. 

    And why are playwrights getting staffed in writers’ rooms? Because quite frankly, playwrights are a lot better trained than most screenwriters. 

    There’s a simple reason for that. Choose the playwright of your dreams, and pretty much guaranteed, they are teaching at some university. Nearly all playwrights need to subsidize their income with these teaching positions. Whereas successful screenwriters get paid vastly more than playwrights. And for that reason, there are just far fewer experienced screenwriters who are teaching. 

     

    Unlike playwrights who are mostly trained by experts in playwriting, most screenwriters have actually learned by taking classes with and reading screenwriting books by academics, not by working screenwriters.

    As a result, these books and classes tend to be much more academic, much more conscious mind focused, and quite frankly, a lot less interesting than those about playwriting.



    Unlike screenwriting, most playwriting education begins not with craft, but with character. 

    This causes a challenge for many playwrights as they transition from playwriting to television writing or from playwriting to screenwriting. 

    They have this intuitive organic process that they have developed over time, that works when they are writing a play. But when they start to read books and seek mentorship about screenwriting, if they don’t find the right teacher, they will often learn a lot more about how to plan a script than how to actually write one!

    Rather than learning how to develop a great movie or tv show from the blank page, they’re learning how to reverse engineer one, deconstructing it like a critic, rather than learning the process of developing it like a screenwriter. 

    This can cause tension in the writer and often cause their screenwriting to go flat in a way that their playwriting does not.



    Of course, if you’ve never been a playwright, the effects of this can be even more dramatic. 



    Playwrights at least have that strong foundation in character underneath them, which can sometimes help them transcend the formulas that are being taught when it comes to screenwriting. 

    Whereas if your only education isn’t screenwriting, there’s a good chance that you’ve barely been taught how to write character at all. 

    And yet, if you look at the best movies, the best movies are all about character. The best TV shows are all about character, the structure of the shows and these movies is all about character. 

    That’s true whether you are writing a blockbuster popcorn movie like Top Gun: Maverick, which, (despite the concerns I bring up in my previous podcast), succeeds because it is not really about the air-fights, but about the relationship between Maverick and Rooster, between Maverick and Penny, between Maverick and Hangman, between Maverick and the Forces of the Army. As much fun as the stuff happening in the sky might be,

    • 27 min
    Top Gun: Maverick - All Writing Is Political

    Top Gun: Maverick - All Writing Is Political

    Top Gun: Maverick – All Writing Is Political

    This week, we’re doing something special. I’m actually sharing a video from my latest Thursday Night Writes Class. This is the free class that I do every Thursday night.  But this particular lecture, I felt was so timely and so important that I wanted to share it with everyone on the podcast. You’ll notice we had some sound issues. The sound is not as good as you would normally expect from the podcast. But I think you will get a lot of value out of this content. And hopefully, it will affect your writing for the better. 

    If you do the exercise, and you’d like to share your results, feel free to join the JKS Writers Collective Group on Facebook, and you can share your results there and get feedback from our community. Thank you so much. And enjoy.

    I went to see Top Gun: Maverick a couple of days ago. And I had an amazing time. And then I got really angry. And it’s not a popular thing to say that Top Gun: Maverick got me angry. Everybody loves this movie.

    But I got angry. 



    I got angry because I think Top Gun: Maverick is such a missed opportunity. Because the film has dumbed down war to a place where we can all feel so good about it. 

    It’s dumbed down war to a point where there are no consequences, there is no death– there’s not even a moment like Goose’s death in the first movie. There are no consequences to being a maverick and refusing to follow any rule. And anybody in charge is a total idiot, so there’s no risk in being a Maverick, because you’re so obviously right and everyone else is so obviously wrong. And the girl that you’ve wronged, again and again, and again, is still going to be there waiting for you forever– apparently for the last 30 years. And, nothing we do is going to have any frickin’ consequences. 

    I think part of the reason Top Gun is doing well is for exactly that reason. All of us want to escape right now. Who doesn’t want to escape? 

    I’m not arguing that Top Gun: Maverick is anything other than a successful screenplay.

    Sure, we can get into the formulaic aspects of the film’s structure. And if we wanted to get really specific about its applicability as a model for new writers. It’s not. You can’t sell Top Gun: Maverick as a new writer. You can’t follow a formula that is predictable and succeed unless you happen to own a franchise that everyone in the world is nostalgic for. 

    But outside of those issues, the screenplay for Top Gun: Maverick is tight as hell. And it’s doing everything the writers want it to do. It’s a joy ride. It gives you the fun you’re looking for. It’s got well-built characters that all have really clear wants and go on really clear journeys. And it’s got some of the most incredible stunts ever filmed. 

    And no one could argue that it’s been anything but totally financially and critically successful. 

    But it’s still a missed opportunity.

