Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Power of The Dark Side

Creating Great Villains and Dangerous Situations 
by Pamela Jaye Smith

Book Review
By Ann Baldwin

Pamela Jaye Smith has earned a respected reputation as a speaker, consultant, writer, award-winning producer/director, and the founder of MYTHWORKS with over 30 years of experience on features, TV series, commercials, documentaries, corporate and military films. Her credits and clients include Paramount, Disney, Microsoft, Universal, GM, the FBI, and the U.S. Army. In her book, The Power of The Dark Side: Creating Great Villains and Dangerous Situations (Michael Wiese Productions 2008), you’ll gain a deeper understanding of what the dark side is, who gets lured into it and why, what it’s purpose is, and how to deal with it in your stories.

Every great protagonist, heroine, or hero is only as good as the antagonist, villain, or obstacle that gets in their way to accomplishing their goals, which they must confront and overcome. As writers, it’s our job to take our protagonists into the dark (unknown) and shed light on the subject for the audience, so they can learn what to do or not do in the same or a similar situation. As Pamela says, “Storytellers are valuable ~ they can be a mirror or a movie screen for the rest of humanity, who have a curiosity for variety and adventure but often not the inclination, time, or courage to go there themselves"; like the popular 1970’s commercial for Life cereal, where the two brothers are reluctant to try the new cereal saying to each other “I’m not gonna try it – you try it” then they look at their younger brother and say, “I know, let’s get Mikey.”

Whether your protagonist is up against a bad dad, tyrant, or mad scientist or large group like an organized religion, a secret society, or a shadow government, there are many ways to defend against them like laughter, education, and exposure. The dark side exists in comedies, cartoons, children’s stories, romance, drama, action/adventure, documentaries, historical fiction, commercials, and the obvious, horror stories. Pamela uses hundreds of film and character examples including Harry Potter, Conspiracy Theory, and Freedom Writers to Cruella De Vil, Dr. Hannibal Lecter, and Darth Vader.

The dark side of life is like the negative of a photograph, it appears dark and solid on the outside, but once you hold it up to the light, it becomes transparent and allows you to see right through it. For all writers who want to create believable, bad-to-the-bone, or worthy opponents for their heroines or heroes to conquer, The Power of The Dark Side is the best choice and has the largest and most comprehensive reference list of dark forces imaginable.

To learn more about Pamela Jaye Smith you can visit her at and purchase a copy of The Power of The Dark Side at Michael Wiese Productions, Amazon, The Writers Store, or Barnes & Noble.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cinematic Storytelling

The 100 Most Powerful Film Conventions Every Filmmaker Must Know
By Jennifer van Sijll

Book Review
By Ann Baldwin

Jennifer van Sijll has an MFA from USC’s Department of Cinema-Television, teaches screenwriting at San Francisco State and UC Berkeley, and worked as a script analyst for Universal Pictures. She consults on film and television projects in Los Angeles and San Francisco. In her book, Cinematic Storytelling: The 100 Most Powerful Film Conventions Every Filmmaker Must Know (Michael Wiese Productions 2005), she opens new doors and windows of opportunity for more creativity in our screenwriting, by revealing the abundant resources available to us through film techniques.

You can add subtle layers of meaning to your scripts through film techniques such as sound effects, props, scene transitions, lighting, camera motion, and editing; Jennifer shows you how to incorporate them into your screenwriting and uses examples and illustrations from over 100 films including Out Of Africa, The Conversation, Klute, ET, Citizen Kane, and The Sixth Sense.

She will teach you how to think and write more visually and gives you the ultimate supply of tools for conquering the “Show, Don’t Tell” rule of screenwriting. You’ll gain a better understanding of how to convey your message to your audience without relying on dialog.

Jennifer’s unique approach connects a bridge between screenwriting and film production, allowing for a more united and successful collaboration of film artists. Cinematic Storytelling is highly recommended for all writers who want to master the art of screenwriting and be more in-demand.

