Su-City Pictures East, LLC

Screenplay & Film Consulting By Susan Kouguell

Susan Kouguell Talks to Brian David Cange, Producer of “Take My Nose… Please!”

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take my nose image

Directed by legendary editor of Allure magazine Joan Kron, this provocative and humorous feature documentary explores society’s attitude towards plastic surgery. The film follows two comedians as they deliberate going under the knife: Emily Askin, an up-and-coming improv performer has always wanted her nose refined, and Jackie Hoffman, a seasoned headliner on Broadway and on TV, considers herself ugly and regrets not having the nose job offered in her teens – and maybe she’d also like a face-lift.

With commentaries from cultural critics, psychologists, sociologists, surgeons, along with cameos from comedians Judy Gold, Julie Halston, Lisa Lampanelli, Giulia Rozzi, Bill Scheft, and Adrianne Tolsch, the film confronts the pressure women feel to meet impossible expectations and the judgment they endure when they have cosmetic surgery.

About First-time Director Joan Kron

Director Joan Kron

Director Joan Kron

An author and award-winning journalist, Kron’s work includes stints at the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. She spent 25 years covering plastic surgery for Allure magazine and documented some of her experiences in the book, Lift: Wanting, Fearing, and Having a Face-Lift.

Take My Nose… Please!

I spoke with one of the film’s producers, Brian David Cange, about the documentary just days before the announcement that the film received the 2017 Miami International Film Festival’s Knight Documentary Achievement Award.

About Brian David Cange

Producer Brian David Cange

Producer Brian David Cange

Cange is an award-winning producer and line producer whose credits include Roxanne, Roxanne and Marjorie Prime (both 2017 Sundance Film Festival Official Selections), Equity, a 2016 Official Selection Sundance Film Festival; the highly acclaimed documentary Mad Hot Ballroom; Backwards; Fugly!; Particle Fever; The Skeptic; the 2008 Peabody Award winning documentary Billy Strayhorn: Lush Life; National Geographic’s I am Rebel, the first in a four-part miniseries; Footsteps in the Snow for A&E and Lifetime Movie Networks; the Emmy-nominated, History Channel mini-series The World Wars, and Making Space, a feature documentary about five accomplished female architects with renowned producer Ultan Guilfoyle.

KOUGUELL: How did you get involved with the project?

CANGE: I became involved through my colleague Andrea Miller. Andrea and I worked together on the documentary film Particle Fever, and I helped her develop other projects, budget them, and sometimes shoot sizzle reels. I met director Joan Kron at the end of 2014. Andrea had suggested I speak to her about physically producing the film and also helping develop the project from a storytelling perspective, making sure there was a narrative structure, and helping her find the right characters to follow. In this case it was Emily Askin and Jackie Hoffman.

Joan was very resourceful; she went out to the comedy clubs every week and sometimes I would go with her to check out comedians.

Script EXTRA: Conversation with Sheila Nevins, President of HBO Documentary Films

KOUGUELL:  What was the response from the comedians to participate in the film? Were they forthcoming as to whether or not they had cosmetic surgery or reticent?

CANGE: Yes, very reticent. Oftentimes people didn’t want to speak about it. Judy Gold, Lisa Lampanelli, Julie Halston, and a few others were confident enough to talk about it on camera.

KOUGUELL: Tell me more about finding the narrative in the project.

CANGE: When Joan Kron first came to me about the project, she had a clip reel of famous comedians: Joan Rivers, Kathy Griffin, Phyllis Diller.  Joan had taken an editing class and she put together a sizzle reel of what she thought would be comedians talking about the history of plastic surgery or the history of plastic surgery in the female comedian environment.  I thought it would be very expensive to put this all together because they were very expensive clips and music rights to obtain.

Joan had the clip-driven sizzle reel, an outline, and a group of interviews she had already done in California, including some of the plastic surgeon specialists.  In the film, the interviews done in the theater were done early on, before I came on. She worked in Los Angeles and did eight interviews for two days. A good number of these interviews stayed in movie.

