The Soul of Screenwriting

The protagonist can be seen as the main point of interest in a story. However, the audience will connect with the story if the protagonist – and in lato sensu the other characters – all have a psychological background relatable to the viewers. This applies even if the protagonist is a super-hero.

Take for example two successful TV shows from decades apart:

“Smallville” – the 2001 TV series depicting young Clark Kent prior to his public life as Superman and,

“The Incredible Hulk” – the 1978 TV series depicting David Banner searching for the cure for his “gamma radiation” experience that made him “The Hulk”.

Both TV series had the same psychological way to connect with the audience. Both were able to explore very well the protagonist’s vulnerability in face of situational factors. The best episodes for either series were the ones where the audience saw how human the heroes were.

Tom Welling as Clark Kent in the “Smallville – Pilot episode”

In “Smallville”, a young Clark was raised as an honest and up-right person prone to help the ones in need. In the first season, episode two (Metamorphosis) Clark sees a car in flames with someone inside. The person trapped in the car happens to be Lana’s boyfriend – the girl Clark wants to date. He does not think twice, he rushes to take the person out of the car seconds before the explosion. Later at his farm his father tells him: “your mother was proud of you son”. The audience right there sees someone that is not selfish and is willing to save everyone.


In “Smallville” Clark faces challenges as he learns how to cope with his “new abilities”, like running fast than cars, lifting trucks, stopping bullets to name a few. However, despite all his super abilities, in the episode “Stray” Clark learned that he could not save a friend. A young boy called Ryan dying of brain tumour. Clark feels powerless grieving the death of a friend. The episode was enriched by the background music “It’s Not Easy” composed by John Ondrasik (Five for Fighting). It gave a sense that even super-heroes can go to the same hardship as anyone else.

Clark lifts a truck
“The Kent Farm”

“Smallville” manages to run ten seasons without ever showing Clark wearing his Superman suit. This was the main focus of the show. A young Clark Kent saving people prior to his public life as a Superman. It was only on the last episode of season ten that the public saw the iconic Superman suit.

“Smallville” Season ten

Now we go almost forty years earlier talking about another TV series that became an instant hit worldwide in the late seventies and early eighties, “The Incredible Hulk”. The episodes did not have the same special effects like the ones in “Smallville”. However, many of them explored societal issues involving good people in need of help – similar to Smallville – this was the psychological background connecting the show with the audience.

Bill Bixby as David Banner – Pilot episode

In the episode “Ricky”, David helps a mentally challenged man from being killed twice during a derby racing competition. In the episode “Brain Child”, David helps a gifted teenager to reunite with her estranged mother. In the episode “A Child in Need”, David protects a boy that is being physically abused by his father. In the episode “The Harder they Fall”, David finds himself in a wheelchair after being hit by a car. The episode ended with “The Hulk” saving David’s best friend that was also on a wheelchair and was denied a bank loan due to his physical condition.

“Brain Child”
“A Child in Need”

In the episode “Two Godmothers”, David helps three female fugitives. One of them was nine months pregnant. David and the fugitives ended up in a remote cabin. In the last scene after delivered the babies – they were twins – David was shown leaving the premises and arrested by the police. They were about to storm the cabin with tear gas and dogs when “The Hulk” intervenes.

“Two Godmothers”

Most of the time, people that were saved by David never had the chance to thank him. Either for the lack of knowledge that David was “The Hulk” or for the lack of a chance. This approach was very common at the end of each episode.

David was often seeing walking alone on a road waiting for someone to give him a ride to an unknown place. John Harnell wrote “The Lonely Man” theme, which became the background piano music played at the end of each episode. This composition was a signature for the series.

“Two Godmothers”

The protagonist may be the soul of the story, but how to connect the audience with the story is the soul of screenwriting.

Unknown Heroes – Final chase

A great story  is coming to life.

A script I have been working on just received a “Consider” grade from a Los Angeles Script Analysis company. According to the reader: “I read the first two pages and couldn’t stop until the end. Professionally written. The story flows nicely, great plot with a surprising twist“.

My script falls under a psychological, detective/drama following the story of a seasoned undercover detective that is called to assist with an FBI Integrated Task Force.

Logline: “The FBI struggles tracking an untraceable serial killer. When a female detective bumps into him she finds out there is more than what meets the eye and why the FBI is looking in the wrong direction.”

The story flows from secluded beach properties to remote cabins. In each crime scene the detective finds new clues until she almost became the next crime scene…





Friendship and mystery. A good recipe for a Crime/Drama script.

