On October 28th, I hosted a webinar called “How To Write A Great Story”, where I talked about how to come up with interesting and unique story ideas, as well as how tapping into your everyday life interactions with people can help with this. 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 Newsletter – https://michaeljamin.com/newsletter

Autogenerated Transcript

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, you better figure that out because your story needs to be about one thing everyone wants to throw in the kitchen sink. And it’s about this, but it’s also about this, but it also has elements of this. It’s like, no, no, you don’t know what your story is. You got a hot mess. You can’t kitchen sink it. Your story’s about one thing. And if you think it’s about two things, congratulations. Now you have a sequel or you have another episode, but your story’s about one thing. And if you think I’m making it up, read stories that you’ve enjoyed and ask yourself the same question. What is this about 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 What the Hell is Michael Jamin talking about? And today I am answering your questions and I’m back here with Phil. Welcome back, Phil,

Phil Hudson:
Good to be here. Thank you for

Michael Jamin:
Having me. We had a delay because I borrowed some of Phil’s mic equipment for a few weeks and then I gave it back to him with the wrong card. And then Phil, you learned a lesson. The lesson is no good deed goes unpunished.

Phil Hudson:
Oh man, I feel like’s. I’m

Michael Jamin:
Happy to have taught you that lesson. Thank

Phil Hudson:
You for teaching me that lesson. I feel like the theme of every story I’ve ever written is that you get screwed either way. Just so everyone knows. Sometimes high tech is low tech and we have these awesome zoom recorders and they only allow you to have a 32 megabyte SD card. And then the American way of gluttony. We bought massive SD cards for the podcast, missed an SD card somewhere. So

Michael Jamin:
Here we’re won’t run, but we’re back and we made it work. We had a little delay. And so today I have these webinars every three weeks or so where I talk to people about writing. And anyone’s welcome to join. It’s free, go to michaeljamn.com/webinar for the next one. And we have a rotating list of topics that I cover and they’re all writing related. And so these are some of the questions I didn’t have time to answer during these webinars.

Phil Hudson:
And you are often testing new subjects too, so if you’ve attended them in the past, make sure you come sign up so you can get into those.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Alright, well, we’ve got several topics and as we do, I tend to group these together based on subject matter, and these are raw questions just ask during the podcast. So I apologize in advance for ruining people’s names and mispronouncing everything, but let’s start with craft. I think that’s the thing people care a lot about is how do they get better at writing? And s sl junk indie author asks, how does the story structure fluctuate depending on genre, I should say too, this is from your podcast, how to Write a Great Story, which is one of your My

Michael Jamin:
Webinar. My webinar. Your

Phil Hudson:
Webinar, yeah, yeah. Excuse me. Your webinar, how to Write a Great Story, which is one of your most popular webinars that we have. So if you haven’t signed up for that, go do that the next time it’s up. So how does the story structure fluctuate? Depending on genre, if I’m writing a horror, but I’m used to fantasy, what are some things I need to consider when structuring my story?

Michael Jamin:
I really don’t think there’s that much of a difference, to be honest. I think if you’re writing a mystery that’s different, and I think writing mysteries, people do it wrong all the time. Rich are a little harder to do, but you’re just telling the story structure is very similar. You’re telling a scary story. A horror story is just a scary story. A fantasy is just, it is a fantastical story, but they’re just stories. I mean, everyone gets hung up on these genres. You get to decide the tone and the tone of your story is scary or fantastical, but it’s still a story.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Something that you told me privately that I think is interesting for everybody listening, you were approached by a publisher who said, we want to make you the next Save the Cat. We want you to publish this book series, and you’ve never read any of those things. But for those of us who have, this is commonly taught, what are the tropes of your genre? What are the things in your genre? What is the story structure of your genre? And it’s like you read between the lines and it’s like what you’ve said many times. You’re taking something apart and reassembling that and it’s not the right way. You need to start with structure and then move forward. It’s the same reason you do a foundation and then a frame, and then you do the rest of the house.

Michael Jamin:
You can paint the house any color you want, and that’s whether it’s scary or funny or dramatic or whatever. That’s just color of paint. But the house still looks the same for the framing, still looks the same regardless of what paint you want to put on it.

Phil Hudson:
Awesome. Just Mason May. How does someone overcome the concern that our work won’t live up to its potential?

Michael Jamin:
Oh, it never does. To get over it, you’ll never be happy. You’ll never be, oh, I should have done it. This. When you’re done, you’re always going to look at it and go, I wonder if this could have been better. I think any artist is going to feel that way, but if the question is how do I make sure it’s good enough to even share, well, then you can just give it to your friend or your mother or whoever and have them look at it and read it. Take your name off the cover and ask them, did you enjoy reading this? When you got to the bottom of the page, did you want to turn the page or not? And if you wanted to turn the page, you did a good job. And if you didn’t, something’s wrong.

Phil Hudson:
Right. Aside from that, what would you recommend people do to overcome the fear of rejection or the fear of someone hating their work?

Michael Jamin:
I get over it. I mean, that’s the job you’re signing up for this. Hopefully no one’s going to be too mean to you, but just know that when I was starting off, I was no good. No one’s good when they start off. I mean, no one starts every single artist you admire, musician, actor, writer, whatever, performer, they were not good when they started. Listen to them in interviews. They’ll say as much, so you get better. The more you do, the better you get.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. We watch these kids shows now that I’ve got small children, and one of our favorite shows is Bluey, which I’ve talked about before. And they just dropped a bunch of new episodes yesterday, and one of the episodes is about drawing. And the daughter bluey is not good at drawing, but the dad’s not good at drawing, but the mom’s really good at drawing, and then the little sister doesn’t care at all. She’s just a kid and she’s just drawing whatever she wants. And so the dad’s super conscientious, self-conscious of what he’s drawing. And so bluey the protagonist becomes a little self-conscious of her drawing, and they tell the story that the dad made fun of when he was a kid. So he stopped and the mom, just, her mom incentivized her, encouraged her, you’re doing great for a 7-year-old. And she was like, oh, and that was enough. And then she became a wonderful artist. So at the end, bluey and the dad are both freed up to draw the things that they got made fun of or were worried about. And it’s this beautiful allegory of just, Hey, just let it go. Who cares? That person’s just being a jerk and it’s because they envy what you do. That’s

Michael Jamin:
A good lesson. That’s a good lesson from that show.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, it’s a great show. I bet we should watch it with your kids, Michael.

Michael Jamin:
My kids are too old to watch TV with me now.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, that’s scary. It’s so sad to hear that. Rachel Zoo, I would like to get my motivation for riding back and for everybody. You have this other webinar you just put out, which is about how professional writers overcome writer’s block. And I think that kind of addresses this, but this was before that. But what general thoughts do you have about getting motivation back to write?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I mean, well, first of all, I can’t motivate anyone. I mean, if you don’t have the motivation in you, then it’s not going to get done. So you have to be self-driven. But probably what you’re experiencing is the fact that you just don’t know how to do it. And so when you don’t know how to do something or you think you’re bad at it, it’s not fun. Why would you want to do anything when you feel like you’re horrible at it? But once you learn how to do it and story structure can be taught and it doesn’t make writing easier, it makes it easier. It doesn’t make it easy, but it makes it easier. So I think the problem that you’re facing is you just dunno how to do it yet. So come to some of my webinars and that’ll help you a lot just to learn. You’re flailing. I don’t blame you. It’s no fun. When you’re flailing

Phil Hudson:
For everybody who is unaware, you also give away the first lesson of your online course for free @michaeljamin.com/free. And you teach this beautiful lesson about what is story. That alone is worth its weight in gold because it’s just something we all miss or forget. And you’ve even said you forget sometimes.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. I mean, I was watching a movie that I got a screener the other, and I’m getting halfway through, I go, there’s no story here. I’m bored. And now my wife was bored by it too, but she didn’t know why. I knew why because I’m a writer. I’m like, what’s the story you’re telling? No one knew. And yet the movie got made. I dunno, I got to tell you.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. The other thing that comes to mind is many people have heard this guy, and you’ve heard me talk about him before, this guy, Jocko Willink, former Navy Seal leadership consultant, multiple New York Times bestsellers, a huge podcast, and he has this motto that says, discipline equals freedom. And he’s like, it’s a little bit counterintuitive because you think if you’re disciplined, then you don’t have choice and you can’t do things. And his point is, if you are disciplined, you don’t have to rely on motivation. And that’s what I hear from you and I’ve heard from other professional writers is being a professional is doing it When you don’t feel like it, motivation doesn’t matter.