Emily Askin

Emily Askin

Joan, Andrea and I discussed the way to produce this film that there was a narrative to follow. We all agreed to casting and meeting with comedians who were living and perhaps less famous in some cases it was a little bit of both. Emily Askin was the one we were following first.  Emily agreed to the film; she’d already had a stomach belt surgery prior to working with us so she was also open to the possibility of getting a nose job.

Joan approached Jackie Hoffman after reading a story about her in the Wall Street Journal.  Jackie was really on the fence as to whether or not to get a nose job.

KOUGUELL: What was the time period over which the film was shot?

CANGE: The majority of the film was shot in 2015 and 2016.  It was less than 100 hours of filming. The editing process took over about nine months. We brought on editor Nancy Novak; she really understood the narrative balance needed between the story of these comedians, their own journeys, and the history of plastic surgery, which was so important to Joan. And, also making sense of how women comedians are often judged by their appearance just as women actors are. Someone actually asked me after our recent screening in Miami if we had considered any male comedians and we did approach a couple but no one wanted to be in the film.

Jackie Hoffman

Jackie Hoffman

KOUGUELL: Because the men didn’t want to reveal that they had cosmetic surgery done?

CANGE: (laughs) Yes, that’s pretty accurate.

Susan’s ‘Fundamentals of Screenwriting’ Online Class

Join me  March 9 – April 6 for my online 4-week class

THE FUNDAMENTALS OF SCREENWRITING 

This four-week class is the perfect introduction to the world of writing a script, from the fundamentals of the story down to the revision process. In this course, you will gain the tools to structure your scenes, your acts, and your plots.

At each step, you will receive comprehensive feedback on assignments targeted to develop the skills needs to thrive as a screenwriter.

The lessons in this course include video instruction.

Testimonial:

The course was well outlined and a terrific help in getting the script properly structured. The instructor was supportive and gave fantastic advice with positive feedback.” – Jen B. 

READ MORE HERE

Susan’s ‘Writing the Documentary Film’ Online class

WRITING THE DOCUMENTARY FILM

FOUR-WEEK ONLINE COURSE

Starts Thursday, February 16, 2016

Documentary films can question an event, profile a person, and uncover a secret. They can expose truths and tell the truth about how lives are lived throughout the world. They can influence and inspire and provoke. Documentary writing requires research and an understanding of the audience’s expectations, and how the writer can keep an open mind when challenged by the unforeseen, including the exposing of surprising material and interview subjects’ unexpected responses. This course will examine and offer specific strategies for writing and planning a documentary.

READ MORE HERE

Next Session:

February 16 – March 16

Susan’s ‘Advanced Feature Film Rewriting’ Online class

Advanced Film Rewriting Workshop at Screenwriters University

This ten-week workshop is broken up into five sessions that each focus on individual elements of the rewriting process. Each session, you will submit a section of your screenplay for review. Each session will also have focused lectures that help you on each step of your revision process. The lectures are there for support, but the focus of this workshop will be on your screenplay. Each session, you will submit to your instructor for private review, and also you can submit to the other workshop participants for peer review.

Register here

Next session:
January 26 – April 6

 

Better Writing Goals for 2017: Patience and Perseverance

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Better Writing Goals for 2017: Patience and Perseverance by Susan Kouguell | Script Magazine #scriptchat #screenwriting

Now that we are in the film awards season, many screenwriters are even more inspired to get their work produced and onto the big or small screen.  So, bring it on, 2017!  This might just be your year to make the resolution to polish your screenplay and send it out into the world.

Writing a screenplay comes with both its own joy and challenges. But knowing if your screenplay is truly ready to submit to competitions, potential producers, and agents and managers, can be for many writers, daunting.  Let’s start this year by making the process less overwhelming by becoming proactive.

Patience

Make yourself a promise: Be patient.

Is your screenplay really ready to be seen by film industry folks? Be honest now. Are you about to submit your screenplay because you are bored working on it and believe that it’s “good enough” despite knowing in your heart that another rewrite (or more…) is needed? This is the time for a gut check. If this is what you’re feeling, then do not submit your script. If you are tired of your screenplay—so will the agent, manager, producer, director, talent, script competition reader, and film executive to whom you are submitting your project.