In this busy Christmas Season, I am taking my sweet time to sit, review and write my spec script “Rookie Ryan”…


Screen Shot 2017-12-29 at 7.28.32 PM


Rookie Ryan is the story of a traffic duty Officer in his first year of service.  Despite having great aspirations working with homicide detectives, Ryan is often underrated and overlooked by his superiors. He is just “the new guy”.

One night, Ryan is asked by family friends to help find their daughter “Amy” that has vanished without a trace in a small town.

Ryan is told by his superiors in New York to leave the case to the local authorities: “out of our jurisdiction”.  An answer he did not agree. He ventured alone.

The only problem, Ryan’s friend “Amy” was not the only one in trouble in that town.

Logline: “A Rookie is asked by family friends to investigate the disappearance of their daughter in a small town. He quickly finds out he is no match for a series of events happening, until he bumps into a retired CIA Agent carrying his own past problems.”

I am on my final pages…

Screen Shot 2017-12-29 at 7.50.45 PM





The Karate Kid: A Classic franchise from John G. Avildsen

Last month I came across the book “The Films of John G. Avildsen” by Larry Powell and Tom Garrett.

My primary goal was researching brand and audience connectivity leading to brand loyalty. Therefore I was first interested in researching successful brand and franchise developers. After reading the book I realized that Director John Avildsen was exactly that person in his field of expertise. What brand or franchise did he develop?

Well, “Rocky” and “The Karate Kid”.

“Rocky” was an amazing franchise and years later, John Avildsen repeated his talent on “The Karate Kid”, making Robert Mark Kamen’s script a landmark of the 80’s.



Looking back in time, it probably would had been difficult to believe that a movie based on a storyline about a struggling teenager, having a hard time to adapt to his new environment, learning Karate in an unusual way (painting fences and waxing cars…)  would be a great success.

However, “The Karate Kid” not only was a worldwide success, a critically acclaimed movie, but it conquered an audience for decades to come. Basically, paving the 80’s with a tangible message of friendship, respect, love and anti-bullying.

The audience was conquered by the story of a struggled son and mother that moved from New Jersey to California (Just look at their vehicle to summarize the word “struggling”… ). The boy Daniel, played by Ralph Macchio, did not adapt to the new reality in California, but found in Elisabeth Shue “Ali”, a point of support and later in Pat Morita “Mr. Miyagi”, a point of reference and guidance, as Ralph confronts bullying and harassment by the students of a local Karate dojo – “Cobra Kai”.

What surprised me the most in this franchise, was the fact that John Avildsen did not have a huge budget in the making of The Karate Kid, but he had a huge talent. A talent that he already had displayed in the making of Rocky.

The result can be measured by the spontaneous reaction from the public for the past 30 years. Reflecting a basic principle in Branding, that you can not have a large audience without having a niche fan base as brand ambassadors. This franchise had a strong niche base resulting in a large audience.

The film was recorded mostly in San Fernando Valley – CA, for a period of 45 days. However, it is amazing that after 30 years, you can still find new articles and blogs  (written with extreme detail) commenting different aspect of the film and filming locations. Fans simply seem to enjoy comparing how the sites were back in 1984 and now. Often these sites were “every day” common places, as we can see on the slide show below, from a 2014 article. That is artistic influential power of a brand!
The interesting part of the filming location was that Robert Kamen, the screenwriter, had never been to the San Fernando Valley prior to the movie. He drove around the whole area to capture the environment that later became the main storyline of Pat, Ralph and Shue’s filming location.
For the 30th anniversary of  The Karate Kid, director John Avildsen, screenwriter Robert  Kamen, Ralph Macchio, Elisabeth Shue and producer Jerry Weintraub did an interview to the L. A. Weekly titled “How a Movie Shot in the San Fernando Valley Made Us all The Karate Kid”.
They commented the early stages of the movie, the storyline, how they selected the cast and the filming location:
During the interview Jerry Weintraub said: “...You can see the birth of Daniel LaRusso in that first audition, available today on Avildsen’s YouTube channel.”
So, 30 years later there are plenty of articles and blogs about this movie. It shows how The Karate Kid franchise expanded its original niche fan base.


