Screenplay Ebook

How To Write A Screenplay

This eBook reveals the secrets to the best screenplays, and how to make yours better. This guide comes to you from Christian Blake, who has written such definitive screenwriting books as The Seven Moments, which are used by top screenwriters everywhere. This knowledge comes from real experience and writing practice from long, thankless hours. Now you can learn the secrets so you don't make the same mistakes that thousands of other screenwriters make. You can skip straight to the part where you write a screenplay that is professional and amazing-sounding. You can improve your script, beef up your dialogue, analyze your script and screenplay objectively, and get rid of weak scenes. You will learn how to treat screenwriting like a business, not a hobby. You will learn how to write in ways that make your audience want to keep watching, and come back for more and more of your material. You will learn everything that you will need to know to write excellent scripts, revise them to perfection.

Screenplay Writing Secrets Overview

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More On Screenplay Language

In an essay called The Language of Screenwriting, the playwright and scriptwriter Ronald Harwood writes, A screenplay cannot be judged by form and technique, or by the abandonment of either. In his attempt to realize in its initial form a story that is, in the end, to be told in pictures, the writer must discover or invent a language that is both personal and effective, and that, above all, stimulates the mind's eye.5 The following description by Harwood is the first sequence in the screenplay for the film One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. It is somewhat more literary in its choice of words than many fine screenplays perhaps because it is adapted from a famous novel but it is wonderfully visual all If the setting in which a hero finds him or herself is to serve as antagonist, it is essential that its features be described in a way that evokes it vividly. When the setting is not key to the story or would be familiar to us from life (or other movies), the architect Mies Van der...

European Screenwriting And Beyond

Jean-Luc Godard (b. 1930) used to like saying that his films had a beginning, middle, and end, but not necessarily in that order. Although popular cinema in France and Italy, for example, had recognized screenwriters critically, such a playful and eclectic approach to screenwriting and filmmaking as suggested by Godard's comment has traditionally characterized the more personal cinemas of many nations of Europe and elsewhere. What became known as the auteur theory'' was simply an acknowledgment of a European film tradition wherein filmmakers thought of themselves as the complete author of the film, from script to final cut. While writers calling themselves screenwriters emerged in Hollywood as early as the late 1920s, there were few European filmmakers or writers who would call themselves screenwriters. In contrast to Hollywood, where few have ever been both writers and directors on the same film, in Europe and other countries around the world, the double-duty position of...

The Politics Of Screenwriting

The darkest period in American screenwriting was certainly during the anticommunist scare period following World War II and into the 1950s. In 1947 the House Many memorable films have been made as low-budget, independent projects based on scripts that take chances and purposely break the so-called rules of Hollywood screenwriting. Steven Soderbergh's debut feature as writer-director, sex, lies, and videotape (1989), walked off with the top Cannes Festival prize as a film with almost no sex but lots of lies, very good dialogue, and character shading much in the tradition of French films of the 1950s and 1960s. Shot in Soderbergh's home state of Louisiana rather than in Hollywood, the film's sharply written script pointed the way not only for the Sundance Film Festival in future years but for the multitude of independents that followed. Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (co-written with Roger Avary, 1994), for instance, breaks up the classical narrative of following a main protagonist...

Short Short Screenplays

New to this edition we have included three short screenplays that are 8 minutes long or less. A great deal of feedback prompted us to pose the question, How long is a short film Our point in including these three screenplays is to suggest a wider view of the short screenplay. In fact, screenplays in this category can run as short as 90, 60, or even 30 seconds. However, since we wanted to focus on the apprentice-early filmmaker categories, we excluded the commercial. Of the three screenplays, Vincent, by Gert Embrechts, became a prize winning European film. The second and third screenplays were both written and produced in the undergraduate film and television program at New York University. Sob Story, by Matthew E. Goldenberg and Michael Slavens, is a situation comedy that poses the question, How far is a young man willing to go for a girlfriend The answer is as far as necessary. Pigeon, by Anthony Green, is a melodrama based on a real event that occurred in France in 1943. An elderly...

Rewriting The Screenplay

You'll want to work closely with others on the rewrite of this screenplay. You need others to know if the connection really happens on paper. Do we see your characters, through a series of connection beats, gradually feel an authentic connection Are the connection beats clear Are any missing Is your structure sound Do you have a clear inciting incident, a turning point that throws your screenplay out of setup into development and a second turning point that throws the story toward the climax Is this connection improbable in the beginning of your screenplay but plausible by the end Remember, you're honoring your characters' emotional flow, and the best way to know if it works is to see if others believe it. Listen closely, take notes, then put them away with your screenplay. Let the elves work on the script for a while. Then, when you come back to it a few days later, you'll have a clearer sense of what you need to do. And do it. Reshape your screenplay if necessary. You may have...

Creating A Screenplay

Creating and protecting a screenplay can be both artistically and legally challenging Legally, the simplest route is to write it yourself. (See Writing a Screenplay by Yourself, p. 61.) Even if you are the sole author of a screenplay, if you're adapting another person's work, you will need his or her permission to do so. (See Screenplay Adaptations, p. 88.) Regardless of how the screenplay is written, you should protect it by registering the copyright. (See Copyright Registration, p. 106.) If, instead of writing the screenplay yourself, you are buying or optioning the screenplay, you have a slightly different set of concerns. (See Acquiring Screenplay Rights, p. 73.)

The Screenplay Optionpurchase

A filmmaker who wants to make a movie using someone else's script must buy the motion picture rights to that script in order to make the movie. If you can, you should try to buy the entire copyright to the script, not just the motion picture rights. Remember, the more rights you own, the more ways you can exploit those rights.To purchase the rights to a screenplay, the filmmaker should use a Screenplay Purchase Agreement. Typically, a filmmaker doesn't want to buy a script unless he knows that he can get it made. The filmmaker needs a little time to secure funding, interest actors, and hopefully, set up a distribution deal. However, the filmmaker can't attach all of those elements (financiers, talent, distributors) to the project unless the filmmaker has the right to make the film from the screenplay. This is where the Option Agreement comes in handy. An Option Agreement is a contract which gives the filmmaker the exclusive right to buy the screenplay copyright during a defined period...

