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Richard Toscan
Works at Writer, Dean Emeritus (VCUArts), producer.
Attended University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Lives in Portland, OR
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Richard Toscan

General discussion  - 
 
PAGE Int'l Screenwriting Awards stats for 2015 just out-- this from 6,700+ submissions from over 70 countries, most from the US:
Action/Adventure:  969
Comedy:  1091
Drama:  1374
Family Film:  468
Historical Film:  490
Science Fiction:  597
Thriller/Horror:  922
Short Film:  402
TV Drama Pilot:  695
TV Comedy Pilot:  389
“Hollywood's most highly acclaimed screenwriting contest!” Helping talented new screenwriters get discovered… On behalf of our Judges and Administrative Staff, I'd like to thank all the talented writers who entered The 2015 PAGE International Screenwriting Awards competition!
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Richard Toscan

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If you're wondering why action films dominate Hollywood -- a question that comes up among screenwriters on a regular basis -- here's the answer. The Wall Street Journal has just put together a handy chart of overseas Box Office grosses (non-North America compared to total gross) and you can guess what sort of films lead the genre pack by roughly the distance from the earth to the moon. It's also interesting that PG13 is the sweet spot for Box Office returns, roughly double PG and R (G barely registers). And horror, a genre that attracts a lot of attention from low-budget US producers and thus from a lot of early-career screenwriters, comes in near the bottom. The chart:
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Stephen Heywood's profile photoCraig Griffiths's profile photoDorian Cole's profile photo
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I agree with your points, Craig. I don't pigeonhole YAs. Hollywood does. And it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. But older generations tend to go to the theater once or twice a month as more of a night out. Dinner and a movie type thing. Whereas YAs just go. 

TV does drama and action drama very well, so Hollywood can't compete with series. CGI is a great boost to both TV and movies - you don't have to blow things up. But car chases would be very difficult. I have a series I would like to do sometime that involves a lot of parkour and other military disciplines - shouldn't be too difficult to shoot.  
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Richard Toscan

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J. C. Chandor, Academy Award nominated writer-director best known for Margin Call, on driving his characters in A Most Violent Year:

"It's structured as a gangster film, but really it's about the closing of a business transaction. There's nothing more fascinating to me than where capitalism rubs up against the real world. It's not normal film fodder. I'd aways been interested in family owned businesses where you've got a husband and wife and it was sort of started as a mom-and-pop shop. When this film begins, they're in a very comfortable position. The core idea is, what is it in certain people that after they've reached that point, they're still willing to put everything back on the line again to continue to grow? All of my three films are about ordinary workaday individuals, but you're visiting with them in extraordinary times, those moments of crucible when you're either going left or right. There is no center path."
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Richard Toscan

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I'm hoping this is real progress in providing financial support to US playwrights:
Playwrights Horizons, a leading New York company, is now paying authors for meetings and helping with health insurance.
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I wouldn't normally share a post from a playwright and screenwriter, but I thought Academy Award and multiple Tony Award winner Tom Stoppard's contrarian take on pre-plotting would be of interest here:

Tom Stoppard, Academy Award (screenwriting) and multiple Tony Award winning playwright and screenwriter and television writer, on his approach to plot:

"I always imagined a plot was something you worked out in advance. That was a mistake. I now am much happier getting into writing a play without really knowing how things are going to work out in it. But you’re in control, so you’re kind of massaging your way toward what you hope is a coherent, psychologically integrated story. And when you finish, with any luck you can look back and say, 'Oh, that’s really quite a good plot I invented.' If you work everything out in advance, you’re forcing the play to follow what you’ve worked out, and you will inevitably get to a point where you’re cheating on the psychology of the character. If you let the plot be determined by what you feel is in the character’s mind at that point, it may not turn out to be a very good play, but at least it will be a play where people are behaving in a kind of truthful way."