(L.A Weekly: Elisabeth Shue, John Avildsen and Ralph Macchio in 1983)

The Karate Kid had recognizable “signatures” that helped perpetuate its franchise among the audience worldwide. Pat Morita teaching Ralph karate based on painting fences and waxing vehicles, creating the unconventional slogan “wax on wax off” and the “Crane Kick”, which became iconically linked to the franchise.
During an interview with John Avildsen (linked below on Youtube), Darryl Vidal, the creator of the “Crane Kick” explained how this “kick” became a reality for the movie:



(Columbia Pictures)
The audience all over the world was captivated by Kamen’s script brought to light by John Avildsen.  The movie was a visually compelling brand, exploring Daniel’s learning path with Mr. Miyagi. The development of his relationship with Ali, and his struggles facing bullying. It was also compelling that in the storyline Ali was a “rich girl” accepting Daniel – the way he was –  despite social-cultural differences.
The audience understood the Franchise message that everybody has struggles in life but people still can conquer difficulties, and good things can come out from these difficulties. If Daniel had stayed in New Jersey, he would never had met Ali or Miyagi in the storyline.
(Columbia Pictures)
Despite being a successful franchise, the only thing I found regarding Karate Kid not developing its full brand spectrum, was the breaking of brand continuity. Fans worldwide were expecting a development of the franchise based on the core values of the brand. Therefore they were expecting a development on the relationship of Daniel, Ali and Miyagi, which would have brought The Karate Kid franchise to an even more popular phenomenon.
The audience did not understand why Ali simply vanished from the sequel after all they had been through. Keeping them together would had maximized the brand equity.
Reading the book “The Films of John G. Avildsen” I realized that it was not John Avildsen nor Robert Kamen’s intention to remove Ali out of the sequel. The producers did not agree to pay for her role on part II. Therefore, ending Ali’s storyline abruptly. A big mistake from the branding stand point.
The sequel ‘The Karate Kid II” was a worldwide success, surpassing the original one. Ironically, because the audience was interested in the continuation of Ralph, Elisabeth and Pat.  Even Peter Cetera’s song “Glory of Love” in “The Karate Kid II”, would had made more sense in the context of the strong story between Ralph and Shue, written by Kamen in The Karate Kid I.  (Youtube link to Peter Cetera’s “Glory of Love”)
Despite that, “The Karate Kid II”, had a good storyline, the idea of Ralph following Pat into his Japanese hometown, and confronting difficulties there, was well received by the public. It helped the audience to understand more about Pat’s past. Also Tamlyn Tomita was great as acting as Ralph’s new girlfriend, but her role also would not continue on in “The Karate Kid III”.
Finally, “The Karate Kid III” did not finish the franchise well. It led many fans to believe that a sequel as a final instalment would be more appropriate, bringing the core values of the brand back to its original roots. Actually, John Avildsen had a different vision for the third movie, but was not supported by the producers.
Fans started suggesting “ideas” on how to end the story, even prior to the 30th anniversary of the franchise. A tribute to John Avildsen, Pat Morita and a closing for Daniel and Ali.
Particularly, I don’t think that the final story should be revolving around a “Karate tournament”, because the stature of the franchise deserves a more profound story. Daniel can not be seen now as a “kid”, but as a mature person. Thus well skilled in the martial arts, perhaps speaking Japanese, Cantonese and Mandarin as he had traveled to Asia with Miyagi. The story can take place 10 years after the first one, with a new cast of actors, bringing Daniel and Ali back, as Daniel faces the final strike, meaning, dealing with the loss of a friend and mentor.
I imagined John Avildsen with his career talent (or another director like him), directing a final instalment of the franchise, leveraging the storyline of Karate Kid I. Perhaps director, Derek Wayne Johnson, since he already directed an amazing documentary on the life of John Avildsen.
Let’s see if a final story will ever be written and a final movie ever made.

Amazon: The Success of “Virtual” Store


I am going to use the world “stunning” because I could not describe how impressed I was with this CNN Money article: “Amazon hiring 30,000 part-time workers, including 5,000 work-from home positions” with the intention of hiring 100,000 full-time employees in the next 18 months! Wow, that is a stunning success!

Steve Jobs once mentioned that retail stores always will part of his business. He was against others that suggested Apple should be away from retail stores. So far Steve Jobs is right, Apple stores today, represent one of the most visited retail stores in the North America.

However, brick and mortar (B&M) stores are being re-shape in our days. Apple has a unique feature that other stores can not bring to the consumers. Customers want to talk to an Apple employees and see products being demonstrated in front of their eyes. That is unique for them, plus Apple also offers the online shopping experience.

