Lebanon County isn’t thought of as a hotbed for filmmakers. But it did foster the revolutionary screenwriting mind of a native son.
Todd Klick, born and raised in Lebanon County, and a graduate of Northern Lebanon High School, has made Los Angeles his home, where he has been writing screenplays and guides for screenwriters.
His newest, titled "Beat by Beat: A Cheat Sheet for Screenwriters, hits stores across the country on Monday, August 1. The book shares Klick’s revolutionary insights into the structure of screenplays with the rest of the world.
In his youth, Klick was drawn to the movies by a Lebanon County icon.
“I fell in love with movies at the old Key Drive-In,” he said.
Klick’s career began when he was a teenager. He would write every day in journals, and he also began creating his own short films, which he eventually screened.
“The first one was called ‘The Rut,’” said Klick.
The film was 13 minutes long and screened at the Allen, where he also screened later films and spent time working.
“I wrote a lot of my first screenplays in that coffee shop,” said Klick.
His 2009 movie "Rough Cut: The Murder of Randi Trimble," got him into movie festivals, and soon he had decided to quit his job, sell his house and car, and take a two-year trip of Europe, during which he studied film intensively.
“That’s where I gained my biggest insight on movies and what makes them tick,” said Klick.
It was also at this time that he would identify the concepts and structures that he explains in "Beat by Beat."
“Often times the research involved dissecting three movies simultaneously while using a jogging stopwatch. One movie would be paused or playing on the TV screen, while two other films played on my laptop and a compact DVD player,” he said in a press release.
During this trip, he became in contact with a Los Angeles-based agent who liked his work, eventually convincing him to move there.
While working as a screenwriter, Klick shared his insights with his peers, who pressed him to publish his ideas as a book.
Michael Wiese Publications (MWP) signed him after hearing his ideas, and soon published his previous book "Something Startling Happens: The 120 Story Beats Every Writer Needs To Know." The book became a bestseller for the publisher on Amazon and gave Klick a global audience.
“I’ve gotten emails from all over the world from filmmakers,” he said.
After the success of the book, MWP gave him free reign over the next one.
“They let me write my fantasy screenwriting book,” Klick said.
"Beat by Beat" is, as Klick explained, the “most detailed structural guide ever published” about screenwriting, and the “book I would have wanted” when starting out.
The book dissects successful movies, defined as movies which grossed $300 million to $1 billion and have high ratings among both critics and audiences, in a minute-by-minute analysis, comparing the structures of their plots in each minute.
In this way, aspiring writers can pick out where key elements are placed in a successful movie and can fight writer’s block.
“If a screenwriter is stuck on page 53 of a script, they can go to page 53 and see what great movies are doing in that minute,” said Klick.
One page of a script roughly translates to one minute.
Klick also practices what he preaches, and he has seen considerable success from it. His first script written with this technique made the finals of the Nichol Fellowships Screenwriting Competition, and his next made the finals at the Page International Competition.
Since then, he has sold four screenplays, and he will be shooting a movie in October.
Kilck’s advice to upcoming screenwriters is to practice hard work, diligence and reading.
“If you find one idea in a book, that’s very helpful for you,” he said.
The writer also explained that “you’ll find kindred spirits just like you, and mentors willing to help.”
“There is a learning curve, but if you stick it out, there are magical moments that happen,” he said.