In September, I hosted a webinar called “How To Write A Great Story” where I talked about what a “story” really is, as well as how to use personal stories to help your writing. This episode addresses questions you asked in our Q&A session that we didn’t have time to answer. There’s lots of great info here, make sure you watch.

Show Notes

Free Writing Webinarhttps://michaeljamin.com/op/webinar-registration/

Michael’s Online Screenwriting Course – https://michaeljamin.com/course

Free Screenwriting Lesson – https://michaeljamin.com/free

Join My Watchlist – https://michaeljamin.com/watchlist

Autogenerated Transcript

Michael Jamin:
It’s not that The stakes of rocky areas are not about will Rocky win the fight? Who cares? Will Rocky win the competition? The contest who caress? No one cares if he wins. The stakes are, will Rocky finally feel like he’s not a loser? Will he finally feel like he’s not a bum? And that’s something something all of us can relate to. You’re listening to, what the hell is Michael Jamin talking about? I’ll tell you what I’m talking about. I’m talking about creativity, I’m talking about writing, and I’m talking about reinventing yourself through the arts. Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode of, what the Hell is Michael Jamin talking about? Well, today I’m talking about, I’m answering questions. Phil, I’m back here with Phil Hudson. Hey Phil. What up? So why do these webinars every three weeks? And I try to answer questions during them and we don’t have time to get to all of them. So I’m going to be answering them right now and Phil’s going to feed ’em to me.

Phil Hudson:
That’s right. He’s

Michael Jamin:
Going to baby bird them to me. He’s going to chew them up and dip ’em into my mouth.

Phil Hudson:
I’m going to spit ’em into your mouth. Regurgitate ’em. Love it. Yeah. You guys know the thing. We’ve been doing this for two years now, so we’ve got plenty of these episodes in the Can questions came up. We’re going to dive into ’em Again, some of these things that were asked, we’re not going to go over Michael because we’ve talked about ’em a thousand times,

Michael Jamin:
But

Phil Hudson:
There are always some of those things that are still being asked that worth talking about a bit. So we’ll go through ’em. I’ve broken ’em up into kind of categories just to make sure that it’s easy to get through. Just be more, there are a couple of questions about your course in this I thought were worth bringing up because that was a lot of the questions that came up in September.

Michael Jamin:
Let’s do it.

Phil Hudson:
Alright, let’s dive into craft

Michael Jamin:
Michael.

Phil Hudson:
Dr. Adam wants to know, and these are YouTube. YouTube usernames for

Michael Jamin:
Anybody interested? Yes. Doctor I

Phil Hudson:
Help you with Dr. Adam wants to know how important is it for someone else to edit your writing,

Michael Jamin:
Edit? Well, when we work in television, it’s very collaborative, so your work will be rewritten often heavily by the showrunners or the writing staff. But it’s a very collaborative process from the beginning. We all work together to break the story, meaning figuring out what the story is, and I teach this in the course, how to break a story, and then you get notes in the outline, the first draft, the second draft, and the table draft, blah, blah, blah. So it’s very collaborative. But if you’re talking about, I dunno if the doctor’s talking about some other kind of work other than television writing

Phil Hudson:
The Good Doctor.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I don’t know, doctor, I’m not really sure what you mean other than I hope I answered your question

Phil Hudson:
To me. Either way.

Michael Jamin:
You’re getting my bill.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, if you’re billing the doctor, I love it. For me, this is a question more about, it’s a common question I’ve seen with people starting out, which is getting feedback or peer review, if you will on things. I had a couple of friends over Mike Rap who’s a writer on Tacoma d and Kevin who will feature the podcast soon and is in the screenwriting course. There were football and we talked a lot about this kind of stuff in writer’s room stuff. They both work in writer writer’s rooms and getting notes from peers even outside of the writer’s room at our level, Kevin and I have probably spent 40 or 50 hours on Zoom now giving each other notes on

Michael Jamin:
Writing.

Phil Hudson:
That’s incredibly helpful, but it’s not so much that they’re editing my writing, it’s more of them talking about This didn’t work for me, or Hey, I got confused here. And that’s the feedback that you always talk about, which is the valid feedback is someone gets lost, they don’t understand. It’s not compelling. It’s not really on page three. You have this ticky tack note where you overcapitalize a word or something like that.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, editing could be not so much getting answers from someone, but just getting questions. And the questions could be, if someone’s reading your work, they could say, I, what were you going for here? I didn’t get what you were going for. And then you get to decide whether you want to clarify or keep it muddy. And probably keeping it muddy is probably not the greatest choice. So you just want to make sure that your audience is along for the ride. And I was going to do a post about this soon where I think part of your responsibility as a writer is to make sure you’re holding your audience’s hand and taking them along for the ride and not letting go because you don’t want them to get lost. If they get lost, they’re going to find something else to do.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, that’s a great point. Yeah, it’s an interesting too, when you work with people who know story structure and they’ve been in writer rooms and they’re giving you these notes. There are times where this thing didn’t make sense to me, but I understand what you’re going for there. Or I would consider this doing a different way. But then you get a note from the other guy and they’re like, I loved this part. And so that conflicting thing is like, okay, I can keep this one. That’s a choice. But when they’re both like, Hey, I got really bogged down in this piece, that’s a clear sign. You’ve got to fix something.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, right. Thank you Doctor

Phil Hudson:
Alex Kier, any tips on writing a story with multiple characters and stories like love? Actually?