Before you submit your screenplay, get feedback from people (preferably in the film industry or knowledgeable about film) who will tell you the truth. And nothing but the truth. Giving it to people who might sugarcoat their responses, such as close relatives, might not be the best choice, unless you are eager to risk family estrangement.

For a quarter of a century – yes, that many years – I have worked with over 1,000 writers and filmmakers, as The Screenplay Doctor, consulting on both independent and studio projects.  At this point, I believe I’ve heard it all – from writers who believe that a company will “just buy their idea and fix it” or say, “the movie I just saw stunk so why do I have to waste my time and rewrite my script?” – to studio executives who are dismayed that their time is being wasted reading amateurish, unimaginative and/or sloppy work that ends up on their desks.

My question to you is this: Why would you submit your screenplay that isn’t absolutely the best it can be?

Take your time writing and rewriting, and rewriting again if needed.  Once your script has been rejected by industry folks, it is just about impossible to resubmit it to the same person or company for reconsideration.

Perseverance

The film industry is a business.  Hence the word “industry.” This business requires a tough skin, determination, tenacity, and diligence. In order to break into the business and/or stay in the business, obviously you must write great scripts, but writing a stand-out work also demands being open to constructive critiques.  If you are receiving similar feedback on the same script issues, chances are you should take these remarks into consideration and make revisions.

READ MORE HERE


Academy Award®-Nominated Documentary Filmmaker, Carl Deal, Talks ‘Citizen Koch’ & ‘Michael Moore in TrumpLand’

by Susan Kouguell

 

Regardless of which side of the political aisle you stand, there is probably one point all sides can agree on – Academy Award® nominated filmmakers Carl Deal and Tia Lessin make thought-provoking films that challenge the audience to question the world around them. Their two recent films, which guest speaker Carl Deal recently spoke about at Purchase College, SUNY – CITIZEN KOCH and MICHAEL MOORE IN TRUMPLAND – are no exception.

Academy Award®-Nominated Documentary Filmmaker, Carl Deal, Talks 'Citizen Koch' & 'Michael Moore in TrumpLand' by Susan Kouguell | Script Magazine #scriptchat #screenwriting

Carl Deal and Tia Lessin

About the Filmmakers

Carl Deal and Tia Lessin, are Academy Award®-nominated filmmakers, who produced and directed TROUBLE THE WATER, winner of the Gotham Independent Film Award, the Sundance Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize, and the Full Frame Documentary Festival Grand Jury Prize. Deal and Lessin were, respectively, archival and supervising producers of Michael Moore’s FAHRENHEIT 9/11, winner of the Palme d’Or, Academy Award®-winning BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE and co-producers of CAPITALISM: A LOVE STORY, WHERE TO INVADE NEXT and most recently Deal produced (with Michael Moore) MICHAEL MOORE IN TRUMPLAND, which Lessin Executive produced.

Tia and Carl were nominated for an NAACP Image Award and a Producers Guild Award for TROUBLE THE WATER. Tia line produced Martin Scorsese’s Emmy and Grammy-winning film NO DIRECTION HOME: BOB DYLAN and was consulting producer of LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD: GEORGE HARRISON. Her work as a producer of the series THE AWFUL TRUTH earned her two Emmy nominations, one arrest and a lifetime ban from Disney World. She is the recipient of the L’Oréal Paris/Women in Film’s Women of Worth Vision Award and the Sidney Hillman Prize for Broadcast Journalism for BEHIND THE LABELS, a film about labor trafficking in the US garment industry. Carl Deal has contributed to many other documentary films, and worked as an international news producer and a writer, reporting from natural disasters and conflict zones throughout the U.S., Latin America, and in Iraq.

citizenkoch-poster-xxl

About CITIZEN KOCH

The film tells the story of the changing American political landscape through the eyes of three Wisconsin state employees, all lifelong Republicans, who suddenly find their party taking direct aim at them, stripping away the economic ground their families have built and depended on for generations: Set against the rise of the Tea Party in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United ruling, a citizen uprising to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker collides with the Tea Party-aligned “Americans for Prosperity,” a group founded and lavishly financed by two of the world’s richest men — David and Charles Koch. As Republican working class voters find themselves in the cross-hairs of their own party and its billionaire backers, they are forced to choose sides.