Michael Jamin:
You know what? I’ll tell you as well, I post every day on TikTok or at least five or six days a week. I find, and I’ve talked to other creators who feel the same way. If I take too many days off, it gets harder to get back on. So two is the max, and you got to, because I know people think it’s easy to, it’s not easy posting on social media. It’s like I got to think about what I’m going to say. I got to rehearse it, I got to shoot it, then I got to tag it, upload it, make all the meta tags. I don’t do it in two seconds. And yeah, it’s like brushing your teeth. You have to do it,

Phil Hudson:
And that’s like any habit they say you can mess up once, don’t mess up twice. It’s like dieting, don’t make two bad choices. If you made one, that’s okay. Now continue to get back on track, but it’s discipline, discipline, discipline. You just need to sit down and do the work because that is what is required. And if you’re not willing to do that, this is not the career for you. It might be fun for you to do on your own, but even then I imagine that’s going to be pretty brutal if you don’t have the discipline and the habit of just sitting down and doing

Michael Jamin:
It. Oh, even if it’s a hobby, it’ll still be more fun if you know how to do it. I mean, golf is a hobby for most people. The better you get, the more fun it is to play.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, I don’t like being bad at things. That’s very true. Great. Stephanie Anthony, what are daily writing exercise exercises that are invaluable to helping to build stronger storytelling muscles?

Michael Jamin:
Well, I don’t do exercises, but would certainly have. Keeping a journal or a diary and writing it, knowing that no one will read it is very freeing. When I was in high school, I wrote, I had a creative writing class and our assignment was to write daily entries in this journal and we gave it to him at the end of every class and then he would read it and he was always so kind. He always said such nice things about what I wrote. He was looking forward to reading it. I thought that was really nice of him to do. I’m sure it wasn’t very good, but I was trying to entertain him and he appreciated it. Yeah, just write and read how those are your exercises. Write and read.

Phil Hudson:
I’ve talked before about some of my experiences translating for the Sundance Labs and some of the things I got to do with the scholarship I had through Robert Redford and this woman Joan, who runs these workshops at the labs for whether you’re a writer, a director, whether you’re doing editing, whatever it is, everyone goes through this basic storytelling lab with her, these workshops almost every day. And it’s about taking, basically it’s what you talk about in your course, mining your life for stories. And I remember that one time I went and she saw me and she recognized me from doing this Redford scholarship stuff, and she was like, it’s so good to see you here. And I told her what I was doing and she was introducing everybody in the room and I introduced myself and she was kind enough to say, and Phil is a very talented writer, and I made the mistake of saying, well, that’s why I’m here translating. And I’ve been thinking about that literally today as doing the work and practicing and getting better and then getting acknowledgement from other people is important. The practice of doing it every single day is the exercise. And then I think the other exercise is accepting people’s praise when it’s earned and deserved.

Michael Jamin:
Take the compliment because you know why it’s insulting not to. It insults the person, not if you shit on it, then they gave you a gift

Phil Hudson:
And I did.

Michael Jamin:
I see people do it all the time. You’re not the only one. It’s normal. You also feel like, well, I’m not good enough.

Phil Hudson:
My thought was like, well, I’m not in the labs, so I’m here translating, but I did it in front of people and I did apologize to her after, and she was very kind and we had a good chat about it, but that was ringing in my head today.

Michael Jamin:
It’s hard to take a compliment for a lot, a lot of time I feel the same way. I feel the same way,

Phil Hudson:
But if you say no or you shoot it down, then it’s all going to be harder because you’re reinforcing unconsciously that you are not good or it isn’t good enough

Michael Jamin:
And

Phil Hudson:
You got to take the wins. Take the wins.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, right.

Phil Hudson:
Awesome. A couple of questions related to the topic, and you’re online screenwriting course, so they’re kind of bundled together, Joel Riedel regarding execution of an idea in a script. How do you know when you’ve taken a script far enough? In other words, how do you know if it’s ready?

Michael Jamin:
Well, kind of the same. I kind of touched on this earlier, but basically give it to someone and take the title sheet off. If so, they don’t know you wrote it and then give ’em a week or so to read it. And if they get to page 20 and they ask, they’re going to say, what do I know? I’m not a Hollywood director. How do I know if your script is any good? You say, well, no. When you get to 20, do you want to read more? Does it feel like I gave you a gift or a homework assignment? That’s it. You don’t even, because your reader is your audience, they don’t have to be a Hollywood insider to know whether they like something or not. Do they want to turn the page or not? And if they do, it’s good. If it’s not, if they don’t, that’s a problem.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, there’s levels of that too, because I’ve written things that I’ve given to friends and they said this was great and then given ’em to you and you’ve given me good praise, but solid feedback and things that I could improve, and it’s the quality of the feedback is also important, but what I’m hearing you say is regardless of that, if you have a show on tv, whoever’s going to sit down and invest their time to watch your story, they need to all understand there’s a story here and it’s worth the hour of my time, the 27 minutes of my time, whatever it is that they’re doing.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, because no one’s obligated to watch your show. They’ll turn the channel now. So that’s how you judge things.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Are you ever at a point when you write things where you feel you’ve done enough, I’m happy with that one, that one’s good to go, or is it always like, I can make that better. I just got to turn it in?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I always feel that way. Even with my book coming out, I always feel like I could have done that a little differently, but it’s like, no, you got to let it go. You got to let, but I saw an interview with Frank Geary and he was looking at, I think it was 60 minutes, and he was staring at the Disney Concert Hall, which he designed, and he’s a fantastic architect. I think he was with Leslie Stall, and they’re admiring his work and she goes, when you see this building and it is one of the most beautiful buildings in la, yeah, it’s

Phil Hudson:
Great. It’s gorgeous. If you guys have seen Iron Man, I want to say Iron Man one, they go to it,

Michael Jamin:
They do. It’s very sculptural. It looks like a piece of sculpture, and she said, when you look at this building, what do you see? He goes, I see all the things I would do differently now, and he’s a master, so you just never get past that stage,

Phil Hudson:
But that’s not the job of a pro, which is what you teach. The job of a professional is you do the work, you turn it in, you move on.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, you move on to something else and make the next one better if you can.