Connecting To Screenplays

A screenplay is a film unfolding on paper. A story told for the screen. A story told to be seen. And, like all drama, told in scenes. A screenplay is a story told in scenes for the screen. A story is the relating of events that have meaning, importance, consequence. That matter. That make a difference, however subtle, in the character's life. If a screenplay can't answer the question, How is this day (night, week, month, year) different from any other it will raise the dread question So what That age-old challenge, What difference does it make is not idle talk. It's what we want to know when we watch the events of a movie unfold. A screenplay is a pattern of human change told in scenes for the screen. As a writer and a teacher, I prefer thinking of the screenplay as a pattern of human change because it's dynamic. It's a process that an audience can see beginning (an event occurs that has meaning, importance, consequence), developing (the consequences of this event and others are...

Step by Step Writing the Screenplay by Yourself

As you write your original screenplay, be aware of what sources you are drawing your work from. It's okay to be inspired by another work, but you must always be sensitive to the line between inspiration and copying. (See Appendix A Copyright Infringement, p. 269.) 3. Once your screenplay is written, you should register its copyright with the US Copyright Office. (See Copyright Registration, p. 268.) All copies of the script should have a prominently displayed copyright notice on the cover. (See Copyright Notice, p. 110.)

Writing An Original Short Screenplay

At this point, if you have faithfully done the exercises and assignments laid out in previous chapters, you will have learned, among other things, how to write and revise both character description and location description in format how to use offscreen sound to create mood and evoke offscreen events how to begin to develop a character how to gather and transform material for an adaptation and how to do a story outline for a short screenplay to be written using that material. What follows is a discussion of ways in which character can be revealed in speech, and ways in which speech can be used to further a character's dramatic action. In good screenplay writing, dialogue is as much a form of behavior as any physical action it is also a form of dramatic action.

Reading Your Screenplay

The film director Billy Wilder (The Apartment, 1960) commented on the subject of reading a screenplay It isn't necessarily helpful for a director to know how to write, but what is vitally important is that he know how to read. The stage director Harold Clurman, in On Directing, commented In order to apply this book's methodology to an entire story of manageable length I have written a short screenplay titled A Piece of Apple Pie. Read the screenplay now as if it were going to be your next directing project.

Secondhalfofthecentury Screenwriters

As we continue into the fifties, the following two movies, both produced in 1950, happen to capture the pure essence of the quintessential screenwriter in Hollywood. Both Dix Steele and Joe Gillis embody all of the Hollywood screenwriters who have appeared in the movies before them and provide a prototype for those who will follow. Here, now, are two of the strongest characters the movies have ever known. Interestingly enough, they are characters who write movies. In a Lonely Place (Columbia, 1950) In a Lonely Place starring Humphrey Bogart is a famous film of the film noir genre. Bogart is outstanding as a Hollywood screenwriter who's got a criminal record and a fascination with killing. He's Dixon Dix Steele and he makes the mistake of asking a hatcheck girl, one Mildred Atkinson, home to read to him. Yes, read (just read, nothing else) to him. He asks her to read a novel that a big director wants him to adapt into a screenplay. Mildred innocently does just that and leaves Dix's...

Martin Fletcher Screenwriter

Martin has had success as a screenwriter working with a major comedian-star to write and punch up projects the comedian-star has in development at a number of studios and networks across town. He's learned firsthand about the business through pitch meetings, agent get-togethers, and social gatherings with his star connection. Are there any films that influenced your decision to be a screenwriter I think that it's the writing. It is not easy to write a great screenplay. There are so many elements involved that must really come together. Through the magic of Hollywood, there are a lot of bad writers who somehow break through and make a great living, but I don't think that true talent goes unrecognized. I feel like oftentimes people who complain about not having access just don't have a

Producer Simon Channing Williams screenplay Mike Leigh photography Dick Pope editor Jon Gregory production design

Awards Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or (Mike Leigh) and Award for Best Actress (Brenda Blethyn), 1996 Cameraimage Golden Frog Award (Dick Pope), 1996 Los Angeles Film Critics' Association (LAFCA) Awards for Best Actress (Brenda Blethyn), Best Director (Mike Leigh), and Best Picture, 1996 Australian Film Institute Best Foreign Film Award (Simon Channing-Williams), 1997 British Academy Awards (BAFTA) Alexander Korda Award for Best British Film (Simon Channing-Williams), BAFTA Film Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Brenda Blethyn), and Best Screenplay Original (Mike Leigh), 1997 Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture Drama (Brenda Blethyn), 1997 Golden Satellite Award for Best Director of a Motion Picture (Mike Leigh), Best Motion Picture Drama (Simon Chan-ning-Williams), and Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Brenda Blethyn), 1997 Humanitas Prize (U.S.) in the Feature Film Category (Mike Leigh) 1997 Independent...

Screenplay Clearance Report

Prior to production, you should have your entertainment attorney prepare a screenplay clearance report. Essentially, this report details potential legal problem areas in the screenplay. The report should combine the efforts of a copyright records search to identify conflicting copyright ownership and infringement issues, and a compre- Copyright. (See Copyright, p. 249.) Your attorney should flag any instances of copyright infringement. This is a two-part inquiry, which scrutinizes any copyrighted works referenced in the screenplay as well as the copyright to any works upon which the screenplay is based. Referenced copyright. The first part of the inquiry focuses on any third-party copyrighted material directly referenced in the screenplay, such as song lyrics sung by a character or a scene in which two characters watch a copyrighted movie. In other words, references in the screenplay itself to other copyrighted works that will need to be cleared and licensed. If these works cannot be...

