For any Screenwriter who has ever typed FJAOIWEJFEHGS!!!!!

August 8, 2012 at 7:05 am

The Athletic Nerd Screenwriting Blog


If you’re a screenwriter, you’ve no doubt found yourself staring at a blank screen with frustration boiling over in your mind. You’re stuck… We’ve all been there.  It’s a feeling we all work tirelessly to avoid.

Stop me if you haven’t experienced this before: It’s late… All you want is progress and so you start a pivotal scene but something is wrong. It’s not working. You can’t put your finger on it but you don’t like the direction the scene is heading. So you start over and before long it happens again. What you wrote doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t fit.

You take a deep breath and start again only this time the screen is blank…  And it stays blank…  You’re stuck. You type half of a sentence but quickly delete it. You try writing dialogue but lines don’t seem to connect to each other.

At this point, you take a look at the clock and note the time. It’s later than you think. You feel like sleeping and starting fresh might help but you can’t get the scene out of your head. If you could just figure out a place to begin the pieces will eventually fall into place. All you need is an idea. You give yourself a moment to regroup…

You take a deep breath and start again but the words just aren’t there. The pressure mounts and you feel lost…


I think it’s important to note the difference between lost and hopeless. There is a big gap between being stuck and reaching a dead end.


Moments of frustration are unavoidable but they are NOT impossible to overcome. That’s why writers thrive on cracking the tough scenes.  It’s a sense of accomplishment we work tirelessly to achieve.   We are all problem solvers after all. So take a step back and really think about the scene and the story you want to tell.

Are you an outliner? Do you have index cards? Is there a detailed treatment you can refer to?

  • Go back and read your notes.
  • Write new notes.
  • Tackle a different scene.
  • Rewrite the scene before it.
  • Rewrite the scene that follows it.
  • Write something else entirely to get kick start your imagination.
  • Take a break.
  • Have a snack.
  • Brain storm new directions for the scene.
  • Isolate what’s bothering you and discard it.

One strategy I employ is to keep writing even if I don’t like the results. Even if the scene is full of cliches and moments I wanted to avoid, I keep writing. Sometimes it’s easier just to get it out. That way, you can take a step back and really analyze what works and what doesn’t.

  • Change the location.
  • Put the scene in a different place.
  • Try eliminating the scene completely.

At the end of the day, if a scene is giving you that much trouble, it may not have a place in your movie… Having said that, some scenes HAVE to be in the movie so you have to work harder.

  • Challenge yourself.
  • Don’t let a frustrating moment snap you out of the zone.
  • Try again.
  • The pressure makes solving the problem all the more satisfying.
  • Persevere.
  • Evolve.
  • Write!

Above all else do not stop trying until it works. I guarantee you’ll sleep a lot better knowing you cleared the road block and cracked the scene.

Every screenwriter has to be a skilled problem solver so don’t stay frustrated too long. It’s a challenge.  Kick the crap out of it.  You have to take everything into consideration and do what’s best for YOUR story. This is your passion so don’t let FHADLFFHSOJHDS beat you tonight. Who cares if it’s late. You’re a screenwriter and you’re passionate about movies and the skillfully crafted blue print behind them.

Get back to work!

NOTE: I’d like to mention that this post was written just after I found myself stuck recently. As I wrote the post I came up with a better way to write the scene.

My final tip for overcoming writer’s block and FHADLFFHSOJHDS moments? Write a blog or keep a journal. It’s one of the best ways to get your mind working in a pressure free environment.

A creative way to inspire creativity.

Top 10 Gladiator Movie Moments

August 8, 2012 at 7:02 am

Top 10 Gladiator Movie Moments | Gladiator (2000)


Gladiator is an amazing movie.  It’s a cinematic masterpiece.  What more can you really say?  How about 5 Oscars?

  • Best Picture
  • Best Actor
  • Best Visual Effects
  • Best Sound Editing
  • Best Costume Design

How about nearly 500 million worldwide? (Which was massive 12 years ago)

Gladiator is adored by fans all over the world for more than just awards and box office statistics.  It’s a film that’s overflowing with heroic moments and incredible scenes.  It’s full of epic and quotable dialogue and images we’ll never forget.

Needless to say, selecting and ranking 10 of these moments was challenging to say the least.

Here are the Top 10 Gladiator Movie Moments!

Honorable Mention: Shadows and Dust

Top 10 Gladiator Movie Moments | Gladiator (2000)

10. Frost…  Sometimes it makes the blade stick.

So unfortunate for this soldier.  He probably didn’t want the assignment of executing his beloved general in the first place.

Top 10 Gladiator Movie Moments | Gladiator (2000)

9. Commodus has been afraid all his life.

The penultimate confrontation between the Emperor and his father’s ACTUAL pride and joy.