Phil Hudson:
Well, you always do the best you can with the time you have. Is that accurate to say?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Yeah, for sure. That’s definitely what with tv, we got to turn on an episode of TV and at the end of the week, so we do the best we can.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Awesome. Camika Hartford in creating a story with structure in mind first, is it ever useful to organically write or figure it out, then go back and pick out the pieces you want to create a solid narrative, or is that just wasted time? This is in regards to Greta Gerwig process. That’s a little bit different than most people. That’s

Michael Jamin:
A great question, and if you were writing a movie on your own time, sure, you can write it. You don’t have time to schedule. You could take four years to write your movie, and if you want to discover it organically and if you understand how to do that, if you understand what that means, it means you have to write and write and then you figure out what the story is. Then once you finally find the story, you can go back and rewrite all the other stuff that’s not the story and then fix it. But you still have to understand what story structure is to know what you’re fixing. If you were to on a TV show though, you don’t have that luxury. You’re on staff with a bunch of other writers in a room, and before one word is written, you break the story on the whiteboard and then you outline it. Just don’t discovering the story. Everyone agrees on what the story is in the writer’s room, so it’s a very different process. One is more organic, the other is definitely more efficient.

Phil Hudson:
You said everyone agrees, and I’ve been in the room, or I’ve seen people not agree with the showrunner.

Michael Jamin:
When I say everyone agrees, I mean the showrunner agrees. Yeah,

Phil Hudson:
So just for a point of clarification for people, it is not your job to approve every decision in a writer’s room, but like you said, when you’re writing something for yourself, you have the luxury of doing that. So yeah, fascinating question and answer. Thank you, cam. Gleb, Lin, how can I bring my vision to life through a screenplay?

Michael Jamin:
How can I bring my vision to life? I’m not really sure. Are they asking how do I sell it or

Phil Hudson:
How do I think? What I’m hearing from this question based on the topic is, alright, so I’ve got this vision for what I want my story to be, and I’ve chosen screenplay as my medium. How do I get what’s in my head on the page

Michael Jamin:
And justice?

Phil Hudson:
You know

Michael Jamin:
What? I saw this short by Wes Anderson last night, God, I can’t remember what it was called, damnit, I don’t remember what it was called. It was with Ray Fines and Ben Kingsley. It was a half hour long and it was typical Wes Anderson only, it wasn’t shot like a movie, it was shot like a stage play, and so the character would talk and behind the character, the sets would move and would fly in this different set. Then he’d pretend to walk and then he’d be in a different set, and it was wonderful to watch. It was so creative, but on paper, it’s the most boring thing in the world. There’s no magic on paper. You have to see it. So if that’s what you want to do, you’re going to have to just build that yourself. You’re going to have to got a phone, you got a camera, you got friends, make it yourself and don’t spend a lot of money. Whatever you think it’s going to cost, I guarantee you I can shoot it for much less because it’s not about the money. It’s always about the words and the more creative you are. I did a bunch of commercials that I wrote for,

Phil Hudson:
It’s just about to talk about, were

Michael Jamin:
You going to say that?

Phil Hudson:
I was, yeah.

Michael Jamin:
For Twirly Girl, my wife had a company called Twirly Girl, and we shot all these commercials and I wrote and produced them and I hired a bunch of high school kids to shoot it as my crew and the sets, I built the sets out of cardboard, literally I got cardboard boxes and I built everything. And the fact that it was made out of a cardboard made it funnier. It made it silly,

Phil Hudson:
But tonally on point too because it’s a children’s clothing line, right? Yeah.

Michael Jamin:
But it was magical, but it had the same, Wes Anderson has that same kind of magical thing about him. It doesn’t exist so cool about it.

Phil Hudson:
For those of you who haven’t seen them, are those published anywhere? Are they on Twirly Girl YouTube? I know we have in your Vimeo account. I’ve seen them.

Michael Jamin:
I know there, I mean, I think you could see some of them. If you go to twirly girl shop.com,

Phil Hudson:
Would you ever want those published on your site just as examples?

Michael Jamin:
We can do that. Do you think someone is interested? We should put some there.

Phil Hudson:
Why don’t you guys, if you guys are listening to this, just go comment on Instagram and just put hashtag twirly girl in the comments, and so we know if you guys want to see ’em, we can load ’em up on your side. Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
We can make a page for that, but it’s probably a good idea, Phil. I think it should be inspiring. Each of those commercials, they’re about three to five minutes long, whatever. Maybe they’re five minutes, but I cut ’em down to three and each one costs, the first one I think was 1200 bucks. You can do it cheap. You can do it cheap.

Phil Hudson:
My business partner Rich, he was one of my professors in film school, actually he’s teaching at Grand Canyon University in Arizona. He’s teaching film right now. And so for the final project last semester, he had them shoot a video, basically that kind of commercial for pickleball brand. And the thing looks incredible. There’s amazing camera, there’s crane movement, there’s drones, it looks good, and $128.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Oh, that’s great. That’s great.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, it looks like it was 10 grand. Now there’s, it got to perform as an ad. I dunno, but the quality was definitely there and what I’m getting to is when you talk about getting your vision to life, it is the job of the writer. It is the job of the writer to get the vision on the page so that anyone who reads it can see that vision. But it is the director’s job to take that and work with the art department and everyone else to expand it. Or in tv, the writer is typically the showrunner. That showrunner has that same capacity to get the vision made beyond doing it yourself. I think the other piece of advice that I might give would be you need to understand your craft. You need to understand what a screenplay looks like, and your formatting and your own style and tone are going to influence your ability to do that on the page. If you’re not going to produce your own stuff, and I don’t mean that to counter what or contrast with what you’re saying, it’s just the person who’s not going to go shoot those things. If you’re just talking about it from a writer’s perspective, you got to have your story there. The structure has to be sound, and then you need to be able to use the words and the style and format of screenwriting to get the job done to convey that vision.

Michael Jamin:
And as you were talking, I forgot to tell you this morning on TikTok, someone tagged me and they said they’re in law school and that they’re taking an entertainment law class and their professor assigned them to watch my channel.

Phil Hudson:
That’s awesome. Why?

Michael Jamin:
I don’t know why. What a weird homework assignment.

Phil Hudson:
Love it. Love it. Maybe he’s going to just call out all the things that you could be sued for. Yeah, maybe. That’s wild, man. The world’s shifted in the Michael Jamin sphere over here. You got Michael’s got his own Wikipedia page too. Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
I’m on Kpia. Yeah,

Phil Hudson:
A couple of years ago you would’ve never wanted any of this attention, right?

Michael Jamin:
No, I still struggle with it a little bit. I still struggle

Phil Hudson:
Just highlighting that for everybody here who’s struggling to put their stuff out there, what a lot of these questions are about, you wanted to do something, just publish this book and you said, what do I need to make that happen? It’s been over two years in that process. And your book will be coming out pretty soon.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, we’ll do a special episode on that. But yeah, when I’m yelling at you guys to build the damn mountain to build it yourself, I just want you to know everything I recommend, either I have done or I’m currently doing, so I’m not talking out of my ass. So

Phil Hudson:
Zero hypocrisy here with the recommendations and I will defend you on that because I see it happening. Yeah. Alright. Sucks to suck has a question. Great. Great. Username story build finding, planning the path of the characters. This is a statement, it’s not a question, but when you’re story building, how do you find or plan the path for your characters? What are their arcs?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I mean, that’s something I teach in my course, my screenwriting course. Come sign up michael jammin.com/course, but that’s not a 32nd answer. That’s a 14 hour course. So yeah, come to my webinars. I did a webinar a couple weeks ago where I literally gave away part of the course. Not a lot of it, just a small part of it.