My take is that his approach is found far more often among so-called lit fiction types than genre novelists.
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Mike Reeves-McMillan's profile photoMike Roberts's profile photoE.S. Piteau's profile photoWade Watson's profile photo
12 comments
 
That's an interesting approach. It might and might not work for you, but even if you don't normally write that way, it would be a stimulating exercise to try.
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Richard Toscan

Discussion  - 
 
Tom Stoppard, Academy Award (screenwriting) and multiple Tony Award winning playwright and screenwriter and television writer, on his approach to plot:

"I always imagined a plot was something you worked out in advance. That was a mistake. I now am much happier getting into writing a play without really knowing how things are going to work out in it. But you’re in control, so you’re kind of massaging your way toward what you hope is a coherent, psychologically integrated story. And when you finish, with any luck you can look back and say, 'Oh, that’s really quite a good plot I invented.' If you work everything out in advance, you’re forcing the play to follow what you’ve worked out, and you will inevitably get to a point where you’re cheating on the psychology of the character. If you let the plot be determined by what you feel is in the character’s mind at that point, it may not turn out to be a very good play, but at least it will be a play where people are behaving in a kind of truthful way."
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Richard Toscan

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It’s that time of year where our friends wonder where us aspiring screenwriting friends have disappeared to, why we tense up at the thought of going to the movie theatre, and why we escape out the bathroom window when it’s our turn to buy a round. They don’t understand that May is the month wh...
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Richard Toscan

Discussion  - 
 
J. C. Chandor, Academy Award nominated writer-director best known for Margin Call, on driving his characters in A Most Violent Year:

"It's structured as a gangster film, but really it's about the closing of a business transaction. There's nothing more fascinating to me than where capitalism rubs up against the real world. It's not normal film fodder. I'd aways been interested in family owned businesses where you've got a husband and wife and it was sort of started as a mom-and-pop shop. When this film begins, they're in a very comfortable position. The core idea is, what is it in certain people that after they've reached that point, they're still willing to put everything back on the line again to continue to grow? All of my three films are about ordinary workaday individuals, but you're visiting with them in extraordinary times, those moments of crucible when you're either going left or right. There is no center path."
1
Add a comment...

Richard Toscan

Shared publicly  - 
 
J. C. Chandor, Academy Award nominated writer-director best known for Margin Call, on driving his characters in A Most Violent Year:

"It's structured as a gangster film, but really it's about the closing of a business transaction. There's nothing more fascinating to me than where capitalism rubs up against the real world. It's not normal film fodder. I'd aways been interested in family owned businesses where you've got a husband and wife and it was sort of started as a mom-and-pop shop. When this film begins, they're in a very comfortable position. The core idea is, what is it in certain people that after they've reached that point, they're still willing to put everything back on the line again to continue to grow? All of my three films are about ordinary workaday individuals, but you're visiting with them in extraordinary times, those moments of crucible when you're either going left or right. There is no center path."
1
Add a comment...

Richard Toscan

Discussion  - 
 
I'm hoping this is real progress in providing financial support to US playwrights:
Playwrights Horizons, a leading New York company, is now paying authors for meetings and helping with health insurance.
1
Add a comment...

Richard Toscan

General discussion  - 
 
Tom Stoppard, Academy Award (screenwriting) and multiple Tony Award winning playwright and screenwriter and television writer, on his approach to plot:

"I always imagined a plot was something you worked out in advance. That was a mistake. I now am much happier getting into writing a play without really knowing how things are going to work out in it. But you’re in control, so you’re kind of massaging your way toward what you hope is a coherent, psychologically integrated story. And when you finish, with any luck you can look back and say, 'Oh, that’s really quite a good plot I invented.' If you work everything out in advance, you’re forcing the play to follow what you’ve worked out, and you will inevitably get to a point where you’re cheating on the psychology of the character. If you let the plot be determined by what you feel is in the character’s mind at that point, it may not turn out to be a very good play, but at least it will be a play where people are behaving in a kind of truthful way."
2
Victor Minichiello's profile photo
 
I always like having an outline of my plot, but never completely envisioning it; allowing things to change and appear. More exciting that way. It's like travelling across a city you've never been to before from beginning to end, but not expecting what neighborhoods you'll pass through when you turn each street corner.
Add a comment...

