Screenplay update – The beginning and ending start to unfold

Learning how to write a screenplay, then fitting my story into the format, is fascinating.

I haven’t actually started putting any text into the fancy screenplay-writing software I purchased yet. But, I’ve been going over the parts of the Syd Field book, “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting” that I marked up in yellow highlighter, and have been figuring out how the story of little Buddy Schumacher fits into Syd’s suggestions.

“Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher” contains the basic, documentary-style nonfiction stuff that I’m molding into another art form.

Here are a few items I’ve been working on and/or thoughts I’ve had about screenplay writing generally, and this project particularly, as I’ve been working:

  • Figure out the ending. You have to know where you’re going before you decide how to get there. I won’t tell you that part. It would ruin everything. Besides, I can always change my mind.
  • Figure out the beginning. You have to start somewhere. For me … for now … it’s the Hoffman family meeting Buddy’s father, Art Schumacher when Art sells Mr. Hoffman his house. From there, the next door neighbor lady tells a young Paul
    Art Schumacher, Buddy's father, in 1910.

    Art Schumacher, Buddy’s father, in 1910.

    Hoffman about “the Schumacher boy who was killed down by the river and the railroad tracks.” That sets the rest of the story in motion.

  • Place and time: The movie primarily takes place in Wauwatosa, a suburb of Milwaukee, in 1925.
  • Figure out who the movie is about: Art Schumacher, Buddy’s dad is the main character.
  • What is the main character trying to do: He’d trying to remain strong for his family in the wake of his 8-year-old son’s disappearance and murder.
  • Figure out what happens in the three acts of the movie: Act I sets everything up. We find out who the main characters are, what motivates them, how they interact, etc. At the end of Act I, Buddy disappears, changing everybody’s lives. In Act II, we see the main characters change as they are forced to endure all sorts of issues that crop up when a family member goes missing. Art’s quest to keep his family protected and sane keep meeting with obstacle after obstacle.The end of Act II may be when Edward Vreeland, a local hobo who had been identified as being with Buddy the day he disappeared, was let go after eye witnesses changed their stories about him. Act III resolves everything in a way you’ll just have to watch.
  • Working title: Blackridge (the name of the swimming hole Buddy was heading for when he disappeared.
  • Figure out everything I can about the main character: I have to know Art Schumacher (at least the screenplay version of him) inside and out so I know how he’s going to react when things happen in the movie. So, I needed to come up with answers to questions like: Who were his parents? What kind of socioeconomic status did they have? What kind of childhood did Art have? What are his attitudes toward love, family, work, politics, religion, etc.? What were his hobbies? Whom did he have conflicts with and why? What is he like at work, at home, in the community, when he’s alone? And then, figure out a lot of that stuff for the other main characters.
  • Here are a few of the character traits I’ve decided Art has when the story begins in 1925: He lives simply, with very few extravagances, but allows for “treats”  now and then. He drives a 1923 Ford Model T. He likes fresh veggies, hunting, singing, kids and God. He dislikes dishonesty, breaking laws and smoking. He likes meat and potatoes, creamed herring and a little stollen at Christmas.
  • Art confides his deepest fears to his brother, Louis. He also confides to a lesser degree in his pastor, his wife and his boss.
  • Figure out the dynamics between characters: Between Art and all the people he comes into contact with, between Buddy and his sister, between newspaper reporters and the community, the Wauwatosa chief of police and the suspects, etc.
  • How to introduce all the different theories of what happened to Buddy: Nobody really knows what exactly happened to Buddy, but there are a few main theories. I’m thinking we may show some of those theories during nightmares Art has while his boy is missing or shortly after he’s found.
  • Some of the themes that may come out: Even the best of men have their limits and do things they might not ordinarily do when subjected to intense stress.
  • I studied up on what kinds of food and activities you might see at a Lutheran church picnic in 1925 Milwaukee; what household appliance were and were not invented, and which may have been in common use, at that time; what sorts of music might a 12-year-old girl listen to then, and how that might differ from her 40-year-old parents; and more.
  • Noting that all people want to be loved, successful, happy and healthy. But that we have different ideas of just what these things are and how we achieve them. It is these differences that determine each character’s point of view, attitude and transformation (if there is one) during the screenplay.

When I was writing the book, I didn’t have to know a lot of these things; I simply presented as many facts as I could find, then added some questions that readers might want to ponder. So, I’ve been doing a lot more research.

And there’s lots more to do. Although I can see the time when I start putting words into the screenplay format isn’t all that far off now. I still need to read more screenplays of famous movies to see how the stories are written in that format before I really start writing in earnest.