Michael Jamin:
Oh, well, first of all, stories have multiple characters, but you’re talking about multiple storylines. And so love actually is not that uncommon. It’s a fun movie, but it’s not that uncommon. You’re basically just having multiple storylines and all the storylines are united by this one thread, which is love during Christmas. That’s it. And there’s different types of love. There’s Brotherly Love. The way the Rock Star character had for his manager, what was that guy’s name? But there’s brand new love the way the two characters who met on the porn set. That’s like an awkward way of meeting. And there’s other romantic love between a couple that’s been married for a long time, and that was Emmett Thompson’s character with Alan Rickman’s character. Then there’s Love, new Love Upstairs, downstairs, love, which was, what’s his name? Hugh? Hugh Grant, come on. Hugh Grant, thank Hugh Grant’s character.
I don’t remember her name, but he was the prime minister and she was the lowly chambermaid or whatever she was supposed to be. And then you have another Love one character was a love where they can’t communicate. So it was Colin Firth’s character and I don’t remember her name, but she didn’t speak. She was the Portuguese maid and she didn’t speak English. So you’re just examining love over Christmas between different types of love and that’s how they’re all united. So that was the theme. And every story has to tell a version of that. Oh, then there’s one of the love there was brand new love, like puppy love, right? There was a storyline between the kid and what’s his name? He was like the young kid and his stepfather, Liam Neeson. And he’s trying to coach him into, wasn’t that in love actually, or is that something

Phil Hudson:
Else? I have never seen love actually.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, you got to watch it. So yeah. So those are my tips. So that’s it. And you’re just kind of integrating these very stories so each one can stand on its own. Each story can stand on its own. And you’re probably, if I had to time it, I would imagine that most stories, so there was one other, there was unrequited love where the guy had a crush on his best friend’s, new wife, Kira Knightly, and so all different kinds of love. And I imagine if you took a stopwatch and you timed out each storyline you’d get to, they, they’re all approximately the same amount of weight in terms of screen time and that’s it. And if they weren’t, I imagine it’s because some of the stories got cut down because we weren’t quite as compelling on camera as they were in the script. But I talk about this a lot. Maybe I should do a breakdown in the course of love. Actually, I talk about

Phil Hudson:
This. People love that. And you brought love actually up in stuff in the course

Michael Jamin:
I did. Okay. We already talked about it.

Phil Hudson:
Well, I don’t think you’ve done a case study. And for those who are unfamiliar, Michael has these awesome case studies in where you’ll talk about movies you love Amle, and you’ll talk about, I think, did you do Rocky Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Castaway, just looking at films and TV shows and kind of breaking ’em down for story structure and talking about what works, what doesn’t. And then you also hypothesized this, I imagine got cut in editing because

Michael Jamin:
As

Phil Hudson:
A writer, there’s a thing here that could be here or was missing, that kind

Michael Jamin:
Of thing. Yeah, there was a scene that I think that was missing from love actually, that I imagine they shot, but they just cut it for the sake of time.

Phil Hudson:
But I think it would be worth doing that. I think the members in the course would be pumped to get another case study,

Michael Jamin:
But there you go. Take the course if you want to learn more. But that, it’s a good question.

Phil Hudson:
You hit on something that you talk about in one of your webinars that we’re going to be putting back into the cycle because people really liked it, which is how do professional writers create great characters? And there’s this nuance you talked about in the September webinar that

Michael Jamin:
Became

Phil Hudson:
A full webinar, and it’s about how you pick your characters. So I’ll leave that a bit nebulous. So anybody’s interested in that, come attend the next

Michael Jamin:
Webinar. Yeah, please do. Because free in the next one, I’m talking about either character or story structure.

Phil Hudson:
So when this podcast drops, it’ll be like tomorrow, literally tomorrow, that’s going to be the podcast that we’re talking, the webinar we’re talking about. And you can sign up at michaeljamin.com/webinar to get notified.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Cool. Leanne Allen, how important is it for the goal to be broadly relatable?

Michael Jamin:
Well, it’s very important. I mean, the goals should be hugely important to the character, and it should be something that we could all hopefully relate to. I mean, if the goal is redeeming yourself in your mother’s eyes, that’s very relatable. If the goal is, I know if the goal is winning first prize, first place in a contest, who caress, it has to be more than that. It has to be more relatable than that. To be honest, I don’t really care about winning contests, so I don’t really care if your character wins a contest, but if winning the contest is a way for this person to finally feel good about themselves and their lives because it’s validation, because they’re a loner and because no one’s ever looked at them twice and win this contest as a way of them being able to hang their head up high publicly, that’s a relatable goal. Understand. But winning a contest in itself, who cares?

Phil Hudson:
And that’s the value of what you teach in these webinars and in the course is the difference between plot and story. Plot point would be they have to win this contest. The story is like, why does this matter? To

Michael Jamin:
Why?

Phil Hudson:
How is this going to affect them? It’s the internal need versus the external need. Winning the contest is the external, but the internal is the reason we watch it. And that’s the relatable piece.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Awesome. Desmond Bailey, how do you not front load the pipe?

Michael Jamin:
Oh, well, boy, I talked about this a lot. I wonder why they’re asking

Phil Hudson:
This. And just to clarify for people, this will be helpful. These are questions directly coming from the chat in the webinar when people are asking questions and they’re questions we didn’t get to in the q and a portion of the webinar, so this is something you had related to, or they’re setting something you set in the webinar, which was don’t front load your pipe or don’t be pipe. And so maybe explain pipe and expedition to people.

Michael Jamin:
So pipe is what we call in the business, we call it exposition. So it’s all the stuff that you need to know. It’s the background story. It’s the story before the story begins. And generally it’s boring. Pipe is just like something you need to hear, not you don’t want to hear it. You need to know to the characters. And so generally, the faster you can get to the pipe, the better, or you have to be artful about the pipe. So here’s a bad version. You’ll watch a show and you’ll say, Susie, you’re my sister. Why would I ever do that with you? My sister? A character would never tell another character, you’re my sister. That’s pipe. Because that character, she knows her sisters, Frankie, we’ve been best friends for 18 years, Frankie knows this. And so there are ways to get through the pipe artfully so that your audience doesn’t feel like, Ugh, why people don’t talk like that. Often a way to do this is by introducing a third character. So when a third character comes on the screen, the person who are you just talking to? Ugh, I was just talking to my sister. Now we know who that person is. Right? Sis, anytime you hear someone, a character calling the character sis, you roll your eyes. I’ve never met anyone who called her sister Sis.
Yeah, and I talk more about that in the course, but I just happened to watch, I was sent a short to potentially work with someone and they shot a miniature TV show. I guess it was sent to my agent or somebody. There was a lot of pipe in it. It was a lot of clunky pipe because they just didn’t know how to do it Every time it just stops the story cold.

