With Jeff Kitchen
THE CRAFT OF THE DRAMATIST
Jeff Kitchen is one of Hollywood’s top script writing teachers and has taught old-school playwriting techniques to Hollywood writers and development execs for over twenty years. He brings a powerful set of unique and innovative tools that help make any story work dramatically. Combining rigorous technique with creative flexibility, Jeff can wade into any project and help you create a dramatic structure that works. The author of Writing a Great Movie: Key Tools for Successful Screenwriting, Jeff offers private consulting, professional-level training programs, and script-building services.
“Jeff Kitchen is a brilliant dramatist.” Ted Melfi, Hidden Figures. Nominated for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay Academy Awards
Dramatic writing is generally considered the most elusive of all the literary disciplines. It’s devilishly hard to consistently make scripts work, but Jeff’s remarkable tools that help create order out of the creative chaos of the creative chaos that is writing. His tools create certain distinctions that enable you to grasp this slippery creature and perform functions on it are otherwise very difficult.
For instance, with reverse cause and effect, you work backward from the ending, chaining back from each effect to its cause and this helps you with the crucial function of separating the necessary from the unnecessary. The work of the amateur is characterized by the unnecessary, with scenes that are bloated, sequences that are overwritten, maybe even an entire act that is unnecessary. The trick is to ask what the cause of a given effect is, rather than what merely happened before it, because any number of things could have happened before it, but only one thing caused it. In this way you are able to prune your work back as you write it, so that it doesn’t become overpopulated with detail, which will usually gum up the writing.
“I’ve worked with Jeff one-on-one for many of my projects. I highly recommend his book, his classes, and his personal attention.” Jessica Sharzer – Writer/Producer – American Horror Story, A Simple Favor, Nerve
Dramatic Action is the name of the game. It’s that special something, that magic ingredient that renders a story dramatic– that turns it from mere narrative into drama, no matter what the genre. Dramatic Action is not car chases or shootouts, it’s a state of action that you put your audience in, a state of suspense, of tension, so that they’re gripped in large and small ways, so that every section of the story is filled with Dramatic Action. You never want your story to have any areas that are flat dramatically.
“Your seminar for Development Executives was by far the best seminar I have ever taken.” Jen Grisanti – Story/Career Consultant at Jen Grisanti Consultancy Inc.; Writing Instructor for NBC’s Writers on the Verge; former 12-year studio executive
The underlying structure of your story provides this tension– it’s where the magic takes place. It’s all structure. Yes, you need great characters, good attack as a storyteller, and an ear for dialog– but if you don’t have the craft as a dramatist to put it all together in a way that works dramatically, that grips an audience, no matter what the genre, then your story may not work. Never forget, scripts are a performance medium– they have to be actable and they have to grip an audience. It has to be stageworthy. Mere narrative is not enough, however clever. The underlying structure is similar to the Terminator skeleton. When the human-like skin gets burned away, the titanium skeleton that keeps coming is its core structure, and that’s what you’re building as a dramatist. Everything else grows out from that structural skeleton.
“Jeff is a master teacher who truly understands the art and technique of the screenplay. His course is worth its weight in gold.” Chris Brancato – Writer – Sherlock Holmes 3, Narcos