Featured author in Pen It! Magazine

Pen It Magazine Volume 6 Issue 2 Mar Apr 2015 Email copy_Page_05 Pen It Magazine Volume 6 Issue 2 Mar Apr 2015 Email copy_Page_12

I am honored to have been chosen as the featured author for the March/April 2015 issue of Pen It! Magazine. The magazine is in its sixth year and is produced by Debi Stanton, based in southern Indiana. Debi recently invited me to speak on researching for nonfiction books at her Spring Writers Conference, conducted at the Yes Cinema in Columbus, Indiana. I had a blast doing that. It was the second time Debi asked me to speak at one of her writer’s conferences; the first time, I spoke on newspaper reporting. In addition to publishing my bio in her most recent magazine, Debi also published a recent poem of mine, “One Tree and Me.” I hadn’t written a lot of poetry lately, but got inspired one day to write that one.

If anyone is interested in subscribing to Pen It! contact Debi at debih7606@frontier.com for one free issue.

Get a free book from a talented author!

Are you interested in a Christmas book giveaway?

My friend and fellow author, Michael John Sullivan, is conducting one such animal.

All you have to do is leave a comment below the story at his website to be eligible.My book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher” is one of the books you could win.

Mike says: “There are books available from these talented writers — Selena Robins, Maddie Ryan, Paul Hoffman, Barbara Robinson, Kathy Boyd Fellure, Kyrian Lyndon, Laurie Kozlowski, Susan Ricci, Jenn Nixon, and Michael John Sullivan. There are books available from many genres, too. Have some fun reading up on these talented writers.”

Even if you don’t win a free book, you may find some good ideas for Christmas presents … I’m just sayin’ …

I just figured out how to autograph an e-book!

And you thought your favorite author couldn’t put a personalized message on the e-book you bought! Don’t feel bad; I didn’t either.

But, I just signed up my book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher,” to do just that. Go here to get it done. Read below or click here to find out more about Authorgraph.

Authorgraph makes it possible for authors to sign e-books for their readers. Really!

Getting an Authorgraph is easy:

  • Search or browse for your favorite authors or books
  • Click “Request Authorgraph” (you can include a short message to the author)
  • Receive an email when the author has signed your Authorgraph
  • View your Authorgraph in your favorite reading apps and devices

This is pretty cool.

https://www.authorgraph.com/authors/phof_author

Holiday special! Prices slashed!

Want to get a personally autographed copy of “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher” directly from the author, but you can’t manage the $20? 

Well, you’re in luck!

For a limited time, I’ve cut the price to $15. That’s right, just $15!

And that even includes 705BuddyPostcardpostage and handling.

Here’s all you have to do:

  1. Send me $15 per book (yes, you are allowed to buy more than one!)
  2. Send me your name and address.
  3. Tell me to whom to address my signature.
  4. Send payment via PayPal at phof63@sbcglobal.net OR send a check made payable to Paul Hoffman to  me at P.O. Box 2611, Columbus, IN 47201.
  5. If you see me in person, I probably have a book nearby. Just ask. And as long as I have my cell phone and Square reader with me, I’ll be able to accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express.

It is also possible to get the book in e-book format or through Amazon or Barnes & Noble or at your local bookstore. If they don’t have it in stock, just ask them to order it.

Don’t delay. Order today! Supplies aren’t limited yet, but they could be if I get a nice holiday rush.

Oh, and tell every single one of your friends about this fantastic offer, as well as 3 or 4 other people. It’s good for the planet probably.

One step closer to starting a screenplay

I finished reading Syd Field’s book, “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting,” yesterday.Syd Screenplay book004

This was the first big step for me in writing a screenplay based on my book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher.”

The book explains how to go about writing a Hollywood-type script. All the nuts and bolts. Hopefully, I learned enough to put it into practice.

I plan to do a bit more research, as well as some planning of how the main characters will interact, how they will change throughout the script before I chart out the basics on 4×5 index cards.

There is a long way to go before I actually open up the scriptwriting software and start in earnest. But I’m on my way, and that’s more than I could say a few months ago.

They didn’t have this stuff in 1925

Have you ever heard the phrase “This is the best thing since sliced bread?” Well, in 1925, they couldn’t say that. Because there was no store-bought sliced bread in America.

That’s one of the interesting little factoids I came across today while doing research for my screenplay adaptation of my book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher,” which is the true story of a little boy’s abduction in 192Malabar5.

This was an era of Prohibition, flappers, jazz, gangsters and the like.

However, it was not an era of the following items:

  • Talking movies (There wouldn’t be one shown at a U.S. theater until “The Jazz Singer” starring Al Jolson in 1927). Mickey soap
  • Bubble gum (Walter Diemer came up with that in 1928 for his employer, Fleertoaster1 Chewing Gum Company).
  • Sliced bread (Not until 1928).
  • Pop-up toaster (Showed up in 1927, thus apparently spurring the slicing of the bread the following year).
  • Mickey Mouse (Disney created the character in 1928).
  • Kool-Aid (1927).
  • Aerosol cans (1926).
  • Frozen food (thanks to Clarence Birdseye for this in 1929).

There’s a lot of other stuff that wasn’t around in 1925. Like iPads and nitro-burning funny cars.

But, when this movie finally comes out, if you see anybody throwing slices of bread into a pop-up toaster or blowing a big pink bubble with their gum while watching a “talkie,” you can put that down on the Goofs section on IMDb.com.

