On November 18th, I hosted a webinar called “How Professional Screenwriters Create Great Characters”, where I talked about how to come up with interesting and unique characters, 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

A Paper Orchestra on Website: – https://michaeljamin.com/book

A Paper Orchestra on Audible:https://www.audible.com/ep/creator?source_code=PDTGBPD060314004R&irclickid=wsY0cWRTYxyPWQ32v63t0WpwUkHzByXJyROHz00&irgwc=1

A Paper Orchestra on Amazon:https://www.amazon.com/Audible-A-Paper-Orchestra/dp/B0CS5129X1/ref=sr_1_4?crid=19R6SSAJRS6TU&keywords=a+paper+orchestra&qid=1707342963&sprefix=a+paper+orchestra%2Caps%2C149&sr=8-4

A Paper Orchestra on Goodreads:https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/203928260-a-paper-orchestra

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Autogenerated Transcript

Michael Jamin:
And why are we rooting for him? We’re rooting for this meek man who’s going to die soon to make some money for his family, but also to feel like he’s alive for the first time in his life because he’s just lived this very meek existence. And so that’s why we’re rooting for him. That’s why we like him. And when he makes mistakes, he may go off track, but we hope he comes back. We’re still rooting for him. You are listening to What The Hell Is Michael Jamin talking about conversations in writing, art, and creativity. Today’s episode is brought to you by my debut collection of True Stories, a paper orchestra available in print, ebook and audiobook to purchase and to support me on this podcast, please visit michael jamin.com/book and now on with the show. Hey everyone, it’s Michael Jamin and you’re listening to, what the Hell is Michael Jamin talking about? Well, today we’re doing another q and a from II’s free writing webinars, and there’s a lot of questions that people had. We couldn’t answer ’em all on the end. We ran out of time, and so we’re going to address ’em here. But this episode, Phil, I’m here with Phil Hudson.

Phil Hudson:
What up, Phil?

Michael Jamin:
Today’s episode is brought to you by a paper orchestra, which is my collection of personal essays. It’s David Saris meets Neil Simon on sale on my website, michael jamin.com, or you can find it anywhere. Books are sold, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, apple Books, all those places. Go get it. Go check it out. It’s a fun read. Yeah. Okay.

Phil Hudson:
Worth checking out all the versions though too. I was just listening to the audio book and we talked about this in your episode about the book itself, but the music cues and the intros, very well done. Very well produced. You’re also telling me about, thank you, Phil, how hellacious of a process it was to do it

Michael Jamin:
To

Phil Hudson:
The quality you like.

Michael Jamin:
Yes. Because you only get to put it out once, but yeah. But thank you. So Phil got the audio book, but it’s available ebook and print as well, however you consume your written materials. Love it. Alright, Phil, we got some questions. Enough about me. Let’s ask me some questions.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, let’s talk to you some more about you. This is from the November 18th webinar. These are like you said, q and A stuff, and the topic of this webinar was how professional screenwriters create great characters. This was, I think, a first run on this topic. You hadn’t done this topic before.

Michael Jamin:
It could be. Yeah, this was a good one. Yeah, this turned out to be a good one I thought.

Phil Hudson:
I think so too. We can tell, there’s some metrics we can tell in terms of how long people stay, questions that are asked, how long it goes. And I was going to say too, we didn’t get to these questions because typically when we first started doing this almost a year ago, February will be a year doing these. It was like 30 minutes of lesson and then it was a bunch of q and a and that has transitioned into about 45 minutes of lesson and then a little bit of q and a where we can get it. And then we even have VIPQ and A now where you can just pay a small fee to join for an hour after and you just talk to people on Zoom and they get to go live and ask you questions and some really, really good questions being asked in that. So if you’re interested in attending these webinars, go to michael jamin.com/webinar where you can sign up for that. But then you can also sign up on that page to get into the VIP. If you want to ask Michael directly a question that you have if you

Michael Jamin:
Can’t get to it. So to be clear, the webinars are always free, and if you want to spend extra time with me, that costs you something. But I should also say right now it seems like we have four that we’re going to have a rotation, but we may keep adding different topics, but right now we have four good ones, so if you missed it, just sign up and maybe we’ll do it again. Correct

Phil Hudson:
Me if I’m wrong, but I think some of the topics you’ve come up with have come from the q and a that you do on these topics. How do I overcome? Writer’s block are like, I’m really struggling with a character or development. So they kind of incept the idea of like, okay, here’s a topic we should go down. So lots of great value there. Alright, well again, just for housekeeping, we do split these up into topics. So we have kind of general topics. We have craft breaking in questions related to your course or the webinar topic and then miscellaneous. So we’re going to start with K Craft. I think again, people want to know how to do the job, which I think is helpful.