Top 10 Gladiator Movie Moments | Gladiator (2000)

8. Maximus doesn’t need a sword.

I love how Maximus tosses the wooden sword aside.  “You’re not painting yellow on this Spaniard.”

Top 10 Gladiator Movie Moments | Gladiator (2000)

7. Am I not merciful!

I get the sense that if Joaquin Phoenix had any doubts about doing the film, this scene would have sealed the deal.  Amazing performance.  Great villain.

6. Maximus vs Tigris of Gaul vs TIGERS!

How bad ass could you possibly be?  Facing off against an undefeated champion who’s chariot has FOUR horses?  Not enough.  Throw some ferocious tigers in there.

Top 10 Gladiator Movie Moments | Gladiator (2000)

5. The Dirt

One of my favorite moments in any film really.  The ritual of picking up dirt before battle is such a subtle character moment.  Awesome.

Top 10 Gladiator Movie Moments | Gladiator (2000)

4. The Battle of Carthage

Go Barbarians! I love this fight sequence.  Impossible odds yet Maximus’ leadership shines.  I get chills every time he gets on that horse and they throw him a sword.  Neat.

Top 10 Gladiator Movie Moments | Gladiator (2000)

3. “Are you not entertained!”

Maximus enters the arena alone and absolutely destroys the competition. Amidst the cheers he throws a sword into the crows and screams ‘Are you not entertained! Is this not why you are here?” Amazing.

2. “What we do in life…  Echoes in eternity!”

In my opinion, this is the single greatest quote in the film.  It’s an amazing speech that’s punctuated by a line that really hits home.

1. “My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.”

In a movie that’s full of confrontations and battles, this moment rises above them all.  To me, Maximus taking off his helmet and showing himself to Commodus is one of the coolest moments in movie history.


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Get Your Short Film Into Major Festivals

August 8, 2012 at 6:59 am

Get Your Short Film Into Big Festivals | Independent Film Blog


Aspiring filmmakers who produce short films usually have one goal in mind.  Festivals.

One of the biggest festivals in the world is the Toronto International Film Festival.  A massive gathering of some of the biggest stars, filmmakers and the up and coming artists of tomorrow.  Getting your short film into a major festival like TIFF can be absolutely huge for people trying to make their mark in the industry.

But what does it take to get your film accepted?  What do selection committees and programmers look for?

As an independent filmmaker myself, I decided to find out what it takes to get a short film into TIFF.  So I contacted the festival and was granted an interview with Magali Simard.  It’s her job to help decide which films are accepted into the prestigious festival so there is no better person to ask.  Her wonderful responses offered a unique look inside the process including a number of great tips and helpful advice.

So how do you get your short film into a major festival?

Here is an exclusive look behind the scenes from someone who has seen a TON of shorts and knows what it takes to get accepted.

Special thanks to Magali Simard and TIFF.

Can you briefly summarize the overall selection process for short films?

The Festival is in September, and filmmakers get to submit to us between February and May, by filling our form online through Withoutabox and sending us their films. We make our decisions in July and announce our selection in August.

What’s the first thing you look for in a short?

Maybe it goes without saying, but we look for excellence! Some films achieve high levels of production value, but if the content isn’t there, it just isn’t. It’s about artistic value, originality, execution. We see over 600 short films in couple months, so a film needs to stand out.

What are the most common mistakes filmmakers make?

There are so many steps to making a film – things can go wrong on so many levels. I’d say a recurring mistake is overwriting. The image usually conveys enough. It’s important to trust that the audience will be able to understand and absorb things without having to hammer it over and over.

In your experience, what is the ideal length of a short?

It really depends on the subject. The best run time is the one that is appropriate for what the film needs to achieve. Cutting back is hard for filmmakers, it’s their material and it’s hard to let go of some of it during the editing process. This past Festival we had a 1:30-minute short, and a 30-minute short. They were both wonderful, and time-appropriate.

Does a movie shot on film have a better chance of being accepted than one shot on a lower quality format?

Certain subjects are rightfully approached with a less polished look, and it serves them well. There’s something to be said about the ever changing formats people use.  Just about anyone can make a film, and it creates a ton of new content. Some great, some not at all, but the bigger the pool of production, the more chances good things can come out of it. Nothing should be limiting people from going ahead with their projects.

What would you say is the number one reason that a film is rejected?

Some films nearly make it, we have a certain amount of slots, and it’s heartbreaking to reject some excellent work, but it’s the nature of the beast. Others are not close to making it, of course. Films fail to impress for as many different reasons as they succeed. Concept, plot, character, and aesthetic – you basically need everything to come perfectly together. Yes, bad production can hurt a film, but so can a bad script, bad dialogue, untimely editing, choppy acting, etc.