To learn more about Jennifer van Sijll you can visit her at and purchase a copy of Cinematic Storytelling at Michael Wiese Productions, Amazon, The Writers Store, and Barnes & Noble.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

You're Funny

For Writers Who Can’t Get Their Acts Together
By D.B. Gilles

Book Review
By Ann Baldwin

D.B. Gilles has taught comedy writing in The Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film & Television at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts for nearly 20 years. He also taught comedy in The Dramatic Writing Department at NYU, the Graduate Film Department at Columbia, and The Comedy Institute in New York City. He’s a screenwriter, playwright, script consultant, and writing coach. He is also the author of The Screenwriter Within and The Portable Film School. He has a popular blog titled Screenwriters Rehab: For Writers Who Can’t Get Their Acts Together. In his newest book, You’re Funny Turn your SENSE OF HUMOR into a lucrative new career (Michael Wiese Productions May 2011), D.B. examines the varied types, forms, and aspects of comedy, gets you in touch with your own sense of humor, and explores all the avenues for comedy writing.

All of us laughed, before we could speak and while every one of us has a different kind of funny bone (sense of humor), laughter is a universal language. D.B. says “History tells us that when times are tough, people want to laugh. They need to laugh.” With the current economic downturn, which is trying so many lives with the loss of their jobs and homes, it’s no wonder comedy writers are in great demand all over the world. Laughter is one of the best ways to reduce and relieve stress (lighten the load), help us heal, make us smile, and add happiness into our life.

D.B. gives you a close-up look at all kinds of comedy writing jobs out there from short humor, parody, and satire with sites like The Onion, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and The Huffington Post to television sketches, sitcoms, and late night using shows like David Letterman, The Tonight Show, Saturday Night Live, The Office, Cheers, and 30 Rock to screenwriting for comedy websites like Funny or Die and feature films like Legally Blonde and The Hangover. He gives you an inside look at not only writing for a stand-up comic, but what it takes to be one as well. He includes some very helpful samples of comedy writing and shares a wealth of resources.

The irony of laughter is it not only heals us, it’s contagious, and when something is really funny, it brings tears to our eyes. I highly recommend You’re Funny for all writers who would like to add more humor, joy, happiness, and healing energy into our world.

To learn more about D.B. Gilles you can visit him at and purchase a copy of You’re Funny at Michael Wiese Productions, Amazon, The Writers Store, & Barnes & Noble.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

The Script-Selling Game

A Hollywood Insider’s Look At Getting Your Script Sold and Produced
By Kathie Fong Yoneda

Book Review
By Ann Baldwin

Kathie Fong Yoneda has over thirty years of successful experience working in film and television. She has held executive positions at Disney, Touchstone, Disney TV Animation, Paramount Pictures Television and Island Pictures, specializing in development and story analysis of both live-action and animation projects. In her book, The Script-Selling Game: A Hollywood Insider’s Look At Getting Your Script Sold and Produced, 2nd edition (Michael Wiese Productions May 2011), you will find a treasure chest of knowledge to get and keep you in the big leagues of Hollywood.

Kathie takes all the guessing out of the game of script-selling by supplying you with the who, what, when, where, why, and how that you need to know in order to play and win. She will guide you through talking the talk, walking the walk, and staying alive.

She covers all the bases from pitching five different ways to avoiding The Big Nine reasons why scripts are rejected to meeting with the moguls. She takes you into the field of the internet, where new areas like virtual pitching and writing for the web are opening more doors of opportunity, along with the field of animation as well.

Kathie fans the flame that burns within every writer who has a true passion to tell their stories and feeds the fire with an abundance of solid fuel to keep you blazing hot on the trail to script-selling success. I highly recommend The Script-Selling Game for all writers who want to take their screenwriting careers to the ultimate level of accomplishment.

To learn more about Kathie Fong Yoneda you can visit her at and purchase a copy of The Script-Selling Game at Michael Wiese Productions, Amazon, The Writers Store, orBarnes & Noble.