Hiring A Screenwriter

Often a writer will pitch an idea to a production company in the hopes that the production company will hire her to write the screenplay. (See Idea Rights, p. 51.) Or a filmmaker will have an idea or own the rights to literary property and need to hire a writer to turn that idea or property into a screenplay. (See Literary Adaptations, p. 65.)

Another Example Of Screenplay Shorthand

Screenwriter Robert Towne has a distinctive, ironic, and rather leisurely descriptive style. Nonetheless, he condenses a great deal of information into a few lines on this first page of a late draft of Chinatown. The script opens with close-ups of a series of snapshots of a man and woman making love. These visuals are accompanied by the sound of anguished moans and a male voice crying out, Oh, no At this point, we cut to the following scene Yet Gittes engages our interest from the very first page of the screenplay. How By his nonchalance, his mocking humor, and an air of easy authority that speaks of the consummate professional.

The Fourth Screenplaythe Improbable Connection

Write a seven-page screenplay about two characters who initially feel no connection whatsoever a connection between them is highly improbable but by the end of the screenplay they have come to feel an authentic connection. And follow these guidelines 2. Create your pattern of change connecting with a series of connection beats discoveries and decisions your characters make that bring them closer together. Connecting is a path what are the stepping stones moments of change in your screenplay 5. If you need a third character to help effect the connection, as Nyswaner does in Philadelphia, you may create one, but remember that the focus of this screenplay is the improbable connection between your two main characters. 6. This is a screenplay, not a scene, so feel free to open your story up and move it and your characters through various times and locations. 9. No skits. Connection is one of the deepest, most profound patterns of human change. It's more than You like Chinese food I like...

Drafting The Screenplay

Dogs loose and see where they go, as Mark Spragg likes to say. Stir in the I.D. you've already crafted. Make your characters come alive on the page. And make time to work on your screenplay each day, even if you have to get up earlier or stay up later to do it. The cumulative effect of writing each day is amazing. more vivid, visual, and economical. Cut dialogue that isn't essential, that doesn't work hard for you or your story. This is almost always a vast improvement as you will see when you read the seven student screenplays in Part III and compare them with their films. Again, a visual reaction from a character is often stronger than words, as Lani Sciandra discovered as she was shooting Cool Breeze and Buzz When your screenplay is finished at least in this incarnation give it a title if you haven't done so already. I never accept an untitled work, as Barry Jenkins remembers. When I handed you the script untitled (as it had been for a year), you scratched out Untitled and handed...

The Third Screenplaythe Boxing Match

Write a five-page screenplay about a character (A) who wants something badly that a second character (B) does not want to give. And follow these guidelines 4. Let Character A fail at least once, regroup, and try again. This is a screenplay, not just a scene, but even in the best scenes characters try to get what they want with energy and resourcefulness. Let your character try more than one strategy. Let us see the dance of deliberation, decision, and doing. At Bread Loaf Writers Conference, Terry Tempest Williams told our workshop, If your writing isn't interesting, you aren't dropping through to what your story is really about. She was talking about nonfiction, but her advice applies with equal force to screenwriting. When Ben realized that his boxing match between two soldiers over a comic book wasn't about the comic book, it was about fear, he found the universal dimension we all can connect to. This deeper level gave the screenplay greater resonance for Ben and once he rewrote it...

The Long Short Screenplay

For the past four screenplays, you've focused on essential elements of drama discovery, decision, conflict, connection and you've created and crafted these in short screenplays. In the process, ideally, you've learned to write vivid and economical descriptions of setting, character, action, using higher and more significant detail, and you've learned to sharpen your dialogue, letting your characters say far more with less. And along the way, you've probably noticed that these elements of drama slippery little devils are tricky to isolate. They tend to hang out together in screenplays a discovery precipitating a decision, a conflict giving way to connection, and vice versa. So now it's time to clear the creative floor and let these dramatic elements rip in your long short screenplay. THE FIFTH SCREENPLAY THE LONG SHORT SCREENPLAY Write the best ten-page (or shorter) screenplay you can using the techniques you've learned to tell a good story that makes us connect a pattern of human...

Important Elements Of Screenplay Format For The Actor

A screenplay is an ever-evolving written form that changes many times in its life. The first form that could possibly come into the actor's hands is a spec script. A spec script is what writers use as a selling tool to agents, producers, star actors, directors, etc., anyone who will possibly be influential in buying the script and making the movie. Directors who write their own material also do spec scripts because they are easier to read and include much descriptive information that will be excluded from the production or shooting script. A spec script is more about the story and the actors a shooting script is more about the visuals and the camera. The shooting script will have scene numbers, camera angles and what we see it will have less description of the characters. A shooting script usually has less dialogue as well there is no need to repeat in words what has already been made clear in pictures. Once a director has started to visualize the story, his vision will be...

The Classical American Screenplay

The acknowledgment of the art and craft of the screenplay, happily, was apparent from the beginning of the Academy Award Oscars in 1928, which virtually coincided with the introduction of sound and dialogue in cinema. Also important from the first Oscars down to the present, the Academy has understood the importance of two distinct award categories for screenwriting Best Original Screenplay, the first award going to one of the giants of early screenwriting, Ben Hecht (18941964), for Underworld (1927), and Best Adaptation. The first Oscar for Adaptation was given in 1931 to Howard Estabrook (1884-1978) for Cimarron, based on Edna Ferber's novel.

Crew Size And Onscreen Credits

Although the occupational categories described above have remained relatively stable since the advent of synchronized sound in the late 1920s, a cursory comparison of twenty-first century films, based on onscreen credits, compared to those of the late 1920s or even the early 1970s would suggest that crews are not only becoming larger but also more diversified. One recent example will suffice to illustrate this trend The Matrix Revolutions (2003) credits over 700 participants. This observation, however, may not accurately reflect reality. Screen credits may provide a guide to the main participants in creating a film, but they are not necessarily a reliable guide to the exact makeup of film crews. In particular, they are a poor index of the way in which crews have changed over time. A lengthening credit list does not necessarily mean that films now employ larger crews than before, but rather that a higher proportion of workers are named, whereas in earlier years many remained anonymous....