Each festival usually asks for a submission fee which can add up quickly for many indie filmmakers.  Would you say it’s better to enter only the biggest festivals, the smaller festivals or a combination of both?

For short films, the Festival circuit is vital. So I suggest investing in those submissions but it’s not about submitting just anywhere – there thousands of festivals. Filmmakers should research the places they submit to and see the kind of selection they usually tend toward. Some festivals are more niche and that can be an advantage depending on the film at hand.

What advice would you give aspiring filmmakers before they begin their projects? What would you say to those who have submitted their films but have yet to be accepted?

Keep on submitting. Having your film(s) seen by programmers is invaluable. As a programmer, I want to follow filmmakers’ careers, see what they are up to, how they develop from year to year. Without the submissions, it’d be nearly impossible to track so many. Also: you can have a word with programmers after the submissions process to get some feedback. And festivals talk to each other, and if your name’s not out there, it’s kind of impossible to have it discussed. Keep’em coming.

10 Flicks: Awesome Looking Movie Villains

August 6, 2012 at 12:00 pm

10 Flicks: Awesome Looking Movie Villains | Top 10 Bad Ass Movie Villains | Movie Blog

Forgive me for quoting Mission Impossible 2 but:

“Every search for a hero must begin with something which every hero requires…  A villain.”

There’s nothing like really cool makeup that brings your favorite deadly villains to life.  Here are 10 Bad Ass Looking Villains.

The Red Skull

Captain America: The First Avenger

10 Flicks: Awesome Looking Movie Villains | Top 10 Bad Ass Movie Villains | Movie Blog

The Pale Man

Pan’s Labyrinth

10 Flicks: Awesome Looking Movie Villains | Top 10 Bad Ass Movie Villains | Movie Blog

Darth Maul

Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace

10 Flicks: Awesome Looking Movie Villains | Top 10 Bad Ass Movie Villains | Movie Blog


Harry Potter

10 Flicks: Awesome Looking Movie Villains | Top 10 Bad Ass Movie Villains | Movie Blog

Freddy Krueger

A Nightmare On Elm Street

10 Flicks: Awesome Looking Movie Villains | Top 10 Bad Ass Movie Villains | Movie Blog

The Mouth of Sauron

The Lord of the Rings

10 Flicks: Awesome Looking Movie Villains | Top 10 Bad Ass Movie Villains | Movie Blog

Davy Jones

Pirates of The Caribbean

10 Flicks: Awesome Looking Movie Villains | Top 10 Bad Ass Movie Villains | Movie Blog

The Predator


10 Flicks: Awesome Looking Movie Villains | Top 10 Bad Ass Movie Villains | Movie Blog

The Joker

The Dark Knight

10 Flicks: Awesome Looking Movie Villains | Top 10 Bad Ass Movie Villains | Movie Blog

Darth Vader

Star Wars

10 Flicks: Awesome Looking Movie Villains | Top 10 Bad Ass Movie Villains | Movie Blog

Why Creative People HAVE To See INDIE GAME: THE MOVIE

August 1, 2012 at 12:34 am

Why Creative People HAVE To See INDIE GAME: THE MOVIE | Review


It applies to every creative medium and beyond.   What I loved about Indie Game: The Movie was the heart and dedication demonstrated by the creators of three unique independent video games.  You don’t have to love video games to understand this wonderful documentary’s message:

Hard work, sacrifice and commitment pays off if you believe in yourself.

It’s compelling to watch these highly creative people struggle to finish their projects and reach their goals.  They are constantly under pressure from others and themselves.

Indeed, the stakes are extremely high when you pour everything into something you believe in.  And it takes courage to put yourself out there.

As an aspiring screenwriter, I found their journey to be inspiring.

I need to be creative in order to function normally on a daily basis.  It’s just not a regular day without a screenplay or a blog post to work on.  These video game evelopers have taken on stress, debt and the darkness of uncertainty in order to achieve their vision.  They just want to create something worth while.  So we follow them as they overcome their insecurities and we share in their triumphs.

One of the most profound moments in the film is brought to us by Super Meat Boy’s Co-Creator Edmund McMillen.  He is a die hard gamer who spent his youth playing the games that inspired him to design games himself.

After Super Meat Boy’s release, he has a quiet moment to reflect on what the overwhelming success means to him.  But he doesn’t talk about the money, the fame or what it means for his career.  He knows the impact it will have on him professionally and so do we.  Teary eyed, he thinks about the child staying up all night playing his game.  And how great it would be if his game inspired someone.  What if someone designs a game someday because of him?  It’s a powerful moment.

I loved this film for that very reason.

The people in this documentary are passionate and talented artists who found success because they never gave up on their vision or themselves.

Indie Game: The Movie doesn’t just inspire video game designers.  It will inspire anyone passionate about their creative aspirations.

The flick is available now online here.

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