Phil Hudson:
So the question is, how do you not front load the pipe? Do you have any tips for how to do that? I mean,

Michael Jamin:
Obviously

Phil Hudson:
The character, but if I’ve got to get this stuff out, and maybe you don’t need to get it out at the front, because I saw someone do this masterfully where a character was introduced very late in the film, and it added this beautiful plot point that tied back to something at the beginning and explained something. But it was intriguing enough that I got through two thirds of the film before this part mattered. But it’s rare to see that. It seems like people are just, act one is laying down the pipe and getting you set in your wall.

Michael Jamin:
You

Phil Hudson:
Understand? And I don’t

Michael Jamin:
Think

Phil Hudson:
What you teach us is that that’s the wrong way to do that.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, because pipe is so boring. All that exposition is boring and you think it’s important. You think you need it, and I’m telling you, you better figure another way around it. No one wants to hear it. So you could drip it out slowly as the audience needs it, or you could burn through it fast or you could, there’s just a number of ways of doing it, but giving me entire scenes of pipe is not the way to do it. That’s going to bore the hell out of everybody. No one wants to watch pipe.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, makes sense.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Awesome. So those are our craft questions for this episode or for this, but we’ve got breaking in one question on this, Kelli Art, what’s the best way to get paid to learn writer’s assistant? How do you get such a competitive job?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Well, so writer’s assistant is a fantastic way, but it’s not an entry level job because you have to know how to do it. I’ve talked about this before. I’m not qualified to be a writer’s assistant. I don’t really know the ins and outs of the job, even though I’ve been a showrunner several times. So the way you learn how to be a writer’s assistant is you start off often as a production assistant and you hang out with the writer’s assistant. You ingratiate yourself and you ask, Hey, can I watch you work? And then you learn how they do it. Then hopefully that writer’s assistant falls deathly ill, and you take their job away from them, and that’s how you do it. Then once you’re in the writer’s room, that’s the best way to get paid to learn. You will learn so much that you’ll get lost. And so it’s a long process. But yeah, that’s a wonderful way to do it.

Phil Hudson:
And if you’re a writer’s pa, we’ve talked about it on the podcast many times, you still get to learn. You’re sitting outside of the room within ear, so if they need something, they call you. So you’re sitting outside the room listening to them, break the story and tell jokes. And I had this moment where Kevin Heffernan walked in one time and he’s just like, and I still really knew it was maybe a month into me being a writer’s assistant. This is the showrunner for people who don’t know. And he’s like, how’s it going? You watching a lot of shows? And I was like, Nope. He’s like, man, why not? You’re sitting here all day. And I was like, I’m just riding. He’s good for you. And he just walked away because that’s what most people do is they get in that room and they sit there and they just watch Netflix or they do something. But I treated it, and this is probably because of advice you gave me from what you did, is that is craft time. You’re sitting

Michael Jamin:
Down,

Phil Hudson:
You are riding. So when they’re breaking stories, I’m listening to how they’re breaking stories. I’m listening to pitch things when they’re not in or somebody’s out, then I’m working on my stuff. It’s just taking advantage of every moment.

Michael Jamin:
I learned this from my first roommate when I moved out here. I had one of these PA jobs and I was not happy with it. And he’s said, just think of it like you’re getting paid a lot of downtime. Think of it. You’re getting paid to learn how to write. And I was like, okay, you’re right. You’re right about that. So in that downtime, I just started. And then of course you could read scripts, you could talk to writers, you could ask them, why did you make this change? You get to talk to people and they’ll give you little tips hopefully.

Phil Hudson:
And by the way, Michael, this is advice. You kind of gave me the preamble to this advice really before I even got to la. But then there was a moment where you kind saw, it was two years in three years into doing this stuff, and you gave me that same advice. Just look at it as you’re getting paid to learn. I dunno if you could see it in my face or something, but it was like,

Michael Jamin:
Well, it’s hard. I know what it was. It’s a souls. It can be so frustrating. You’re so close to the job you want. Literally, you are three feet away from the job you want and you’re there for years. And it’s like, when do I get to move up to that other seat that I want to sit in? So it’s very, how is it not frustrating? But it’s just how it is.

Phil Hudson:
But it’s not individual either. Like I said, I was just here with Mike Rapp and Kevin, and they’re both worst. One has been a script coordinator. The other was a script coordinator who bumped and broken as a staff writer,

Michael Jamin:
And

Phil Hudson:
They were talking, they’d never met each other, so they’re just kind of giving each other the resume. And it’s like, yeah, I moved here and I was at Disney working in the parks for four years, and then I met someone whose husband was an executive and AB, C, and he brought me in for the pilot season. And then I got hired as a writer’s PA on the Muppets. And I was like, this is it. I’m in, because it’s the Muppets, it’ll never get canceled. And then it got canceled, and then it was hopping between show to show from different job to different job for seven years until he finally got the bump. And Mike rep was not really any different. He moved here and he was in a production company and always dangling the carrot of, we ever get a show, we’ll get you into, be in the writer’s room. And six years finally got a show and got the job.

Michael Jamin:
But you know what though? I’ve been on shows where PA has worked on the show and the PAs have gone to some of the PAs who worked for me. One is big in Chuck Laurie’s world, so he’s like a exec or, and he’s directed several episodes of Sheldon or Big Bang, one or the other. And the other one has done a lot of, it’s always Sunny in Philadelphia. And another one is co-executive producer of Bob’s Burgers. And these are all people who started off as PAs underneath me. And so that’s where they are. So it’s like it’s

Phil Hudson:
Just a process.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, it’s a process. You got to hang in there.