     

    Top Gun: Maverick wants to be a piece about drones. It wants to script who we’re becoming as America. 



    It wants to be a film about the difference between being the pilot in the pilot seat and making decisions based on what you know is right and wrong. And being a drone, following a plan without conscience or connection, where there is no feeling in war, where you are playing a video game. 

    The script starts out with that promise.

    It starts out like this: Maverick you’re the old guard. We’re getting rid of you. We don’t need pilots anymore. We’ve got drones. (in fact, we have a mission that probably should be flown by drones considering the pilots keep blacking out from the G forces as th...

    • 20 min
    Winning Time: How To Adapt a True-Life Story

    Winning Time: How To Adapt a True-Life Story

    Winning Time: How To Adapt a True-Life Story

    This week, we’re going to be looking at Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty by Max Borenstein and Jim Hecht, and how to adapt a true story into a TV show or feature film. We’ll be building on our conversation from my podcast about TV Bible writing, to help you understand how to translate some of those concepts into the structure of your TV Series. And most importantly, we’ll be learning how to develop your TV series structure around the hook that is most important to you. 

    There are a million places online where you can read about exactly what is true and what is not true in the adaptation of Winning Time. In fact, there are sites that break down every episode into truth and fiction. So we are not going to focus our inquiry there.

    Instead, we’re going to be looking at how you, as a writer, take this giant beast of a true-life story, with all this plot, and squeeze it down into a form that you can actually structure and sell. 

    A lot of writers make the mistake when adapting a true-life story like Winning Time into a TV show or feature film, of believing that the hook of their adaptation exists in the true-life story itself. 

    A pitch from one of these well-meaning writers often sounds a little bit like this. 

    “It’s this incredible story that’s never been told! It takes place over multiple years. It’s got the most amazing characters, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Jerry Buss, it’s got political stuff like HIV, Islam, it’s got basketball, drug addiction… so much awesome stuff, the story practically tells itself!” 

    But the truth is, the story does not tell itself. And while the frenetic pace and structure of Winning Time might make it seem like it just threw all this stuff together, underneath all that is a really simple take on the material: a strong drumbeat that tells these two very talented writers and their writing team exactly what to focus on, exactly what the real story is, and what is just extraneous plot and noise. 

    The biggest problem in adapting a true-life story into a TV show or feature film is that there is just so much noise. 



    And where does that noise come from? It comes from the very process of writing a show like Winning Time. You see, as part of that process, you are going to do a ton of research. In fact, if you’re really doing your job, you’re going to turn yourself into an expert on the Lakers. You are going to know every little micro detail about what happened during the period of time that you’re trying to capture in your TV show or in your feature film. 

    And the result of all that research, if you don’t have a really strong central premise, a really strong structure to hang that all on, is you can get distracted by all those details you’ve discovered, and lose track of the forest for the trees. 

     

    When you discover an incredible true-life story to adapt, it’s easy to imagine that you are the first person to ever think of telling this story as a TV show or movie. Chances are, you’re wrong. 

    Chances are, there are dozens of people who are pitching the exact same idea you are pitching. There are just so many people pitching show ideas and movie ideas every single day. 

    In fact, if you’ve targeted the right producer, there’s a good chance that they have already heard this exact project pitched many times before! They’ve been looking to tell this story, and they’ve maybe heard 10 different takes on this material over the years. They’ve just never found the one that made them want to move forward. 

     

    This is the most important thing when it comes to adapting a true-life story into a screenplay or pilot, finding the hook that makes your take on the material uniq...

    • 25 min
    Selling a TV Series: The Role of the Show Bible

    Selling a TV Series: The Role of the Show Bible

    Selling a TV Series: The Role of the Show Bible

    Today we are going to talk about what it takes to sell at TV series, and specifically the role of TV Show Bible and the way it works together with the Series Pilot to make the sale. We’re going to answer the questions: What is a Show Bible? Why do you need one? What does a TV Bible supposed to do? How do TV Bibles relate to Pitch Decks? And how do you actually know if your TV Bible is working or not? 

    How does a TV Bible help you sell your TV pilot?

    There’s an interesting history to TV Bibles. Back in the day, the TV Bible used to be a document that was put together by a young staff writer, story editor or assistant. It was a cheat sheet for new writers when they came onto a long running show. 

    For example, Jerry Perzigian, who teaches our TV comedy writing workshop here at the Studio, were talking about the difference between what Show Bibles used to be and what they are now. Jerry is an Emmy Award winning showrunner. He came up on shows like The Jeffersons, The Golden Girls and Married with Children. These shows ran for a really long time, which meant that often they would lose their original staff writers as those writers moved on to bigger and better things (or, at least, different things). 



