Monday, December 27, 2010

Riding The Alligator

Strategies For A Career In Screenplay Writing (and not getting eaten) 
by Pen Densham

Book Review
By Ann Baldwin

Pen Densham is an accomplished and award-winning writer-director-producer and a principal of Trilogy Entertainment Group. He’s spent his lifetime in the business of entertainment, selling films and television series, as well as hiring, mentoring, and collaborating with A-list writers along the way. Pen created the story for the revisionist Robin Hood; Prince of Thieves and co-wrote and produced the screenplay with his Trilogy partner John Watson. He wrote and directed Moll Flanders for MGM, as well as writing and directing Houdini for TNT. Pen and Trilogy have produced fourteen feature films such as Backdraft and Blown Away and worked with talent like Jodie Foster, Morgan Freeman, Jeff Bridges, Robin Wright, Bill Murray, Ron Howard, Kevin Costner, & Sylvester Stallone. Pen is proud to have personally revived both The Outer Limits and The Twilight Zone franchises for their return to television. Pen is also an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California’s prestigious School of Cinematic Arts. In his newest book, Riding The Alligator: Strategies For A Career In Screenplay Writing (and not getting eaten) (Michael Wiese Productions 2011), he welcomes you into the Pen Playground to show you the ropes, teach you to harness your imagination, and encourage you to ride into your adventures.

Pen’s natural enthusiasm and genuine desire to support others is a refreshing break and blessing for screenwriters. He has a special gift for inspiring and educating writers through his humor, insight, playful creativity, use of analogies, and candor about his various experiences. He shares his unique techniques for and philosophies on creating complex characters, story structure, editing, selling, pitching, and embracing your Imaginary Bears.

Because Pen knows that “no two writers think about our process identically”, he invited other successful screenwriter friends and colleagues like Shane Black Lethal Weapon, Nia Vardalos My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Eric Roth Forrest Gump, Robin Swicord Little Women, Ron Shelton Bull Durham, and Laeta Kalogridis Shutter Island to share their wisdom. He also includes an Instant Screenwriting Library of suggested reading with a review of each book, written by his USC students.

Riding The Alligator is highly recommended for all writers who want to put the PLAY back into their screenplay writing and color it with PASSION.

To learn more about Pen Densham you can visit his site at and purchase a copy of Riding The Alligator at Michael Wiese Productions, Amazon, The Writers Store, Barnes & Noble, or Borders.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Woman in the Story

Writing Memorable Female Characters
by Helen Jacey

Book Review
By Ann Baldwin

Helen Jacey is a screenwriter, teacher, and story consultant. She previously spent many years working for international aid agencies to provide psychological support services for women and children. She has taught creativity and self-development courses to hundreds of women. She graduated with an M.A. in Screenwriting at the London Institute in 2001, not long after completing her first screenplay. She has sold or optioned every screenplay she has written. Her interest in the stories of heroines led her to undertake a Ph.D. in Screenwriting at the University of the Arts London. She lectures on screenwriting at leading universities and holds her two-day seminar, Writing the Heroine’s Story, for many international screenwriters. She spends her time between the U.K. and Los Angeles. In her newest book, The Woman in the Story: Writing Memorable Female Characters (Michael Wiese Productions 2010), she gives you a rare look into what makes a compelling, unique, and unforgettable heroine in films, the secret formula for building her foundation, and all the questions you need to ask to bring her to life on the page.

Helen reveals the various roles that women choose in life (and sometimes that have been chosen for them, as history has demonstrated with the many cultures of the world). Often is the case, women will choose more than one role through-out their life. These role choices give women more depth, character, and distinction, compared to the typical stereotypes and archetypes, which are culturally created and have been the basis from which so many female characters in films have been conceived and portrayed.

She examines the primal, masculine-oriented, conflict/stakes driven stories along with the harmony, balance, and connection-oriented, union driven stories. Helen incorporates over 190 films and T.V. shows as examples to include characters like Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind, Clarice Starling in Silence of the Lambs, Dian Fossey in Gorillas in the Mist, Andrea and Miranda in The Devil Wears Prada, Carrie Bradshaw in Sex in the City and more.

Real-life heroines, through-out history, have been breaking the molds for women around the world; it’s our responsibility to not only tell their stories, but those of the present and future heroines as well. One of the most challenging things a writer must do is to not only observe others and the relationships in their own lives, but they must take a deep look within themselves (all the good, bad, and ugly parts). Every human being has faults, weaknesses, insecurities, an evil twin, made mistakes, buried wounds, and scars, along with good qualities and experiences too. Understanding human nature is the key to being able to write about it accurately and it must start from within.

I highly recommend The Woman in the Story for all writers who want to create more realistic, diverse, and memorable heroines in their stories; and, it’s not just about making your female characters unforgettable, but you as a writer as well.

To learn more about Helen Jacey you can visit her at and purchase a copy of The Woman in the Story at Michael Wiese Productions, Amazon, The Writer's Store, Barnes & Noble, or Borders.