Phil Hudson:
I was thinking on my drive today, I went out and had to get some stuff and I drove around and I was like, yeah, I think people just think that this stuff is beneath them, and you can’t have that attitude. I came at it thinking, look, this is just the path. This is the apprenticeship model. I want to learn from these people. And you talk about this, people always want to jump further ahead in their careers and become a showrunner and sell their first thing and do that. And we all want that because the dream, but you’re kind like, you kind of don’t want that. What you want is to learn how to do the job

Michael Jamin:
Because you’ll get fired so fast if you don’t have to do the job. I was going to answer a post like that on social media soon, but someone had a showrunner question. So I’ll do a post about that soon.

Phil Hudson:
Awesome. Cool. Couple of questions about the course here. Tank a Soar. Do you have a lesson on how to write a French farce? And this is a topic that came up in the

Michael Jamin:
Webinar? Yes, good

Phil Hudson:
Question. So maybe define what that is for people. I don’t think that’s a term many people know.

Michael Jamin:
A farce is three’s company did a lot of Farces, Frazier did a lot of farces. So it’s a lot of slamming doors, people overhearing things, misinterpreting things, and only hearing the conversation and assuming that this person wants this thing. And it’s a lot of doors slamming and just people crossing and misinformation. It’s a lot of fun. And I said in the webinar that I wrote for Joe Keenan, who was one of the Frazier writers, and he created with Chris Lloyd, a show called Out of Practice that I wrote on for a year. And Joe is brilliant, brilliant at writing FARs. I don’t know anybody better. I watched a show, a famous episode of Frazier, just to study for this. What could I talk about FARs? I watched an episode, I think it was, I dunno what it’s called, the Ski Cabin episode or something. It was very funny. In my opinion, FARs is a really, they’re hard to do well and they’re hard to sustain. The stakes are always, to me, they’re hard to sustain because the stakes are always, it’s always about a misunderstanding. And so it’s always silly. And so very, very hard in my opinion, to really write a really good farce. And I wouldn’t necessarily start there if that was what your goal is, I’d start writing something a little easier. I don’t know.
It is hard. And they’re a little tortured, and that’s okay. But yeah, I don’t know. You’re asking me how do I hit a grand slam? Well, let’s talk about how they get on base first.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. And the question was, do you have a lesson on how to write a French forest in the course?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, there is no, and I thought about after I watched that episode of Frazier, I go, maybe I should do a lesson on that. And then I watched, I go, nah,

Phil Hudson:
I don’t think I should. I think it personally, I just think it would be a mistake. You’re going to send all the hundreds of people in your course down a rabbit hole of riding French farces, and they’re going to get lost in that, I think.

Michael Jamin:
And there’s no demand for it. Like I said, I think it’s just don’t start there. Don’t start there.

Phil Hudson:
Shiny object syndrome. We find something new and that’s what we want to do. And then the reality is you got to focus on the fundamentals. That’s

Michael Jamin:
All that

Phil Hudson:
Matters.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Keith Shaw wants to know is the beat board, the unpacking of the crate? And for context, everybody, Michael has this story he’s talked about on the podcast and brings up in the webinar occasionally about how to unpack a story. And there’s this crate of parts, and then it’s how you unpack that, and that’s what a story is. I don’t want to give too much away, but whatever you want to give away, Michael.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I mean, so every writer room I’ve ever been in has a big whiteboard, and the s showrunner will send the whiteboard and we’ll start pitching the idea and then we’ll figure out how to break it on the board, figuring out what the act break is. First act break is second, act break middle to two top, you lay it out all the parts, and you look at it as a whole and does it hold together? And then that could take a week, and then you start writing an outline off of the board. So when they say the analogy, I talked about unpacking a crate. Yeah. It’s similar to what a board is. The whiteboard is. It’s like what’s the order in which we’re going to unfold all the, unpack the elements of the crate to tell an engaging story.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Yeah. Awesome. James Moore, what’s the difference between a log line and an outline?

Michael Jamin:
Oh, well, a log line is one or two sentences. And outline could be 10 pages if you’re talking about a half hour TV show. So that’s the difference.

Phil Hudson:
And line is you’ve alluded to, everyone needs a log line. If you don’t understand it, you don’t know what you’re writing. And an outline is a step in the writing process. And it typically, it’s a couple steps after you break a story.

Michael Jamin:
And the log line, a lot of people don’t know if I ask you, what’s your story about? And they go, well, it’s about this and also about this, and also about this. It’s like, okay, if you can’t explain what your story is in one or two clear, succinct sentences, if you can’t explain your story, then you don’t understand your own story. And if you don’t understand it, the audience isn’t going to understand it. So it’s really important to have a clear log line about what your story is about one or two sentences. That’s it. Simple. Einstein said it. If you can’t explain something simply, chances are you don’t understand it.

Phil Hudson:
Yep. David Campbell asked a very similar question about the order. I think we answered that. So David, that should answer that question for you. JY Tau, does the course teach you how to get your work produced?

Michael Jamin:
Oh, no. And a matter of fact, that shouldn’t be the goal. The goal, that course teaches you how to write a great script. And that’s the only thing you have control over here. Most people want to skip that step. This guy’s asking me, will the course teach me how to become a millionaire? No, the course doesn’t teach you that. Does the course teach you how to give an acceptance speech at the Oscars? No. It won’t teach you that. The course, all that is look, that comes later. Hopefully the course will teach you how to write a good script or hopefully a grade script. And everyone skips that step. They assume they already have it. And I’m here to tell you, you don’t. And maybe you’re the 1% that does great, but 99% of the people think they’re in that 1%. And most people who go through the course say, oh, thank God, I wish I know. Now I have to go back and rewrite that script because I thought it was great. And now I’d realize it’s not so.

Phil Hudson:
Amen. I’m one of those people. And this is a bit of the Dunning Kruger effect, which is this moment where you learn a little bit of something and you think you’re an expert in it.