Michael Jamin:
Yes.

Phil Hudson:
So Chad, Chad Siime or cme, I don’t know how to pronounce that. Sorry, Chad,

Michael Jamin:
He doesn’t, doesn’t know either.

Phil Hudson:
He probably’s probably making it up. Was it like Ari, one of the writers in Taco, they pronounced their name. It was changed at one point.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, he says his own name wrong. Poor guy.

Phil Hudson:
I know someone who was a Heinrich and then when World War II happened, they changed it to Heinrich, Henrik Henrich because they didn’t want to be associated.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, yeah.

Phil Hudson:
There you go. Chad asked, do you have examples of writers who have successfully experimented with story structure? What principles did they stick to and where did they deviate?

Michael Jamin:
I don’t really know. I mean, I don’t really know if I have a good answer to that. Every time I watch something I go, oh, it falls into the good. I guess there’s some really high level writing. Christopher Nolan. Okay. So I would say many of his movies do not fit what I would teach, like Memento, but Forget or Inception. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched it and I still don’t understand it. So it’s a great movie though.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. But I would say that I can see that clearly the writing structure in those.

Michael Jamin:
You can. Okay.

Phil Hudson:
Oh yeah, you’re definitely an inception too. It’s like how do we get on this journey and how are we making decisions and where this stakes, all that stuff. I think it’s all,

Michael Jamin:
A lot of it playing at the timeline, memento when he’s playing with it. I don’t even know what year it’s supposed to

Phil Hudson:
Be. You’re right. But I wonder if that’s, it’s all there and it’s just been split to change and mess with your head a bit, but it’s all there, which is why it resonates with people.

Michael Jamin:
But I guess my advice is like, listen, if you want to operate at the high level, that’s great, but let’s just get to the professional level first before you become the master

Phil Hudson:
Level. And Christopher Nolan’s a great example of that because he had made a feature before he did Memento, so he had a full feature. He was making short films all the time in film school before he even started experimenting with timelines and things like that. Yeah, okay. Listen to me just arguing. Michael jamin on his own podcast.

Michael Jamin:
What do I know? You might be

Phil Hudson:
Right, maybe my head did get big. Kevin and Steve. Alright, Marianne wants to know, you have such a great understanding of human nature. Was there something you’ve always been good at or did you develop it as a writer?

Michael Jamin:
No, I didn’t. I have a very low emotional iq. My parents are great people, well, great parents, but terrible, low emotional IQs themselves just because that’s the household they grew up in. And so it’s not a knock on them, it’s just like this is the product of your parents. This is how they communicate. And so a lot of this I learned I gained from my wife just from being with her. And then the rest of it, of course, I learned as I became, I became a writer because that’s your job as a writer is to really understand people and to get into their shoes. And one of the, it’s so funny, I’ve spoken about this in the past, but my first writing teacher was a guy who really wanted everyone to be in psychoanalysis. That’s what he called it because he was so old. They don’t even call it like that anymore.
It’s psychotherapy. But he thought every writer has to be in psychoanalysis because if you don’t understand yourself, how could you possibly understand someone else and you or a character? And I think he’s absolutely right. I didn’t want to believe he was right, but he is right. If you don’t understand yourself, and most people do not, and we know this because they go through life unconscious of the people of the damage they’re leaving, of the people they’re hurting because they’re just not even aware of it. And you see it all the time. You could see it on social media, people saying really mean things. It’s like you might even be a good person, but why would you put that in print? What is wrong with you that you would say that? What part of yourself is so wounded that you think you need to say this in writing? And so I appreciate the compliment, but everyone else, I’m a work in progress and I think writing definitely has helped me.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, that’s great. Albert Klein wants to know, and this is again contextual here. These are people who are live chatting questions throughout this episode or this webinar. But I said relatability is key in full caps. I think where you’re talking about with the characters. Do these characters need to be relatable? Do I need to understand who they’re

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, and it’s the same thing with Tony Soprano. How do we relate to a mobster? I don’t, and he’s probably a sociopath as well, but what we can relate is the fact that we know what it’s like to be a boss. Maybe you know what it’s like to be a boss, to have people undermining you, your underlings. And he certainly had those problems. We know what it’s like to be a father and to have children that are rebellious or whatever. That’s the part we relate to with, so we don’t relate to the part where he’s going to wax somebody because he’s late with the whatever. But we do relate to this other issues, which is

Phil Hudson:
Anxiety, the stress and family life. His psychotic mother.

Michael Jamin:
And that’s what the show is about. It’s not about

Phil Hudson:
Crazy. He deals with his in-laws too. Joey Pants, I think is his brother-in-Law or something, right?