Screenwriting

Screenwriting involves all writing for the screen. Given the history of the screen, such a category covers both fiction and documentary films since the early 1900s in the United States and throughout the world as well as work for television, video, and, in recent years, the Internet. In the beginning of film, there were no screenplays. In fact, one does not need a screenplay to make a movie. Technically, one simply needs a camera and film or a digital camera, and certainly since the first days of moving images down to Reality TV'' in recent times, there are those who specialize in using nonscripted approaches to film. But the moment fiction or narrative cinema lasting more than a few minutes began to become common, there came the realization that, as for the stage, so for film, actors and directors needed to know the story, the dialogue, and the action for the tales being told. Script credits exist for most silent films, but as biographies, autobiographies, and studies of the period...

Short Screenplays

The following five short screenplays present a cross section of student work at New York University. All the scripts have been produced and exhibited. Four of the scripts were written in the undergraduate program and one in the graduate program. One is the product of a collaboration. We chose these scripts for their quality and diversity in subject matter and approach. These five screenplays offer a great range of subjects. In Another Story, Lisa Wood Shapiro offers a parable that is abstract and speaks to issues of memory and tolerance. Karyn Kusama in Sleeping Beauties also offers a parable, this time about memory and awakening sexuality. All of these screenplays are serious, but none could have succeeded on that alone. Charisma and creative solutions to characterization, to providing catalytic action, and to bringing about resolution are hallmarks of each of these screenplays. They offer models of the short film script and can provide the reader with appropriate examples of the...

Screenwriter

The screenwriter writes feature films. He composes scripts of 120 pages or less, of dramatic or comedic content. Once he is known for a specific genre of film, he will be pigeonholed into that genre. Often, today's screenwriter has a manager and an agent to handle his career. If he writes a spec script (a script written on speculation, not for any particular producer or company) that sells and is a success, his career is off to a jump start. If he writes a mediocre screenplay, he will continue to write a number of scripts and have an average career in hopes of cashing in on a box-office success. Once that happens, he is gold and he won't have to worry about his career ever again.

The Spec Script

Some writers have gotten into the television industry by writing a spec script one written on speculation for no pay. Its sole purpose is to showcase your writing talents. Most spec scripts are written for a current TV show that is popular one that you like and watch regularly. Your lawyer, agent, or an inside connection sends it to development execs who may be looking for new writers. A good spec script can be a major factor in their hiring decision. In writing a spec script, know the show inside and out. Study the characters, their histories, and how they speak. Watching at least a season of the show gives you the overall perspective as well as small pertinent details. You want to study the format of the show, including the number of acts and the script format (how do they show dialogue, action, headings, etc.). Create a plotline that has not been used before on the show. If you decide to send a spec script for a specific show to an exec who works on that show, they know their own...

OnScreen Credits

Virtually all contracts and deal memos outline the specific screen credits at the opening and or closing of the show. Most union contracts are also clear about what they demand for their members. Negotiation for proper screen credit might include how the credit is phrased, how long it stays on the screen, the size of the font, or whether the person's name is by itself or part of a group of names. This also applies to any advertising like posters, promos, and so forth. Networks and cable companies have their own rules that cover most, if not all, of these areas. Most programs give screen credits that might include produced by, film by, directed by, story by, written by, and composed by, as well as credits to executive producer(s), and associate producer(s). There may also be extra attention to the opening logo(s) of the production companies, the presentation credits, the executive producer(s), and a special thanks section that gives courtesy credits to people and companies who have...

Connecting To Process

There's another half to the self-knowledge story You need to know your own writing process. I'm not talking about the specific steps in the process of screenwriting I'll talk about that in Part II. I'm talking about understanding how you work as a writer your own creative process and how to create optimum conditions for that to occur.

Int Labmontagenightmorning

Again, no two screenplays are exactly the same. Just make choices that make your screenplay readable and professional. Too many screenwriting students think describing the action isn't important, but to a master like Hitchcock, it was one form of filling the frame, to him the heart of filmmaking. Lani describes the wooden dock as garnished with apple snails. Garnished. A lovely choice for a screenplay about a young girl who feels a deep love and connection to her world and chooses, in the end, to remain there. An entirely different mood would have been evoked if she had said the dock was scarred. Though we tend to think of action description as neutral, the best screenwriters take great care with the words that they choose and create their own writing style. Barry Jenkins uses a spare simple style to create the lovely and deeply-felt emotion in My Josephine

Everything You Need To Know You Can Learn From City Lights

You can't learn everything you need to know about writing screenplays from City Lights, but you can get pretty close if you pay close attention to one scene in the film. First, dialogue is not essential to creating a pattern of human change in a screenplay. Film is visual. Volumes of speech are conveyed by the actors. As my former colleague, Charlie Boyd, said, Thoughts register on film. Don't get me wrong, I'm a great fan of talk. If it's highly entertaining and or illuminates or moves the pattern of human change forward. Pulp Fiction one of the talkiest films in the world does this better than most. So I don't buy that old saw that talk in screenplays is bad. Bad talk is bad. Dialogue that doesn't move the story forward (more on this later), that's too familiar, too cliche-d, or too on-the-nose can be deadly. So third, this scene is a wonderful illustration of external events forcing internal change. There's a clear surface action buying a flower...

The Spacetime Conundrum

When do you work best What are your own creative rhythms Do you write best at night In the morning High noon If you don't know, try different times until you figure out what works best for you, then do everything in your power to work on your screenplays during that time. Some of our faculty at the Film School swear they work better in Tallahassee than they do in Los Angeles. The novelist Sheila Ortiz-Taylor works best at writers' retreats. I write best at our farm in rural north Florida, on the porch overlooking the meadow. And Sam Smiley sent me a postcard from Ireland, where he was writing a screenplay. Somehow creativity really flows when you're away from home.

