Q&A: Alexander ValdezH. Please tell our audience a little about yourself.
A. I am a graduate of the University of Southern California Cinema-Television Master’s Degee program. I learned editing there and I also apprenticed under Academy Award Winner Gray Frederickson and Albert S. Ruddy as well as his business partner Andre Morgan.
H. What are ideation tools and how do you teach the concept?
A. Ideation tools are what help a seasoned writer to make well formed story tools. Examples of Story tools I give in my book are characters or scenes. Ideation tools help these to be more polished. I put forwards the following eight elements of story: The Hero, The Arena, The Spectacle, The Goals, The Opposition, The Gain, The Benefit and the Resolve. I go into more detail and I also put forward in the Screenwriter’s Notebook, Twelve Pictographs writer’s questions. These are also in my writer’s Guide which has a free electronic version at my website, www.cinema-libre.com
H. Why did you write these books?
A. I helped a group of students while I was in film school. I found so much of what we were trying to do was repetitive to processes I have learned in other places, but how was the first time writers supposed to know where to begin? I set these books out as a series of guides, one Your Story Begins: Advance your ideas to Words, functions as my guidepost to what I hope will be a growing movement in Cinema-Libre, the other is a step-by-step fill in the blank I would like to use for each of my projects, guiding each of them to a more cinematic and exciting film.
H. How is screen writing different from writing for other media?
A. In screenwriting, so much of the number of words on the page go into the structure of cinema. Dialogue is actually normally very sparse. The majority of your writing goes into describing the physical action the motion of the motion picture will show. Many times, in cinema, the more simple the action the better. Get your characters to the point they are doing something which film can represent.
H. How do you describe your books?
A. Screenwriter’s Notebook is great for young writers, new writers and writers looking for something new in their process, designed to be helpful all the way to screenplay. It expands a writer’s basic efforts in to a simple, straightforward point towards a path any writer can use to advance their ideas to words. Your Story Begins is more of a preparation book where writers can gather their goals and measures, no matter how large or small and put themselves to the mindset of the writer.
H. What do you want your readers to get from reading these books? A. The books function in a series. The main book, Your Story Begins: Advance your ideas to words, I am hoping to ignite in the readers something primal. I begin with anthropology and the essence of story. From there, I move to propaganda and social goal. I talk about goal setting and measure, and I do use examples of other writer’s successes even a first time writer can emulate. The Screenwriter’s Notebook is a fill in the blank guide to get seasoned writer’s writing and to get novice writers focused and moving the pen. They work hand-in-hand with my Writer’s Guide, which I offer a free version of with a valid email address at my website www.cinema-libre.com. I also have a paper version available at amazon.com.
H. What are the five most important things to keep in mind when you write a screenplay?
A. Where you are going with the story, what you are building towards in cinematic showmanship, what your heroes overcome, what led your characters to the point of action, and what makes your heroes unique.
H. In the description of "The Screenwriter's Notebook" it says the book is a fill-in-the-blank guide to writing a story, which is native to you. Talk about what “writing a story, which is native to you,” means.
A. I put a lot of effort into each writer getting back from the screenwriter’s notebook what they want. My structure is intentionally to the background so what they want out of the screenplay is what they get, something they as a writer felt to be a story worth telling. We as a writers are the champions for our own stories, we are the ones who move the words on the page to make the story move. I wanted to reach writers who are passionate and give them a way where they would know how to begin. Just last week I met a woman, a dental assistant, who admitted she would love to be a writer, she comes up with plots all the time, but she didn’t know where to begin. I suggested she give these books a try.
H. The notebook format is a guide. Who will most benefit from what it has to offer?
A. The notebooks were designed with a remedial audience in mind, but I tried to make them with an artist as the audience. When someone is really just starting out, this structure will help anyone to write their main characters and opponent characters as well as support characters while taking them step-by-step through 38 scenes with guidelines and goals for the overall project, as well as sending them in the right direction to go beyond the notebook. I honestly do feel, at $6.95 they are an excellent value and I genuinely believe they can help anyone.
H. In what ways is character development different when writing a screenplay?
A. Writing for film is a deft art form. A motion picture is really about showing a story. When you write characters for a screenplay, you don’t have the advantage of portraying the inner monologue of the characters, but you do have the added advantage of showing things in their life.
H. What did you learn about yourself in the course of writing these books you didn’t know before?
A. When I was a painter’s apprentice, my interest in making films was fairly unique to the work site. Now, in the film industry, the knowledge I gained as an apprentice is the unique thing. Going over these old stories and jokes, I really took interest with some sentimentality to the old days exterior painting. One of the things I learned as an apprentice is the doingness of getting things done. I am glad to have several of these lessons fresh in my memory.
H. What are you working on now?
A. I am trying to get every thing together to offer a film festival. I’ll probably have a link up at indiegogo soon. I am also trying to get more interest at my weblogs, which I would encourage your listeners to participate in at www.cinema-libre.com. The blogs are free and open. We have made a no- derision decision, so we have a very friendly and supportive atmosphere.
H. Where can people get your books?
A. My paperback books are available at amazon.com and at my website www.cinema-libre.com, which is the only place they can get the free electronic version of my Writer’s Guide. Your Story Begins is available at the iTunes store and also for kindle and the paperback is available at amazon.com; www.cinema-libre.com is the only place they can get the hardcover other than lulu.com, my printer. If they go to amazon, just do a search with my name, Alexander Valdez, and all three are there on the first page of results. I also want to let everyone know I would love any and all participation at my weblogs and in my film movement. The weblogs are free and I am also offering a free download of the electronic version of my Writer’s Guide All you need is a valid email address.
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Sharon Vander Meer is the author of four books. She publishes Happenstance, a bi-monthly digital magazine featuring the work of talented writers in a variety of genres. Fiction, nonfiction, memoir, essays, articles and opinion pieces will be considered. Compensation is not available at this time. The magazine is available by paid subscription. Contributing writers will be given a complimentary subscription. For more information about submitting work, contact firstname.lastname@example.org