Draft Zero: a screenwriting podcast
Two emerging screenwriters – Chas Fisher and Stuart Willis – try to work out what makes great screenplays work. Discovering what it takes by analysing what successful writers put on the page
info_outline DZ LiVEsolation Annoucement 04/07/2020
DZ LiVEsolation Annoucement We hope you are all staying healthy and safe. Due this difficult time of lockdown, Chas and Stu have decided to “regularly” do special live-streamed episodes (via YouTube Live) of Draft Zero that we are calling LiVEsolation.
info_outline DZ-66: The Mandalorian and The Rise of Skywalker - Audience Knowledge vs Character Motivation 03/17/2020
DZ-66: The Mandalorian and The Rise of Skywalker - Audience Knowledge vs Character Motivation Chas and Stu are joined by special guest - filmmaker Mel Killingsworth - to talk all things Star Wars. Well… focusing on The Mandalorian and The Rise of Skywalker and wherever else our tangents take us.
info_outline DZ-65: Collaborating with a Director - The Snip 02/14/2020
DZ-65: Collaborating with a Director - The Snip This episode, Chas steps down as co-host (kinda) and is interviewed by Stu as a guest, alongside director Ben Mizzi, about the short rom-com that Chas wrote and Ben directed & produced. The episode covers taking an idea from pitch to screen, working with a director, directing performance on the page, and marketing and distribution strategies for short films.
info_outline DZ-64: Backmatter - Controlling your Work, Treatments, and Writing Styles 01/30/2020
DZ-64: Backmatter - Controlling your Work, Treatments, and Writing Styles Stu and Chas indulge themselves by offering personal opinions based on their own personal experience. To that end, they discuss: what is and is not in your control in relation to an emerging writing career; choosing what project to develop next; using the Black List site to gain traction; the difference between treatments for pitching as opposed to for development; the difference in writing style when writing on spec as against work for hire; and guest David Wappel shares his thoughts on anchoring nouns.
info_outline DZ-63: Tools for Better Dialogue (Part 2) - Hook and Eye 12/31/2019
DZ-63: Tools for Better Dialogue (Part 2) - Hook and Eye Stu and Chas have kidnapped Stephen Cleary to once again develop some craft tools around dialogue. In Part 2 of this series, we analyse key scenes from films and TV shows famous for their dialogue, namely FLEABAG (Season 2, Episode 5), JUNO and DEADWOOD (The Pilot). The biggest tools we explore are: the hook and eye; how dialogue can reveal status and empathy; rhythm; contrast and affinity; and pacing.
info_outline DZ-62: Unfilmables and Unscriptables (Part 3) - As Ifs & Emotional context 12/02/2019
DZ-62: Unfilmables and Unscriptables (Part 3) - As Ifs & Emotional context In this final part of our series on unfilmables, Chas and Stu turn their critical eye to... each other’s work! They take their key learnings from the previous ep and apply them to rewriting scenes from their own projects. They discuss metaphors, emotional context, and how you can write tone on the page without resorting to unfilmables.
info_outline DZ-61: Unfilmables and Unscriptables (Part 2) - Moments of Awe 09/25/2019
DZ-61: Unfilmables and Unscriptables (Part 2) - Moments of Awe Chas and Stu continue their deep dive into how writing the “unfilmable” can enhance your script. Rather than looking at micro moments, they turn their gaze to ‘moments of awe’ — those often breathtaking cinematic moments that feel beyond writing. But are those scenes actually unscriptable?
info_outline DZ-60 Unfilmables and Unscriptables (Part 1) - Engaging imagination 08/07/2019
DZ-60 Unfilmables and Unscriptables (Part 1) - Engaging imagination In this episode, Chas and Stu deep dive into the controversial area of “unfilmables” — those alleged screenwriting sins, where a writer writes a line that (apparently) cannot be seen or heard. But many produced spec scripts use unfilmables to great effect. So how and why do they “get away with it”?
info_outline DZ-59: Avengers Endgame - Ending Character Journeys 07/01/2019
DZ-59: Avengers Endgame - Ending Character Journeys A short-shot into Avengers Endgame. What began as an exploration of how to dramatise character change swiftly became an exploration of how to position audience in relation to your characters. Do you want the audience empathising with the characters? Feeling what they are feeling in the moment? Or do you want your audience sympathising with your characters? Being rocked by surprise after the fact? Reminding your audience of their own personal relationship with the characters.
