Introduction To Screenwriting

Steven Barnes is a prolific, successful science fiction author who has written many books and television screenplays. I stopped reading his blog past a certain point because I grew weary of reading his numerous DBRBM™ opinions and preoccupations. If I remember correctly, his first wife was non-Black. There’s the preoccupation with whether Black male characters in movies have sex. (Here’s another example of that.) I don’t recall seeing any mention that perhaps he and other concerned African-American men in the industry should create their own film production and distribution entities so they can produce movies with Black male characters having sex. No, instead of taking action to remedy something that he’s spent a lot of time complaining about, he’s shifting into personal coaching, which is his prerogative.

There’s also the notion that it is supposedly easier for Black women to advance in White-dominated America. It was all tiresome. By contrast, you don’t hear Jewish men competing with their women to see who were (and are) the bigger victims of anti-Semitism. You don’t hear Jewish men saying that Jewish women had it easier during their Holocaust because they were raped by Nazis. You don’t hear Jewish men saying the Holocaust wasn’t as bad for Jewish women because they could try to prostitute themselves to Nazis. Finally, you don’t hear Jewish men whining that Jewish women have it easier in dealing with anti-Semitism.

Nevertheless, I give credit where it is due. He’s a talented writer who has been successful at his craft. He has also produced some excellent teaching materials about the writer’s craft. His 9 week course, Introduction to Screenwriting is an excellent (and free!) resource.

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25 Responses to “Introduction To Screenwriting”

  1. JaliliMaster says:

    I visited the sites to which you linked. I have to say, he does seem to have a preoccupation with BM being shown to have sex on t.v.

    On another note, I was impressed by his imdb page. He has done quote a lot.

  2. JaliliMaster,

    Oh yes, he’s done a LOT of work in both writing novels and writing tv screenplays. And his instructional materials are excellent. Which is why I tried to read his blog in the first place to see if I could glean more writing biz tips.

    But wading through the typical DBRBM dysfunctions that were consistently on display:

    +preoccupation with WW;
    +preoccupation with BM’s sexual access to WW;
    + competing in the “Victim Olympics” with AA women;
    +anger focused on the AA women single mothers who toughed it out to raise their children alone, instead of focusing that anger on the deadbeat AA sperm donors who abandoned them;
    +and so on . . .

    . . . just got to be too much for me to wade through. And the bit about BM “getting the girl” and having sex in the movies wore thin. I understand his chagrin at seeing almost all BM characters emasculated in the movies. What I found irritating was his choice to sit around whining about about what WM won’t produce and green-light.

    With the industry contacts that he’s made over the years of having so many screenplays produced, surely he’s in a better position than the vast majority of AAs to do something about that issue—by working to form a movie production company and/or distribution channel. AAs like to go to the movies. In fact, if I remember the stats correctly, AAs buy a disproportionate (larger) percentage of the movie tickets in the US.

    But no. . . instead of competing against WM to create the movies he wants to see (the way other types of men compete out in the real world against WM in various fields), he would rather sit back and complain about what WM won’t produce (that would be pleasing to him). And since he often speaks about evolutionary biology on his blog, then he surely understands that NO group of males has any reason to empower their (male) competitors! They certainly have NO reason to empower another group of males that they have already defeated and conquered!

    It’s ridiculous. But despite all of this, there’s a LOT that aspiring writers can learn from his instructional materials.

    Peace, blessings and solidarity.

    • NijaG says:

      I’m glad you gave the heads up on the author’s DBRBM views. Writing is not my thing but I try to view recommended sites. That’s how I found your site.

      I’ve been a little bit out of the loop on what was really going on in the BC. It was only when I discovered the BWE/IR blogs recently that I decided to investigate deeper. When I first came to the U.S. 12 years ago to school, I observed some of the issues/trends discussed going on but wasn’t really paying attention to how bad it had really gotten.

      The last few weeks looking online and at black blogs (especially those by men), I’ve decided I need a serious mental detox. I don’t know what percentage of the mindset/attitudes towards BW in online communities is reflected in the BC real life, but what I’ve seen makes me want to say RUN DON’T WALK TO THE NEAREST EXIT.

