Tag Archives: Tracy Mangum

I Would Do Anything for Love…


But I won’t do that. You know what I’m talkin’ about, Meatloaf.


Instead, we did all of this:

Victoria Morris Threaded the Tapestry

Gregory D. Little Subverted the Meet Cute

Ace Jordan did the Science of Love to Explain the Murky Middle

Mary reminded us that All You Need is Love

Joshua Essoe gave us advice about Writing Sex ScenesIn two posts!

Clancy showed us the Flip Side: Bad Girls and Anti-Heroes and Why the Guys Love them

Travis Heermann Examined and Bound

Kim May Pleasured us with Pain

Stephan McLeroy no longer Struggles to Define Love

Leigh Galbreath Drew us in with Dysfunctional Relations

Tracy Mangum gave us a master class in Love in Screenplays

Jace Killian showed us the Try and Fail in Love

Matt Jones made Ignorant Secret Troubled Love to us

Tracy Mangum followed up with Sex in Screenplays

Lisa Mangum reminded us that First Comes Like

Frank Morin pushed A Life of Passion

Colette advised us to Let Love Simmer

And RJ Terrell wrote On Love


Sure, this month is over, but we know you’ll be back. If you fall we will catch you, and we’ll be waiting. Time after time.


Sex and the Screenplay

A guest post by Tracy Mangum.

Love it or hate it, Fifty Shades of Grey is a cultural phenomenon. Since Random House bought the rights to the trilogy in 2012, the series has sold over 100 million copies worldwide. Trailers for the movie have been view 250 million times, and has already made over $300 million at the worldwide box office. That means that Fifty Shades is about to become all the more influential, so now seems like a good time to discuss writing sex for screen, and what it’s like filming those scenes.

Note, I haven’t read Fifty Shades, nor have I seen the movie. I also have never written or filmed a sex scene. I do have a BA in film studies, but if my lack of first hand knowledge upsets you, you have permission to click away now.

Still here? Awesome.

Sex in film is a tricky subject. There’s a fine line between too explicit and too tame, and either side can cause you to lose the audience. Another problem from a writing standpoint is that the screenwriter is the least important part of the sex scene. It’s up to the director, the actors, the director of photography, and the editor to determine what will be shown on screen. As a screenwriter, you never give directions or suggested shots/edits in your script. You are there to paint the overall picture and allow the director to make the specific decisions.

The first thing to think about is why are you including a sex scene in the first place. You could just fade out on a couple kissing, and then fade in on them in bed the next morning. The fade is a common editing technique to suggest a passage of time, and it visually gives the audience the information without actually showing anything. You need to have a solid rationale as to why we need to see the scene take place. You need to find the drama in the sex: Is the relationship disintegrating? Is there a healing happening? The script needs to explore the relationship between the characters that is happening during the scene. The scene isn’t about sex, but rather the exchange of emotions. Is it rage, or desolation, or exultation, or tenderness, or surprise? If your scene is only about lust, it might be shocking at first, but quickly becomes boring.

You as the screenwriter sitting at the laptop can easily create a vision of two individuals expressing their love to each other. These characters are deeply in love and this intimate moment plays out beautifully as they lovingly caress each other. Sounds lovely in your head and on paper, but remember you are asking real people to bring your vision to life.

You have two actors that may be strangers, may be friends, may have a decent working relationship with, or maybe despise each other, strip naked, and pretend to share intense intimacy with each other. They have to be mindful of technical restraints such as where the camera focus and framing is, reciting any dialogue, choreographed movement with their partner, all in front of bright lights, cameras, and about 10+ people on set watching. Then you have to do the exact same scene from multiple angles and you try to perfectly replicate the movements and speed in each take to make it cut together in post-production.

Filmmaking is a construction of reality that is very mechanical, practiced, and choreographed. It is made to look like the camera/audience has just happened upon this intimate moment between two people, but the reality is anything but that. Scenes will often be framed to show the actors heads, and only part of their upper torso. This will allow the actors to keep pants on. For scenes that need to show more of the body, actresses often wear flesh colored underwear, and men will wear what is basically a sock. Often times, the actor/actresses significant other is on set to watch and make sure nothing unusual occurs, but this can make a difficult scene even more awkward.

But what about films that appear to be much more explicit like “Nymphomaniac” or “Blue is the Warmest Color” or even “Game of Thrones” on HBO? They look so realistic! Well, that’s because they are good at creating a false reality. Filmmakers will use body doubles, clever lighting and editing, body molds/props, or even computer generated images.

So as you write your script, remember that a good sex scene is just like any other scene in the film. It needs to have a reason to be there, reveal something about your characters, and propel the scene forward. If it doesn’t meet that criteria it shouldn’t be in your screenplay. Cut it out before the director leaves it on the cutting room floor.

Tracy MangumAbout Tracy Mangum:

I’m a local Salt Lake City filmmaker and blogger.

My short film “Father Knows Flesh” won Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor at the SL Comic Con FanX Film Festival last year. I cover the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Agents of Shield, Gotham, and Disney for Lord of the Laser Sword.

