Storyality, a screenwriting manual by Velikovsky is a interesting look at what makes films successful. He takes out that rose colored glasses from those looking at the industry magically and exposing the truth. He examines why certain genres do better than others. What do the ones that are successful , what do they have in common? He does by examining the ROI (Return on Investment). It’s not your ordinary type of screenwriting manual, so if you’re looking for a traditional one this isn’t it, but it’s really worth looking at it. Having an MFA in Creative writing I wish that this was taught in my school when I learned how to screen write. Great addition to those who want to add to your screen writing book collection!
STORYALITY Screenwriting Manual – or, PLOTTING PROFITABLE PICTURES – A Screenwriting Manual based on The Common Patterns and Practises in the Top 20 RoI (Return on Investment) Films of the Past 70 Years – by JT Velikovsky. (Feature Films, Motion Pictures, Screenplays, Screenwriting).
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
From Australia… I’m a simple farmboy, from the desert planet of Mudgee, NSW, originally.
(Which is also the old stomping grounds of one of Australia’s most famous writers, Henry Lawson. As a kid he used to swim in our great grandparents’ drinking well. He wrote a poem about it, “The Days When We Went Swimming”) – But, I’ve also lived in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide (all in Oz) – and also in Los Angeles, London and Bangkok.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
The STORYALITY Screenwriting Manual – or the idea for it – actually `started’ (brewing) about 20 years ago… I read 100 books on Screenwriting in 1995 when I was studying at film school in Australia (i.e. the AFTRS, our national film school) and then I published a summary of them (see the PDF here) http://uws.academia.edu/JTVelikovsky/ Then, for the next 20 years, working as screenplay analyst for film studios, and as a professional screenwriter myself (for film, games, and TV etc) – I kept thinking (ie – wondering, puzzling) Why all the 100 screenwriting books used different methods, and – Why didn’t they all agree? So, I decided to go back to school (ie university) and investigate that question – as a doctoral research project. And so – the StoryAlity Theory – and the book – came out of all that research. (And, also from 20 years of `unofficially’ investigating but continually being puzzled by some strange results.)
So – interestingly, `StoryAlity Theory’ predicts (among many other things) that: a Top 20 RoI (ie, most-profitable) feature film will appear, in Jan 2014. So – to keep an eye on that prediction – watch this space, in January 2014:
ie – The Top 20 RoI Films (3rd list from the bottom, here)
and, maybe also – watch that space:
The StoryAlity weblog
What inspires and what got you started in writing?
In non-fiction, I’m inspired by great science writing… Things like `Creativity’ (1996) by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi,
`Creativity In Science’ (2004) by DK Simonton… and all Richard Dawkins’ work. And, even `Lifetide’ by Lyall Watson – though there are some mistakes in it – like “the 100th Monkey” theory…
I also find Charles Darwin’s `The Origin of Species’ is a fascinating read and really (in fact, surprisingly) well written.
But am also inspired by filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick, Charlie Kaufman, David Fincher, and many others. My favourite TV show is Futurama… I’m a nerd.
What got me started in writing – hmm… I started writing stories (just: for fun) when young (age 5), and also wrote (in my spare time) all through school, and then my first `paid writing job’ was as a primetime TV sketch-comedy show writer when I was at university (ie the first time – doing my undergrad degree, in 1993.)
Also had some short stories published, while at uni (mostly, horror-comedy stories.) But I also did Journalism and Creative/Fiction Writing at university in my Communications degree… (I would actually argue that all writing can be `creative’… ie `novel but appropriate’)
Then in 1995 I wrote that Non-Fiction book (`The Screenwriters Workbook’) and I was also a researcher for the AFTRS (Film School’s) “Edge of the Known World: 25 Years of AFTRS” historical book (which I was also interviewed in).
So I’ve jumped around between fiction and nonfiction as the need – or chance – has arisen. I was also a professional Game Designer for nearly 20 years as well – and there is actually a lot of technical writing involved in Game Design… writing game design documents and the like… so that’s also non-fiction writing in a way…
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
In bed. Seriously. With my laptop on my lap.
And, no – I don’t `need’ anything to write, as such… Just preferably a long stretch of uninterrupted time.
(More here, from Monty Python/Fawlty Towers’ John Cleese: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zGt3-fxOvug
Sometimes I have music playing when I write – but sometimes not. One horror twitch psychological thriller screenplay I wrote (KILLING TIME) with Massive Attack’s song “Antistar” on repeat, the whole time. It just felt like the right mood for that whole film.
How do you get your ideas for writing?
From: absolutely everywhere… ie Day to day Life in general… Things always leap out from everywhere… – I also try and absorb as much culture as I can: books, films, TV, games, comics, conversation, everything. I have always done that naturally anyway, but I’ve also read a lot of research that shows: Creative people are typically curious, about everything… (eg: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199607/the-creative-personality) – and, I don’t think curiosity both a `necessary and sufficient’ criteria for Creativity, but it certainly may well help a lot, as – you just never know, where an idea might come from, (or be drawn from) that can help you solve a current creative problem… (and I believe all Creativity is just: problem-solving… and in fact Sir Karl Popper has a book of essays called `All Life Is Problem Solving’…!)
So – the idea for the latest book (STORYALITY Theory) – as I say – came from 20-years of asking `Why don’t the screenwriting manuals agree?’ and also, the question “Why do 70% of feature films lose money?”.
With fiction it’s different (I mean, not so much about `real-world problem solving’) – more about “Whoa, there’s a cool idea… Or, `Wouldn’t it be funny, if… [insert paradoxical - or funny - or ironic premise]” – typically inspired by something I’ve just heard, seen or read…
What do you like to read?
Almost everything fiction, non-fiction, magazines, comics, textbooks… I’m currently re-reading some Arthur C Clarke stories… (and comparing the novella of `2001: A Space Odyssey’ to Kubrick’s film, as Kubrick is my favourite filmmaker)… But I also love reading comics, (e.g. I adore the “Zen Stupidity” in `Flaming Carrot’ comics) and my favorite novel (ever) is Flann O’Brien’s `The Third Policeman’ (actually; the audiobook, read by Jim Norton). I also read a lot of philosophy.
First off, I would read the book “Creativity” (1996) by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. I wish I had read it, when I first started. (Well it only came out 3 years after I started professional writing career, but – still. Also, I learned about his (Mike’s) `flow’ theory from working in Game Writing and Game Design… but I digress…)
Then – (after `CREATIVITY’, Csikszentmihalyi, 1996) I would read: everything else by Csikszentmihalyi on creativity – such as his work on `flow’ theory.
I’d also definitely read R Keith Sawyer’s excellent book `Explaining Creativity’ (2012).
And – a summary of much of that `Creativity’ research is also on my doctoral research blog:
And if you are thinking of becoming a screenwriter, DEFINITELY – read this book first:
The Screenplay Business by Peter Bloore (2013).
(See, my glowing review of it, on the above link at Amazon.com ! )
Anything else you’d like to share?
Hmm, I also have a satirical comic-fantasy novel, that asks `What If God Was A Game Designer?’
And – Thanks so much for your blog Denise, and for this chance to chat about my work.
And – in the words of a famous philosopher – whose name escapes me – “If you ask lots of Why’s, you’ll get Why’s.”
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