Developing Character

So your not-so-easy task is creating flesh-and-blood characters who will come alive on the page and the screen. You've explored and developed the character checklist, 3-D I.D., the I want speech, a passionate speech about the character's values, opinions, beliefs, a brief character bio to create her backstory. All these remain useful tools, but I want to offer a deceptively simple list of questions to answer about your main character in your long short screenplay. Question 2 always throws my students. What do I mean when I ask what their character must be connected to Do I mean what the character must be connected to in her life or in the screenplay I mean both. If you define what your character must be connected to in her life, you'll bring that into your screenplay. Color me stubborn, but I keep this question on the list because I think it offers a less obvious and often richer approach to defining who your character is. Consider yourself and your own life. What must you be...

As they both turn to move they meet under the light They embrace They sway Their lips meet They kiss

Mark Spragg described to me how much care he takes with describing the action, consciously filling the frame as he writes. In a scene in his screenplay Blue Wind, his main character, Frank, reencounters his step-daughter, Jolee, in a bar. It's been fifteen years since he's seen her. Good screenwriters tell their stories this way. Visually. They fill the frame. They make it beautiful, pretty. They use it to help tell their story.

Developing Story And Structure

As far as story's concerned, what a character wants is a screenwriter's jackpot. It's the driving force that creates your story, energy system, emotional flow, and pattern of change. Look at Pulp Fiction Marsellus Wallace wants his briefcase. Vincent and Jules want to get it back for him. Bullets barely miss them. Suddenly, Jules wants to retire. Play the possibilities. Every screenplay has its own rich variations. A character might not get what he wants but he gets what he needs. Look at Good Will Hunting and As Good As It Gets. Or African Queen or Casablanca or so many great films, for that matter. Short ones, too. In tongue, Joe wants to remain isolated, but life throws him Anna, a young woman with a will of her own, and she wants what Joe does not want to give connection. A kiss. Then brainstorm and decide what moments of change you will need to show to make the surface and deep action happen. These are the pearls in the oysters the scenes that you'll write (remember, more than...

Madness In Your Method

How do you work best In long stretches or short bursts The screenwriter Mark Spragg prefers total immersion. I work seven days a week, all day long, 'til I drop, so the subconscious is so saturated, it's what I dream about. When I meditate, it comes up, I've already done so much thinking about it. When I'm writing a screenplay, I'll noodle a much longer time piles of pages until the characters and story are clear in my mind then I work out the structure on my drafting table. I need to know my scenes at least their dramatic purpose and the order I'll tell them before I turn on the computer and start drafting the screenplay. Even then, as I reach a new scene, I'll stop and noodle the dialogue and action before I start typing. Some writers work more organically, writing the screenplay to find out where the story is going. Barry Levinson dictated the screenplay for Avalon into a tape recorder.

By Rachel A Witenstein

Rachel Witenstein wrote Lena's Spaghetti in my screenwriting class in 1994. The B.F.A. Thesis Script Committee (which chose up to five scripts to produce for thesis films every year) voted unanimously to produce Rachel's screenplay. The mail relationship in Lena's is an invention that came about through the process of trying to come up with an idea for your screenwriting class at F.S.U. My first idea had something to do with a plant shop run by an eccentric lady, I think, and I just kept flip-flopping characters and situations until it felt like something I wanted to write. If something wasn't inspiring me, I just changed it. I kept adding in bits that I saw in real life, like the character of the father as a breast surgeon. My father isn't a breast surgeon, but I read an article in the New York Times about one, and his flamboyance really tickled me, especially in contrast with a girl who is experiencing a certain amount of anxiety about her own development. I had a horrible...

The Making Of Killer Kite

Story by Matt Stevens Screenplay by Robert S. Gray After the faculty selected Matt's story for an M.F.A. Thesis Film, they selected Bob Gray to write the screenplay I was given the assignment of writing the screenplay and, it became apparent that, in order to tell the story of the making of the fictitious film, Killer Kite, I would first have to write, at least, a detailed treatment of the film itself. I decided to use the classic structure and characters from any of a dozen horror films from the 50s and 60s (i.e., the Mad Scientist and Young Assistant who unwittingly unleash the terror, the Niece of the Mad Scientist who becomes the love interest and partner of the Young Assistant in destroying the beast, and, of course, the final scene that leaves open the possibility of a sequel). Once the story of Killer Kite was set in my mind, it became possible to write about the making of the film. As for the mockumentary part of the screenplay, Bob took a different approach And the actors,...

Connecting To Collaboration

A former screenwriting student, Tom Kurzanski, e-mailed me one day. Tom isn't alone. I've seen the interest in co-writing scripts rapidly rising among writers and students. And I'm not surprised Each year the list of script partners and their successes grows longer (in 2002, half of the scripts nominated for the Best Screenplay Oscar were co-written by ampersands, the industry designation for writing teams). Why Because as Tom and Matt Stevens & I and so many others have discovered, collaborative writing is one of the most productive and successful ways to write short or long scripts. So if you're interested in writing with a partner, I strongly suggest that you give it a try. If you're in college but not in film school, enroll in film or screenwriting classes. Join a drama or comedy group. And if you're not in college, nil des-perandum. Take classes anyway. Attend writers' conferences. Join writers' organizations. Socialize. If you still can't find a collaborator among contacts...

Slow Dancin Down The Aisles Of The Quickcheck

What's funny about writing is that I guess in some ways things come out that are somewhat your philosophy but at the same time sometimes they just develop, they just come out of nowhere, you don't know where they come from. They just kind of bubble up. In a way, I mean. I believe it. I mean, the thing is, I've been married twice and divorced twice, but you just have to take those chances, I guess. I'm a hopeless romantic. You have to believe that you can make the connection with the person. You have to look beneath the surface. See who they really are. So I'm in Georgia, and peach season came in the middle of the rewrites, and a peach came to represent this true thing in a person. So, in the screenplay, the produce manager, Jerome, says to Earl Would Earl have the courage to make this authentic connection That became the central dramatic question of the screenplay and film. As director, Thomas didn't make a great many changes in the screenplay When I asked what he was up to now, he...