E-Commerce is redefining how we shop today. The business landscape is now being divided between B&M vs E-Commerce. The former is definitely gaining momentum.

According to the same CNN Money article:

  • “The company also said it plans to hire 100,000 full-time workers in the next 18 months in the United States. Amazon’s announcement comes as many popular retailers are closing stores and eliminating jobs. In the last month alone, Payless Shoesource, Dollar General, JCPenneyand GameStop each announced a significant number of store closings.”

The huge success of Amazon is a sign that consumers are relying more and more in the internet as first option for product acquisition. Basically you can buy almost everything through E-Commerce, without visiting a B&M store.

Also, most of the B&M are not open 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Online shopping literally is open any time you want to place an order. But B&M stores are not a concept in “extinction”. Apple is a clear example of that. Amazon now has its own B&M store; Amazon Books!


The reality was different for stores like Radio Shack, Payless, GameStop, etc… the cost of maintaining a B&M store at the same time that consumers could buy the same product online was not feasible for them. Perhaps the solution for them, was 5 years ago, started reducing the number of stores and/or size, at the same time investing on E-Commerce. But now is too late for some of them.

Beautiful Destinations: a successful Instagram story

(All photos in this blog are from Beautiful Destinations)Screen-Shot-2016-01-07-at-1.53.00-AM

I found an interesting article from Bloomberg titled: “How much is an Instagram Story Worth?” The article basically explains how a social media platform – Instagram – shaped the travel industry worldwide. The most interesting point in the article is that social media and human talent were the main factor for this successful story.

Basically, it relates to Jeremy and Tom Jauncey the founders of Beautiful Destinations Instagram page. It all started in 2012 and by the end of the year they would have reached 1 million followers! An amazing accomplishment. Today they have over 8 million followers.

  • “Jeremy and Tom Jauncey were among the first to turn being good at Instagram into a travel advertising and marketing business. Jeremy launched the travel-themed Instagram page Beautiful Destinations in 2012 and was soon joined by his brother. …The brothers have built a portfolio of customers in the travel industry, mostly hotel chains and tourism bureaus, who pay to be touted to Beautiful Destinations’ enormous number of followers”.

What surprised me the most in this case, is how places that were already famous – like NYC post card destinations – received an even huge boost and tourism influx, when  Beautiful Destinations mentioned them. The Travel Industry capture that momentum and realized the benefit of working with Jeremy and Tom.

  • “…In the fall, Beautiful Destinations posted a series of Instagram posts and a Story from the Empire State Building for New York City’s tourism board, NYC & Company, that registered 3 million likes, comments and views for the client’s @nycgo handle in less than a week. Beautiful Destinations has been garnering 30 million weekly views since Stories was unveiled; individual story posts have been averaging 5 million views. Before that, videos were a smaller part of the business“.


The combination of brand awareness and marketing costs were a new factor in the social media era. Beautiful Destinations became the “page” to be or to follow. But when you hear about low costs you will be surprised that Beautiful Destinations charges for annual contracts: $50,000 to $1 million for their marketing campaigns. Many companies are willing to pay that price because they see the return.

  • “Clients are drawn to the brothers’ ability to cultivate brand awareness. Marketing costs are lower, too, compared with those of traditional television and print advertising. “The traditional hotel photo shoot is a thing of the past,” says Hoyt Harper II, a former senior vice president for Starwood Hotels & Resorts’ Luxury Collection. “Sending professional photographers to destinations is very expensive.


Today Beautiful Destinations has travelled the world and Jeremy and Tom’s  dedication and talent can be seen in each picture by 8 million followers since they started 5 years ago!


The business term:”open door policy” is that real or just a term?

I recalled hearing this phrase “my door is always open for you”; a term that resounded from every single environment I have worked. Talking to other co-workers as well as friends, all had the same experience in their previous workplace. It seems that all managers or business leaders have this “open door policy” as a concrete statement.

The “open door policy” is a statement that should reflect a position of respect in sharing opinions in the workplace. But we all know that sometimes this is not the necessary case.

According to an article from Harvard Business Review  Leaders often have an inflated idea of how easy it is for others to speak honestly to them. Our two-year research study, including interviews with over 60 senior executives, as well as workshops and case studies, illuminates a glaring blind spot: We simply don’t appreciate how risky it can feel for others to speak up. This is because, if we are in a powerful position, we often take power for granted. As a member of a privileged in-group, we forget what it is like to be in the less privileged out-group.Consider the phrase “My door is always open.” It contains a number of assumptions. First, people should meet you on your territory, rather than the other way around. Second, you have the luxury of a door. Third, you can choose when to close or open it.”

