Friday, October 31, 2014


It seems to me that it is hardly ever one character (i.e.: person) that conceives and writes a compelling dramatic story. There is almost always someone or some thing else hovering around or within that is affecting the emotional, intellectual and spiritual adventure of such an undertaking - something that moves the storyteller, that dances and sings, that finds its own ways of letting itself be known and felt. Poets used to speak of this experience as a relationship one had with one’s Muse, this inspirational, divine-like energy with which the poet was suddenly infused.

"To work in the presence of such a ‘be-ing’ is always a liberating experience because it is usually accompanied with a sense of effortlessness, as if the words and dialogue have somehow started writing themselves. In such moments the storyteller is transformed from a teller of tales into a receiver of them. But don’t think that this means the storyteller becomes less “responsible”. On the contrary, this is the height of response-ability, the mystical experience of BEING THERE.

- Billy Marshall Stoneking


Drama costs. No doubt about it. But how does one - such as you or me - go about assessing that cost? And what exactly is it that is being spent, and what is it actually being spent on, and where and how does the expenditure travel, and what if anything multiplies its clout?
When Tim Burton tells us that film-making is basically a very expensive form of therapy, everybody automatically thinks money, right? Films cost. But story costs more. And the old school isn’t even up to that yet. They think - they believe - that the real cost of drama is MONEY, so they go on blindly putting bucks before bangs and wondering why all they get is whimpers.
Question is - the question almost no one asks - “How do we maximize the therapy while minimizing the cost?” And the short answer is you can’t. But you CAN change the way you THINK about “the cost”, which means changing the story of what and why and how you conceive of and ultimately realise the film you have in your heart to make. If all you’re thinking about is money, you lose, or at least your investors do, and with galling regularity. Hell, maybe they have money to burn! But maybe the smoke’s making them sick.
Yeah, sure, drama costs, but you can’t buy it with money. To understand what that really means is to start changing the story of what we are doing as film-makers. The small, but revolutionary breed of ‘new’ film-makers - those with the courage and the vision to navigate the subtext and as-yet unexplored interfaces between the new technology and the ancient emotion presenting ‘language’ that is drama, who have cultivated a love and fearlessness for strong, character-driven stories, have learned the hard way that the real cost of making potent screen stories is inexpressible in the lingo of all the accountants and rubber stamps in the world. The payment one makes is much more demanding, more exacting, than coming up with a mere 10 million or 200 million dollars. This of course is still heresy to all those flat-earthers, who are yet to realize that climate change is not only real but applicable to a whole lot more than global warming. The old templates are on the way out. As is the idea of waiting for a revolution, which any storyteller worth a damn will tell you isn’t worth waiting for

Saturday, October 18, 2014




"So glad that music like that is happening in a digital world, Mr. Stoneking. It is great stuff & the vinyl copy will raise the roof! I will sure have some trouble with my dear neighbours!"

"I've gone all boogaloo at the knees! Love it. Thanks again CDubbya!"

"Listening to it now and it is spot on the money great work."

"C.W., you're the best. This is mind blowin'."


It is possible, even in the most clumsy and opaque of stories, to find a spark of truth or beauty or pain that has been seeded by the writer, probably unconsciously, at some point in the writing process. It sits there on the page, a stifled cry, tentatively waiting for someone to answer it. The answering - and the need to have an answer - occurs at different times for different writers, but the living experience of 'getting it all in the right order' [Beauty] is possible only if the writer has an astute (read: visionary, inspired) 'audience', which is fundamentally what any good script editor is - the writer's first, true audience.



The art of story-showing begins with story-finding. You can only show/tell what you you have found, and it is always most exhilarating when the two occur very close together, when the finding is intimately connected to the telling and a kind of spontaneous improvisation, akin to playing jazz, occurs, only with character actions and dialogue, not notes.

Story-finding is an adventure. It invites the dramatist to engage and work with those subconscious and seemingly irrational drives of the characters, whilst looking past the types of patterned responses that comprise game theory, such as the 'tit-for-tat' pattern,where a perceived injury triggers an equally injurious response. While this sort of action/reaction carries a logic everyone can understand, it may not be the most surprising response or the most successful in provoking the audience's emotional involvement with the characters. So long as we work within the tight, circumscribed and often predictable patterns of game theory we run the constant risk of producing stale, cliched and predictable action and events.

If it's 'magic' you're after, there can be no formulas, no recipes or appropriations of other people's answers. What you have to do is go on the journey - the same emotional journey that those who have the greatest stake in the outcome are on, namely the characters. As your relationship with the characters evolves and strengthens, you begin to understand how their stakes coincide with your own, and that if the characters and you are to succeed in your plans, you are going to have to be very mindful of exactly what they and you want and exactly why they and you want it (empathy), and persistently and consistently choose and implement actions that are aligned to the outcomes they and you desire. This is the essence of 'story-finding', in which the writer enters the drama not through the imposition of formula or a self-imposed need to hit plot targets, but by an on-going series of acts that free the characters to create fresh, surprising and credible variations of the usual patterns of 'call and response'. And you must do this for both protagonist/s and antagonist/s.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014



The strongest argument against writing passive characters is that they make the writer passive, and that in turn makes the audience passive, and when the emotional interaction between the characters and the audience is reduced it becomes more and more difficult to care about what’s going on in the story. Every story that pulls us in is usually rich in possibilities. The possibilities in a story as in life always increase when the characters in the story and the those outside of it (the audience) decide to ACT rather than react. Active participation and engagement always trumps reactive spectatorship.
- Billy Marshall Stoneking

Saturday, October 4, 2014


Kerouac ain't been through here
in more than 50 years, and
won't be again for all eternity.


Meaning is the defining space between shots and scenes, it is the difference between where we are and where we were, the tension between all the stuff we think is true and what is truth, and the implications that provoke us past that truth. Meaning is the mysterious essence that glues it all together: future and the past. It is the unremembered past come back to haunt us, not-yet. It is anticipation, imagination, the irony that the source of our greatest weakness is also the source of our greatest strength.



Thursday, October 2, 2014


Dramatic stories are emotional maps that reveal and allow us to track every character's incompleteness as well as their journey to gain wholeness. To be capable of dramatic action, a character must be in need of something. The more important the need, the more risky the journey to satisfy it, the more compelling the story. With needs you also have reasons to grieve and to be angry and to feel fear, and also to hope. It is needs that make both characters and humans ACT.