Phil Hudson:
I was surprised. It’s a lot though. It’s a lot of nuggets in there of,

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, there’s a lot of good stuff in that. I was like, I kind of felt like, guys, if you don’t hit the whole thing, you’re missing out because this is pretty good stuff.

Phil Hudson:
What was that? How professional writers create great characters? Is that

Michael Jamin:
What it meant? No, it was, I don’t know. It was not. It might’ve been getting past writer’s block or what was the one

Phil Hudson:
After that? Both of those are pretty good, and I think you’ve given a lot of new context and a lot of context in there for that. I think it was a great characters was one specifically on this subject, and you talk about this, I don’t want to spoil it for people who are going to miss it, but you talk about the principle of how to put the right character in a story and it is worth watching. I don’t want to steal the opportunity for you to learn that lesson by listening to Michael.

Michael Jamin:
Come to my talk on characters that it’ll help you a lot and it’s free.

Phil Hudson:
Awesome. Sammy Cisneros, how strict should we follow conventional story structure?

Michael Jamin:
I would say don’t break the rules until you understand them. So I would say very strict, and just so you know, I don’t break the rules and I’ve been doing it for a long time. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Honestly, once you’re in that story structure, there’s still so much creative freedom that you can have once you understand, it’s not like I don’t feel handcuffed when I’m writing a story that way. I feel liberated. I understand how to do it. There’s the roadmap that’ll help.

Phil Hudson:
You discussed this principle of Picasso in your free lesson, which I think everyone should go pick up or rewatch if you’ve signed up for it in the past, but you talk about what it means to become a master and it’s visually apparent when you look at the way you display that in that lesson.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, go watch. Yeah, that was in the free lesson,

Phil Hudson:
Michael jamon.com/free.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, go watch that. That’ll help.

Phil Hudson:
Great. Leoni Bennett, when breaking a story, do you keep track of both plot and story?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, it’s all yes, all yes. And if you don’t know what that means, there’s a difference between plot and story, and I talk about this in I think the free lesson, but yeah, you have to keep both in mind. You don’t do one without the other. It’s the same time. You can have a plot if you have a good plot, but no story. You got nothing. If you’ve got a good story but no plot, you also have nothing. So you need both.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, I think lesson two in the course is heavily dedicated to this, and you do touch on it on the free one, but second year in the course and you get to lesson two, it’s like, oh, okay, this makes a lot more sense. And I’ve always said this since we started the podcast and doing this stuff together. You’re the only writer I know online who talks about story and not plot everyone else’s. What are your plot points? What is this plot? What is this beat? How does this beat build to this? What is your inciting incident to this thing? To crossing the threshold to the Boone? And they’re mixing all this jargon from all of it’s youngian, it’s Joseph Campbell. It’s like all this stuff. It’s very hard to even wrap your head around. And I’m egotistically. I consider myself to be a pretty intelligent person who’s capable of learning. And very often when I started studying screenwriting, I was just beating my head against the wall because it’s like I don’t even understand what subtext is, and you’re telling me to use it, but no one’s teaching how to use subtext, which you talk about, but it’s that. Yeah, it’s the story. It’s story, story, story. And then the plot is, to me, it is the painting of the story. It’s what makes the story matter.

Michael Jamin:
Well, I watched a movie the other day and there was plenty of plot. Things were moving along, things were clipping, things were happening, but the whole time I’m like, so what? Who cares? Why do I, this is so who cares? And so the story is really the who cares part. Why should

Phil Hudson:
Write that down? Write

Michael Jamin:
That down. Yeah, write that down. It’s the who cares. It’s what to me as the viewer or the listener or the reader, it’s all the same. Why do I care what happens to the main character? And if you don’t, I won’t say it on camera, I won’t say which one it was, but it was a big movie, big budget, big director who’s done some great stuff. You should

Phil Hudson:
Just text me so I know what it

Michael Jamin:
Is. I’ll tell you later, but I was like, who cares? Why do I care about any of this?

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Dave Crossman, who is pretty active in the course we’ve talked about before. He has said that I have a coined phrase now when I read someone’s script. It’s a lot of things happen, a lot of people doing things and nothing’s happening.

Michael Jamin:
Okay, yeah,

Phil Hudson:
That’s good. Lots of stuff. Just

Michael Jamin:
Plot is so boring.

Phil Hudson:
Cool. Yeah. Alright. David Campbell, how do we determine which contestants, which content to reveal in what order?

Michael Jamin:
Oh yeah. I have a whole analogy that I go through in one of my free webinars about the order in which you unpack the details of your story is really important, and that’s what I teach in the course. But for sure, yeah, a lot of times you’ll read new writers and they just do a dump. They just dump everything out. But that’s not how you tell a story. The story is like you as the author, you get to decide when your reader learns this, and that’s how you keep people turning the page.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. I have bought a lot of self-published books from friends and people I went to film school with and some are good and some are like, wow, what you just put in a chapter could have been a whole book and you ended this chapter in a place that makes zero sense. And it’s because of the way they’re laying out the story. They have so much they want to say they’re just rushing through it or they have so little they want to say it’s dragging on. And to me, I think that’s what we’re talking about, story structure. If you understand structure, then the artistic way you unfold that sort of unravel that story is your craft and your voice and that the person who comes to mind for me is Guy Richie. I think Guy Richie does that masterfully in his stories.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I’m working on a story right now, which I’m writing, and there’s one of two ways I want to write it. And so I’m not sure which way I’m supposed to do it, but I’ll choose one and I’ll go down that path and if I find it halfway through, it doesn’t work, I’ll go back and do the other way.

Phil Hudson:
So you’re saying you’re not married to the words you wrote. They’re not precious written in stone and can never be changed.

Michael Jamin:
No. It’s all about, yeah, exactly. I’ve tossed out so many stories that weren’t working, but I am always thinking about what’s the best way to compel the reader to turn the page.

Phil Hudson:
High level note there, guys, write that one down too. Write

Michael Jamin:
It down.

Phil Hudson:
Paul Gomez, seven 90 Should a story center around subject or a character, is there a different approach for each? What I’m hearing with this question is should I focus on theme or character when I write my story?

Michael Jamin:
Honestly, I think you focus on a character and then theme comes a little bit later, but I’ve seen some movies, the very interesting setting, very interesting subject matter, very interesting. But because I don’t care about what the character wants and I’m not invested in the character, I was very unsatisfied with the movie, even though the subject matter was really interesting.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Previous podcast episode we’ve done, we talked about basically picking a word. There’s a word that’s going to color my story then to me is theme. What is the theme of this that might help shape the character that I’m telling to convey that theme, but the character has to matter or it doesn’t matter what the theme is.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. When my partner and I are writing, often we pretend there’s a drinking game. That theme will keep on appearing, and often you’ll see a word recurring over and over in a script, and we always will drink, drink, and then when we’re done, we go back and change those words. So it’s not so obvious we disguise it. But if you’re doing it right, that theme will reappear many times and throughout your script, but you just have to hide it a little better.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Yeah. Good stuff. Good stuff. Guys. I know some of you are advanced enough to know how much gold Michael’s just dumping his pockets right now. Just gold nuggets. For those of you who are newer, this is worth re-listening to so that you can pick up that gold. This is stuff that will shape you, and I would come back and listen to this one six months from now because you’re going to be a different place as a writer at different things. I’ve definitely seen that even just listening to our podcast with questions I’ve asked you. The answer is that I got two years ago apply very differently to me. Now. I’m a father of two kids now I am dealing with all these other different life issues than I was two years ago, and that affects the way I tell my stories and what things I want to talk about.