  3. truth p says:

    Hi Khadija,*smiles*Although I want to dismiss this man altogether because of his DBR ways I defitnetly think that black women looking to be screenwriters should remember what you said about GETTING WHAT THEY NEED FIRST then perhaps fight for a cause or take issue with someone’s messed up ways.Bw can simply get the useful information from him and then completely dismiss him.Sounds like usury a little but alot of business minded people engage in it at some point.Look at all the people that have used African American’s/African American women and their resources in order to launch careers and then went on about their lives like they never even knew us.

    Anyway, thank you so much for all the information you have given to us on both your sites.I am thoroughly convinced that the lives of many black women can change for the better if they ACT on alot of the advice you have given us (FREE OF CHARGE?).

    I pray that you will prosper in all you do,Wa baraka Allahu feek!

  4. TruthP.,

    DING! DING! DING! We’ve got a winner here! LOL!

    Yes, the point is for more AA women to learn to GET WHAT WE NEED out of whatever situation FIRST—and then deal with x,y,z (if at all)!

    I don’t care for this individual’s views, and I hated to spend money on his Lifewriting course. HOWEVER, his materials have GREATLY reduced my learning curve in terms of writing and the writing biz. For me, the personal benefit to ME of his materials greatly outweighed my displeasure at supporting this particular DBRBM in any way, shape, or form. But this is an equation that’s different for each individual.

    MY point is for me is to get where I want to go FIRST, and then deal with whatever issue, cause, etc. (if I choose to). As you pointed out, this is how others do us as AAs and as AA women. The point is to get over “the bridge” FIRST and foremost before dealing with anything else.

    I felt honor-bound to let the audience know about his (DBRBM) views. Because I felt that it wouldn’t be right for me to strongly recommend his materials to readers (which is what I’m doing) without also mentioning the DBR mess. To me it would be the same as me recommending materials produced by a White racist without also warning the audience that the person is a racist.

    In such a case, everybody has to weigh for themselves the usefulness of the DBRBM’s/racist’s information and decide if the personal benefit of the information is large enough to justify temporarily supporting that DBRBM/racist. And in this post, I’ve linked to some FREE materials that he’s put out.

    You’re welcome and THANK YOU for your kind words, well-wishes and blessings for me! And may God bless you as well!

    Peace, blessings and solidarity.

  5. Neecy says:

    Khadija,

    Thank you so much! I am currently looking into taking some screenwriting courses and this is a great resource.

  6. Rhonda says:

    The NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) folks are doing, for the month of April, a National Script Writing Month. The goal is to produce 100 pages script, for any medium (film, stage, television, etc.), writing daily for April, by the end of that month. Just as with the novel writing month (November), it is about just working, getting your script down on paper, not worrying about perfection, just being in the now and moving forward.

    • Rhonda says:

      The script writing month is called “Script Frenzy”: Write 100 pages of original scripted material in the 30 days of April. (Screenplays, stage plays, TV shows, short films, and graphic novels are all welcome.)

      Here is the link: http://www.scriptfrenzy.org/

  7. Neecy,

    You’re welcome!
    ____________________________________________

    Rhonda,

    Thanks for the info!
    ____________________________________________

    NijaG,

    Oh, the anti-BW madness that AA males are spewing online on their blogs is a fairly accurate representation of their expressed views and actions in real life. In my opinion, what has happened with these “new school” AA males is that they have:

    *all of the bad, old, anti-woman attitudes of traditional patriarchy; PLUS

    *an extra dose of woman-hatred that has been learned and modeled via hip-hop trash; PLUS

    *NONE of the redeeming qualities of traditional patriarchy. “Old school” AA men were also sexist, but they were also economically AND physically protective of women and children in the former AA community. They supported and protected their families because they wanted to—because that was a mark of manhood.

    The hip-hop trash has marketed a new version of fake and radioactive masculinity over the past few decades that has NO connection to men’s traditional roles of protecting and providing for the women and children in their orbit.

    Almost 20 years ago, I allowed myself to be talked into going to see one of the then batch of Negro gang flicks. IIRC it was New Jack City. [Yes, I know, I know...what was I doing seeing that mess?] Well, I knew something had drastically changed when a main BM character in that flick grabbed and used a small Black child as a human shield during a shootout, and NOBODY booed him (in the all-AA audience).