Funny enough the term “open door policy” was created by United States Secretary of State John Hay at the end of the 19th Century, dealing with several countries. It stated the principles for protection of equal privileges trading with China. (

Yes, a long time ago… and even at that time the “open door policy” had its bumps in the road. Today the term is almost misused by managers. As a matter of fact it became just a term. Not a reality.

'Come in, come in. My door is always open for you!'

Although it is a fact that most companies, especially successful ones, encourage directors and managers to create an environment that is receptive to receiving opinions; however like the HVR article mentioned “If you are wondering why others aren’t speaking up more, first ask yourself how you are inadvertently silencing them.”

At the end of the day, it is the responsibility of the leaders to have that sincere “open door policy” that will help the company and its employees to achieve success.

(below photo:


The cost of discount stores: good or bad?

According to an article on CBC News, Giant Tiger and other discount stores are in an expansion mode! Usually when companies are expanding is a good sign, but in a case of discount stores what is that good or bad?

For Marvin Ryder, a professor at McMaster School of Business, the case of discount stores has an interesting factor: “Ryder believes that debt-burdened consumers remain nervous about the economy, and are therefore cautious about spending… “.


The article goes to state that: “(the) Average Canadian incomes have barely risen over the last year, according to Statistics Canada. For workers in retail, accommodation, and food services, wages have actually fallen by about two per cent.”


It seems that the expansion of discount stores also means a harsh reality; consumers in general are having less income to spend and therefore are more selective on where to buy.




Anonymous Browsing data: It is not so anonymous anymore

I always was interested to know how companies can track our browsing habits and consequently advertise similar products or brands back to us. Well, it turned out that  we are not so “anonymous” in the internet browsing.

According to the latest Forbes article “Anonymous Browsing Data Isn’t Anonymous As you Think” our browsing habits are carefully analyzed by marketing experts.


The author of the article Lee Mathews writes: “When you visit a website — just about any website — your visit is logged by third parties in a digital record. Advertisers use that information to make sure you see ads that are relevant to your interests. Content providers use it to make sure they’re posting videos and articles that you’ll want to watch and read”.

So, how secure and private is our internet browsing? It appears that it is not so secure nor private, based on the marketing strategists and the number of advertising we get after shopping on-line.

I understand that in one side, companies want to sell and make their brand “present” to us. But on the other side, certain people don’t want to have unsolicited products or brands showing up on their internet browsing all the time. Just think when was you last time shopping for a trip or any product on-line. Surely, you may have received  unsolicited advertising related to your latest browsing.

On a positive side, based on the issues of privacy and security, companies are investing on new services to accommodate customers. For example, there are internet applications that are focusing on protecting your information when you are browsing on-line. Creating a niche marketing for consumers interested in buying products or applications to protect their privacy.

According to the same article: “There are steps you can take to protect your digital privacy, of course. Using a VPN can help, and so can the right privacy-focused apps and services.” 


It is interesting how the internet can evolve in creating new services that in turn will generate business. Privacy and security is one of the most invested services in the IT department for most of the companies.

In a certain sense, that same service is being sought by regular consumers. We all know that when dealing with Internet, e-commerce, social media platforms in general, the clock never stops, we always have a different product being offer out there.

How Internet changed every business

I was reading an article from Forbes magazine entitled: “3 Ways The Internet Of Things Will Change Every Business” and found curious that the author Bernad Marr, purposely placed the word EVERY, meaning  that the era of business was one before the Internet, and another after the Internet.

According to Marr; “Take John Deere DE -0.85%, for example.  For decades, they’ve sold the tractors that make farming on a 21st century scale easier and more profitable. But since 2012, they’ve added data connectivity to their equipment, giving farmers information about which crops to plant where and when, when and where to plow, and even the best route to take while plowing.  They are essentially now in the business of selling data as much as they are selling tractors“.

images-14The article highlighted 3 major factors that changed and helped business in general. The creation of smart products; the option of smarter business operations and smart decisions, and finally, a change in business model as a whole.  The list of  smart products developed are almost endless. Just think about high tech sensors and remote access to products in real-time is one of few innovations from the Internet.


Definitely it was an amazing transformation from the business stand point, comparing the business today interfacing with technology, with the business before the Internet. Now is just wait to see what the future has to offer in this never stop changing world of business and technology.