Michael Jamin:
And I’m still learning, guys, just, I mean, you’re never done learning when you’re writing, so I don’t know everything. I just pretend to

Phil Hudson:
More than he gives himself credit for, but he’s going to take credit like we talked about, right?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Right. Yeah. 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 michael jamon.com/and now back to what the hell is Michael Jamin talking about?

Phil Hudson:
Alright, is that my voice asks the beats? Is that what we are referencing here when we talk about story structure are the beats?

Michael Jamin:
The question is what? What’s

Phil Hudson:
The question? Yeah, so the context of this is from the webinar, how to write a great story. And when you’re asking the question, what is a story or what is story structure? They’re asking, are you referencing beats? Is that what you mean when you say story structure? They’re

Michael Jamin:
Beats, so they’re about seven or eight beats in every story, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re writing a half hour, an hour and a half feature, whatever that you must hit, in my opinion, in order for a story to feel fulfilling. And so those are the beats I talk about. And one is at the bottom of act one, bottom of act two, these are all important beats and I teach that. But yeah, and there’s still some creativity you can have. Well, a lot of creativity you can have once those beats.

Phil Hudson:
I want to highlight something because I know you don’t read any of the other advice that people are giving. And again, a lot of these people are not riders. In my intro to storytelling class, which is writing 1 0 1 in college, my professor asked this question, how many beats, beats are in this thing? And he’d have us watch a movie and count the number of beats. And then he put up this image on the board and it was 40 beats. And he says that every feature should have about 40 beats. Now, that’s the difference between sequences and beats, and you already can tell this is again very confusing, right? But this is the formulaic approach that is very confusing and shackling to people who are starting out and what you’re saying, I don’t want people to misconstrue what you’re saying by saying there should only be eight moments in a script or eight scenes, but he was describing scenes as beats and how you progress through things. And that comes from a book, and I can’t remember which book, but it lays that out.

Michael Jamin:
That’s just too many. How are you going to keep all that in your head? I feel like eight is manageable. Eight not eight scenes, but eight moments that you have to hit. And then it just like when you go from A to B2C to D, you can take a little side trip from A to B, but you still got to get to B.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. And I think that USC and UCLA, I think they use what they call eight beat story structure, which mirrors pretty close to what you teach, but you’d expect that because they’re proper film schools taught by professional writers, directors, producers, editors who are just doing that now because they’ve moved out of their first career. So yeah, I just want to make sure people are not misconstruing the two or conflating ’em. NRS creates How can a series pilot with more than eight main characters work without story overload?

Michael Jamin:
You wouldn’t want to have that many go back and watch some of these old pilots or any pilot even towards whatever season five or eight. They may introduce a lot of new characters, but in the pilot, how many characters were in the pilot? And if it’s a sitcom, you’re talking probably five or six. It’s if an hour long, you’re going to have a few more. You might be eight, but you should be able to service eight characters in an hour long story. So it shouldn’t be a problem. It’s when you start growing the cast, it gets more complicated.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, I think lost is a great example of this. Tons of people, plane crash, there’s mayhem happening all around you, and we’re looking at four or five people. And then as the series goes along, they introduce more people and the stories become more complex and there’s side things happening. But in the pilot, which is two hours, I think JJ Abrams and Damon Lindelof did that masterfully.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, great pilot.

Phil Hudson:
Richard Monroy, life, death Rebirth. These themes are found in art. How can this be applied to screenwriting?

Michael Jamin:
Well, I mean, what else are you going to write about when you’re going to write about all events that happen to you in life? Jealousy, anger, love, betrayal, vengeance, whatever. That’s what you’re going to write about. So you’re going to you life mirrors art and art mirrors life.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. I think that ties back to our theme as well, right? You pick your theme and then that’s the thing you’re deciding to talk about, and then your characters and the story and the plot all play to paint that picture. Yeah. David Campbell, another question here. Do you have to write a log line for every episode or story?

Michael Jamin:
Yes. One of the things, when my partner and I run a TV show, what we make all the writers do, including ourselves, is we write after the story is broken on the whiteboard and one writer is chosen or a team is chosen to write that script, the first thing they got to do is write what we call a book report, which is a one page summary of what we just discussed in the writer’s room for past week. And this is not as easy as it looks. We need to make sure everyone’s on the, were you paying attention? Did you understand what we finally agreed to? And at the top of that book report, we make them write a log line. What is it about? What is this episode about? And it’s amazing how that one simple thing can really, really be beneficial. I never assume anyone understands what it’s about.
And sometimes I tell a story that a couple of years ago, I think it was on Tacoma, my partner and I were writing an episode, we’re writing the outline and we’re figuring out these scenes. We start arguing over what the scene should be. And I was like, I’m right. And he’s like, he’s right. And I’m like, wait a minute, what do you think the story’s about? And we didn’t agree on what the story was about. We literally didn’t agree. So we stopped and went back to the whiteboard to figure out what the story was about. Even though we had spent a week working on it, we couldn’t agree.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, that’s how much it matters. I don’t know that there’s anything to add to that. That’s great. Henry Wind, as an audience member, I’m really trying to catch the details and the dialogue so I can understand what is happening in this scene between two actors. How do you deepen subtext?

Michael Jamin:
Well, characters often don’t say what they’re actually thinking. And so that’s the difference between writing directly and writing indirectly. And again, I talk about this in the course to greater detail, but writing directly is, I’m really mad at you. You hurt my feelings. The other day when you said this about that’s writing directly, writing indirectly might be just me ignoring you or me telling you that your hat is stupid. So you know what I’m saying? Who cares about your hat? I’m really mad about you for what you did. And so that’s the difference. And the more indirect you can write your writing, the better the smarter it seems.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, it’s amazing how this is human nature though. Just last night, my daughter, she just turned three, and so she’s throwing a little bit of the terrible three tantrums. I’ve heard terrible twos, but it’s really the threes is what every parent says. And she wanted to do something and we said, no, it’s time for bed. And so her lovey, her stuffy Is Cob the Cow? And she’s like, I don’t want cob in my bed. And my wife who’s wonderful, says, just because you’re mad at us doesn’t mean you should take it out on other people. And she said, okay. And then she cuddled her little stuffed animal, but it’s human nature to do this. She didn’t say, I’m mad at you. She’s like, I don’t want COB in here. I don’t want to sing songs. I don’t want to read a book. She’s mad at

Michael Jamin:
Me. She’s writing indirectly. She’s a writer.

Phil Hudson:
Yep. She’s human nature. The beautiful things you learn from kids, man. All right. Moving on to breaking in the Broken Breaking Seas. That’s an apt name. Can you talk about working with a writing partner a bit? I’m very curious what that process is like.

Michael Jamin:
Well, it’s sort of a marriage and you get to decide who you want to marry. I’ve been working with my partner Seaver for close to 30 years. And at this point there’s a lot of trust and there’s a lot of, we try to argue as little as possible. The truth is I don’t really care if it’s his idea or my idea. I really don’t. If it’s his idea, great. That’s one less idea I have to come up with. It’s not about my ego and it’s really about what’s best for the work. And then great. I mean, it helps to have one, it helps have one bounce idea. We can bounce ideas off each other and often he’ll shoot down my idea, say whatever. I don’t really care. It’s really about getting the work done.

