A note from Bill Middleton, TSA President: 2013
Greetings TSA Members!
I'm Bill Middleton, the new president of the Tennessee Screenwriters Association. I've been attending TSA for about four or five years now, but only in the last couple of years have I become more involved.
Just to tell you a little bit about me-I'm a Nashville native and grew up in the Hermitage/Donelson area. I've been a regular moviegoer since childhood. Having grown up on movies like Star Wars and directors such as Steven Spielberg, I was quickly spoiled on good movies. So spoiled that I hated going to bad movies. It was such an unpleasant experience to sit through a bad movie. One year, Enemy Mine was playing and I decided to see it based on the flashy Sci-Fi trailer. I cringed nearly every minute in my seat and could not wait until the credits rolled-I hated that movie!
Eventually, I learned how movies are made, and they are first written. They come from a story. And someone wrote that story. Growing up I learned how to play the guitar and write songs. In College I learned about writing and literature. There was a creative side within me that burned on a regular basis. After college I worked but continued to create on the side and wrote all sorts of stuff-songs, stories, poems, short films, skits, plays, even long form screenplays. This protagonist's goal was to eventually direct a movie. But there was something missing from my work. Something called structure.
When I first came to TSA, I began to hear about it. I pondered it. Questioned it. Hmmm…do movies really have that much structure? I left TSA. Came back. Occasionally wrote some. Left again. Wrote some more. Returned. Each attendance left me curious to know more.
Then, I had a life-changing experience. I hired a script analyst. A few years ago I had written a full-length screenplay. I was excited. Friends loved it. I did a table read with others, they liked it. Still others were in awe that I had written a feature length screenplay. But in the back of my mind I kept thinking, hmmm…is my screenplay really that good? I need someone's opinion that counts. Enter the Script Analyst. I quickly sent him a check and my script and waited to hear back. He responded and we set up a meeting time. Finally!
For two long hours, the analyst dissected all of the poorly designed mechanics of my story and what he found wasn't pleasant: my protagonist had no goal, my protagonist wasn't leading each scene, my scenes weren't polarized, my characters were flat, scenes were long, my ending was confusing. He went on and on. My heart sunk lower and lower. During all of this the analyst kept bringing up one central question: Why do I care about this protagonist? Why, you ask? Because blood, sweat and tears wrote 90 pages of script, that's why!!
I was crushed. Angry. Upset. Frustrated. It can't be true. Writing ninety pages (and even going through several revisions) was difficult and laborsome--no matter how bad it was. Surely some of it was good? Yet, in the back of my mind, I kept getting the sense that all of the feedback I received during those two long, agonizing hours…was true. The analyst made one final recommendation: Read Story.
That day I ordered Robert McGee's book Story. Another life-changer. I was beginning to see the light. I couldn't put the book down. There it was. Structure. There it was, staring you in the face all along. Right there on the big screen. Nearly every Hollywood movie (over 90%) has it. Good as well as bad. And that's no joke. I've heard from insiders on this.
Since then, I have studied about structure, and now embrace it. And I would like to see our group continue to promote what we now refer to as the Classic American Narrative Structure. It's how Hollywood Movies get made. In fact, you won't get a movie made out there unless your script has this. And TSA can be an excellent vehicle for sending the structure gospel to the masses.
TSA President 2013