Surface And Deep Action

When I'm writing a screenplay (or a novel or a play or a memoir, for that matter), I find it useful to break the story I'm telling into the external and internal patterns of change. I call these the story's surface action and deep action. Just as the best screenplays interweave striving and connecting, they interweave the surface and the deep action. The best drama, in fact, is a dance between the external and the internal Horatio sees the ghost of Hamlet's father (external), struggles to decide the best action to take (internal), and tells Hamlet (external). And so it goes until death do him depart. So it's enormously helpful, when you're preparing to write a screenplay, to clarify what these dual actions are. Do so in terms of the main character and an -ing verb. This reminds you that both actions are dynamic. And it reminds you that both, though interrelated, are, in fact, different. The surface action is the external pattern of change, the events we see happen up on the screen....

Preface To The Second Edition

This book is the distillation of a decade and a half of teaching screenwriting and dramatic technique at Florida State University and an epiphany I had halfway through. During that decade and a half, to my delight, I've seen the American short film (thirty minutes or less) rise in importance from a r sum piece intended to launch a filmmaker's career to an art form in its own right. As interest and access to short films increases, as well as outstanding venues like home-starrunner.com and triggerstreet.com, the short screenplay film is becoming the central short narrative form of our time, analogous to the short story in the 1940s, argues Ray Fielding, former Dean of the Florida State University Film School. But during my decade and a half of teaching at F.S.U., I found three things sorely missing A nuts-and-bolts book about crafting short screenplays access to short films and their screenplays so writers (and teachers and students) can see the choices and changes good, bad, or ugly...

Conclusion

What's left to say Only this Having stressed the importance of craft in screenwriting, I have to be honest Craft can only take you so far. Young screenwriters forget they're writers, Mark Spragg told me. They believe too much in craft form and not enough in the art of the piece. It is organic. Messy. Mysterious. Ultimately, creating a screenplay and film that connect is a mysterious process. And the act of connecting with others, Peter Weir suggests, may be more unconscious than conscious Enough logic, yes, but not rules, as Academy Award winner, Nicholas Kazan, says in American Screenwriters 2. Karl Schanzer and Thomas Lee Wright, American Screenwriters The Insider's Look at the Art, the Craft, and the Business of Writing Movies, Avon Books, New York, 1993, p. 248.

Making Change

So a screenwriter's job, in a nutshell, is making change. (And, alas, sometimes that's all we make for a while.) Articulating the surface and deep action is just the beginning. Now you have to make those patterns of human change happen in a compelling credible way. In screenwriting, these stepping stones are specific moments of change. Events that make a difference, a.k.a. dramatic events. And once you can write a credible, compelling moment of change, you're well on your way to writing good screenplays. So it's of vital importance that you grasp really grasp what a moment of change is. Why did I feel such joy and amazement Because the word moment is screenwriting summed up in one word. It's an interval of time (a scene), but also an interval of time that's important, significant (moment of change), and it comes from the Latin momentum which comes from the Latin movere to move. And that's what good screenplays do. We create stories told in scenes, patterns of human change out of...

Only Connect

A screenwriter's purpose is to connect. Only connect, E.M. Forster tells us in Howard's End. He meant it as a rule to live by. I see it as a rule to write by. The best screenplays long or short are written by those who know how to connect to themselves (their unique vision, material, process), to what drama is, and, most important, to others. Only connect. Write it down on a Post-ItTM note or a three-by-five card and stick it on your computer, desk, forehead. This deceptively simple advice is the heart of the art of writing good screenplays. You may have a different purpose in mind. If you're anything like the ambitious students I teach, you may well want to write the script for that short film that will open Hollywood's doors. And that can certainly happen as I write, Thomas is at the Cannes Film Festival with Slow Dancin' but it won't happen unless your screenplay connects. Connecting with others is what you must do to succeed as a screenwriter, and it will also be your greatest...

Bob Vo

Transitions appear sparingly in screenplays to help move the story from one scene to the next. FADE IN and FADE OUT (usually followed by a period at the end of the screenplay) appear flush left on the page. CUT TO and DISSOLVE TO appear on the right-hand side of the page (Tab 5.9). You do not need a CUT TO between every scene the cut is implied with each new slug line. DISSOLVE TO means one image is slowly replacing another, usually to show the passage of time. Both are a bit out of fashion, at least for the moment. Once you understand the basics, the five easy pieces of screenplay format the slug line, the action, the name of character speaking, the parenthetical and dialogue, and the transition and why they're used in a screenplay, you're ready to use screenplay format. And don't forget how flexible screenplay format can be. It's constantly evolving. You have more freedom than you may realize. The more screenplays you read, the more you'll understand what I mean. Read long and short...

Lightning flashes

The five easy pieces of the format make perfect sense when you remember that a screenplay is a story told to be seen in scenes for the screen. This is the master scene heading, and the action and dialogue can flow uninterrupted. Occasionally you may want to use mini slugs POV, BACK TO SCENE, INSERT, INTERCUT which appear in CAPS flush left. Mini slugs especially a character's name or an object used as a mini-slug have spawned a lively new style of screenwriting known as writing down the page or detailing, which Matt Stevens and I used in our feature, Behind the Eight Ball

Choosing An Idea

The best way to stay out of shallow water with your screenplay is to work with material that you connect to, that has resonance for you as a person. And the best place to find this material is right on your menu. After all, one of the columns is Discoveries That Made a Difference in My Life. You might find an idea for a discovery that makes a difference by looking at your own life. If you do, of course, feel free to depart the donn e and fictionalize the idea for the screenplay you write. Look at the other column on your menu your loves, hates, fears, beliefs. You may have a strong passion or opinion that spawns an idea. This can be a wonderful place to begin. One of my students, Fatima Mojadiddy, believed passionately that the homeless should work, and she wanted to write a short screenplay about this. I agreed, on one condition She had to talk to homeless people at the shelter in Tallahassee. And there, to her surprise, she discovered that many of the homeless do work, an important...