    A new flock of staff writers would come on, and these staff writers hadn’t necessarily watched every episode of The Jeffersons. They didn’t necessarily know what had happened already in the show, what was happening, what could happen, what couldn’t happen– they didn’t necessarily fully understand the engine of the show.

    The Show Bible was created for these writers. 

    Back in the day, the TV Show Bible wasn’t a sales document. It was an internal document, a cheat sheet that these writers could read like a training guide. 

    They could look at the TV Bible for whatever show they’d just be hired on, and realize “Oh, I get it.  This is how the show works. This is the secret recipe, the secret sauce for the show.”

    But today, a TV Bible has evolved into a different kind of creature entirely. Today, a TV Bible is a sales document. 

     

    If you imagine your TV Pilot is the thing that gets the big fish to swallow the hook, the Show Bible is the thing that sets the hook and reels them in.

    Without a great pilot, the idea of writing a TV Bible is just silly. 

    Unless you are already a famous writer, the chances that you can sell an idea with just a TV Series Bible are close to zero.

    The producer is not just interested in buying a great idea (they get lots of those). They’re interested in buying the successful execution of the idea. And they can only see that execution in the pilot that you write. 

     

    The most important element in selling a TV Series is writing an amazing pilot.



    Having a pilot that has a clear voice, a clear point of view, that feels like something we have not quite seen before, that is disruptive in some way, that grabs someone, shakes them a little bit, demands their attention and takes them on a journey– that is the most important element of selling a TV Series.

    Your pilot allows the reader to fall in love with your characters, with your world. It makes them want to invite these people back into their living room again and again. 

     

    That doesn’t mean your pilot has to have nice characters in order to sell. 

    If you think of shows like Breaking Bad or BoJack Horseman. These aren’t nice characters, but they’re fascinating characters going on incredible journeys. 

    You also don’t have to have really dark or twisted characters.

    If you think of shows like Ted Lasso, or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, these are incredible shows that have lovely characters at the center of them. 

    • 21 min
    Archetypes vs. Stereotypes: A New Look At The Hero’s Journey

    Archetypes vs. Stereotypes: A New Look At The Hero’s Journey

    Archetypes vs. Stereotypes: A New Look At The Hero’s Journey

    Archetypes are one of the most valuable and also most challenging concepts in screenwriting. 

    To understand how to use archetypes effectively, we have to go back all the way to the source, Carl Jung (famously not a screenwriter). 

    We have to understand where the concept of archetypes comes from, and how it connects to a larger concept called the Collective Unconscious. 

    And we have to learn how to tap into archetypes intuitively, rather than just intellectually. 

    If you are trying to tap into archetypes from a purely intellectual perspective in your screenwriting, there’s a good chance that you’re not actually writing archetypes. You’re actually writing stereotypes. 



    So what is an archetype? How do they work? How do you write them? How do you connect to the archetypes that live inside of you? 

    That’s what we’re going to be talking about in this podcast. 

    As I mentioned, archetypes begin with Carl Jung, and his idea of the Collective Unconscious. To vastly oversimplify this very complicated concept: 

    The idea of the Collective Unconscious is that there’s a fabric that ties all human experience together. That even though in my waking life, I think I am Jake, and you are you, and we think that we are different and separated, in our dreams we can actually tap into a collective fabric, a shared experience, that makes us human. 

    Jung believed that there were certain metaphors, certain elements, certain aspects of our dreams that actually mean the same thing to everyone who experiences them. 

    And by using our subconscious mind, by using the power of our dreams, we can tap into the Collective Unconscious and step into experiences that we’ve never yet had, and parts of ourselves we have never yet met. 

    In doing so, he believed that we could find the universal tie that binds us all together.



    A brilliant professor named Joseph Campbell came along and took Jung’s beautiful concept of the Collective Unconscious to the next level for writers, by creating something called The Hero’s Journey

     

    To vastly oversimplify Campbell in the same way we just did Jung, Campbell essentially realized that if there’s such a thing as a Collective Unconscious, there must also be such a thing as a Collective Story, a universal story. 

    And if we could learn to tell that universal story, that universal story would speak to everyone. Everyone could go on that same journey together; it would mean the same thing for everyone. 

    And in that way, it could move us all to a place of catharsis, of meaning, of growth, of connecting to who we are as human beings.

    He called this The Hero’s Journey. 

    You’ve probably heard of The Hero’s Journey if you’ve been studying screenwriting, or any kind of writing.



    In fact, Campbell’s work spawned hundreds of disciples, from really incredible theorists like James Bonnet and Christopher Vogler, to more surfacy Save the Cat! kinds of approaches.

    Almost every screenwriting book, and almost every screenwriting teacher, teaches archetypes in some way, and they’re all tracking back to Campbell, who’s tracking back to Jung. 

    Sounds like a pretty good idea, right?

