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Make Your Story A Movie: Chapters 7-9

by John Robert Marlow



What’s at Stake?

Stories—movies in particular—are vicarious experiences. Adventure. Catharsis. If character is the hook that gets readers and viewers involved, story is the line that reels them in. “I look for a story that moves me,” says Paul Haggis—who, as a screenwriter, director, producer and multiple Oscar-winner—has a broader perspective than most. “And that’s hard to find. You need to be able to say, this is a story that, once it’s on the screen, will move me in some way. It’ll make me laugh, it’ll make me cry, break my heart, heal me. Whatever it is, it will touch me. And if it touches me, it will touch others as well. That’s probably the most important thing to know.”

When considering material, Oscar-nominated producer Michael Nozik asks questions. “Is there a compelling central character? One whose dilemma can sustain the story? And what is that dilemma? Is it one that I care about, that I can relate to; one that I think an audience will relate to? I actually ask if I relate to it first, because if I can’t understand it and relate to it, I’m probably not going to be of much use in moving the project forward.

“I’ve tried a few times with things where I thought, hey, this story seems commercial—but if it doesn’t affect me on an emotional level, if it doesn’t compel me, I actually can’t go the distance with it, can’t develop it, can’t sell it very well because I’d just be faking it. And I just don’t understand or know how to do that.” Even the most fascinating character in the world can’t save a bad story.

But what, exactly, is a bad story? Read more…

Make Your Story A Movie: Chapters 4-6

by John Robert Marlow



Most authors would like to see their work adapted for the big (or small) screen, but the path from here to there is at best unfamiliar—and can seem incomprehensible. Some bestsellers are made into movies, others ignored. Obscure books, short stories, and magazine articles are blessed by Hollywood’s magic, while thousands of screenplays are turned away. What sense does that make? Is there no rhyme or reason here?

Well, yes, actually. But it’s hard to make out when—like most writers—you’re on the outside looking in. The twelve chapters that follow will take you through the looking glass and make some sense of the enigma that is the Hollywood adaptation process. More importantly, it will explain why some books are made into movies while others are not, and what you can do to make your story more attractive to filmmakers. Read more…

Make Your Story A Movie: Chapters 1-3

by John Robert Marlow


The original MYSAM (Make Your Story A Movie) book was traditionally published by Macmillan/St. Martin’s Griffin in 2012. What you’re reading now is a sort of v1.5—updated in 2019 and placed (free) on the website. MYSAM v2.0 will be published in 2020, with new contributions from authors, screenwriters, producers, directors and others not found in previous versions (including this one). I’ll also be covering digital/streaming and series, which are far more important now than they were in 2012. This version 1.5 may go offline when v2.0 appears. Start reading the free book now…