Michael Jamin:
I don’t remember what

Phil Hudson:
He was. Yeah. Anyway, it’s all relatable because it is just a heightened version of what go through. Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
His job is a little more interesting than our job, but it’s all, that’s not what it’s about. It’s not about the mafia, it’s about the emotions that we all relate to.

Phil Hudson:
Great answer. Reik vid. So do you find the anti-hero more interesting than a traditional hero?

Michael Jamin:
Anti-hero is not even a term I use. I don’t know. I think everyone, your hero has to be likable. I don’t know. I can’t even say I’ve lost interest. If your character is so unlikable, I don’t really care what happens to him or her. I am out. So this notion of anti-hero, I don’t even think of your writing that way. You have a hero. I think anti-heroes is one of these terms that, I dunno, expert writers will tell you it’s an anti-hero. What?

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, people say that. People have said that the whole time since I’ve said I’ve wanted to study screenwriting or be a writer publicly said, oh, I’ll describe what I like. Oh, you like an anti-hero? Batman’s an anti-hero. And I was like, why? He’s not goody hoo Superman. You’ve described him. He is a deeply wounded person who is using every resource he has, all of his willpower to stop other people from suffering.

Michael Jamin:
And how is he, I mean, we were on his side. He’s complicated, but we’re on his side. We’re rooting for him. If we’re not, we got a problem.

Phil Hudson:
Alright. What about Walter White

Michael Jamin:
Breaking back? Yeah. What about Walter White? So that’s a great, is he an anti-hero? I don’t know. Who cares? To me, he’s a guy who’s dying in the pilot episode. He’s dying, he’s a teacher, so he doesn’t have any money. What is he going to leave his family when he’s gone? He’s got to come up with money fast. And the only way he knows how to do that fast is by capitalizing on his skillset, which is he’s a chemistry teacher so he can make meth in a lab. Does that make him an anti-hero? To me, he’s just a hero.

Phil Hudson:
He’s a person. And then you find out that he gave up tremendous wealth because that was like, he had that partnership at that company where he had the ability to adjust multimillions of dollars and he’s a public school chemistry teacher. So it’s those layers of decisions and regret. It’s exploring the human condition. Definitely just

Michael Jamin:
And why are we rooting for him? We’re rooting for this meek man who’s going to die soon to make some money for his family, but also to feel like he’s alive for the first time in his life because he’s just this very meek existence. And so that’s why we’re rooting for him. That’s why we like him. And when he makes mistakes, he may go off track, but we hope he comes back. We’re still rooting for him.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Great. Chad, back again. Chad, how deep should someone go in developing a film or television character knowing that the director actor in the show’s evolution will shape their personality?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I mean, you should go deep enough to get their interest so that they want to buy your work or work with you. But just know that’s the thing about film. The minute you sign up for a film or you sell your film, the director’s in charge, they’re the boss. It’s their movie. They might fire you. They’re going to probably hire five other writers to rewrite the hell out of you. You may not even get screen credit because that’ll be arbitrated by the Writer’s Guild. Which writer did the most work on it? And so you should do as much possible as work possible to entice people to get on board your project. But once they get on board, you’re out. Except in tv, it’s a little different tv. The writer is the boss, not the director.

Phil Hudson:
And the actor needs to play that role. Right? You’ve got to entice them with your writing. And then good for you, man, congratulations. You can cry about it and wipe your tears with a hundred dollars bills,

Michael Jamin:
Right? Or write something. Write a book. If you’re so protective, then do it your way. Write a book

Phil Hudson:
Like me.

Michael Jamin:
Listen, like me, a paper orchestra available @michaeljamin.com or Amazon or Barnes and Nobles or Apple Books or anywhere books are found. And now back to our show film. Excellent Commercial Break.

Phil Hudson:
KU Ghana. I’m so sorry. I did not get that right. How would you go about creating a character who is far removed from your life, for example, based on a myth or legend? And it seems like there’s a two-parter here, so maybe address

Michael Jamin:
That one. How would I go about, well, what’s the second part maybe? Or is it so unrelated

Phil Hudson:
And advice for generating side characters, how to get the balance right between, so,

Michael Jamin:
Oh, that part. I could teach in the course, the side characters, but how do I go about creating characters that are, what was the first that were mythical or something?

Phil Hudson:
If you have characters are so far removed from who you are, and I’m assuming this is the job or the thing they do not necessarily the difference in who they are saying myth or legendary heroes.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Well, I would say try to do some research if you’re not modeling it after someone, if a psychopath get to know them and try to figure out steal from them or a family member or someone. And if you don’t, then it’s on you to do a lot of research. Then you’re going to have to get books on people who you want to be authentic. You don’t want to, that’s part of your job is the research part.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah,

Michael Jamin:
I prefer to steal, I prefer to steal from people. I know.