By Aimee Barth

Aimee Barth wrote Kosher in my Screenwriting II class for the final assignment a five-page script she would direct for her B.F.A. Filmmaking III project. Like so many terrific short films, Kosher was conceived close to home. I agree. It's a perfect example of how gracefully a screenplay story can be told by hitting scenes late and getting out of them early. When I asked Aimee what she's doing now, she said, I'm in L.A., living the dream. I've been working in craft service while I finish my first screenplay, at the request of a literary agent. I was recently contracted by a production company in the Bay Area, Highway Video, to direct short content films for them. I'm now working as an assistant at a top management agency called 'The Firm.' And I'm being considered as Kate Hudson's body double for her latest film, Skeleton Key keep your fingers crossed

The Boxing Match

Since the day you thought about writing screenplays, you've no doubt been told that they must have conflict. As I've said, this is only half true connection is equally important. And this advice about conflict is not very helpful if you're trying to learn the craft of screenwriting. It gets you obsessing about the wrong thing. You begin to think that conflict is some secret ingredient in a screenwriter's potion the dramatist's eye of newt and you wonder where the heck you can find some to throw in your script. But you don't find conflict, you create it. The conflict increases in energy, intensity and interest when another person comes on the scene. Why There are two wills at war. Two agendas. One person wants. The other opposes. Dramatists call this a boxing match one character wants what another character does not want to give and the best dramatists use it over and over to create compelling conflict. In Pulp Fiction, according to my calculations, Tarantino (with his co-story-writer,...

Emotional Flow

Each scene in a screenplay is separate, distinct. By definition, a new scene occurs when the camera changes time or place (not placement within a scene) When we watch a film, we're connecting the emotional dots and connecting to the characters as we do. The story leaps and all moves forward in what seems to be a seamless emotional flow. And we move forward with it. Even in the wacky mockumentary world of Killer Kite, which cuts back and forth between the story of the film and the story of the documentary about the making of the film, we are able to follow the emotional flow in each story because the screenwriter provided the dots that we need to connect.

Demystifying Format

Screenplay format breaks down into five easy pieces More and more, my students are using screenplay software (me, too). Talk about easy. In most people's opinion, it's worth every penny, but it can be pricey (I've listed different software names and phone numbers in the Appendix so you can check on the price and computer compatibility if you're a student, say so, because they usually offer substantial discounts). It is possible to create a professional-looking screenplay format yourself. To that end, the TAB settings are

From Bergman to Corman

Been much better, had he worked more on the script, or recognized in time a fault in the basic construction. It reminds one of how much legitimation and cultural capital Bergman the film director still derives from writing, from being an author as well as an auteur, and at the same time, how removed he was from the routines of Hollywood script-writing, from story-boarding or using the script as the production's financial and technical blueprint. In this, Bergman conforms rather precisely to the clich of the European director improvisation on the set or on location, the most intense work is expended with the actors, while the film is taking shape as the director penetrates the inner truth of the various motifs that the story or situation first suggested to him.

Eighteenth Assignment Cutting The Inessential

Raymond Chandler, in writing on screenwriting, said that the challenge . is to say much in a little and then take half of that little out and still preserve an effect of leisure and natural movement. Such a technique requires experiment and elimination. To do that, we suggest that you go through your script carefully and ruthlessly cut minor details, fancy writing, and anything that readers can figure out for themselves anything that doesn't seem essential. Be concise. Give us only the descriptive information we need as we need it, and introduce details as the audience would come upon them in viewing the film.

Honorable Mentions

Best Friends (Warner Bros., 1982) The Lonely Lady (Universal, 1983) The Muse (October Films, 1999) Look to the eighties for two very mediocre films about writers, Best Friends, starring Goldie Hawn and Burt Reynolds as married screenwriters, and The Lonely Lady, which stars Pia Zadora as a struggling screenwriter. Both of these films expose the usual ups and downs of the screenwriting life, making it seem very ordinary, actually. And finally, the last entry of writers' movies of the twentieth century is Albert Brooks's The Muse, which is mostly a culmination of every Hollywood clich seen in every other movie about Hollywood writers. Nothing new here, and certainly nothing that illuminates or helps one to understand the profession.

Scripts Scripts and More Scripts

If you're not a writer but a producer who's searching for good, completed screenplays you'd like to option and attempt to sell, just start putting the word out that you're looking, and don't forget to state the genres you're interested in (or you'll be overloaded with submissions). Let your friends know, your relatives, the people you went to school with, people you meet at networking functions, find the appropriate websites to post on, take out a small ad in a trade publication or screenwriting magazine, put up a notice at some film schools and contact instructors of screenwriting courses. There are countless numbers of ways to get the message out there. A good script doesn't have to come from an established writer. It could come from anywhere. In fact, the less known the writer, the less expensive the option fee.

More On Behavior Defining Character

In his treatise known as the Poetics, Aristotle defines dramatic action as the movement of spirit or psyche that produces a character's behavior. Film and theatre director Elia Kazan, in his notebook for A Streetcar Named Desire, remarks that finally directing consists of turning psychology into behavior. Substitute the word screenwriting for the word directing, and Kazan's statement would still hold true. A character's desires or needs, that movement of the psyche to which both Aristotle and Kazan refer, can be expressed only by his or her behavior. The accomplished screenwriter selects those few details, out of all that come to mind, that will best describe the essence of the

Sixth Assignment More On Describing A Character

These are the kinds of questions that screenwriters ask themselves on rereading a first draft, preparatory to going on to the next. (Screenwriting, for the most part, is about rewriting.) As you read these scripts, note that script format is not a straitjacket but is flexible enough in its outlines to accommodate the very different writing styles of Towne, Khouri, Shapiro, Taylor, and Kusama.

