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Valerie Kalfrin
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Writer. Editor. Script Consultant. Storyteller.
Writer. Editor. Script Consultant. Storyteller.

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Mainstream films about disabled characters, no matter how well-intentioned or inspirational, can miss the mark by reducing these characters to mechanisms through which others find motivation and fulfillment. Refreshingly, the magical-realist romance The Shape of Water depicts Elisa (Sally Hawkins) as a fully realized person who happens to be mute. She's sexual, intelligent, compassionate, witty, and adored by her friends, all before she meets her beloved. Read more in my piece at The Script Lab.
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Humor is a peculiar tool for a writer. Laughter can add layers to a character and woo an audience, but it can backfire when the jokes drain emotion from an otherwise powerful moment. "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" deftly balances sentiment and lunacy by not undercutting its characters' sincerity. "Thor: Ragnarok," not so much. Read more in my piece at The Script Lab.
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Movies are all about momentum, says writer/director James Mangold, whose “Logan” won over fans and critics earlier this year. As you write, imagine describing the film as it unfolds. “[I]f you’re sitting in a theater watching this movie with a blind person, you only have as long as the shot takes to get the description out because they’re going to fall behind, and you’re going to fall behind telling them what the movie is,” he said. “Try to tell the story in the speed you can tell it live.” Learn more about how Mangold creates the taciturn Western hero he loves and his creative process in my piece at The Script Lab.
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It's been more than a hundred years since Count Dracula first exclaimed with glee, "Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!" In member Valerie Kalfrin's piece at Signature today, she recounts how monsters with universal recognition--like Dracula, Frankenstein's creature, the Phantom of the Opera, and more--were born on the page but have lived on in pop culture thanks to films from Universal Studios, giving them the name "Universal Monsters" (this summer's "Mummy" flop aside). These beasts endure because, whether good or evil, they have identifiable human traits. http://www.signature-reads.com/2017/10/universal-monsters-in-literature/
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Screenwriting is a dream that entices many of us—but all too often, it seems as if the City of Stars romanticized in La La Land is enthralled only with those on the sunny side of forty. No wonder if you’re older and you haven’t had a big haven’t had a big break, you might feel as if this particular dream has passed you by, especially if you’ve been raising a family or started out in a different career path. But it’s not impossible: Writing, like a good wine, gets better with age, experts say. You just need to do it. Learn more in my piece on The Script Lab.
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Stories are all about patterns, said UCLA screenwriting instructor Tim Albaugh. He’s noticed a few. Take the films American Beauty, Mean Girls, In Bruges, Iron Man, Stranger Than Fiction, Up—or other tales that have won a critical or fan following. “They’re all the same movie, told through different characters,” he said. Learn more story patterns from Albaugh, whom I heard at the Sunscreen Film Festival earlier this year in St. Petersburg, Fla., in my story today at The Script Lab.
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Blade Runner 2049, Mad Max: Fury Road, T2 Trainspotting and other sequels arriving years after their predecessors pull off a tough feat of appealing to newcomers and older fans alike. They let the characters dictate the story, becoming expansions and explorations, not retreads. They reference the earlier films but vary significantly, with changes not for the sake of change but that feel organic, connected to--even embracing--the passage of time. Learn more in my story at The Script Lab. https://thescriptlab.com/features/screenwriting-101/7680-7680/
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Author Philip K. Dick loved to ponder alternative universes and question reality, merging science fiction with philosophy. With "Blade Runner 2049" plunging audiences back down a futuristic rabbit hole of noir sensibilities and artificial beings, Hollywood continues to mine his works for ideas. On Signature today, I highlight several that readers might want to explore. http://www.signature-reads.com/2017/10/still-dreaming-guide-essential-philip-k-dick-books/
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More writing advice and inspiration from my interview with venerable screenwriting instructor Robert McKee, including how to be a good audience for your own work and giving your characters a strong desire. Generally, McKee says, people lose interest in a story once they don’t know what the characters want. “That’s because the writer doesn’t know what they want,” he says. “They don’t even have to know why the person wants it. If you grab the audience’s curiosity, they will follow along.”
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Venerable screenwriting instructor Robert McKee is eloquent yet blunt, mischievous, and fiery when he talks about why he loves stories and teaching others to tell them well. “Decide whether you’re in love with the art in yourself, or yourself in the art,” he told me in a recent interview. “Are you in love with the idea of being in Hollywood? Or because you want to express your insights on solving one of life’s great puzzles? See, if you love the art in yourself, you will have to write. There’s no choice. You will persevere.” Read more in my piece today at the Final Draft blog. https://www.finaldraft.com/learn/final-draft-blog/storytelling-lit-fire-robert-mckee-still-burns-35-years-later/
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