Cracking The Story – How A Screenwriter Gets Unstuck by Gary Goldstein

Watch the video interview on Youtube here

Film Courage: We’ve heard screenwriters use the phrase ‘Cracking The Story,’ so what does this mean exactly?

Gary Goldstein: Cracking The Story is (just to continue from what we were talking about) you have the beginnings of a story but then you beat out the story, you create the whole story, you role out the carpet, basically the whole story, so you don’t really crack the story and it may be more of a TV term than a film term (I’m not sure) but you don’t crack the story until you are able to tell the story from start to finish and any of the holes in it are filled and that’s my interpretation of it. The concept of cracking something is like “Oh! That was what was missing.” We got it and now we cracked the story and the rest of it just falls into place.

So there’s that, but also just the concept of being able to tell the story from start to finish. If I send in a pitch (let’s say) and I write up a pitch to send into a producer or network or something for a movie or TV show pilot or something, I may send a premise line and see if the general premise line is of interest. And they may say “Oh, no. We are already doing something like that.” Or “That’s great, give me more.” I will give them the story from start to finish.  It doesn’t have to be very long. It can be a page and a half that I’m writing but at least I’m not just giving them preamble. I’m not just giving them the first act of something. I’m not just giving them like a tease. I’m basically telling them, cracking that story for them, telling them where that story is going to go from start to finish. Not necessarily in great detail. Sometimes in more detail but it’s really about being able to show that this is an entire story. This is where this will move and then we can fill it in and amplify it as we go along. So it’s really being able to tell a story from start to finish, for me anyway. That’s my interpretation of it.

Film Courage:  What about those writers who say sometimes they begin something without knowing the ending?

Gary Goldstein: Well, I’ve done that.

Film Courage: Oh, you have?

Gary Goldstein: I’ve done that or where the ending has changed a lot. Again with April, May and June (this play), I didn’t know. I didn’t know what they were going to find. I didn’t know that at the end of the first act they were going to find…that the sisters were going to find something, that it just became obvious, it became the thing that was driving me. I didn’t even realize it. And I didn’t know what that thing was going to be until I thought about it. So that was a case where I really didn’t know.

I’ve definitely written things where if you’re writing a romantic comedy, generally the couple will get back together in the end. There’s all of that, kind of some givens but sometimes you don’t know.

Frankly, I do think it’s better to know or at least have some idea. It’s like getting in a car and saying “Well, I know how to get halfway there but I don’t really know where I’m going after that?” You’re going to be stuck in the middle of nowhere so it’s not dissimilar with a story. I prefer to know where I was going and I think certainly before you start sitting down and writing it, you should have a pretty good idea of where you’re going and if it does evolve or it makes changes along the way, great. You know, work with it. See where it takes you. These stories unfold on your own sometimes. But I think it’s helpful, like I said, I’m a big believer in structure and having the beats out before I start writing something from start to finish but we can be surprised and I bet there’s definitely been times when I’ve not known exactly where I was going until I got there.

Question for the Viewers:  Do you outline before writing a screenplay?


Watch the video interview on Youtube here




Gary Goldstein is an award winning writer for film, TV and the stage. He has written numerous films for Hallmark Channel and its sister network, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, including the comedies “The Wish List,” “Hitched for the Holidays,” “This Magic Moment” and “My Boyfriends’ Dogs,” and the first two films in the “Flower Shop Mystery” series: “Mum’s the Word” and “Snipped in the Bud,” starring Brooke Shields.

Gary’s feature film “Politics of Love,” a romantic comedy set during the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, was released in theaters August 2011. He also wrote the feature romantic comedy, “If You Only Knew,” which starred Johnathon Schaech, Alison Eastwood and James LeGros.

In addition, Gary has sold or optioned a number of original screenplays, has a string of episodic TV credits and has sold half-hour comedy pilots to both NBC and Warner Bros Television.

On the L.A. stage, Gary has been represented with the comedies “Just Men,” “Parental Discretion” and “Three Grooms and a Bride.” His family drama “Curtain Call” premiered in late 2008 at Carmel, CA’s Pacific Repertory Theatre. His newest play, the three-sisters dramedy “April, May & June,” will have its World Premiere in March 2017 at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills, as part of its 2016-17 subscription season.

Gary is also a freelance film reviewer and feature writer for the Los Angeles Times.