Phil Hudson:
We did a whole episode about writing with partners on the podcast, so go check that out as well.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Alright, moving on to miscellaneous questions. We got about 10 left, Michael, does that sound good? Sure. We hit those in the next 17 minutes and wrap this up in an hour. Sounds great. Lisa J. Robinson, for a beginning writer, what program do you recommend to write a script that is very user-friendly? Imagine that

Michael Jamin:
Right

Phil Hudson:
In my mouth. Didn’t even know, didn’t even know Michael. This question in October would serving today. So

Michael Jamin:
Every single television show, movie, everything I’ve sold, every single one of them have been written in a program called Final Draft. And that is considered to be the industry standard now. So it’s the best as far as I’m concerned. Now. They offered me a brand deal a couple months ago, and so I’ve since done some spots for them and I had no problem doing it because it’s not like it’s a product that I have. I use the product, so Sure.

Phil Hudson:
And you’ve turned down so many deals from people with different writing software. Even when we first started doing this, people were reaching out. It’s like, Hey, we’d love to pay you to talk about our screenwriting software, and you turn them all down.

Michael Jamin:
No. So this

Phil Hudson:
Is a big

Michael Jamin:
Deal, but if you want to use Final Draft, we do have, they gave me a brand deal, so if get on my newsletter, we said, well, there’ll be a link on my newsletter and you can click on that link and you can get a discount 25% off on final

Phil Hudson:
Draft. Do you want to give them the code? Do you want to

Michael Jamin:
Give the I think so we could do the code. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
It’s M jamming 25 I think, right?

Michael Jamin:
24 I think.

Phil Hudson:
Correct. For it’s 24 M jamming 24, but it gives you 25% off your purchase. And I used it and it worked on my upgrade from vinyl draft 12. So you saved me 25 bucks on something I was going to buy anyway.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, you can upgrade. You can upgrade at some point you have to continue, you got to upgrade your, so it doesn’t fall out of surface and

Phil Hudson:
And there’s new stuff that come in. There’s all kinds of stuff that comes

Michael Jamin:
That, yeah, there’s bells and whistles, but honestly I’ve been using Final draft since final draft five. They don’t update it every day, every couple of years they improve it.

Phil Hudson:
We used a final draft for the collaboration mode in the writer’s room.

Michael Jamin:
The collaboration is a good feature.

Phil Hudson:
And while I was doing this yesterday, this is totally unprompted, I was looking for this. You sent me a bunch of stuff and in 2016, just as I was going to move out here, you were asking me for my resume, like, Hey, there’s somebody out here who was interested in getting your resume. And I sent it over and you told me in here, and I’m trying to find the exact words, but it was basically study final draft and know it like the back of your hand. And that was 2016, so that you’ve been preaching this for a long time.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, it helps to know that program. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Great. Alright, Mimi, how to find the main idea from a lot of ideas you have in your book. So I’m assuming she’s writing a book and she wants to know what the main idea. Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
You better figure that out because your story needs to be about one thing everyone wants to throw in the kitchen sink. And it’s about this, but it’s also about this, but it also has elements of this. It’s like, no, no, no, you don’t know what your story is. You got a hot mess. You can’t kitchen sink it. Your story’s about one thing. And if you think it’s about two things, congratulations. Now you have a sequel or you have another episode, but your story’s about one thing. And if you think I’m making it up, read stories that you’ve enjoyed and ask yourself the same question. What is this about?

Phil Hudson:
What’s the difference between an A plot B plot C plot though, if it’s only about one thing,

Michael Jamin:
Right? So an APL will occupy two or three characters, and that’s a story that has the most emotional weight, and that’s the one that has the most time on screen. You

Phil Hudson:
Have, it’s usually the leads too though, right? It’s your main character.

Michael Jamin:
But if you have five leads on your show, then two of them will be in the A story. And then you have to occupy your other characters. So you give them a B story and maybe a C story if you still have to occupy some of them. But they don’t carry as much emotional weight often they’re just lighter.

Phil Hudson:
You don’t want ’em sitting in their trailers cashing a check, right?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, you got to pay these people. The audience wants to see them too. So you want to give the audience what they want.

Phil Hudson:
Great mental pictures. Love to know an example of a log line on a whiteboard in the writer’s room.

Michael Jamin:
So a log line might be, okay, we wrote an episode called Fire Choir, and I think the log line was Eddie joins a male

Phil Hudson:
Choir acapella group. It was like firefighters, acapella choir

Michael Jamin:
To basically recapture the lost fame of his youth. It was something like that. So you knew what the plot was and you also knew what the story was. Oh, he’s there to recapture his law. He was famous, whatever. He was in a garage band when he was a kid, and here’s the chance to feel like a star again. So that’s what it’s really about. It’s about the fame part

Phil Hudson:
And a great episode with one of our favorite characters. Wolf Boykins

Michael Jamin:
Wolf. Yes. So played by Paul Soder.

Phil Hudson:
Paul Soder says, hi, by the way. Oh, you should have him on the podcast.

Michael Jamin:
I should. I’ll get him on. That’s a good question. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Richard Monroy, can you describe this Greta Gerwig style in more detail? It seems more unstructured and organic.

Michael Jamin:
It’s not unstructured, it’s just the fact that it’s definitely not unstructured. It’s just that how she comes about finding the structure. So I believe she still hits the same eight points that I’m talking about, but whereas in TV or even in movies, for the most part, you’ll think about this before you’re ever writing a word. You’re figuring out what those story points are. And you might spend weeks or months if it’s a movie before you’re actually writing. But she doesn’t do it that way. But she’s Greta Gerwig until you become her, you may want to rethink how you do this, but what she does is she starts writing, oh, I think this is what it’s about. And she starts typing the script and she’ll say the same thing. I’ve heard her talk about it. Alright, now I have an 800 page script. Well, we can’t shoot an 800 page script. Now she has to go back and throw out 700 pages and figure out what the story is. So it’s very inefficient, but it’s organic. But again, she can do it. She knows what story is. And by the way, that movie made a billion dollars. It’s not for me to say that she’s doing it wrong, she’s doing it right. It’s just that it’s just inefficient. And unless you really have a good grasp upon what story structure is like she does, you’re probably going to screw it up.

Phil Hudson:
This just popped into my mind, one of the best tiktoks I’ve ever seen was this story. And you’ve seen ’em before. And it’s like everyone told me that I was a loser and I would never make it as an artist. And over the years I’ve practiced and honed my craft and it shows all these different art. You see their art evolving year over year, and now here I am and look what I’ve done. And then they show the worst drawing of a horse you’ve ever seen. And it brought me to tears because mocking this thing, which is the reality, is you can’t be a one year in rider or a four year in rider and think that you can write the way someone’s been running for 20 years will, you also can’t do it, but think you’re going to paint or draw the way in one year or two years. The way that Picasso or Van Gogh or anybody else has done who’s devoted their life to that craft. It’s effectively, I’m hearing you say, is she’s earned the right to do things her way and it shows in the box office, and that is not an excuse for you to do it that way, and that’s not to say you won’t do it that way, but you have to learn structure and process and all of those things form light balance. You have to learn those things before you can make art

Michael Jamin:
And it’s not easy for her. I saw an interview where she was saying, look, every time I sit down, I’m like, I don’t know how to do this it, you’re starting from scratch. I feel the same way. It’s like, ah, I don’t really know how to do this. I do, but I still feel like I don’t, it’s hard.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Yep. I saw that interview too. And that’s going back to what we talked about earlier. That’s the discipline. It’s hard, but she sits down and does it and then she’s able to get billion box office

Michael Jamin:
And sometimes I’m writing, I’m like, am I saying too much or am I saying too little? Am I taking my audience? Am I insulting their intelligence by saying too much or am I taking their intelligence for granted? That’s a hard question.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. EG wants to know what if the notes you receive from the higher ups make the story worse?

