The 2015 Austin Film Festival!

AFFWhile I may have missed last year’s Austin Film Festival (AFF) due to having a baby, I consider myself an annual attendee. Well this year is special for me, because I will be a panelist. I look forward to seeing you all there, and especially at the barbecue! To see my panels, click here. 
Here are some highlights I’m seeing for this year’s festival:

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Making the Leap to Follow Our Passions


Military Veterans in Creative Careers - Justin SloanEven the best of us have looked at our dream careers and thought they were unattainable. That there’s no way we could pursue screenwriting or acting or what-have-you while being able to pay the rent. And that’s unfortunate.

The lucky few of us hit a point in our careers where we look back at the dreams of our youth and realize that it’s never too late to reach for the stars, and we find a way.

That was me not long ago, and if not for a very emotionally supportive wife I may still be working as an Asia analyst at the Federal Reserve. Instead, I’m writing on the video game version of Game of Thrones at Telltale Games (called the HBO of gaming). I am also a published author and optioned screenwriter, and feel my career is at its infancy and will only get better from here.  Continue reading

The Up and Down Emotional Beats of Scenes

storyI am a multitasker. I love to work on my next author interview, paint, or outline story ideas while I watch a movie or great television show (which really only means Game of Thrones, after I’ve seen the episode once or twice). But there are some movies that demand our full attention, no matter how skilled we are at multitasking.

One such film, which started as a book equally as intriguing, is The Fault in Our Stars.

But let’s not discuss the merits of the movie or the book. Instead let’s consider an idea that such writing books as Robert McKee’s Story mention, namely scenes having up and down emotional beats (or positive and negative charges), and how this concept is used in The Fault in Our Stars as a case study.  Continue reading

Scene by Scene: Setting Up Your Screenplay

The PrestigeOne thing that working in games has taught me is the real importance of every single scene, and how they each have to matter in very specific ways. This is of course true in the world of screenwriting, and maybe novel writing as well (though I would argue that many authors get away with being sloppier, and that’s fine).

Today I would like to talk about how each scene should be tied into the larger picture, all there to setup the climax. Yes, scenes should have the ‘This happened, and then because of that this happened, etc.’ and rising stakes and conflict and all that, but what I am talking about here is a scene’s ability to play to the rest of the film, and namely the film’s ending (as that’s where it all leads). It seems like magic in the hands of a skilled screenwriter, and for that reason I would point you to the great film The Prestige, by Johnathan and Christopher Nolan.  Continue reading

Sharing Lessons Learned: Writing Screenplays

Writing ScreenplaysHow many times have you heard a new writer talk about their struggles, knowing that you have overcome those same hurdles? Or that same writer wonders what screenwriting conferences or events they should go to, and you’ve been. You know which ones suck and which ones are awesome. You have some experience that aspiring writers want, and I would like to announce a call to arms to share that information. That’s what we’re doing here at the Screenwriting Grotto, and we hope you all will find it useful and inspiring.


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Writers Guild Foundation Veterans Writing Retreat

Episode-39Justin-SloanEvery spring I am reminded of the great time I had a couple years back when I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the Writers Guild Foundation’s (WGF) Veterans Writing Retreat. If you are a military veteran and are at all interested in writing, this WGF event is a must.


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Military Veterans in Film: Giles Clarke

Giles Clarke

Giles Clarke is a producer and writer based in Los Angeles. His most recent feature film, the dark comedy Life in Color, is due for release in 2015. Giles has also produced the short films HungerDough and Haven’s Point as well as Crazy, the recent music video for band: Max and the Moon. He was also the Unit Production Manager on the soon-to-premiere TV pilot, Bump & Grind. A graduate of the USC School of Cinematic Arts MFA film production program, Giles is a former infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps with over 8 years of service and three combat tours through Iraq and Afghanistan.

I was glad to be able to sit down with Giles on one of my trips to LA, and learned a lot from him. I am sure you will enjoy his advice as much as I have.

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