    Peace, blessings and solidarity.

    • Rhonda says:

      Khadija,

      You’re welcome.

      Even if one does not participate in this year’s Script Frenzy, signing up is a good thing to do, for there is lots of free and good information there on writing a script, and lots of advice from folks who are insiders and active in their respective fields of the various media of television, movies, theatre, etc.

      I’m thinking of joining in, because I love the movies, and when I write, my writing is visual and visceral–I use quite a bit of dialogue. I wrote a piece of fan fiction for the movie “Something New”. I got caught up in the movie, wherein I hung out for a few weeks on the IMDb forum for the movie–I posted my piece there on the fan fic thread. The feedback that I received from some of the folks there was, “You made me feel like I was right there with them.”

      • Rhonda,

        Yep, it’s interesting. Some of the fan fiction for some of the science fiction tv shows I’ve enojoyed has been better than some of the produced scripts! {chuckling}

        Especially in the case of a show like Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda, which got heavily dumbed down after the main writer was fired, and series star Kevin Sorbo gained more power behind the scenes. As explained by the good people at TV Tropes:

        “Andromeda is, unhappily, a prime example of Executive Meddling (in this case by series star Kevin Sorbo among others) and Adaptation Decay happening within a series. The first two seasons are fairly hard science fiction with villains that are not cardboard. Then the series creator was tossed out the metaphorical airlock, apparently taking the Universe Bible with him, and the third season rapidly degenerated into pure Space Opera saved only by one superb episode.

        The fourth season was terrible. The fifth season in Seefra is so different in setting and plots, not to mention an obviously diminished budget, that it should be considered a SpinOff that happens to use the same actors. It’s also practically unwatchable by reason of incoherence, the only redeeming feature being a cool recurring musical theme. Of course, Your Mileage May Vary.”
        http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Andromeda

        Peace, blessings and solidarity.

  8. NijaG says:

    And since he often speaks about evolutionary biology on his blog, then he surely understands that NO group of males has any reason to empower their (male) competitors! They certainly have NO reason to empower another group of males that they have already defeated and conquered!
    ************************************************************

    I seriously get annoyed when I hear men in general try to use evolutionary biology theory (EBT) to justify or play down certain negative behavior and mindset especially when it pertains to their attitudes towards women.

    Ever notice how these same men will become angry and bitter when women display EBT that doesn’t benefit them and excludes them.

    You’re right about BM as a group being conquered and defeated. Instead of marshaling their forces like Asian men and other groups are doing to become a competing force, it seems like they’d rather complain and turn their inability to lead and compete against their women and children.

  9. NijaG,

    You said, “I seriously get annoyed when I hear men in general try to use evolutionary biology theory (EBT) to justify or play down certain negative behavior and mindset especially when it pertains to their attitudes towards women.

    Ever notice how these same men will become angry and bitter when women display EBT that doesn’t benefit them and excludes them.”

    Oh yeah, those sort of men want the “spoils” of various theories, philosophies, and ideologies without paying the price-tags that are attached to these things. Or as it has been put in other expressions:

    “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.”

    “There’s a COST to being the boss.”

    Basically, a lot of men who cite evolutionary biology theory want to live as if they were winning, Alpha males who dominate other males—even though they (as individuals and as racial groups of men) lost the competition for dominance. It’s the age-old human desire for “something for nothing.”

    Peace, blessings and solidarity.

  10. YMB says:

    Khadija,

    I, too, wish to commend you for being able to separate the valuable product from its DBRBM producer.

    I’ve yet to hear a man reference EBT without it being in the attempt to justify his demand for the youngest most attractive women. In every case it has been a man who did not have enough looks-wise and/or income-wise to compete for these women yet felt entitled to having access to such women. These same bitter men would simultaneously rail against the shallowness of women for preferring taller more successful men as though EBT does not support women’s desire for men who are better able to protect and provide for their families.

    DBRBM have become obsessed with characterizing black women as gold diggers which is patently absurd since they have least to offer of any group of men and are often quite content living off women. They have taken the “something for nothing” to new heights.