Michael Jamin:
Often it does. Your goal is to try to give them what they want without making the story too much worse. And what can I tell you? Sometimes they’re not writers so often that’s the give and take. Often you’ll argue with them, you’re almost never going to win the argument, and so you have to give them what they want. They’re the buyer. And so sometimes people say, sometimes it makes it better too, but people often say, why does TV suck? Well, there’s a lot of people involved and a lot of people have opinions and they all want to be heard. I’ve worked with actors who’ve had notes who make the story worse. What are you going to do? That’s the job. It’s it’s life.

Phil Hudson:
I’ve talked about this documentary before, but showrunners, which you can find it in a bunch of places, they talk about an interview, a pretty well known actor. I’m blanking on his name, but he talks about how at a certain point, the first year, the showrunner, it’s the showrunner story. The second year, it’s the showrunner story, the third year, it’s kind of a balance between the actors and the showrunner, and then the fourth, it’s kind of the actors because they are the characters. And his whole opinion here was, I think famously he got an argument and a heated battle with the showrunner who created the show, and the showrunner got fired because he was the star of the show. And he said, it’s my job to protect my character because that’s me and who I’m playing. And I was like, yeah, that’s just the reality of this. It’s none of it’s yours.

Michael Jamin:
You can’t, the funny thing is, yeah, the showrunner hires all the actors. It’s their show. They sold it, they created it, but at some point, if there’s an argument between the actor, the star and the showrunner, you can always get a new showrunner. The star is on camera, and so the star is going to win that fight nine times out of 10.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Pretty interesting. Go check that out guys. Yeah. Richard Roy asks, if you’re an independent writer, do you ever reveal what you’re working on in early stages?

Michael Jamin:
Some people tell you no. I mean, some people will say, don’t reveal your dreams to anybody because people will tell you how stupid it is for you to dream. So why keep it to yourself? That’s a personal choice whether you want to share it or not.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. My opinion is screw the haters.

Michael Jamin:
Screw the haters. But also, I mean, you can also put it out there and maybe they hold you accountable. Well, now that I went on record saying I’m going to do this, I better do it

Phil Hudson:
For a lot of people, a lot of people, that’s some strong accountability saying, I’m going to do something. Eagle Boy, 7 1 0 9 0. How strict should we expect prospective studios to be about the page length of a historical drama limited series? I’ve seen some episode ones that are nearly 80 pages for an hour long show.

Michael Jamin:
Listen, the question is who do you think you are? I mean, when you write your script, your script is a writing sample and that’s it. Stop thinking about what I’m going to sell it for, how much money I’m going to make. Some people ask me, how much money can you make as a first? Now you’re spending the money. Your job first is to write a great script. That’s it. One episode. Don’t worry about episode 12, writing that one first. Great script is damn hard enough. And it’s a calling card. And it’s a writing sample. So some of these questions are for people like me, this is a question I might ask a fellow showrunner. I might ask them that question because we are doing, this is stuff that we have to worry about, but you don’t have to worry about this.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Big note there too, that this is the big takeaway I’ve gotten from doing this work with you over the podcast is everything is a writing sample. If it sells, great. If it’s good enough to sell, great. But right now, I need to be good enough to give me a job.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, get me a job.

Phil Hudson:
Yep. Matt Sharpe, with the changes to TV writing rooms during the pandemic, do you see Zoom rooms still being a thing post the WGA strike? More to the point, do you still have to live in LA to write in tv?

Michael Jamin:
A lot of these rooms are still on Zoom. That’s probably going to go the way at some point. I don’t know. Maybe it’s going to get back in person probably sooner than later, but someone made that point. I was going to do a TikTok on social media. What are you talking about? Everything’s on Zoom. Okay. But how do you get the job? How do you get the job so that you can be on a show that’s on Zoom. Tell me how you do that. Unless you live in la, there’s no answer for that because you have to live in la. Sorry. There’s a handful of screenwriters who work mostly in features who get to live other places. Maybe they have to fly to LA or maybe they live in New York. I follow Julia York from New York. She lives in York or Yorks, but she’s in New York and she’s able to make a living out of it somehow, but it’s definitely harder. You made a hard career. You’re making a hard career. Harder.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Tacoma FD is now streaming on Netflix, so everybody go watch

Michael Jamin:
That. Go watch that

Phil Hudson:
Talk. Tacoma fd, which is the companion podcast that Kevin and Steve the showrunners do that dropped. And in episode four, I actually was in the cold open and I got put in the cold open. They talk about it on Sarco fna. It was very kind of them to mock me a little bit and poke fun. But what they said is basically what you have said to me all along is if you want to make it in Hollywood, you have to be in LA because they need you Now. It’s not two a week from now. And evidence of this is I got cast in the cold open because the actor tested positive for Covid that day. And they said, well, this is a guy protesting pornography, and Phil is a religious dude. Let’s get him out here. And then they were like, he came out and he gave this tirade of just Christian anti pornographic stuff. It’s like he’d rehearsed it, you could tell. And it was like I’d done acting classes with Jill and with Cynthia. I’ve done prep work. I’ve been on set. I’ve seen how it’s done, and I was just able to go and perform in this moment because of all of that prep work. And I only got it because I was on set standing next to the showrunner when he heard that this guy got covid.

Michael Jamin:
So two things, half of life is about showing up and two, but also being prepared for your

Phil Hudson:
Could imagine, because you could have choked shot the bed. Imagine you could choked shot the bed. And to be fair, I’d been in three other things. I’d been on Tacoma twice as background with no lines, and then they put me on the spot and made me the butt of a joke in the movie quasi. And that was not something I knew about, but they shot three other people just in case, and they picked the funniest person. I just happened to be the funniest person. So had I not done that, I would’ve not been given this hat back. But they called me in and I pinch hit and I swung and they said I nailed it. Right?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. It was funny. I was there. I got a huge laugh at the premiere. You’re

Phil Hudson:
Scene. So yeah, I had no idea. But the point I’m trying to make is you have to be here and then that’s how that stuff comes. If you’re not, look, it’s not going to happen.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Aaron Vaughn Busick looking to develop my understanding of the process of landing the ending of a limited series.

Michael Jamin:
Wait a minute, hold on. You mean you got a show picked up to series and you want to know how to wrap it up? Is that what the question is?

Phil Hudson:
I think the question is, I’m writing a limited series and I’m going to write the whole thing and I don’t know how to end it.

Michael Jamin:
Don’t worry about it. Can you write a great pilot? And then when they bring it to series, they’ll hire people like me and we’ll figure it out in the room. Don’t worry about it. You’re not selling your limited series, you’re writing a writing sample.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, I think, again, go back and listen to it. I think it was episode 32 or 34 fractals, which we’ve talked about recently where you talk about how this all kind of mirrors things and then learn story structure and man, I can’t imagine writing something without knowing the ending. That seems incredibly

Michael Jamin:
Painful, but that’s four years. I dunno how long his series is, but I wouldn’t know how to end it.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Rick Bean, I’ve been watching Star Trek, Voyager Lost in Space, et cetera. I do stories that take place in space get leniency because they take place in space.