Phil Hudson:
There you go. That’s why all of his crazy characters are named Phil Hudson. I couldn’t figure it out. But this ties back to David s goer’s comment about the Man of Steel movie that he wrote and he asked, what’s the theme? He’s like, it’s about fathers and it’s like Superman has an Earth father, but he has this other father and it’s literally dealing with your father relationships. And then the second one is about mothers, and it’s Batman and Superman dealing with this. Both of their mothers are Martha and they’re struggling. And so there’s this balance even of, we all know what it’s like. You can even jump to Iron Man and Civil War when they’re fighting and he’s fighting. He finds out this other character killed his mom and Captain America is trying to stop him. And he goes, he killed my mom. And he’s like, you can’t be mad at Iron Man for wanting to fight this guy who’s been his ally because he killed his mom. Even if the guy doesn’t remember doing it, he kills your mom. So that’s all super heightened, super superhero things. But what I’m trying to get to is there’s humanity in every character and your life experience mining your life for stories like Michael teaches. That’s how you do that.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Okay. Kim wants to know what about inner conflict, like being raised strictly religiously and discovering the joys of secular humanism and the transition from the medieval mindset to Renaissance?

Michael Jamin:
Well, you’re probably a better person to answer than me.

Phil Hudson:
So this feels very specific to a type of story that they’re writing.
But when we talk about internal conflict, this is something I struggle with because as someone who’s religious and been raised religious, I’m not anti-religious. I’m still very active in my faith and there are a lot of people who are very interested in what it means to be a Mormon, to be a latter day saint. I’ve struggled with how to approach that type of story. You’ve been telling me to write that for a long time, and I’ve struggled because I don’t want to be preachy and I don’t want to tear down my faith. And then I did find a balance and that balance is, let me just take a step back and look at all of the characters that I grew up with in this secular religion and what is so intriguing about the mommy blogger, the multilevel marketer, the jock has been who’s now a real estate or the guy who went on to sell summer sales and has so much money but zero personality and then puts some interesting character struggling with their faith in the middle of that so you can explore

Michael Jamin:
Because these are all characters that you grew up with in your faith,

Phil Hudson:
The

Michael Jamin:
Multilevel, all of these people. Do you think Mormonism has something? Do you think there’s a trait in Mormonism that applies to m multilevel marketing or something?

Phil Hudson:
I do, yeah. There’s no better networked religion I think than the LDS faith. You, everything’s divided geographically. You have 10 congregations that are geographically divided in what we call a stake. Then you have wards, which is literally a term to define a geographical area. So your neighbors all go to church with you, you do this, you know everybody, you know their name, you’re encouraged to know their families and look after them and take care of them. And this is like pioneer heritage. This is a religion that was chased out of city after city, A Mormon extermination order made it legal to kill us in Missouri. And it wasn’t appealed until the 1960s or seventies. They circle the wagons mentality of pilgrims or pioneers and they still treat it that way. And so present yourself nicely taken to an extreme is have perfect teeth. Go to the gym for three hours a day, wear nice clothes, live above your means, keep up with the Joneses. Really. It’s like I totally see that I didn’t grow up in that type of family

Michael Jamin:
In that room. That’s interesting to me. See, but you feel like if you were to write

Phil Hudson:
That you’d be caring? No, now I’m saying I know how to do that and I do know how to explore it because I’m not making fun of the religion necessarily or my theology. I am doing something that has always been interesting. It’s the hypocrisy,

Michael Jamin:
The hypocrisy,

Phil Hudson:
The hypocrisy of it. And there’s a lot of that. It’s befriend everybody, but don’t play with those kids. They don’t go to church. Oh, I see. Interesting. If Jesus said we should love our neighbor as ourselves, then why are we not playing with the kid who’s just moved here from South Dakota? So there’s all those things. So what I would say advice is you need to look at what is interesting and what’s your personal feelings about those things. And I left Utah because I didn’t like necessarily the culture. It wasn’t about the religion that was prominent there. It was the culture of the people, and that is something I have a lot of opinion about. So why am I not writing about that?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, right. Good,

Phil Hudson:
Good. You’ll be getting a draft within the next month or so from

Michael Jamin:
Michael. Good. Send it along. You are listening to What the Hell is Michael Jamin talking about? Today’s episode is brought to you by my new book, A paper Orchestra, A collection of True Stories. John Mayer says, it’s fantastic. It’s multi timal. It runs all levels of the pyramid at the same time. His knockout punches are stinging, sincerity, and Kirker view says those who appreciate the power of simple stories to tell us about human nature or who are bewitched by a storyteller who has mastered his craft will find a delightful collection of vignettes, a lovely anthology that strikes a perfect balance between humor and poignancy. So my podcast is not advertiser supported. I’m not running ads here. So if you’d like to support me or the podcast, come check out my book, go get an ebook or a paperback or if you really want to treat yourself, check out the audio book. Go to michael jamin.com/book and now back to our show.