    I don’t know if I would characterize modern BM as defeated men. Referring to them as such implies that they actually put up a fight. What they did was lay down on the battlefield and wait for everyone else to come rescue them. Rather than take some initiative on their own, they cast BW’s higher educational and professional attainment as the result of some conspiracy by WM. I’ve lost count of the number of times I have heard them insisting that it’s BW’s responsibility to encourage BM to go to school and to support them (financially, doing their work, etc) if they go.

    It does appear they are creating a cottage industry of relationship advice books for BW. I just heard about the latest book, The Denzel Principle, from a colleague who works at a different institution today. Supposedly this work by a bitter twice-divorced black man is about BW not being able to find any good BM because we are demanding they be of the same caliber as Denzel Washington. Perhaps the author of this bunkum has not noticed any of the pro man-sharing articles, or the ones encouraging educated BW to date garbage men and jailbirds, or the ones stating BW are single because we all want thugs.

    I instantly lost all respect for this woman when she told me she was reading this book “to see if it had merit”. 70% of black children are born out of wedlock. Is that a sign of BW holding out for a black uber prince?

  11. YMB,

    Thank you for your kind words; I truly appreciate it. I want more AAW to get into the screenwriting game—there’s money in them thar hills! LOL! And not just in the sense of writing screenplays about Black characters. More AAW need to first “get in where we fit in” and write “general” scripts.

    Of course, I also want AAW to become savvier about making sure that we get our due from our works. I don’t want to see anymore situations like the BW who foolishly showed her documentary to Chris Rock and watched him run off with her idea. I don’t want to see anymore situations like the BW who allegedly came up with the ideas behind The Matrix and alleged that her work had been plagiarized. http://tinyurl.com/yb57uky

    Apparently, her copyright infringement lawsuit was ultimately dismissed.
    http://tinyurl.com/yfxa4ve

    Anyhoo, whatever term one wants to use to describe dysfunctional, “new school” AA men, their primary characteristic is that they are totally IRRELEVANT. They don’t control anything that matters.

    I don’t want to spend much more time on this particular thread discussing dysfunctional BM or their whining. Or the confused AAW who listen to these men. I figure that the regular readers of this blog are already clear about all of that. What’s the expression I’ve heard from Christians—“Let the dead bury the dead.”

    I would prefer to keep the focus on all of us moving forward with our own aspirations. And the various tips and tools that will help us on our way. *Smile*

    Peace, blessings and solidarity.

  12. Magenta says:

    Wow,

    Thanks so much for the info (and the warning, lol). I will make sure to skip over any of his personal essays and click right on the lessons. I really think someone is trying to tell me something because I have always wanted to write screenplays and “life” kept getting in the way. I think this blog post is a sign, LOL. I will definitely look at his info and get to work!

  13. Magenta,

    You’re welcome!

    *************************************************

    **Audience Note**

    I’m not going to publish any more comments on this thread that analyze DBRBM—at this point, who cares about them?

    I gave the heads-up to this particular individual’s stated views in the post simply as fair warning. So that audience members can decide for themselves whether the personal benefit gained from his non-free teaching materials is worth paying for them (and thereby paying money to a DBRBM). In the post, I’ve linked to a FREE teaching resource that he produced.

    Also, please don’t submit comments that mention by name—thereby giving advertising to—pure hate speech books that are explicitly anti-BW. Such comments will be rejected.

    Peace, blessings and solidarity.

    • YMB says:

      Khadija,

      I apologize for my unproductive rant. I allowed myself to be a little too affected by encountering an AAW who was still allowing herself to be duped by the DBRBM hustle. I regularly read the intelligent and informed comments from you and your readers and momentarily forgot that most AAW I meet in the real world will still be living in the matrix and not ready to leave.

      At any rate, to atone for my oversight, I’d like to contribute by posting some links to funding resources for after the career-making screenplay has been written:

      California Arts Council Grantfinder
      http://www.cac.ca.gov/othergrants/

      Women Arts Funding Sources
      http://www.womenarts.org/fund/fundlists.htm

      Louisiana Film and Television Office
      http://www.louisianaentertainment.gov/film/content.cfm?id=131

      Also check out your local film offices and arts councils since they likely have additional funding opportunities and educational programs.