Michael Jamin:
And

Phil Hudson:
Then the more you learn, you realize there’s a lot to learn. And then there’s a certain point where you know more than you think. And Michael, even at your level, I hear you say this, sometimes I’m not as good as that guy, or I’m not that. And that may be factually true in terms of talent, but it’s also, that’s the humility of being an expert is knowing how little in this space,

Michael Jamin:
That’s another thing is if you were to ask almost any showrunner I’ve worked with or worked for, they’ll all tell you, oh, writing is so hard. It’s the people who are just starting out who will tell you, Hey, I’m good at this. And you don’t know what you don’t know yet. And the more you do it, and now I’m at the point where I’ll look at something, I’m like, oh God, I’m starting to unravel and I have to trust myself because it’s like, is this the best way to tell the story? Maybe there’s a better way.

Phil Hudson:
That’s no different than my career in digital marketing though. I’m at the point where I can say I’m an expert. I’ve been doing it for how many years? Over a decade. But there’s plenty of time still where I’m like, oh man, I don’t know. Is this going to work? And then you have to

Michael Jamin:
Just

Phil Hudson:
Go back and say, there is a pattern and a history here of results that back up what I think I need to do. And I just have to go with that because million different caveats and details you got to pay attention to in all of this. And Michael, by the way, this is a big thing you helped me with was just focusing on the detail. Stop being so, I don’t want to call it lazy writing, so much time and energy that goes into it, but it’s the passing over the detail and the detail is the devil. It’s in the

Michael Jamin:
Detail. Yeah, the little things stand out.
Hey, it’s Michael Jamin. If you like my content And I know you do because You’re listening to me, I will Email it to you for Free. Just join my watch list. Every Friday I send out my top three videos of the week. These are for writers, Actors, Creative types, people like you can Unsubscribe Whenever you want. I’m not going to spam you, and the price is free. You got no excuse to join. Go to michaeljamin.com/and now back to, what the hell is Michael Jamin talking about Mishu Pizza.

Phil Hudson:
So if we take the course, do we get certified?

Michael Jamin:
Phil has tried to convince me to offer certification.

Phil Hudson:
I think there’s a good certification. I want to be clear.

Michael Jamin:
Its the

Phil Hudson:
Type of certification we’ll explain after yours. So

Michael Jamin:
Here’s the thing, if I were, I have said over and over again that if you got a degree in screenwriting and MFA in screenwriting or certificate, whatever, the degree itself is worthless. You’re not going to go into a meeting, you flash your degree. When I go into a meeting, I don’t even talk about my college education. No one caress. No one caress where I went to college. It doesn’t come up. All they care is, can I put words on the page that compel people to turn the page

Phil Hudson:
And the fight you got into with your wife the previous day? That’s the story.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, we’ll talk about that. Yeah, the degree, if I offered a degree, I think I’d be hypocritical. Hey, I have a degree from Michael Jamin University, or whatever the hell it is. I know some people want that, but I feel like, again, it’s that’s not going to open doors. Your script’s going to open doors. And if I can teach you how to write a great script, that’s more important than a gold star for me,

Phil Hudson:
My pitch for everybody was that Michael put out a certificate. So when you complete the course, you get that says, congrats, here’s your fancy certificate, it’s worthless. Go write something good. You go

Michael Jamin:
Write something. Yeah, we could do something like that

Phil Hudson:
That I thought would be kind of just chef’s

Michael Jamin:
On

Phil Hudson:
The whole thing. Desmond Bailey question, do you build this story? I wonder if his name’s Desmond Bailey question or if this is just Desmond Bailey has a

Michael Jamin:
Question.

Phil Hudson:
Do you build the story world first and then inject the characters or focus on characters and let the world procedurally generate as they navigate it?

Michael Jamin:
So I spoke about this though in the webinar, so I feel like he probably was jumping the gun. I

Phil Hudson:
Think it’s a good question. I think it’s

Michael Jamin:
Worth, yeah. Well, I answered it and I basically say you do it at the same time. And I think about what the world is first and who are the best characters to put in this world, or as I’ve said in the webinar, who’s the worst character to put in this situation? And if you want to know what I mean by that, you’re going to have to come to the next webinar where I talk about character. But that’s the way I look at it. Who’s the worst person to put in this situation?

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, there you go. Alec Cuddle back. My stuff is usually story driven and people criticize preferring character driven. Why is that?

Michael Jamin:
Oh, because plot is boring. Okay, what’s this person’s name?

Phil Hudson:
Alec Cuttle.

Michael Jamin:
Alec, alright, Alec. Okay. So I dunno if you’re young or old, but there’s a movie called Rocky, starring Sylvester Stallone. The first Rocky was fantastic. It won the Oscar put Sylvester Stallone on the map after they did Rocky, they did eight more Rocky, eight more. I don’t know how many Rockies they did, including Creed and Creed One and Creed two or whatever. They’ve made countless sequels to Rocky. Every single rocky has the same exact plot. You put someone in a boxing ring and they get the shit kicked out of them, and then maybe at the end they’re alive. So the plot itself for Rocky and most of the Rockies are not considered great. Only one won the Oscar, and that was the first one, even though the plot is virtually identical. So the difference between Rocky won and Rocky a hundred is the story. One had a just amazingly compelling small story, and the other ones lacked that. And so what this guy’s Alec is talking about is it sounds like he’s just got, I got a lot of plot. Well, who caress the plot is not the good stuff. You got to have a good plot. But it’s, the story is what makes people cry. And if you want to know the difference between plot and story, you have to come to my next free webinar because I talk. It’s an hour long discussion.

Phil Hudson:
Excellent. Cameron Billingsley, how do you know you have drawn out the anticipation enough when you’re building anticipation in your

Michael Jamin:
Storytelling? Yeah. Well, I wonder if the person’s talking about any kind of reveal or I guess we don’t really know.