Michael Jamin:
I don’t think so. If it’s boring, it’s boring. What difference? When these chefs take face in space, it just means the set is a spaceship, right? So what if it was a boat? Same thing. Is it that much of a difference? No. Is

Phil Hudson:
Hamlet on the Holodeck? This is a required book from one of my digital media classes, and it talks about basically the future of narrative in cyberspace, and it’s basically just saying it’s a medium. The story still has to be there. It’s Hamlet on the holodeck. It’s not whatever on the holodeck.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. So

Phil Hudson:
Story, story, story, story. Richard Monroy. Again, a lot of movies and TV shows are based on franchises and ips that want to sell product. Is it the screenwriter’s job to include ad placement in the script?

Michael Jamin:
No, and I disagree that I disagree with that contention. I’ve never worked on a show where we got a note where, Hey, we’re selling products. That’s never, no,

Phil Hudson:
That’s a production thing. It’s after. It’s like I’ve seen it in the production office where it’s like, okay, the call just came in transpo picking up some Acura’s, and we got to feature those in this week’s episode because the sales guys in the corporate side are doing

Michael Jamin:
That fine. Throw in the background. I don’t think about it at all. And Barbie, when that movie Mattel, to their great credit, I bet they saw a lot of Barbies after that, but it was never an infomercial for Barbie. I mean, Greta Gerber got to write it her way, and much of it was anti Barbie.

Phil Hudson:
Well, that’s a whole thing going on right now. They came out with women in cinema film and TV Barbie set, and now a bunch of people are like, Hey, you missed the mark here, Barbie, you missed the mark.

Michael Jamin:
I mean, they’re always going to try to figure out ways to make money, but to me it’s never about the product placement. It’s always about the story. And if they want to find, you want to throw Pepsi in the background, I don’t care.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Fire department coffee is one of those sponsors we have on the show and because it fits in the firehouse and that’s who they’re selling to, our firefighters who watched the show, and that’s something that was worked out well after. We’re not writing episodes about fire department coffee. Right, Rob?

Michael Jamin:
Because that’s not entertaining people. People are not going to be entertaining. People would turn off the show if that were the case.

Phil Hudson:
Yep, yep. And you see it too. I see it a lot on broadcast TV where it’s like, oh, we have to use this feature in the new Toyota to get to where we’re going. And it’s like, look at us talk and the camera sweeps there and it’s so distracting.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, you’re not fooling anybody, so no,

Phil Hudson:
It’s like we know what’s going on. As you’ve always said, we got to sell more toilet paper.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I jokingly say that. Yeah, we’re here to sell toilet paper, but we don’t literally have toilet paper on their show.

Phil Hudson:
Rob Gully, how does David Mamet tell a good story when most of his plays are just people talking?

Michael Jamin:
Well, but it’s not just people talking, it’s things happening. But anytime you have a stage play, it’s not just people talking. Things have to happen. Things have to develop. A character walks on with new information, changes a dynamic. It’s not just people talking and that’s the problem that people mistake. They think it’s just people talking.

Phil Hudson:
I’ve got his bio over here that I read, and it’s worth checking out if you think that’s what’s going. Yeah, you got

Michael Jamin:
A good library over there.

Phil Hudson:
It’s not, yeah, I’m a hoarder. I think that’s the problem. Thanks dad. Dad gave me those tendencies. Yeah, as Jim, I would say money in the bank, right?

Michael Jamin:
Money in the bank.

Phil Hudson:
My trauma. My trauma is my money. I lots of checks. Yeah, my hoarding tendencies for my father

Michael Jamin:
For sure.

Phil Hudson:
Is there a percentage to follow for dialogue or scene description while writing a script? What percentage should be what?

Michael Jamin:
Well just know that no one likes reading action lines. No one. People often glance over that. I’ve heard. It’s so funny, I happen to just catch another screenwriter say the same exact thing. No one wants to read it. So that’s why if you write your script and you could describe a card chase, okay, no one read it because the dialogue is what you want to read. So on paper, it’s going to be really boring if you focus on that. If you’re going to shoot your movie or your short or whatever, fine. Do it any way you want to do it, but just know you’re, if you want it as a writing sample, no one’s going to be impressed with your action lines. No one’s going to read it.

Phil Hudson:
Anyone who’s ever done pros before and is getting into screenwriting, which is me, you start off by describing the room and what’s in the room. It’s almost like a DD Dungeon master, so unnecessary. It’s more confusing. It’s the brevity of your style is what will help with this. And that’s why I said you need to understand the craft. You need to understand structure, but you need to understand your format and

Michael Jamin:
Your style. I literally keep action lines like that as short as possible. When we’re writing, if we have four words, we try to get it down to three. I mean, because it’s literally shorter as better. No one wants to read it.

Phil Hudson:
You don’t want big blocks of text. And I think Drive is a great script to check out. He barely talks

Michael Jamin:
In it,

Phil Hudson:
But masterfully done, but he wrote it, directed it. He did the whole thing. It was effectively he was being paid to make his own short film because he’d earned it in the age of streaming. The last question, by the way, just Mason May in the age of streaming and new media, how has the new WGA deal changed the writer’s room process?

Michael Jamin:
I don’t think it’s changed the writer’s room process, but there’s some minimums in place in terms of the staff size and the staff makeup in the term, the employment terms. But we’ll see how that unfolds. I haven’t been on a show since the strike ended, so we’ll see literally what that means. But yeah, too soon to say.

Phil Hudson:
Awesome. Michael, anything you want to add to that one? It’s a pretty robust long q and a.

Michael Jamin:
Thank you. Yeah, it was. Thank you all for all the questions. Please keep coming to those webinars. You’ll get a lot out of it. And thank you for listening.

Phil Hudson:
Michael, anything we want to talk about coming up with the book coming up?

Michael Jamin:
We got stuff coming up. Phil, my book is dropping very soon, a paper orchestra. I don’t know when this episode’s going to air may already be out. No, probably not. Probably not. But it’s coming to soon. If you want to learn more about my book, go to michael jamin.com/book and sign up and it’ll be a great read. It’s called The Paper Orchestra, and we’re going to do a whole podcast episode. We’re going to talk about that coming up next, I think.

Phil Hudson:
Yep. So we’ve got that. You’ve got your course, which we’ve talked about@michaeljamin.com slash course. You’ve got your free lesson, michael jamin.com/free. You’ve got your webinars, which people can sign up for at michael jamin.com/webinar. You only need to sign up once. We’ll continue to invite you to them as long as you want to stay on that list. That’s all it’s used for. Yeah. Anything else you can think of?

Michael Jamin:
That’s it. Get on my newsletter. Lots of good stuff on the newsletter. Michael jamon.com/newsletter. Just go to my website, poke around. There’s a lot of free stuff. There’s a lot of really good stuff there. Phil built the website so we have him to thank for it.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, me for any problems you have. And then I think hashtag twirly girl on this post. Just if we want to hear, if people want to know about seeing those videos on there, I think

Michael Jamin:
That’d be helpful. Yeah, maybe we’ll slap up a special page for my commercial work.

Phil Hudson:
I think it’s worth doing. People need to see you do this because you tell people to do it. Yeah, that’s a good idea. Well, Michael, thank you so much.

Michael Jamin:
Thank you, Phil, for more, what do we say

Phil Hudson:
For more like subscribe,

Michael Jamin:
But also, I dunno, keep writing. Keep

Phil Hudson:
Writing everything. Keep writing. That’s what we want you to do. Keep

Michael Jamin:
Writing. Okay. Thanks everyone.
So now we all know what the hell Michael Jamin ISS talking about. If you’re interested in learning more about writing, make sure you register for my free monthly webinars@michaeljamin.com slash 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, follow Michael Jamin on social media at Michael Jamin writer. And you can follow Phil Hudson on social media at Phil a Hudson. 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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