Phil Hudson:
John wants to know, so if you choose the worst person to go on a journey, does that mean you came up with a scenario or premise or actual journey first? This goes back to in this episode or this webinar, you said it’s not about finding the perfect character, it’s finding the Yeah. And then I want to let people watch that webinar so they can get this thing here.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. The question basically is which comes first character or the story? And to me it’s the story. If most people say, oh, well I’m writing a movie about a guy, whatever comes back from the war with post-traumatic stress syndrome and now have to integrate into the real world, okay, that’s the story. So now you have to go, who’s the character? What’s the best character for that story? Was he a seal, a navy seal or was he one of these accountant pencil pushers? He might’ve been a grill cook or something and I didn’t sign up for this, and now he’s coming back to the railroad with PTSD because the bomb went off or something. So that might be more interesting than a seal. I don’t know. But you came up with a story first.

Phil Hudson:
Oh, can you imagine? You have legitimate PTSD and there’s stories from even World War ii. It’s like things are bad when the chef is loading their pistol. When the cook is loading it, they advance so far across the line that the cooking staff are now preparing to defend themselves. That’s a problem. So you imagine that guy comes back and he’s in a support group and he’s like, yeah, I’m just struggling. And people are talking about, well, we dropped in, we night roped fast, roped in at night to get this guy and an IED went off and this guy is like, well, yeah, our position was overrun. I was like, and what did you do? I was like, I was a cook, and it diminishes your PTSD, but it shouldn’t. But it’s like That’s fascinating.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, you may go into the army because you want to become a dentist and the army will pay you to become, learn how to become a dentist, but you’re not signing up to carry a pistol. You’re signing up to drill teeth and somehow if you got PTSD, like you’re saying, your base was overrun or a bomb went up or whatever, this is not what I signed up for and that might be interesting.

Phil Hudson:
Very interesting. I want to see that story. Yeah. Four eyes concepts. Can a non-human character be relatable?

Michael Jamin:
Can a non-human character be relatable? Well, they should be relatable. We watch the movie cars, it’s about cars, but they’re not, not cars. They’re people who drawn to look like cars. I mean,

Phil Hudson:
We talked about data, data from Star Trek, right?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Everything should be, no one wants to care about a car.

Phil Hudson:
Wally.

Michael Jamin:
Wally. Exactly. All those are

Phil Hudson:
Short circuit

Michael Jamin:
Smurfs. Yeah, they’re people just

Phil Hudson:
Drunk. Johnny five is alive, man.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, so they’re not cars or toys. They’re people.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Awesome. So it’s a craft section. Let’s talk questions related to the topic and course Jim Garcia wants to know, how would you approach a true story? Someone they just got the ip, so that sounds like they’ve optioned it for a CIA badass who did badass things. Would you focus on areas of his life where he isn’t such a badass? His complicated backstory?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Yeah, right. To me, it’s much more interesting to write about someone’s weaknesses than it is to write about their strengths. And so yeah, that’s exactly right. What’s his problems? What are his weaknesses? That’s what I would write about.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. What was that movie you told me to review with Bob Odenkirk where he was like, oh,

Michael Jamin:
What was it called again? I liked

Phil Hudson:
It. I can see the poster getting punched. Yeah, it’ll come to me in a second. But that was an example of someone who just seems like a normal regular paper pusher and then you find out he’s got this rich backstory, but it’s him struggling to get back there. He’s not good at it at first. He’s like getting his butt kicked.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I like that movie.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. The name will come to me in a second. TJ wants to know when does a scene end or when should you end a scene is probably a better question.

Michael Jamin:
I teach this in a course in bit greater detail, but the scene ends when the character’s attitude is no longer the same as it was at the beginning of the scene. And that’s when the scene is over. When the character, so for example, well, I got to think now, I won’t put it on the spot. I can’t think of a, but it is basically a character will get some piece of information and they go, oh, I got to go apologize to her. Or, oh, that does it. I got to rob a bank. It’s like now their attitude has shifted. It’s slightly different. It was in the beginning, and this is a mistake that most new writers make, is like the scenes continues long after the character. They’re continuing to write, even though the scene ended 10 minutes ago. So when the character’s attitude is different, has shifted, you’re seen is over.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. That’s great. Refi wants to know, is story structure pretty much the same worldwide with the exception of cultural differences?