      It may be useful to sign up for a student listserv of a college screenwriting program. The student services office and students/alumni will likely post opportunities and resources. Of course this applies to any field one is interested in breaking into.

  14. YMB,

    Guurl, there’s no need to apologize. *Smile* Years of the emotional equivalent of “muscle memory” are difficult to retrain. It’s taken me a couple of years after stumbling out of the Matrix to reach a point of true indifference to the DBRBM and BW who are Volunteer Victims (Booty Call Corps, Nuthin’ But a BM Brigade, Mansharing Cultists, Sister Soldiers, Ikettes, Strong BW, Deliberately Clueless BW, and so on unto infinity).

    The other thing I’ve recently noticed, really noticed as if perceiving this for the first time, about AAs is how easily our interactions are channelled into NON-productivity.

    I knew this before on an intellectual level, but it’s really starting to sink in with me now. For example, I think those of us who are serious about moving ahead need to declare a personal moratorium on attending or hosting “Black” conventions, forums, workshops or “Black” anything else.

    This is because we’re too easily distracted into various types of empty, NON-productive chatter when we congregate. Whether it’s the empty chatter of giving a hip, new analysis to the same, old problems. IIRC, Dr. King referred to this as “the paralysis of analysis.” Or the empty chatter of venting about the same, old problems. From what I’ve observed in various contexts over the years, it’s very difficult for us to stay on point without veering off into the 2 above behavior patterns . . .

    Anyhoo, thanks for the information!

    Peace, blessings and solidarity.

  15. JaliliMaster says:

    “The other thing I’ve recently noticed, really noticed as if perceiving this for the first time, about AAs is how easily our interactions are channelled into NON-productivity.

    I knew this before on an intellectual level, but it’s really starting to sink in with me now. For example, I think those of us who are serious about moving ahead need to declare a personal moratorium on attending or hosting “Black” conventions, forums, workshops or “Black” anything else.”

    I agree. I’m sure it does happen, but it is difficult for one to be able to see what all these conventions actually “produce”.

    I have been having the nagging feeling for some time now that AA women are going to establish some sort of dominance in the writing arena. I don’t want to jump the gate, but I have been visiting several writing bogs and publication for some time now, and there never seems to be as much enthusiasm for the art form the way I see with so many BW on these sites. This is despite the fact that it is a writing blog. Most of the posters never seem to have any intent of creating any material of their own. I think this could be a great few coming years for AA women writers. And as a few start getting more recognition for their work, no doubt that more doors will be opened. Exciting times!

  16. A-ion says:

    “+preoccupation with WW;
    +preoccupation with BM’s sexual access to WW;
    + competing in the “Victim Olympics” with AA women;”

    Wow Khadija, I read this and thought of the average Spike Lee movie script…LOL.

    The average black male movie (and average black male nationalistic principles for that matter) features:

    1. Focusing on the all powerful sexual prowess of black men, and white men oppressing out of an innate jealousy of black male reproductive sexual capacities and prowess. (Hegemonic masculinity, which can be studied).

    2. Lighter skinned AA women as more soft, demure and feminine in demeanor than darker skinned black women. The “bitter man hating whore” VS the “delicate flower ‘tragic mulatto’” who needs protection and development by black men/male lead in order to bloom.

    3. Preoccupation with sexual access to WW (as you said), and/or a fantasy that WW sexually are “in heat” for black men’s “brute masculinity” over the white male who is feminized, and not “naturally” as much of a male. Relaying the point that white male power was stolen against divine right. Not about equality therefore, but a battle of “brains” (WM), VS “Brawn” (BM) and which is declared by divine over to rule the earth.

    4. Painting white men as “cunning”, “sneaky”, and omnipotent geniuses who are all powerful and brilliant (“Willie Lynch letter”) and therefore can harness that brilliance to shape the destiny of black men collectively. Giving white men “God” power.

    5. Lying. Claiming there are “two sides of the story” as though there’s ever such a thing as “two sides” in oppression. This results in preposterous claims such as: 1. Black women verbally abuse black men and this is why they fail. 2. White men want sexual access to black women, in order to make the black man fail. 3. That black women like to shatter black male ego’s like glass. 4. That white men oppress black men so they won’t get to have sex with ww. And so on.