    There are 21 steps of The Hero’s Journey, and a host of specific archetypal character types, and these theorists suggest that if we simply find those steps and find these characters, then we’ve got a structure and the characters of a screenplay that will have universal appeal.

    In other words, if there are certain kinds of archetypal roles in every life, there must also be certain kinds of archetypal characters in every screenplay: The Terrible Father, The Emotional Mother, The Spiritual Father, The Anima or Animus, The Threshold Guardian, etc.

    • 22 min
    The Gilded Age: 5 Steps To Raise The Stakes in Your Screenplay

    The Gilded Age: 5 Steps To Raise The Stakes in Your Screenplay

    The Gilded Age: 5 Steps To Raise The Stakes in Your Screenplay

    This week, we are going to be talking about how to raise the stakes in your screenwriting and TV writing. This is probably one of the most confusing notes that writers tend to get from producers, and one of the most popular.  “Raise the stakes! Raise the stakes! Raise the stakes!”

    But what are stakes? Why is it that you can blow something up, burn $3 million bucks, shoot at a baby, and it can still feel like there are no stakes? And then you can watch a show like The Gilded Age where the stakes are about who’s going to come to what dinner party, and feel like the stakes are really high. 

    Today, we’re going to be talking about what stakes are and how they work. And I’m going to give you a simple five step process that you can follow to make sure that stakes are happening in your screenplay, without feeling like you have to blow something up every time you get a note from a producer. 

    One of the biggest confusions about how to raise the stakes in your screenplay or TV pilot is thinking that stakes are about what happens in your script. 

     



    The Gilded Age is proof that this is certainly not the case. What happens in your screenplay is actually a lot less important than what it means to the character that the “what happens” is happening to. 

    And even that is much less important than what is driving the character that it’s happening to. 

    Because if something’s happening to a character, but we’re not actually connected to what matters to that character and the journey of that character, then what happens doesn’t really matter. 

    And that’s why you can do a lot of big spectacular things to your character and still have the feeling that there are no stakes in your screenplay.

     

    Stakes begin with empathy. Raising the stakes in your screenplay begins with developing empathy for your characters.

    We feel stakes when we connect to a character on the big screen or little screen, and we see a tiny piece of ourselves up there, we connect to them, we empathize with them, we feel what it would feel like to be in their shoes. 

    This is why we cringe when we watch Curb Your Enthusiasm. And this is why we care when we watch The Gilded Age. 

    It’s not because of the “what’s happens” to your character. It’s because of the “what does it mean?” to the character. 

    And in order to develop that “what does it mean?” to the character, there are a couple steps that you can follow. 

     

    STEP #1: To raise the stakes in your screenplay or pilot, make sure you know what the character wants. 

    The more specific you can be about what they want, the better. 

    Notice, I’m not talking about the audience yet. There’s a whole other level of structure that I call secondary structure that we build, which is about how you communicate this stuff to the audience. And that stuff is really complicated; that takes a long time to learn, a lot of practice and experience.

    Whereas these skills that I’m giving you are skills that you can actually use right now, very intuitively, without having a tremendous amount of craft behind you. 

    Start out by asking yourself: “do I know what the character wants?”

    You’ll be surprised how often you realize that you don’t!

    And if you don’t know, don’t freak out! 

    If you realize “okay, I’ve got a bunch of cool stuff happening, I got some cool images, I got some cool lines of dialogue, but I actually don’t know what the character wants…” 

    Okay, well, choose something! 

     

    When building stakes in your screenplay, the “what” of what your character wants matters much less than the fact that your character wants something.

    It’s that want that is going to create the feeling of movement for the...

    • 42 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
249 Ratings

249 Ratings

teric611 ,

Perfectly Polished Pedagogical Podarificness!

Jacob Krueger teaches with the generous and empathic heart of a co-trencher who sincerely aims to help fellow screenwriters—at ALL levels. Jacob doesn’t waste time on idle chatter. He gets right to the heart of a topic and stays on course! No matter which episode you listen to, you will hear in his smooth and light-hearted voice just how much Jacob cares about teaching and how passionate he is about screenwriting.

Every one of Jacob’s lessons (and I’ve heard them all!) is a clear, specific, relatable, and thorough presentation of elements we all need) for developing our stories and craft, as well as for discovering our thematic intentions, understanding how the industry works, and for learning how to authentically pitch, reach out to executives, and get a foot in the proverbial door.

Thanks a bunch, Jacob! You are making an extraordinarily positive impact on the world of storytelling!

to o ok b no f ,

Great podcast

I appreciate Jacob Kruegers insight so much.

RoadHouse Rod ,

Character Building

I’ve enjoyed listening to your podcast because it’s gave me new appreciation for character building. Talking about how important the character needs are and what their role is and opening me to see where some films failed and some did it perfectly, thank you.

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