Richard Toscan

Shared publicly  - 
 
Tom Stoppard, Academy Award (screenwriting) and multiple Tony Award winning playwright and screenwriter and television writer, on his approach to plot:

"I always imagined a plot was something you worked out in advance. That was a mistake. I now am much happier getting into writing a play without really knowing how things are going to work out in it. But you’re in control, so you’re kind of massaging your way toward what you hope is a coherent, psychologically integrated story. And when you finish, with any luck you can look back and say, 'Oh, that’s really quite a good plot I invented.' If you work everything out in advance, you’re forcing the play to follow what you’ve worked out, and you will inevitably get to a point where you’re cheating on the psychology of the character. If you let the plot be determined by what you feel is in the character’s mind at that point, it may not turn out to be a very good play, but at least it will be a play where people are behaving in a kind of truthful way."
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Work
Occupation
Author, Dean Emeritus
Skills
Playwriting, screenwriting, nonprofit arts management, economics of arts organizations
Employment
  • Writer, Dean Emeritus (VCUArts), producer.
    2010 - present
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
    Dean, School of the Arts, 1996 - 2010
  • University of Southern California
    Dean, School of Theatre, 1986 - 1992
  • Portland State University
    Dean, School of Fine & Performing Arts, 1992 - 1996
  • National Public Radio, Lucasfilm & BBC
    Executive Producer, Radio Drama, 1979 - 1981
Places
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Currently
Portland, OR
Previously
New York, NY - Richmond, VA - Los Angeles, CA - Malibu, CA
Story
Tagline
Author of Playwriting Seminars 2.0, the Handbook used by playwrights, screenwriters, literary managers & novelists.
Introduction
Richard Toscan is well known in the arts, has lead two of the leading university-based arts schools in the US and has worked with Lucasfilm, the BBC, and NPR. Author of Playwriting Seminars 2.0: A Handbook on the Art and Craft of Dramatic Writing with an Introduction to Screenwriting. Now in new paperback and e-book editions (and for free Kindle reading apps for iPad, iPhone, Mac, PC, and Android).

What they're saying about the new edition:

“What a treasure trove! I will use this in my playwriting and other theatre courses. It’s pretty damn near all there!”  --Michael Bigelow Dixon, Director/Literary Manager (Guthrie Theatre, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Alley Theatre, The Playwrights’ Center)

“I have studied the online version of Playwriting Seminars for years, which helped me write a Lionsgate movie, two novels and two nonfiction books. I think the book is even better.” –Chuck Hustmyre

“I found Playwriting Seminars 2.0 to be very informative.” –Casey Childs, Executive Producer, Primary Stages (New York) 

"A fantastic guide to the art and mechanics of creating a play." --Joel Ebarb, Chair, Dept. of Theatre, Purdue University

The Handbook's concepts initially came from my work with Lucasfilm and the BBC. It was originally developed for screenwriters and playwrights, but has since been used by genre novelists and authors of nonfiction books.

My posts deal with playwriting, screenwriting and genre fiction here and on the blog, Writers Room Confidential.
Bragging rights
Toscan was Dean of the School of Theatre and Associate Dean of the School of Cinema at the University of Southern California where for many years I taught playwriting and play analysis. I've worked professionally as a producer, story editor, playwright, and judge of playwriting and screenwriting competitions and have worked in association with Lucasfilm and noted figures in theatre, film, and television. My radio dramas have been broadcast by the BBC, NPR, CBC, and ABC and have been credited by NPR with increasing the audience for public radio in America by 40%. My plays have been produced in Los Angeles and in staged readings at First Stage (LA) and New Dramatists (NYC). I later taught playwriting and screenwriting while Dean of PSU’s School of Fine & Performing Arts and more recently was Dean of VCU’s School of the Arts where I founded the Cinema Program. By 2006, the first edition of my Playwriting Seminars Web site had become a widely used resource in the field. Playwriting Seminars 2.0, the revised and expanded paperback and Kindle editions now available from Amazon.
Education
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
    Theatre History, Dramatic Literature
  • Purdue University
    Journalism, Political Science
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Public - 2 years ago
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