    This is the conclusion I’ve drawn from MOST movies about black men that they support. Some contain one of the above elements, others contain several (I think “She Hate Me” contains all of the above, sadly).

    “Basically, a lot of men who cite evolutionary biology theory want to live as if they were winning, Alpha males who dominate other males—even though they (as individuals and as racial groups of men) lost the competition for dominance. It’s the age-old human desire for “something for nothing.””

    I agree! I noticed this around the “pan African” types. They justified man-cheating and the “natural” low male to high female population amongst AA’s because “Male Polygamy” is natural and exists in Africa… Conveniently they all forgot to also acknowledge that (at least this was the case in Egypt) men were not allowed to practice polygamy if they could not show that they could afford more than one wife (to pay for said wife’s house, children, and other property). Never mind that these women are MARRIED and therefore offered at least SOME protection. Wanting the privileges of patriarchy (including trying to drive the point that black male dysfunctional behavior is “instinct”) while conveniently ignoring the responsibilities that exist with patriarchy seem concurrent with a lot of black nationalist ideology.

  17. pioneervalleywoman says:

    And to avoid the problems of not having enough legal knowledge and so forth: volunteer lawyers for the arts is a useful resource: http://www.dwij.org/matrix/vla_list.html.

    I think they began in NY: http://www.vlany.org/

    and there is a program in Massachusetts: http://www.vlama.org/

  18. A-ion,

    I let your comment through because you worked in some references to Spike Lee’s flicks (which, from the very beginning, have been extremely problematic in terms of women in general, and BW in particular).

    Everybody: As I said above, NO MORE comments offering analysis of DBRBM in this thread—at this point, who cares about them?

    DBRBM are losers. Other than the warning signs of spotting them, and therefore AVOIDING them, what purpose does it serve to analyze them? NONE, as far as I can tell. At this point, I’m willing to discuss various negative traps and pitfalls only if it’s coupled with some discussion of WINNING strategies and affiliating with WINNERS.

    Peace, blessings and solidarity.

  19. Rhonda says:

    I am writing this comment several days after I have read all of the comments for this post and have not re-read those same comments, so, I hope that I am correct, but I think that someone mentioned in a comment that we (black women) need not write only about black women in our screenplays.

    A few weeks ago I watched the movie (on DVD) “Hunger”, which stars Michael Fassbender (he played the English man who went undercover as a Nazi officer in the movie “Inglourious Basterds”). The movie “depicts the events surrounding a hunger strike staged by a group of IRA prisoners during their 1981 incarceration in Britain’s Prison Maze. Led by IRA volunteer-poet Bobby Sands (Michael Fassbender), the strikers waged their six-weeks-long protest in an attempt to be acknowledged as political prisoners and to improve prison’s inhumane conditions.” (Admittedly, I almost gave up on it after ten minutes–too much style (that is because the director’s first career was as a photographer), not enough substance, I thought. But I stuck around, and was pleasantly surprised by a very good movie–its story and images lingered in my mind for a few days.) I reference this movie, because I watched the DVD’s extras, and found out the movie was co-written and directed, not by an Irish Catholic from Northern Ireland, but by a black English man. The movie won an award from Cannes, and has given Fassbender (a very good actor, by the way) a strong calling-card, which has moved him up to an A-list actor.

  20. Rhonda,

    You said, “…I think that someone mentioned in a comment that we (black women) need not write only about black women in our screenplays.”

    Yep, that was me. I firmly believe that AAs need to stop marginalizing ourselves by limiting ourselves to writing “Black/AA” stories and scripts. Yes, I want to see more AA women and girls represented in stories and scripts, but this isn’t quite the same thing as a “Black/AA” story/script.

    What I’m talking about is how Whites perceive and make themselves and their stories as universal, human stories. They DON’T do like AAs and automatically place themselves on the margins of human history and human experience. Even though they are (and have always been) a minority of the people on this planet! They place themselves in the CENTER of human stories, human history, and the human spirit.

    They also presume to tell other people’s (non-White people’s) stories. It’s good to see an example of a Black person taking the same liberties of feeling free to tell other folks’ stories (the example you gave with the movie “Hunger”).

    AA women writers can do the same thing! *Smile*

    Peace, blessings and solidarity.