Phil Hudson:
I think this was specifically tying back to the crate, unpacking the crate.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, okay. Well, how do you know? It’s like these moments have to be built to anytime you have a big reveal or a moment in Act three, whatever it is, the big fight scene, the fight scene in Rocky or whatever, you have to build to it. And it’s literally putting the steps on a pyramid and then you get to the top. And then if you skip a step or if each step doesn’t build, you’re not going to get to the top of that pyramid. And the top is the view, the top is everything. And so how do you know? Well, that’s the process of writing is taking your, how do you know when you’ve built the anticipation? That’s all of it. So if I were to write Rocky, I’m thinking in my mind, I’m building to the moment when Rocky, at the end, when Rocky’s getting the shit kicked out of him, boom, time after time again by Apollo.
And he keeps getting up and he keeps getting up. And I want to build that last moment where they’re both down on the mat, or I don’t even remember which Rocky it was. But when Rocky, the fight’s almost over and Rocky’s on the mat and he stands up again, just this guy won’t go down. And that is even thinking about it, I get chills, but you have to build to that. That’s what you’re building to, which is a guy who will not quit. And why is it so important? When we talked about earlier in this podcast, it’s not that the stakes of Rocky are not about will Rocky win the fight? Who cares? Will Rocky win the competition? The contest? Who cares? No one caress. If he wins, the stakes are, will Rocky finally feel like he’s not a loser? Will he finally feel like he’s not a bum? And that’s something all of us can relate to, is that feeling, that self-worth. And so you have to build to that. How do you know? Well, that’s everything. That’s what you focus on. And if does help, if you’re seen does not add one step on that pyramid, then to build to that final moment, then why are you have it in there? Why is it in the script?

Phil Hudson:
The next question from Willow is how do you know the difference between true story that should be included versus minutia and unnecessary information? I think you just answered that.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Because if you don’t need it, why is it in it? Why is it in there?

Phil Hudson:
So tying all this together for people who are newer, and good recap for me, because again, you got to remind yourself of the fundamentals every day. You even talk about how you have to remind yourself, oh yeah, this is hero, obstacle, goal, kind of that stuff. So we have a log line, and the log line helps me understand what I’m trying to accomplish with this story. But that’s typically based off of a theme and that theme, my opinion generally included inside of that log line, so that I understand this is what I’m trying to accomplish with this. So the log line for Rocky is, can a bum from Philly go the distance with the champ? It’s not even, can he beat the champ? It’s can he go the distance? And so everyone tells him he can’t think he can, and then at the end, there’s that moment when he gets up, you’re talking about, and Apollo creed’s like, soul is taken. Are you kidding me? He’s

Michael Jamin:
Still

Phil Hudson:
Getting up. This guy

Michael Jamin:
Won’t get down.

Phil Hudson:
And that’s the moment where it’s like, that’s him getting up. And then he, Apollo wins and he’s like, I did it. And it’s like a victory for him because this guy won’t stop and everyone’s celebrating Rocky. And Rocky goes, Adrian, I did it. Right? Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
And I think the last line, Apollo says, there ain’t going to be no rematch. And Rocky goes, don’t want one. He doesn’t want, he got what he wanted, and of course they made 10 more. But yeah, a beautiful

Phil Hudson:
Story. But they all stack and build all of these details build, like you said, you’re building them to this and all of them play off the theme and the log line. And that’s why all of these details, breaking the story, outlining the story, they all have to be there. Because if you’re just, and we talk about how all these writers have different styles, and for some people it’s making it up as you go. But professional writers, there’s a process. You break the story and you do your thing, and then you do your outline, you do all these things, and then you do your rewrites and many rewrites because you’re still figuring out those tiny details. But it’s not like I’m going to make it up as I go because you need plant and payoff. You need these things and these symbols almost that allude to the theme and the theme plays throughout the whole thing. And if you’re not structuring that like an architect, it’s going to feel very hodgepodge Frankenstein. And that’s a note you gave me Frankenstein together.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
So there you go. People are going to be pissed. I talked to you not long on your podcast, Michael,

Michael Jamin:
I’ll tell you. No, no, no,

Phil Hudson:
No, no,

Michael Jamin:
No.

Phil Hudson:
Couple more questions here.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Justin had another question for short comedy films on YouTube. Max lengths is one minute. That’s shorts.

Michael Jamin:
That’s for shorts. Clarify.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Does short structure still apply to any length film? Curious how you would approach writing a story for a one minute film? This is a format question for people who are not in the know. YouTube stories are the equivalent of Instagram reels or Facebook reels,

Michael Jamin:
YouTube shorts.

Phil Hudson:
YouTube shorts,

Michael Jamin:
Right?

Phil Hudson:
And they are, excuse me. Yeah, so they’re 60 seconds, and then I

Michael Jamin:
Think there’s 90. You’re saying there’s 60,

Phil Hudson:
That’s Instagram. Instagram is expanded to 90, but YouTube is 60. And that’s what this is referring to, which is a medium on YouTube, not necessarily a cap on what you can put on YouTube.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. So I would say it’s really hard to tell a complete story in 60 seconds, but you could tell one part of a story in 60 seconds and then another part, another 60 seconds. You could stretch it out. You might be able to tell a compelling scene in 60 seconds and a scene should have a shape to it, but don’t think, can it be done? Yeah. I don’t think it could be done that well. I don’t think anyone’s going to be that satisfied. I think you need more time to get that plane up in the air and land it. But think a bit of it like this, if a story is a journey, how far can you go in 60 seconds on a journey? Not very far at all. You can go to the end of the block. The view at the end of the block is pretty much the same, the view from my house. So I think you need more time. That’s just my opinion now.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. To see good shorts that you’ve recommended to me was go back and watch the Broad City original shorts that were put on YouTube.

Michael Jamin:
Okay. How long are they?

Phil Hudson:
They can be 90 seconds to three minutes, but they’re not full stories necessarily. They’re more kind of skits and you introduce your characters and we learn more about them and more interactions in different episodes of,

Michael Jamin:
That’s just really, I never saw those. I saw the TV show Broad, which I love, but I didn’t watch the shorts. Got it.

Phil Hudson:
Someone had a question. Again, these are miscellaneous. Someone wanted to know when they could see your CNN interview. So the day we did this webinar, you had just gotten off with CNN and joined the thing. But yeah, you’ve been on CNNA couple times now, right?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. I think you can go to my website, Phil, right? Isn’t it up

Phil Hudson:
There? Yep. It’ll be live is MichaelJamin.com And then you can just go to the About tab and you’ll see it.

