Screenwriting With Jim Makichuk

Here’s the most recent post from Jason Brubaker at FilmmakingStuff.com:

Screenwriting With Jim Makichuk

As a screenwriter, your goal is to get your writing made into movies. So you write and write and write. And through perseverance you get an agent and eventually get your story sold and produced. With a little more luck and hard work, you make a living doing what you love.

If you want to see your writing translated onto the big screen, you will love the following screenwriting tips from Jim Makichuk. With a screenwriting career spanning over 30 years, his advice is no-fluff and useful.

Jim Makichuk took some time to stop by Filmmaking Stuff to share tips and also tell you about his latest book, titled The Working Writer’s Screenplay.

Jason Brubaker
Hi Jim. Thanks for stopping by Filmmaking Stuff to share tips on screenwriting. Before we get too far into our conversation, could you tell our readers a little more about your background?

Jim Makichuk
Sure. I am a writer and director living in Los Angeles.

Jason Brubaker
What did you do before you got started in the industry?

Jim Makichuk
I was raised in Canada and worked in TV news, documentaries, commercials and was a newswriter, cameraman and producer/director before I wrote and directed my first feature Ghostkeeper in 1980.

Jason Brubaker
What led you to writing your first script?

Jim Makichuk
Back then, I really didn’t have access to many screenwriting books. I learned how to write screenplays by getting produced screenplaysand reading and writing over them.

Jason Brubaker
And eventually that led to actual work.

Jim Makichuk
So far, I have 19 feature-length movies behind me and 30 hours of episodic TV. Currently I have optioned a screenplay to a French company in Paris and am working on making a sequel to Ghostkeeper.

Jason Brubaker
Given your experience, perhaps you can answer a question. I get a lot of emails from screenwriters who never finish a script. Why do you think that is?

Jim Makichuk
Well, that’s an odd question. I really don’t know many writers who haven’t finished their script, I have 40 specs on my shelf.

Jason Brubaker
Well, many of the people asking that type of question are beginners.

Jim Makichuk
Having taught ULCA extension classes in screenwriting, I found the biggest problem for beginners was that they didn’t have a good idea in the first place.

Jason Brubaker
If there was a trend, I’d say most get stuck in the second act and never finish. Any tips for second-act slowdown?

Jim Makichuk
They haven’t written enough subplots. Subplots carry the second act of any film or TV show. The first act provides intros for everyone and the third act resolves it.

Jason Brubaker
But you’re saying the second act needs subplots.

Jim Makichuk
The second act needs subplots to make it through. This isn’t advice, it’s reality.

Jason Brubaker
How much research do you put into your stories?

Jim Makichuk
This depends on the project or on how much you already know. I wrote a Christmas story for Hallmark and didn’t really research anything, just the characters, whom I always base on people I know or have seen. My last screenplay is about a heart transplant and I did about 40 pages of research, as well as research on presidents, Amendment 25 and others.

Jason Brubaker
You recently finished a screenwriting book called The Working Writer’s Screenplay where you share your real-world screenwriting experience.

Jim Makichuk
I wrote the book based on my 30-plus years of writing.

Jason Brubaker
A lot of screenwriters do not have your experience. I especially like how your book incorporates how-to screenwriting tips with an actual case study.

Jim Makichuk
Yes. The book was written in three sections. You start with basic screenwriting, beginning with my most recent movie in which I use the actual complete screenplay with marked notes as well as text that adds more detail.

Jason Brubaker
I thought the screenplay notes were interesting.

Jim Makichuk
Also included in the book are chapters on the specifics of movies. For example, I detail how to find real characters, dealing with conflict, dialog and many other important aspects of writing all based on working in the trenches rather than mythical formulas and secrets.

Jason Brubaker
I also liked your tips for breaking into the industry. I get emails all the time from discouraged screenwriters.

Jim Makichuk
The second part of the book deals with the issues of breaking in, hanging on and making it work.

Jason Brubaker
Your book provided actionable tips. Especially when it comes to finding agents and navigating Hollywood.

Jim Makichuk
Finding agents, working with producers and actors, adapting books, rewrites, pitches and finding those golden moments of writing. In total, it is about a life in the movies which you can share and learn from.

Jason Brubaker
What is your best advice for any screenwriers who want to have an awesome career in Hollywood?

Jim Makichuk
If you pick up the basics and have some imagination and curiosity, with a little luck and lots of perseverance, you might make a good writer. And don’t expect miracles and shortcuts and graphs and promises, the only way to write is to write. And write.

– – –
Jim Makichuk was born and raised in Canada and got his first job at a local TV station in Windsor where he worked on a TV news crew in Detroit. After attending a film course which he and a friend failed he moved to Vancouver and produced commercials and documentaries, one of which won numerous international awards and was a finalist in the 1976 Academy Awards. In 1980 he wrote, produced and directed his first feature, Ghostkeeper which had it’s 30th anniversary DVD in 2012. Jim moved to Los Angeles in 1990 and worked on 40 or more screenplays, of which 19 were made as well as 30 hours of episodic.

Currently Jim a screenplay optioned by a Paris company to be made as a French movie and is working on a sequel to Ghostkeeper. And in spite of failing in that course, Jim and his friend were the only two people in their class who went on to careers in film. To grab a copy of Jim Makichuk’s latest screenwriting book, click here.

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