CARL DEAL: “The film was made in 2011-2012, and came out in 2013. It’s very topical given the election season right now. What you see here is a behind the scenes; and today it’s still happening all over the country; there are still certain states that are being targeted in the same way as Wisconsin was targeted in this film.”

Protesters fill the rotunda in the Wisconsin State Capital in the run up to Gov. Walker’s anti-union bill in a scene from CITIZEN KOCH

Protesters fill the rotunda in the Wisconsin State Capital in the run up to Gov. Walker’s anti-union bill in a scene from CITIZEN KOCH

Advice for Storytellers

CARL DEAL: “This film began with the idea to do something about climate change deniers and along the way of making this, very early on, we concluded that we are filmmakers and we are people who are engaged with the world so we try to make media that engages with what is relevant today, in the moment. It became a movie about money and politics because we realized that’s where the problem lies. We never thought we’d be in Wisconsin; we ended up in Wisconsin sort of on a whim because that’s where the news of the day took us.   So, for you storytellers, I hope you always follow the story where it takes you, and get out of your head and not be fixed in following the idea that you have when you get support to do a project. Let the project also have a life of its own.”

Backlash

Making a film that has the potential to stir up controversy carries its own set of risks. Deal was asked how one manages the issue of backlash and specifically how they handled it on CITIZEN KOCH.

CARL DEAL: “We got Errors and Omissions insurance and we made sure that we were insured in case anything happened that got in the way of us finishing the film. We knew we were taking on some powerful interests with it.  We were set to premiere at Sundance and our broadcaster was about to release the last transfer of the film when they called us and said we needed to change the title or else. The New Yorker did an exposé on it.”

New Yorker reporter Jane Mayer writes: “Lessin and Deal had provisionally called the film “Citizen Corp,” but they worried that the title made it sound like a film about a corpse. After Sundance officials pressed for a final title so that they could start promoting it, Lessin and Deal told ITVS that they had settled on “Citizen Koch.” The new title reflected the evolution of the narrative: reporting had focused increasingly on the pitched battle in Wisconsin over the efforts of Scott Walker, the Republican governor, to ban collective bargaining by public-sector-employee unions. As the  reported, Koch Industries was among Walker’s primary financial backers in his 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

CARL DEAL: “The title of the film is so important sometimes. The “Citizen Koch” title was a direct reference to Governor Scott Walker; it set up expectations for viewers who thought it was an exposé about the Koch brothers, which it wasn’t. Think about your titles.”

Character-Driven and Context in Citizen Koch

CARL DEAL: “There are many different ways to make a documentary film. There’s a trend now to make only character-driven documentaries and those can be really beautiful and emotional stories, and I also think the context for these stories is really important. Not every audience is going to understand the context with an emotional connection to characters so that’s why we did it both ways here.”

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About MICHAEL MOORE IN TRUMPLAND

Oscar-winner Michael Moore dives deep in the heart of hostile TrumpLand territory with his daring, profound, and uproarious one-man show. When the show gets banned from the first town they tried, Mike moves on to an even bigger community of Trump supporters in the ironically-named Clinton County, Ohio.

 

READ MORE HERE

Join Susan’s ‘Writing the Animation Feature’ Online Class September 29

Writing the Animated Feature Film at Screenwriters University

In this 4-week course, you will learn key screenwriting and animation writing concepts that will allow you to take your idea and turn it into a working outline for a movie that you will then be able to write from. Essentially, you will learn how movies ‘work,’ and when and where things need to occur in your story to keep an audience engaged. By the end of the course, you will have a thoroughly reviewed ten-page treatment of your film.

Next Session:  September 29

Susan’s Webinar: Write Innovative Character and Plot: Analyzing Oscar-winning Screenwriter Diablo Cody

Join my Webinar: September 12, 2016 1:00 PM PT / 4:00 PM  (You don’t need to be ‘live’ to join!)