Michael Jamin:
Is it on the bound? I thought it was going to be on the press

Phil Hudson:
Or something. It’s press tab. Yeah, but we don’t have the URL final right now, but by the time this comes out, it’ll be out because we’re doing some cleanup. We redesign on michaeljamin.com.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, it’s Jill’s doing a great job. It’s going to be exciting. Appreciate that.

Phil Hudson:
Appreciate

Michael Jamin:
That.

Phil Hudson:
Jill Hargrave, she in

Michael Jamin:
The, oh, wait, hold on. If anybody wants their website redesigned, go check out Rook Digital, which is Phil’s company. This is what he does.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, Shannon was plugged. Thank you, Michael. Appreciate that. Jill Hargrave, she’s in the course, right? Jill?

Michael Jamin:
I don’t know.

Phil Hudson:
I believe she is. Yeah. If you’re writing a biopic, does the story definition apply as the story is at least one event in the person’s life and sometimes many more events than just one?

Michael Jamin:
So if

Phil Hudson:
You’re writing a biopic, does the story definition apply? I’m guessing is a biopic, is it the whole person’s life, or is it a moment in this person’s life?

Michael Jamin:
I don’t know. It’s kind of what you decide to write it about, I would assume. Yeah, it is what you want to decide. I’ve seen it both ways. You might write about JFK the early years, and maybe you’re following his life in college in Harvard, I think, and that could be a whole thing. Or you could tell JFK’s entire life story up until the moment he died. I mean, you could do that as well. But either way, you have to know how, and I talked about this as well. I spoke about, I really hope people come to this next webinar. I use an example of Amadeus, which is, in my opinion, the best biopic ever made. It’s a beautiful movie. It’s probably three hours long. There’s an intermission. There’s an intermission fucking movie. That’s how long it is. It’s my

Phil Hudson:
Amazing, my wife’s favorite movie, by the way,

Michael Jamin:
Is it, is

Phil Hudson:
She wants me to name one of our children, Wolfgang. And I was like, come on, man. Wolfgang Hudson.

Michael Jamin:
I don’t know Wolf. I don’t know. I don’t know. I’m Amm on her side.

Phil Hudson:
I’ll let her know. She’ll be pumped.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Yeah. So I spoke about that, about come listen to, I hope they come to the webinar. Well, she did. She heard it where I spoke about You’re still just telling one aspect of his life of Wolfgang Mozart’s life. You’re not, there’s a lot. They left out, the guy lived, I dunno how long he lived, but the movie’s three hours and the guy lived longer than three hours. So there’s a lot they left out. They only just filed this one thread of his life. And that’s how you tell the story. So don’t tell. In other words, don’t tell. I feel like you don’t want to tell the story. Someone’s life story. You want to tell one story from their life.

Phil Hudson:
And Oppenheimer, I think is the very current version of that that did a great job. It is building up to help us understand why this person was uniquely put in this position, why it was taken from him, and then how ultimately he got justice with having to, because of his character.

Michael Jamin:
And there’s a lot they left out, and I’m sure, I think it got some criticism for that, but what are you going to do? You can’t tell everything. You have to pick a story.

Phil Hudson:
Yep. Yeah, adaptation. Right? It’s a whole different segment of screenwriting. That is brutal. Absolutely brutal. Because you’re just cutting things and combining things, and it’s just a different part of the world. Helga G. How do you deal with the other characters in your life that might not be comfortable being in your story?

Michael Jamin:
You don’t put ’em in. You don’t put ’em in it. It’s not your story to tell. I’m actually reading, I’m just about to finish a wonderful book by this Canadian author, Sheila Hetty, and it’s called How Should a Person Be? And in this book, which is an auto fiction, so it’s a true story. She uses some of her friends as characters in the story, and she talks about the blowback she got from that, which is so interesting. And I’m going to have her on my podcast soon, but I don’t do it for that reason. I don’t do it exactly for that reason, but I’ll talk to her about it.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Awesome. Last question, Rob Kao, CAO might be C Chao, I don’t know. Is that Italian? CAO? It’s like CI. Ao

Michael Jamin:
Would C-C-I-A-O.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Sorry, Rob, ruin in your name. Within the last year, I’ve had an idea of writing a script with two specific actresses in mind. What do you recommend that I do?

Michael Jamin:
Well, they’re not going to do it. Just know that, right? I mean, I write for actors all the time. It’s just for them having someone in my mind as a placeholder. But I don’t think if they’re famous, unless they’re the people actors in your apartment complex, then that’s fine. And they’re going to be in your movie, that’s fine. But if you think if it’s a star, they’re not going to do it. So use them as a placeholder, as a template to give you as a muse. I do that as well, but I don’t think I’ve ever written a role for someone. And they actually wound up taking it

Phil Hudson:
In the Tacoma FD spec that I wrote. I alluded to a famous actor who plays this type of person. I was like, just think this person. And the comment I got back, I was, oh, that was so helpful. And I know you have to be a bit careful with that because you don’t want to, it can derail your script a bit.

Michael Jamin:
Actually, I want to take that back. We wrote an episode of Marin that we wrote it with Chet Hanks in mind, who’s Tom Hanks’ son. And we reached out to him and he took it. I got to say the guy killed it. He killed it. He was perfect and a really good actor.

Phil Hudson:
That’s awesome. If you guys haven’t seen Marin, go watch Marin. That show’s incredible.

Michael Jamin:
That show’s fun. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Is there anywhere to go see The Hidden? Because they were two pilots, right? There was the first pilot and then

Michael Jamin:
It was a presentation, so it was only a few scenes. Got it. I don’t know if I have it.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, I thought it was on Prime. I think I got it on Prime originally.