info_outline DZ-58: Game of Thrones - Character Exposition 05/16/2019
DZ-58: Game of Thrones - Character Exposition while we thought this episode would be an extension of our previous musings on exposition, in nearly every great scene we assessed, the characters basically said “screw talking about plot or backstory” and instead exposited about their character. How it feels to be them. How they have, or have not, changed.
info_outline DZ-57: Backmatter - Aesthetics and Forgiveness in Writing 05/01/2019
DZ-57: Backmatter - Aesthetics and Forgiveness in Writing It is time (in fact, well past time) for our semi-annual #Backmatter episode. For the uninitiated, this is an episode where Stu and Chas discuss career and craft-related topics beyond what makes great screenplays work. To that end, Stu and Chas dive into: a five year review of Draft Zero and how it has changed their writing craft and process; a discussion on the aesthetics of writing; learnings for emerging writers in having their work produced; and finally forgiving yourself for not writing.
info_outline DZ-56: Character Motivations (Part 2) 03/30/2019
DZ-56: Character Motivations (Part 2) Chas & Stu examine moments where they did not believe a key decision being made by a character and so were taken out of the movie. They apply the tools they developed in Part 1 to workshop potential fixes to these beats.
info_outline DZ-55: Character Motivations (Part 1) 01/15/2019
DZ-55: Character Motivations (Part 1) In part 1 of this 2-part episode, Chas & Stu look at examples of good character motivation. We’ve all watched movies where we don’t believe the motivation of a character or characters. We may have even written scripts where readers don’t buy the character’s choices. To help us solve the problem of how to improve our character motivations, in this episode we explore great examples of character motivation and how they have helped the audience believe a character’s decision.
info_outline DZ-54: Thematic Sequences 10/10/2018
DZ-54: Thematic Sequences Chas and Stu are joined, once again, by the inestimable Stephen Cleary. This episode is a spiritual sequel to our last episode with Stephen, the one on sequence structure. We talk about a different type of sequence: the thematic sequence. By limiting (or removing all together) questions related to character or plot, filmmakers can force their audience to engage with the deeper, underlying meaning of the story.
info_outline DZ-53: Antagonists! (Part 5) - vs Audience 08/26/2018
DZ-53: Antagonists! (Part 5) - vs Audience The Epic Deep Dive(TM) into Antagonists has reached its shuddering conclusion. And for this Part V - by choosing films that have no obvious singular antagonist (and in some cases no obvious narrative either) - Stu and Chas realised there was indeed a final category of antagonists: the films themselves. Where the film (and the filmmaker) are engaging directly with the audience. Where the films are... VERSUS AUDIENCE
info_outline DZ-48: One-Shot - Blade Runner 2049 – Agency vs Choice 02/28/2018
DZ-48: One-Shot - Blade Runner 2049 – Agency vs Choice Can your characters be given choices and yet still be deprived of agency?
info_outline DZ-47: Backmatter - A Lost Jedi, White Knighting, and Writers-On-Set 01/11/2018
DZ-47: Backmatter - A Lost Jedi, White Knighting, and Writers-On-Set Will Director Stu allow Writer Chas on his set?
info_outline DZ-44: Marvel - First Acts and Establishing Characters 09/17/2017
DZ-44: Marvel - First Acts and Establishing Characters How can your first act effectively establish your character journey?
