Screenplay Structure Is The Enemy by Marty Lang, Assistant Professor of Film at University of Central Arkansas

Marty Lang addressing a crowd before a screening at the Connecticut Science Center

Film Courage: How has the screenwriting Master’s program transformed your screenwriting process? What do you do differently now?

Marty Lang, Screenwriter/Director and Assistant Professor of Film at the University of Central Arkansas/DirectorWell, I think a lot more about the structure from the very beginning than the way that I used to do it.

Previously if I had an idea for a movie I would just start writing and just sort of see where it went and sometimes good things would come from that. There definitely is a benefit to sort of free writing and just kind of seeing what comes from it.

But my experience has taught me that spending time to outline an idea before actually writing it makes the writing much more efficient. I’ve saved multiple drafts of screenplays because I’ve gone and outlined ahead of time and I figured out the major turning points of the film and that sort of thing. That’s something I really didn’t do beforehand because I sort of rebelled against it. I thought that structure is the enemy and the thing that I’ve learned is that structure is your friend. It helps point our errors before you get to them and it helps you stay on track.

If you know what the next thing is that you’re writing toward, it’s a lot better if it’s five pages away then if it’s 50 pages.

So you know you have a specific thing to write to, your scenes have more urgency, your scenes have more conflict as a result of that. So I think that’s the biggest thing that I’ve learned.

The other thing that I sort of picked up along the way is that the more personal you can make your stories and the more raw you can make them I think the more effective they are for the reader.

The story that I wrote about my dad, there were some really dark things that were in there. And it’s not a dark film per se. It’s a drama but really laying there some emotional things that I had dealt with a long time ago, it really helps with the writing. It makes it more engaging, it makes it more interesting for the reader.

The more you try to cover up sort of the raw things that your characters are dealing with the less interesting it becomes. So I think it’s kind of good to lay it all out there. It’s kind of a form of free therapy.

Film Courage: I know you’d said in another class from another professor that they talked about deciding what kind of protagonist you really want to focus on. Did you start to see parallels in who you wanted to write about?

Marty: And you know it’s funny, I have and I see…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).

RISING STAR — Written/Directed by Marty Lang

BIO: My name’s Marty Lang, and I’m an award-winning filmmaker, professor and journalist. I attended the University of Connecticut, graduating with a B.A. in Journalism and covering entertainment for the New York Times. After producing the independent feature “A Little Bit of Lipstick,” starring Mia Tyler and Soupy Sales, I was accepted into the Florida State University Graduate Film Conservatory in 2002.

I worked on over 50 short films at FSU, associate producing the Student Academy Award-winning comedy “The Plunge,” and co-producing the Oscar-qualifying “Fields of Mudan.” After working for Zide/Perry Films and Magnet Management in Los Angeles, I moved back home to Connecticut.

Since then, I’ve co-produced the satire “Being Michael Madsen,” starring Michael Madsen, Virginia Madsen, David Carradine and and Lacey Chabert, associate produced the supernatural drama “The Other Side of the Tracks,” starring Brendan Fehr and Tania Raymonde, and associate produced the drama “Out of My Hand,”a 2014 IFP Labs film that world premiered at Berlin in 2015, and won the Jury Award for US Fiction at the 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival. In addition, I developed the curriculum for the nationally-recognized Connecticut Film Industry Training Program, and was its Assistant Director from 2008 to 2012…(Read more here).




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