Michael Jamin:
Wow. Was part of what they

Phil Hudson:
Were doing. I’ll go check. I’ll see if I still have it. But yeah, it was, it’s just a great show. Just massive show. And I was at an influential time when I was just really learning this stuff at a deeper level. So just seeing it play out in really tight scenes with limited characters and just

Michael Jamin:
Amazing, amazing. That’s what was so fun about that. And I tried, we wrote some one episode where there wasn’t enough of a stakes, and it was the one on dead possum where he finds a dead possum.

Phil Hudson:
I love that episode. That’s the one I think of every time.

Michael Jamin:
That was a good one. But the original draft didn’t have the storyline of him apologizing to his dying stepfather, not stepfather, his dying. It was missing from that. And we turned that draft into the network, and they thought, she was like, there’s nothing here. There’s nothing. The story’s not about anything. And I’m like, don’t you get it? That’s the whole thing. I was trying to pull a fast one on her. I was like, but it’s like waiting for Gau. She’s like, no, I’m not buying it. The studio exec. And she was right. And so we wound up talking, Seaver and I, pardon? We ended up talking about it. We came up with this storyline where when Mark was afraid to go under the house to get a dead possum, that’s just enough. There’s not enough there. There’s not enough debate for a story. And so instead, we had a concurrent storyline where he was afraid to confront his dying Father-in-Law because Mark broke up with his daughter. And in so doing, he kind of destroyed, he, mark was a coward. He didn’t want to apologize to his father-in-Law for that. And so it was really a symbol. So when Mark was afraid to go under the house to get the dead possum, but he was really afraid of, was apologizing to his father-in-Law, those stakes are much higher.
And so those stories kind of work really nicely together, but that was not in the original draft. Yeah,

Phil Hudson:
That’s a great episode. There’s one of the biggest laughs I’ve ever had. I think it was like your, might’ve been your end of act two, your act two, bottom of Act two with the kid from

Michael Jamin:
When he says,

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, I was molested him

Michael Jamin:
Some. I think that was Seavers line.

Phil Hudson:
It’s just like,

Michael Jamin:
What?

Phil Hudson:
Not making light of that degree. It’s just the

Michael Jamin:
Context of

Phil Hudson:
It, the setting.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. It was like, you shouldn’t have said that. That’s

Phil Hudson:
Funny. Alright, Michael, there you go. There’s a bonus episode for everybody.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, we’re not making light of it. It was just that the guy confessed to having been molested as good, but it was like, no, we weren’t talking about any of this.

Phil Hudson:
And then they have to talk and he’s having this breakdown where this realization of he’s a coward, and then now he has to be a surrogate father and listen to this kid. He’s talking about his assistant and it’s just like, the timing is just excellent. You guys handled it well. It’s not disparaging or mean-spirited at all. It’s just great. That was a

Michael Jamin:
Funny one. Alright, everyone. Yeah. Come to my webinar. Go watch that episode of Marin Dead Possum.

Phil Hudson:
Awesome.

Michael Jamin:
If you can find it somewhere,

Phil Hudson:
Michael, anything you want these guys to do other than come to the webinar,

Michael Jamin:
There’s that. I’ll be dropping my book soon. A paper orchestra, if you want to know more about that, that’s

Phil Hudson:
Michaeljamin.com/book.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, is that what it is? It’ll be book. Book. Okay. There

Phil Hudson:
Are a couple pages. You got AP Orchestra touring, you’ve got an events page, you got this. So I figured that was the easiest way to get people to the page is michaelJamin.com/book.

Michael Jamin:
And so the book is a collection of personal essays. If you want to learn more about what it’s like to actually be a writer in Hollywood, but that’s not what it’s about. It’s really about the premise is what if the smallest, almost forgotten moments were the ones that shaped us most. And so in the end, I have a little bonus section of the book where I talk about, so I perform the book as well. And if you want to come see that seem, be on the road, go to michael jamin.com/upcoming. And at the end of every performance, I do a talk back where I talk to the audience and they ask questions. And so I decided at the end of the book, there should be something like that where I talk about, it’s basically a virtual talk back, right? I’m preemptively answering questions that people have asked me that I think people found interesting about the writing process. So that’ll be in the book as well. So a little bonus for those of you who are interested in learning about writing, that’ll be the last chapter. Yeah,

Phil Hudson:
Great. And the live performance still great. It almost a year. I can’t believe it was almost a year ago. And it still sits with me as a father. It still sits with me.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Thank you. I want to start performing again. That’ll hopefully start in February or March or whatever. Once that book is out, we’ll start performing again.

Phil Hudson:
Great. Cool. All right, Michael, anything else? Thank you.

Michael Jamin:
I think that’s it. Get on the newsletter. We’re rev revamping the newsletter. We’ve revamped the podcast so there’s more stuff, but better,

Phil Hudson:
More better, better streamlined, a little bit easy to get around. It kind of outgrew itself. So we talked about that on episode 1 0 4. But yeah,

Michael Jamin:
We didn’t know what this was going to turn into, so we had to evolve it.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, it’s a good spot. Great to be back on the podcast, Michael. Thanks for having me.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, thank you Phil. Alright, until next time, keep writing everyone.
So now we all know what The hell Michael Jamin’s talking about. If you’re interested in learning more about writing, make sure you register for my free monthly webinars@michaeljamin.com/webinar. And if you found this podcast Helpful or entertaining, please share it with a friend and consider leaving Us a five star Review on iTunes that really, really helps. For more of This, whatever the hell this is for Michael Jamin on social media @MichaelJaminwriter. And You can follow Phil Hudson on Social media @PhilAHudson. This podcast was produced by Phil Hudson. It Was Edited by Dallas Crane and music Was composed By Anthony Rizzo. And remember, you can have Excuses or you can have a Creative life, But you Can’t have both. See you next Week.

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Michael Jamin, Showrunner, TV Writer, Author

Michael Jamin

For the past 26 years, Michael Jamin has been a professional television writer/showrunner. His credits include King of the Hill, Beavis & Butthead, Wilfred, Maron, Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, Brickleberry, Tacoma FD and many more.

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