Write Innovative Character and Plot: Analyzing Oscar-winning Screenwriter Diablo Cody

At a Glance

  • During this live webinar, you’ll learn what film executives seek in a winning screenplay.
  • Gain an understanding of Diablo Cody’s work.
  • Learn how to write captivating characters while staying true to your plot.

Capturing the attention of film industry folks is vital to getting a screenplay out of the proverbial drawer and onto the silver screen. Your screenplay must stand out in the crowded and competitive world of scripts with not only compelling characters and powerful plots, but a distinct voice. Fitting that bill is — Academy Award winning screenwriter Diablo Cody, (Best Original Screenplay Juno) — whose thought-provoking characters challenge storytelling expectations by both following and breaking the traditional narrative rules.

Susan Kouguell will explore Cody’s distinctive writing while using it to teach you how to write a better script. Kouguell brings to this class a unique perspective; working in various capacities in the film industry, as a writer of over a dozen feature assignments, as a story analyst and story editor in the development departments of studios and independent production companies, and as a screenplay and film consultant at her company Su-City Pictures East, LLC since 1990. Susan will offer insights into both film executives’ and audience’s expectations without compromising your creativity and vision, incorporating her industry experience as a script consultant, screenwriting professor and author of Savvy Characters Sell Screenplays!.

WHAT YOU’LL LEARN

  • What film executives demand in a successful screenplay.
  • Analysis of films by the same writer to illustrate a variety of approaches to consider.
  • How to discover the core of your characters.
  • How to avoid common screenwriting pitfalls.
  • Tools on creating characters an audience will care about
  • Insights on Diablo Cody’s most popular characters

WHO SHOULD ATTEND?

  • Screenwriters seeking insights to elevate their characters
  • Screenwriters seeking tips for writing success from an industry insider who’s been in the film trenches (and survived) for over 25 years.
  • Aspiring and professional writers looking for hands-on and inspiring tools for constructing compelling characters.
  • Writers who’ve had their scripts rejected and want to learn why.
  • Writers who want to challenge themselves.
  • Anyone intrigued and interested to learn more about Diablo Cody’s work.
  • Writers, filmmakers, and producers living and working anywhere on the globe curious to learn more about the craft of writing.

BONUS: With purchase of this webinar, you will receive $79.99 off of a yearly subscription to the Screenwriting Tutorials website, which has specialized tutorials from experts that explore screenwriting topics covered nowhere else on the web!

SYSTEM REQUIREMENTS: This webinar will be broadcast using GoToWebinar. To see if your system is compatible with GoToWebinar, please review this page, which lists the system requirements for the software.

Join My Online ‘Writing the Family Feature’ class starts Thursday.

Writing the Family Feature Film at Screenwriters University

What exactly a “family film” is can be hard to define—they can be humorous or deadly serious. They can be total fantasy or a (sometimes) painful reality. This workshop will guide you through the structural and thematic elements common among the most successful family films of all time. If you aren’t considering writing for this target market, you are ignoring a prosperous genre that attracts big names and big budgets. Besides all that,these stories spotlight relationships, high-stakes conflicts, and a quest: all exciting goals to look through and to try to achieve for any screenplay. By the end of this workshop, you will have a complete treatment for your feature length family film that has been vetted by a professional screenwriter, and also all the tools you need to see your project to the end.

Next session: September 8 – October 6

Looking for a World-Building Online Screenwriting Class?

Join me Thursday, September 8 for my four-week Online class

World Building: Crafting Screenplays Readers Can Step Into at Screenwriters University

This course will offer specific tips for creating and implementing advice on building the world of your screenplay. Research advice and tips, strengthening visual storytelling in action paragraphs, developing and implementing settings, examining character and plot conflict as it relates to your settings, and genre consistency, will also be covered in this class. Original and unique worlds will set your script apart from the other screenplays, vying for attention from film executives; this course will also discuss understanding film industry folks’ expectations without compromising your vision and creativity.
Next session: September 8 – October 6
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