Michael Jamin:
I believe so. What differences difference does the language make? And to be honest, I am interested in stories from other cultures because look, we all have love. Love doesn’t change from culture to culture. This culture, you may have a range marriage and this culture, you don’t have a range marriage and this culture, a marriage ceremony might look different than this culture’s marriage ceremony, but love is love and so you’re just writing about the same thing. And I appreciate the window into your world because you have a different culture, but we’re all humans. We all share the same human emotions, and so that’s where people get hung up. It’s like, no. Yeah, it’s the same. We’re all the same.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. I met this kid here who’s from Iran here in Los Angeles, and we were chatting and I had the opportunity in film school and at Sundance to catch several Iranian films by this Iranian filmmaker and a couple of his cohorts, and he was so impressed by that because I was able to talk about the story structure of these films. And what’s interesting is how they have to navigate the politics of a government that funds everything, but also censors everything and how you have to use show, don’t tell, and speaking indirectly to get across your message that kind of is political and anti-government, but have the government fund it and think you’re doing good work for them. The other, but it’s story is what connects and carries through. And the other great film everyone should check out from 2013 is called The Lunchbox, and it’s this beautiful film I saw at Sundance and it ties in culture so beautifully to how we approach story. I would absolutely check that one out. David wants to know how can you add to the skeleton of a good character if you have the basis for a compelling character story, but you feel you need to add more to make your character real?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. One of the things I have in the course is a whole worksheet. It’s a chart that you need to Game

Phil Hudson:
Changer.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. It’s a chart so that you have to fill out a bunch of questions that you have to ask yourself about this character and filling out this chart will really help you flesh out your character in a way you couldn’t even imagine. And then there’s other characters in this chart, and then you have to say, okay, how does this characteristic, Matt? How do these characters interact? That’s another question. And so all of that, if you’re really interested, go sign up for my course@michaeljamin.com/course.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. You quickly learn that you’re painting all of your characters to be mirrors of each other because you want to talk about that thing, and then it highlights how you can make all of those interactions more beautiful and more interesting, more conflict to just really improve your story. You got that from somebody. Do you want to say who you got that from?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I learned that from Steve Levitan who I worked under. Just shoot me. So much of the knowledge that I teach in this course is just from sitting at the feet of writers who are more experienced than I was.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Do you have your notebook? I don’t know if you want to show to people

Michael Jamin:
Every once in a while we take this down,

Phil Hudson:
So this is something we bring up in the webinars, often even give away a free PDF based on this notebook called the insider’s guide to terminology, but that’s your notes in your career writing, just writing stuff down from conversations, right?

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, exactly. I would work with other writers and they’d say something smart and I jot into my notebook, and then when I made the course a couple years ago, I just referred to my notebook. I go, this is what I want to teach.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, it’s awesome. This is Christina in our course, and this isn’t really a question, but Kevin, who prepped this for me, left it in says in Michael’s course, I learned how to figure out once and for all those act breaks that were a real headache for me before story structure is so well explained. It becomes much easier after. Yeah. She’s

Michael Jamin:
Had a good lot of success. Christina,

Phil Hudson:
She doing well. I was about to say she’s taken her life mind for all these rich stories, and she’s written, I think books and then now plays and those plays are being performed and touring. So

Michael Jamin:
Not

Phil Hudson:
Bad. She credits you for helping her figure out how to break the story, but you didn’t tell her what life to live and her experience or how to paint the story. You said this is how you tell your story, and she did that.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. Yeah. Right. Yeah. Good for her.

Phil Hudson:
Awesome. We have one question on breaking in. This is from new legend pictures. I’ve been wondering about writing for a foreign audience. For example, I’d like to write something in the vein of Korean dramas. I know there’s probably no way to break it into the US market.

Michael Jamin:
Writing a Korean drama.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, just writing for other things, specifically a Korean drama.

Michael Jamin:
Well, are they Korean or are they American? I

Phil Hudson:
Sounds immediate. It’s because this is a foreign audience. Sounds to me like this is someone who really enjoys Korean dramas and wants to take a stab at writing one.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, I see. I don’t know anything about Korean

Phil Hudson:
Drama. I think you were just saying, is that worth doing to try to break in? Is that a good sample?

Michael Jamin:
I would assume if that’s your culture and you can write something, like I said, you can write a story that it could be, I could have a window into your culture. That’s interesting to me to see what that’s about, but at the end of the day, you still experience love the way I do. It’s the same. Sure. If that’s your culture, right, and you understand the Korean culture better than because you’re Korean. Yeah. Lean into it.