info_outline DZ-43: Driving Sequences - Character and Plot Intensity 07/08/2017
DZ-43: Driving Sequences - Character and Plot Intensity What gives your sequences their intensity? Chas and Stu are joined for the fourth time by the inestimable Stephen Cleary - this time to take a deep dive into sequences. A real deep dive. A 3+ hour deep dive. Stephen postulates that sequences can compel the audience in different ways via the type of dramatic questions being posed. Are they plot questions ("Will she defuse the bomb?") or character questions ("Will she understand what compels her to defuse bombs?") or a combination of both? What is the impact on the pacing, structure of your story or audience experience of your characters by changing the type of question being asked? What happens to your story when your protagonist decides to literally abandon the plot? Our deep dive roams through THE BOURNE IDENTITY, NAKED, THE DIVING BELL & THE BUTTERFLY, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, FARGO (the movie) and CHILDREN OF MEN... with many-a-tangent referencing HEAT, FRENZY, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, AMOUR, CHEF, HAPPY-GO-LUCKY, THE KINGSMAN, FURY ROAD, THE COLOUR OF POMEGRANATES, LIVING IS EASY WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED, MOONLIGHT, and probably some more that we've forgotten. SPOILERS ABOUND!! Audio quotations used for educational purposes only. Timestamps indicated below. Chapter markers included in the mp3. PS: Thanks to all our listeners who provided feedback on a draft edit of this episode. EPISODE LINKS HISTORY & THEORY OF SEQUENCES [@ 1m 38s] PLOT-LITE REVISITED - AMOUR, CHEF and HAPPY-GO-LUCKY [@ 13m 24s] HIGH INTENSITY PLOT SEQUENCES [@ 24m 01s] Youtube: Heat - JustWatch: Youtube: Frenzy - JustWatch: Youtube: Saving Private Ryan - JustWatch: PLOT/CHARACTER SEQUENCES THE BOURNE IDENTITY w Tony Gilroy [@ 36m 07s] Youtube: Find it on PLOT SEQUENCES MOVING INTO PURE CHARACTER SEQUENCES NAKED w & d Mike Leigh - Maggie Sequence [@ 54m 43s] Youtube: IMDB: ROAD MOVIES [@ 1hr 06m 35s ] IMDB: JustWatch: NAKED w & d Mike Leigh - Security Guard Sequence [@ 1hr 13m 00s] Youtube: Naked - IMDB: PLOT AS THE HOOK [ @1h 21m 31s] THE KINGSMAN w Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn [@ 1h 26m 44s] Find it on CHARACTER SEQUENCES & AUDIENCE INTROSPECTION [@ 1h 34m 52s] THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY w Ronald Harwood [@ 1h 34m 52s] Script: Find it on THERE WILL BE BLOOD w Paul Thomas Anderson [@ 1h 55m 41s] Vimeo: Find it on FARGO (1996) w Joel & Ethan Coen [@ 2h 05m 28s] Youtube: Find it on CHILDREN OF MEN w A Cuaron, T Sexton, D Arata, M Fergus, H Ostby [@ 2h 20m 12s] Youtube: Youtube: Find it on SUMMARY & FINAL WORDS [@ 3hr 03m 44s] Please send feedback to ask at draft-zero.com, via our or twitter We are and on twitter.
info_outline DZ-42: One-Shot - Split, Character Worldview & Macro POV 04/26/2017
DZ-42: One-Shot - Split, Character Worldview & Macro POV What screenwriting lessons can be we learn from SPLIT? In our first (and perhaps last) one-shot, we take a close look at the M. Night Shyamalan's SPLIT. Rather than having one topic with many examples, we use the one example to look at many topics. Well, okay, a few topics. Firstly, we take the opportunity to revisit theme. SPLIT offers a very clear example of the worldview of the characters and the rules of the world working together to create a coherent theme. Then we look at the SPLIT's use of macro point of view. Given the film's contained nature, it makes some interesting choices in the story structure in order to control what the audience knows vis-a-vis the characters. This assists in generating tension (in both conventional and unconventional ways) while also creating a dramatic journey for the protagonist and reinforcing the theme. We also cover (in lesser detail) flashbacks, tactics, contained spaces, character individuation, and... being a M. Night Shamalyan film... TWISTS. And if its not obvious... this episode is FULL OF SPOILERS. Love it, hate it or indiffererent, please let us know what you think of this new format. We're not going to do it every episode, but it gives us the opportunity to look at some great films in more detail. EPISODE LINKS SPLIT by M. Night IMDB: Find it on The Guardian: WORLDVIEW [ @ 6m 36s] MACRO POV AND NARRATIVE [ @ 35m 35s ] FLASHBACKS [ @ 1hr 03m 26s ] TACTICS [ @ 1hr 12m 34s] CONTAINED SPACES [ @ 1hr 15m 35s ] CHARACTER INDIVIDUATION [ @ 1hr 19m 32s ] The Fashionpedia: TWIST ENDINGS [ @ 1hr 33m 00s] EPISODE WRAP [ @ 1hr 50m 41s ] Please send feedback to ask at draft-zero.com, via our or twitter We are and on twitter. Please considering or sharing us on the Social Medias! We like finding new listeners.