‘Blackridge’ screenplay update

I’ve set aside my bowl full of cherries and my block of orange rind Muenster cheese to update you a little on the progress of my first screenplay. But don’t worry; the Torpedo Juice brand root beer obtained directly from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, is nearby in case I get parched.

Many of you know that I decided to write a screenplay adaptation of my book, “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher,” the true story of the 1925 disappearance of an 8-year-old boy suburban Milwaukee boy and the subsequent search for his killer.

Going into this process, I knew I’d have to make a number of changes going from book to big screen. My brother, Andy Hoffman, who works for a production company in Chicago and who has a degree in such things cinematic, suggested I look into reading the late Syd Field‘s book “Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting,” which is a step-by-step guide for writing sceenplays, from concept to finished script.Syd Screenplay book004

Another of Field’s advocates is director/writer/producer Bill Dever, a Franklin, Indiana, resident who graciously allowed me to bang my head against a wall for his movie “Resurrection,” to be released in October. Bill studied under Syd.

Armed with the advice in Syd’s book, along with the knowledge of the basic story already, I have begun piecing together the basics of my screenplay. I haven’t really written too much of the screenplay itself, although I did paste the text of my book into a Celtx file. That software helps format your sceenplay to Hollywood specs.

As I read the book, I take Syd’s advice and apply it to my situation. Here is some of the advice Syd gives, as well as how I’ve tentatively applied it to my screenplay, which I’m tentatively calling “Blackridge,” which was the name of the swimming hole little Buddy and his pals were headed for when he disappeared:

What is your movie about?

It’s about a person (Art Schumacher, Buddy’s father) in a place (Wauwatosa, Wisconsin) at a time (mostly 1925).

What is your main character doing? 

He’s trying to keep his own sanity as well as keeping his family from falling apart after the disappearance of his son and later the revelation of the boy’s murder.

What kind of story is it?

It’s a story about the relationships between a father and his family and his community and how those relationships can change when tragedy strikes.

The screenplay will consist of three acts, the first of which will be about 20-30 pages/minutes long followed by Plot Point 1, which is an event that changes the direction of the film. The second act will last about 60 pages/minutes, terminating with Plot Point 2. The final act will be 20-30 pages/minutes.

Act I (Set-up): We’ll be establishing Art’s character … who he is; what he’s like at church, home, work and in the community; how he reacts to certain situations; his relationship to some of the other characters, etc. We’ll also be introducing some of the other main characters.

Plot Point 1: Buddy disappears. The story is set in motion at this point.

Act II (Confrontation): Art begins his quest to find his boy. His desire to stay calm for himself and his family is challenged by nightmares, some of the newspaper reporters who hound his family, rumors flying around town, eye witnesses changing their stories, etc.

Plot Point 2: Someone confesses to the murder.

Act III (Resolution): Here is what happens to everybody, whether Art is successful or not in his quest. I won’t spill the beans on this, but I know what happens (in general, specifics yet to be determined).

I know I have a lot more work to be done. I’ll be doing even more research on the 1920s, Milwaukee and Wauwatosa than I did for the book. I’ve already looked heavily at some of the events and issues that shaped society back then, especially in that area, things like mental health care, media coverage, homelessness, Prohibition, etc. But there is so much more to know when trying to show a story in pictures than in words.

I’ve also spelled out on paper a lot of things that have just been rolling around in the back of my mind. These include jotting down the dramatic need of each major character… what do they want … and the conflicts that crop up that could prevent them from getting it.

Syd’s book is fascinating, with several examples from Hollywood movies that many of us have seen to help illustrate his points. I have started watching for certain things in movies I watch.

I’ve got quite a long way to go. But I should be able to stay on track and get through the outline phase before too long and get going on putting an actual screenplay together.

OK, back to the Muenster.

My motion picture acting debut

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Twenty-four hours after performing in what promises to be first appearance in a real motion picture – unlike the Super 8 movies that Dad made of us during Christmas and birthdays in my youth – the headache has finally subsided, … Continue reading

Wauwatosa memories from a reader

Below are excerpts from an email I received from a reader of “Murder in Wauwatosa: The Mysterious Death of Buddy Schumacher.” Many of you native Wauwatosans may recall the Pig Farm.
 
Hi Paul,
 
I very much enjoyed reading your book, in part because it lent perspective to some of my childhood activities in Tosa. In the mid ’70s (a friend) and I used to go junking and exploring back in the Pig Farm area and along the river. We made a couple trips, then one day he came back and said we better be armed if we go again, and cited some incident his family had told him about. Next trip we made with knives in our pockets, and whatever they had told him seemed to have him half expecting we were gonna use them. I’ll bet it was the Schumacher incident. Something like that would leave an impression that would resonate in longtime villagers’ memories for years.
 
My “turf” was typically north of that area, on the north side of Capitol Drive, Webster School neighborhood. But I remember encountering active yunkles and hobos in the parkway near us back in the 1960s and 1970s. 
 
I look forward to anything else you might produce with a relevant local history.
 
Bill Laste