Phil Hudson:
Lean into it. What if you’re not Korean and you just like ca dramas,

Michael Jamin:
Then you’re in dangerous territory. Someone might say, what do you know you’re talking about? Or people might have a problem with you. I don’t want to debate whether it’s right or wrong, but you make run into trouble with that.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. I would think that if you want to just write it to get it out of your system and it helps you improve your craft, great. But be tread lightly. Right. Next. Do most shows have, this is the same person, do most shows have each episode have their own full story arc? Or is it the whole season or the series or both?

Michael Jamin:
Well, every episode has to have a complete story, and then you may have a longer a story arc. This character is going back to college for the first time, but that one episode has to feel fulfilling. It has to feel like, yeah. Okay. And that there has to be a story in that episode. If it’s not a complete story, people are going to be bored by it. And then the next episode, you’re taking that journey a little further, but this is a question whether you want to serialize or your project or not. But again, you don’t need to worry about any of this. You need to write one complete compelling episode of television. You don’t need to worry about seasons, episodes two through 10. Just give me one damn good episode. Give me the pilot. That’s all I need.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Ruth wants to know, say your agent is into a spec script, but you want to pursue it, can you try to pitch it yourself? How bound are you to what your agent wants?

Michael Jamin:
I wonder if they’re talking about me or themselves.

Phil Hudson:
I think what they’re saying is like, Hey, I have an agent and I’ve got the spec script. It’s a film and my agent says he’s not into it. Can I go pitch it myself or do I have to listen to my agent?

Michael Jamin:
No, you can do whatever you want. I, but I don’t expect your agent to help you with that. If you want to go for it, they can’t stop you go for it. I mean, the agent’s trying to help you, and if they feel like they’re helping you, they’re going to give you their best advice. But if you don’t want to take it, don’t take it.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. I was listening to an interview with Dead Mouse, and he said that there was a track that he wasn’t really into, and his tour manager was like, dude, this is great. You got to drop it. And he didn’t want to do it. And for months and months he didn’t. And they kept tour manager kept saying, when are you going to drop it? And he ran out of stuff. He dropped it. It’s his biggest hit. Sometimes you don’t even know what is good for you, but Vice First is sometimes other people don’t know what’s good for you, and it’s all risks, risk and reward. William, go for it. David Cook is Amadeus. Amadeus is I think something that came up in the webinar.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, I love that movie.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. My wife’s favorite film. I think I told you she wants me to name one of our kids, Wolfgang. And I was like, no. And you’re like, I might be on her side.

Michael Jamin:
Wolfie.

Phil Hudson:
That’s what she wants to call him. She wants to name Wolfgang to call him Wolfie, which I think just whatever is Amadeus a story about an extraordinary person in an ordinary world or about Salie, an ordinary person in the extraordinary world of Amadeus.

Michael Jamin:
That’s so interesting. It really is a story within a story, and you keep popping back out to Salieri in present time. Why did he go mad? Because, so yeah, it’s a story within a story. There’s really two stories. You’re watching Solis descent into Madness because he killed this beautiful creature. Why did he do it? Yeah. So who’s the hero of that?

Phil Hudson:
Well, it’s called Amadeus.

Michael Jamin:
It is called Amadeus. Yeah,

Phil Hudson:
Right. So this is like Sicario. Did you ever see Sicario?

Michael Jamin:
I did,

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. So who is it about? Is it about Emily Blunt or is it about Benicio Del Toro and I think it wasn’t until I got about three quarters of the way through, I was like, oh, we started on Emily Blunt, but that is not the protagonist.

Michael Jamin:
It’s really just a framing device. The soli part of it. Who’s got 90% of the screen time? Amadeus.

Phil Hudson:
Yep. Alright. Marla wants to know hat on a hat. New favorite saying, do you want to tell people what that is?

Michael Jamin:
We often say when you refer to a joke, sometimes you put a punchline on top of the punchline. And so we say it’s a hat on a hat, if

Phil Hudson:
You like that come to the webinar where we can give out that book based on the free ebook based on Michael’s notebook, insider Guide to Writing terminology.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah. There’s a bunch of terms that we give away. If you want to learn what they are, come to these webinars and we give ’em away.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah, everybody gets that for just coming. So I had an eye hat, new favorite. If you base a character on someone in your life or someone in your life recognizes themselves in your writing, can they sue you?

Michael Jamin:
I don’t know. I don’t give legal advice, but I’ll say you’re protected. If you change their name, I would assume you can change their name, you could change their occupation, you could hide who they are. And if they were to come out, they’re essentially calling themselves out. Why would they be dumb enough to do that? But I’m not worried about it, but I don’t give legal advice. So yeah,

Phil Hudson:
I think that the person that will need to worry about that is the studio that buys it, and it becomes so wildly successful. That person has a financial incentive to sue you. I don’t think it’s necessarily something you need to worry about on a spec.