info_outline DZ-41: Theme and Worldview 03/24/2017
DZ-41: Theme and Worldview How can your characters' worldview dramatise your theme? In this episode, Stu and Chas tackle one of the more esoteric topics in screenwriting (and writing in general): theme! To help us tackle this topic, we decided to look at television pilots, because we felt that television requires the theme to be more explicit. Our zig-zagging (and long) discussion covers thematic engines, music themes, thematic loglines, punishment vs reward, and - perhaps most of all - the worldview of characters. So we take a look at the opening and closing scenes (and middle scenes, too) of some of our favourite shows: HOUSE OF CARDS, CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND, TRUE DETECTIVE, FARGO and TRANSPARENT. We also make passing reference to SPEC OPS: THE LINE, GAME OF THRONES (its Stu's new Star Wars), and BOJACK HORSEMAN. In backmatter, we talk about the difference between the written scripts of these pilots and their released versions. Audio quotations used for educational purposes only. Timestamps indicated below. Chapter markers included in the mp3. It should go without saying but - SPOILERS AHEAD. DRAFT ZERO - Related Episodes BACKGROUND MATERIAL /r/screenwriting: Game Maker's Toolkit: Game Maker's Toolkit: YouTube: PopMatters: HOUSE OF CARDS [@ 24m 33s] Script: YouTube: YouTube: Find it on CRAZY EX GIRLFRIEND [@ 42m 23s] Script: YouTube: YouTube: Bojack Horseman Find it on TRUE DETECTIVE [@ 01hr 07m 27s] Script: YouTube: YouTube: Find it on FARGO [@ 1h1 35m 40s] Script: YouTube: Find it on TRANSPARENT [@ 1hr 52m 46s] Script: YouTube: Find it on WRAP UP MATERIAL [@ 2hr 01m 05s] Slate.com: BACKMATTER [@ 2hr 21m 29s] Please send feedback to ask at draft-zero.com, via our or twitter We are and on twitter. Please considering or sharing us on the Social Medias! We like finding new listeners.
info_outline DZ-40: Tactics and Scenes 02/04/2017
DZ-40: Tactics and Scenes How do tactics make your characters and scenes more dynamic? In this episode, Stu and Chas turn their gaze to the "tactics" that characters use in scenes to get what they want. Tactics are how the characters try to achieve their goals and (we reckon) can be revealing of the essence of their character. The shifting and thwarting of tactics can make scenes more dynamic; while over the course of a story, the changing of tactics can reflect the growth of characters... even if their goal stays the same. We take a close look at great single scenes from ZODIAC and TRAINING DAY. And then we look at a number of scenes over the course of HELL OR HIGH WATER, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and WINTER'S BONE. And we also skate over WILE E COYOTE, GAME OF THRONES, MACBETH, HAMLET, and EDGE OF SEVENTEEN. Audio quotations used for educational purposes only. Timestamps indicated below! It should go without saying but - SPOILERS AHOY. EPISODE LINKS DRAFT ZERO - Related Episodes The Game of the Scene ROADRUNNER [@ 8m 08s] YouTube: Twitter: Every Frame A Painting: ZODIAC [@ 16m 15s] Script: YouTube: Find it on TRAINING DAY [@ 36m 53s] Script: YouTube: Find it on HELL OR HIGH WATER [@ 46m 22s] Script: Find it on SILENCE OF THE LAMBS [@ 1hr 21m 34s] Script: Every Frame a Painting: Find it on WINTER'S BONE [@ 1hr 43m 23s] Find it on Please send feedback to ask at draft-zero.com, via our or twitter We are and on twitter. Please considering or sharing us on the Social Medias! We like finding new listeners.
info_outline DZ-39: Backmatter - Hitting LA, Receiving Feedback, and a Roguish One 01/15/2017
DZ-39: Backmatter - Hitting LA, Receiving Feedback, and a Roguish One How can writers make use of their time when hitting LA? In another backmatter-only episode, Stu & Chas zig-zag through a range of topics. We talk about Chas' experience(s) hitting both Los Angeles and the Austin Film Festival, effective networking, career capital, the art of receiving feedback, and Stu's harsh Three Strikes Rule. We look back at the most important lessons we've learned about storytelling in 2016 and that leads us to talk about character choices in a little-known and little-talked about film called ROGUE ONE. And, of course, we open the listener mail box for critiques, praise, suggestions and follow-up to earlier episodes -- especially our Exposition two-parter. Thanks to everyone for their support in 2016! We look forward to erratically bringing you new episodes this year. BACKMATTER LINKS Urban Dictionary: Forbes: Music Bed: Twitter: Emily Blake: /r/screenwriting: ROGUE ONE links because, well, Stu KCRW The Business: Yahoo UK: Mamo 459: Super Ticket 8: Vashi Visuals: Destroy All Monsters: Oscars.org: (Nicholls Draft) Please send feedback to ask at draft-zero.com, via our or twitter We are and on twitter. Please considering or sharing us on the Social Medias! We like finding new listeners