I taught film in SLC for 10 years at LDS Business College.

For the Love of the Screenplay

A guest post by Tracy Mangum.

I have a confession to make: I don’t like many “romantic” movies. It’s not that I’m unromantic-it’s actually the opposite. The problem is that many “chick flicks” are full of cliches, stock characters, and predictable plots that kill any sense of romance. Most of these films suggest that a woman’s life is meaningless without a man, and that a woman happy being single is simply lying to herself. They teach us that love is only for skinny, beautiful people with straight teeth and perfect hair. The tell us that men are sex-crazed, commitment-phobic animals that have to be manipulated into a romantic relationship. He will ultimately reject the constraints of the relationship and hurt the innocent woman who only wants to care for him. After a period of time, she will begin to move on just as he realizes his mistake, and will demonstrate his newly discovered feelings with grand gestures that straddle the line between affection and stalking.

Romantic comedies too often follow the same plain and boring recipe.

  1. Boy meets girl (He is handsome, she is adorkable – equal parts awkward and adorable)
  2. Girl is obviously perfect for boy, but he doesn’t notice since she is awkward and doesn’t wear makeup
  3. Boy has a girlfriend, but she is a false romantic lead
  4. Girl will consult with the best friend (possible bad gay male stereotype) for advice
  5. Girl will get a makeover that includes a new wardrobe and is now stunning
  6. Boy will now notice girl and unresolved sexual tension begins
  7. Boy will say something stupid and hurt the girl’s feelings
  8. Girl cries and runs away
  9. Boy rejects false romantic lead and chases down girl
  10. Boy makes a large declaration of love – probably in a large urban area where witnesses ooh and ahh.

This formula is as stale as 11:00am movie theater popcorn that’s been reheated from the previous night’s shows. It’s easy to make these films, they cost less to make as they feature little to no explosions and special effects, and audiences will often just eat them up on date night.

So how do you write a successful love story that doesn’t fall into these tropes? You develop complex and interesting characters and dig deep into the wells of emotion buried deep in their hearts.

  1. Give me characters that I can fall in love with, so that when they fall in love with each other, I am already emotionally invested.
  2. Give me a credible reason to keep them apart. It can be anything, class differences, a sinking boat– but if the audience doesn’t buy in, you are dead in the water.
  3. Don’t write long scenes where your characters talk at a restaurant table – make your script as visually exciting to watch as your dialogue is to hear. “Jewel of the Nile” had the actors sliding down mountains and avoiding alligators and “Annie Hall” had the great lobster scene.
  4. Tweak the formula. Be clever and ingenious. “Defending Your Life” has the leads meet in the afterlife. “Sleepless in Seattle” has the couple meet in the last five minutes of the film. “Groundhog Day” has the boy relive the day over and over and over until he gets it right.
  5. Romance means sexy, and comedy means funny. Intimacy – either physical or emotional, leaves people vulnerable, exposed, and can be used for painfully honest comedy that reveal truths about your characters.
  6. Make it actually ABOUT something. Why are you writing about this couple? What about their story reflects some insight into the relations between men and women, or the human condition? What questions are you asking that the the screenplay’s story answers? Is it gender issues like “Tootsie”, or is it the awkwardness of adolescence like “American Pie”- what are you trying to tell us?

Let’s examine one of my favorite romantic films: “Up” by Pixar.

But it’s an animated film, it’s not a romance right? WRONG.

UpThe story begins in the childhood of Carl Fredricksen, whose love of adventure leads him to meet a spunky young girl named Ellie. In the first 20 minutes – a sequence that could easily be removed from the film and win and Oscar by itself – we watch Carl and Ellie meet, fall in love, plan for children and adventures that never come to pass, and eventually grow old together, until Ellie passes away, leaving Carl’s body and soul deflated like a balloon. Grown men are crying in the audience, and not one word has been spoken.

Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 6.05.32 AM

The house has come to symbolize Ellie to Carl, and he flies her to South America with hot air balloons to fulfill a promise they made to each other to visit there. Along the way, Carl “adopts” a boy scout, a talking dog, a large and awkward bird, and must deal with love, loss, regret, hope, and closure. Ultimately he has to leave Ellie and the house behind and go live his life, and have new adventures on his own. He doesn’t forget Ellie, but he doesn’t have to literally have her attached to him at all times.

The magicians at Pixar had us all thinking this was an innocent kids movie and while we were looking one way, they wallop us with emotions from our blind side. It’s unique, refreshing, and beautiful.

Write from the heart and from the gut. Make it real, make it honest, and make it count.

Tracy MangumAbout Tracy Mangum:

I’m a local Salt Lake City filmmaker and blogger.

My short film “Father Knows Flesh” won Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor at the SL Comic Con FanX Film Festival last year. I cover the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Agents of Shield, Gotham, and Disney for Lord of the Laser Sword.

I taught film in SLC for 10 years at LDS Business College.