Friday, March 28, 2014

Work Hard Be Rewarded Harder: #Screenwriting for #Hollywood

Mr. Bergenfeld is known around Hollywood as a leader in acquiring some of the most influential and respected intellectual properties worldwide. Teamwork is vital to all of his success and it will always be something of great value to Mr. Bergenfeld. Mr. Bergenfeld has worked hands on with, the Emmy Award winning production company, Trium Entertainment on all of his non-scripted creative. They developed all original content together.

Jason Bergenfeld has been working in Hollywood for over a decade and has produced shows for NBC, ABC, FOX, Discovery, SPIKE, Lifetime, MSNBC, TruTV, GSN, BET, AOL TV, A&E, and more.  I had the chance to sit down with Jason Bergenfeld and discuss what it takes for a screenwriter to sell his or her work.

Jason Bergenfeld is someone who anyone can look up to for inspiration. Diagnosed with Dyslexia and A.D.D. as a child, he had a very difficult time reading and writing. He overcame his struggles by constantly reading material over and over again. The past three decades his intense study of the written word changed his writing skills and creativity. He evolved with the help of a dictionary and thesaurus by his side. Today he reads hundreds of scripts and has a successful career as a producer on several projects including Sara Sweetcheeks (Film), Roughnecks (Film) & The You In Me (Film)*

Mr. Bergenfeld also likes to write the stories that leave him with a sense of “I have to write this.”  When I asked him about his writing process he said it all begins with a story idea that eventually evolves into a full story with story boarding. After he gets an idea he will spend weeks, even months, conducting research.  He wants to know what makes his story idea so different from the similar. He uses a wide range of research sources to glean the vital information that he requires to bring his story to life.  “People may know the subject but they don’t know the individuals that were responsible for each of the subjects,” Bergenfeld stated.

Character development and world building are vital for any screenwriter. There are plenty of good writers who write screenplays that never sell. Why don’t they sell? Because the characters are dry and there isn’t enough in the script to show the world in which the story takes place. “People are lazy these days. They just want to write and get it sold. What they don’t understand is that you have to create something that will fascinate people. If you cut corners people will see. Take the time to develop your story. If you work hard you get rewarded hard.” Bergenfeld explained.

Gone are the days when a writer could just write a script and sell it. Hollywood’s thinking has become transmedia. Transmedia means a story is told through novel, screenplay, television, game and graphic novel. A writer needs to understand how to convey their story in all media outlets if they want to sell their work. This is why character development is essential. Your characters and the world they live in needs to be able to cross into all media outlets, especially games and graphic novels. People want to interact with your characters. They tend to relate the characters to people they know or to themselves.

Lately, Hollywood has been releasing movies based on novels, games and graphic novels. Some of these movies are sequels or remakes of other hit movies. It may seem like Hollywood is out of ideas but Jason Bergenfeld disagrees. He believes Hollywood has fallen into the mindset of “gamification.” Gamification is the process in which you can take a story idea and develop it into a game and merchandise that will sell. A screenwriter needs to develop a story that can reach to the masses through gamification.  People want to see the characters on screen and become them in a game. Gaming has taken the world by storm and the fantasy world has exploded. Every story is a fantasy that can be exploited into a game and the screenplay needs to have the entire transmedia package in order for it to sell well.

Every story, including reality shows, needs to have a bible.  In fact, if you think about it, writing a novel is building a bible. You are giving the characters a voice and brining their world to life.  A bible is beneficial to the screenwriter because it explains everything about the world and the characters the screenwriter has created. You want to develop a believable world and characters. The facts gleaned from your research needs to be implemented into the world in order to make the story believable. Jason Bergenfeld believes writers who do not create their story’s bible are doing themselves an injustice. “People fall in love with characters. Stories are a dime a dozen. People who don’t take the time to build the world are going to have trouble selling stuff,” Bergenfeld stated

Whenever a screenwriter who has not taken the time to develop their stories world and create believable characters try to sell their story they may come across an study executive pass their work by saying “It still needs development.” Development means time and money. Studios rarely have the time anymore to develop an idea into a marketable screenplay. “If you know a character in your screenplay then why can’t you build it farther outside your script? Bergenfeld added. Don’t be in a rush to sell your story. If you need more time to develop your world and characters then take the time to do so. The more believable the characters and worlds are the higher probability you have to sell your work.

Education is key. If you’re not a knowledgeable screenwriter then that will show in your work. Go to school, read the books, read other screenplays, do what you must do in order to better your writing. Don’t be in a rush to sell that script. Remember, what Stephen King once said, “Talent is cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”
based on a true story is a mix between Gangs of New York and The Dirty Dozen.  The first paratroopers for the U.S. military that helped defeat the Germans at a pivotal battle were not made up of trained soldiers, but rather convicted murderers on death row.  They were given a choice; die on the electrocution chair or die fighting for your country. Produced By: Anthony Samadani, Jason Bergenfeld & Eva Lontscharitsch.

Sara Sweetcheecks (Written By Babaloo Mandel) is funny and magical family entertainment about a widowed father who hires Sara Sweetcheeks, a modern Mary Poppins-like nanny to help raise his three children, only to discover that the endearing Sara is less like Mary Poppins and more like Lord Voldemort, only with a cuter nose. Produced By: Joshua Mandel, Anthony Samadani & Jason Bergenfeld

The You In Me (Written By Babaloo Mandel) is about two self-centered men's lives become intertwined, forcing them to become caring human beings, in spite of one of them being a thoroughly outrageous punk rocker who died in 1977. Produced By: Joshua Mandel & Jason Bergenfeld

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