Michael Jamin:
I would hope not. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Ruth, w what criteria do you consider when taking a job? Early in your career, you worked for both Steve Levitan and Greg Daniels, but then you didn’t work on Modern Family or The Office. Why

Michael Jamin:
Fired? Oh, fired. Fired. I wasn’t offered jobs on Fired. Fired, offered fired. I wasn’t offered jobs on those, but I mean, I also had a job. So when Modern Family came out that season, I remember actually meeting with Steve and my partner and I already had a job on, we were running a show called Glen Martin, so it wasn’t even like we were trying to get that job. I don’t remember what the office was doing, but I’m sure I also had, I’ve worked every year, I’m sure I also had a job at the time. So a lot of times, and by the way, I’ve missed out on opportunities, I’ve missed out on shows that were really big simply because I already had a job and when the show, it’s not like this show was going to be a giant hit. You don’t know this. Even a great show could be a flop.

Phil Hudson:
And Glen Martin, that was the first time show running right for you. And C, it

Michael Jamin:
Was the first time show running, and I was very happy to be running a show. I was like, oh, good. I’ve never done it before. So it was exciting and I’m glad I did it, but I would’ve made a lot more money had I been on Modern Family for sure.

Phil Hudson:
Awesome. Follow up question. When you get to a higher level of writer, say co-producer, do you still need to submit a script to the showrunner or is hiring based on your interview and past EV work you’ve done?

Michael Jamin:
Oh no. You almost always, you have to be read. You need a writing sample, and it has to be a current writing sample, and it has to be good. You’re never done writing for free in Hollywood. You’re always writing.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. Derek Nyberg. What if the audience can’t differentiate between fiction and reality and carries those powerful story themes into the voting booth? Does this explain why the worst of all possible characters are now elected officials walking around the Capitol building in Washington? Does this explain society’s addiction to conflict?

Michael Jamin:
I don’t think the two have anything to do with each other. Just to be clear, I think you’re giving us way too much credit that the characters we create somehow become political figures. I

Phil Hudson:
Think that’s like asking, was Shakespeare’s success with Caesar, with Julius Caesar or with King Richard III or any of these other things he’d done, was that successful because he wrote them as story and then that led to other people being crazy? Or is it because he was writing about the reality of these people? Life imitates art imitates life, whereas it’s

Michael Jamin:
Chicken cat. Yeah, it goes in both directions. But basically you take a show like the one Julie Louis Red come on talking about the political, sorry, beep Veep. Yes. Yeah, sorry. That show would not have been made if there already weren’t people in politics acting like jackasses because you wouldn’t believe you couldn’t sell the show. You’d be like, I don’t buy that. Any elected official could be that fricking stupid, but because it was already out there, you see it now, you can sell a show on it. Yeah.

Phil Hudson:
Yeah. That’s great. Alright, and this is a comment, not a question, but I thought this was a good way to end this. Braves wants to know, I’m an aspiring screenwriter from India, and the knowledge you share on your Instagram helped me get my first internship. Always look forward to developing my skillset further. Thank you.

Michael Jamin:
Oh, good for you. Congratulations.

Phil Hudson:
And that’s someone who’s not only in your social media, but the webinars, and that’s a reminder to everybody to come to the webinars. They’re free. We do them very regularly, and there’s always something to learn in those.

Michael Jamin:
Yeah, that’s it. This is a short one, but thank you everyone. Thanks for listening once again. This episode’s brought to you by a paper orchestra, my debut collection of personal essays available. You can get on Amazon, you can get anywhere you want. Barnes and Nobles Apple

Phil Hudson:
Sign copies@michaeljamin.com.

Michael Jamin:
If you want, get it from me directly, I’ll sign it for you. And that’s it, Michael. Yeah, thank you so much everyone. Thank you. Thank you for your questions.

Phil Hudson:
Until next time,

Michael Jamin:
Keep reading,

Phil Hudson:
Keep reading. Keep reading

Michael Jamin:
My book. Read the book. Okay, everyone,
Wow. I did it again. Another fantastic episode of What the Hell is Michael Jamin talking about? How do I do it week after week? Well, I don’t do it with advertiser supported money. I tell you how I do it. I do it with my book. If you’d like to support the show, if you’d like to support me, go check out my new book, A Paper Orchestra. It asks the question, what if it’s the smallest, almost forgotten moments that are the ones that shape us most? Laura Sanoma says, good storytelling also leads us to ourselves, our memories, our beliefs, personal and powerful. I love the Journey. And Max Munic, who was on my show says, as the father of daughters, I found Michael’s understanding of parenting and the human condition to be spot on. This book is a fantastic read. Go check it out for yourself. Go to michael jamin.com/book. Thank you all and stay tuned. More. Great stuff coming 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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