Have any movies about working in the industry had any influence on you

I certainly wasn't swayed to work in entertainment by movies like The Big Picture or The Player. Despite the uniformly negative portrayal of screenwriters in Hollywood-themed films, the whole process of filmmaking, even from a distance, seemed vain and lugubrious. It wasn't until I moved out here (L.A.) and actually got involved in it that I found that it's a great deal of fun as well. When I was a teenager, I started to believe that the storytelling potential of cinema was unmatched, and I arrived at the opinion after seeing Midnight Cowboy, The Godfather, and, of course, Star Wars. These are the films that probably influenced my decision to major in radio, TV, and film in college and concentrate on screenwriting. Then I got to college and started watching movies like Who's Afraid ofVirginia Woolf and Streetcar Named Desire, and discovered theater, which totally blew my naive, corn-fed Midwestern brain.

The Last Picture Show

Friedman executive producer Burt Schneider screenplay Larry McMurtry and Peter Bogdanovich, from the novel by Larry McMurtry photography Robert Surtees editor Don Cambern sound Tom Overton production designer Polly Platt Awards Oscars for Best Supporting Actor (Johnson) and Best Supporting Actress (Leachman), 1971 New York Film Critics awards for Best Supporting Actor (Johnson), Best Supporting Actress (Burstyn), and Best Screenwriting (tied with Sunday Bloody Sunday), 1971.

Ien I Thought I Was Out I Pulled Myself Back In

Sixteen years ago, I get this call from an ex-student of mine at the School of Visual Arts in NYC. Rocco was the best screenwriting student I'd ever had. He was by no means great, but then again he'd only been a student. Twenty years old maybe. With a writing partner named Rico Rocco and Rico. They'd better not have been writing anything but comedies with that alliterative moniker. I was on the last few days of a grueling twelve-and-a-half-week shoot as screenwriter producer of a low-budget feature called Street Trash. It was 1985, and Rocco had been out of my class for three years. The reason for his call Rico had gone straight. Rocco was in desperate need of a new writing partner. He asked me if I'd like to work on a screenplay with him. Rocco and Roy. Yipes. Though I have no strong spiritual beliefs, I entertained the thought that one or both of my ex-cowriters had guided my future partner to me. I agreed to meet and kick the concept around. Roc lives in New Jersey, and the Street...

The Films of Cameron Crowe

In 1979, Crowe, then twenty-two, returned to high school to research a book, which resulted in the best-selling novel Fast Times at Ridgemont High, published in 1981 by Simon and Schuster. But even before the book came out, Crowe was tapped to write the screenplay adaptation, marking his screenwriting debut. In 1989, Crowe made his feature film directorial debut with another of his original screenplays, Say Anything. He subsequently wrote and directed the widely praised romantic comedy Singles. But it was the 1996 release of Jerry Maguire that brought him the recognition as one of Hollywood's brightest young writer-directors to come along that year. He quickly followed that film with his semi-autobiographical Almost Famous in 2000, and the complicated and visually challenging Vanilla Sky in 2001.

Begin Thinking About Your Story

The writer director Paul Schraeder (Taxi Driver, 1976) told his writing workshop at Columbia that screenwriting was not writing, but concocting. Approaching your story this way can make it seem a lot less daunting. Who is my character and what does she want What are the obstacles What happens next So much work can be done without ever writing a word. For the past four years I have been teaching a two-week script development workshop in Europe. Each student in a class of six must first present his or her story orally to the entire class. Even if a screenplay has already been written, and more so if it has not, this oral presentation will immediately disclose holes in the story, underdeveloped characters, lack of action. But more importantly, it can disclose Schraeder let his class in on the way he begins to write a screenplay. He doesn't write (and this is a guy who has been extremely successful at his craft) until he can tell his story orally for 45 minutes. He'll start out with an...

B Melvin Kaminsky Brooklyn New York June

Mel Brooks began his career doing stand-up in the Catskills, in upstate New York, where he befriended Sid Caesar, host of the TV series Your Show of Shows (1950-1954). The talented Brooks quickly moved into television writing, where he often worked on skits for Caesar that parodied popular genres of the day. Brooks first became famous for his Two Thousand-Year-Old Man in the Year 2000'' routine, a mock interview which he performed with Carl Reiner onstage, on a bestselling record, and on television. In 1964 he went on to cocreate (with Buck Henry) the popular television series Get Smart (1965-1970), a parody of the spy film genre filled with outrageous James Bond-style gadgets such as the famous shoe phone.'' Such moments have earned Brooks both avid fans and equally fierce detractors, particularly as his jokes became more repetitive and broader over the course of the 1980s and 1990s. He made several commercially unsuccessful attempts to branch out, notably in a remake of Ernst...

Risky Production Decision

He was going stir crazy, and anything would be great. Roc and I were in the middle of a screenwriting assignment for TNT, a screenplay based on the true story of a sociopathic Olympic swimmer who won the gold in Barcelona in '92. We'd done thirty hours of interviews, and had backed up most of them. I offered Jon the job of transcribing the final one we conducted, an hour-long phone interview with one of the swimmer's teammates. He jumped at the offer, came over and picked up the tape, and promptly disappeared off the face of the earth. I called his parents, his girlfriend, I called everyone he'd known at school. And finally, since this was the last interview we'd conducted and therefore one of the few tapes I hadn't backed up, and the script was due in two months, Roc and I were forced to improvise the voice of the interviewee.

Dudley Nicholss History of the Old Southwest

During the 1930s, many Hollywood insiders acknowledged that screenwriters had more autonomy and power over film production than directors did. At the time, the power of a writer was often connected to his or her status as a historical screenwriter. In addition to Nichols, Lamar Trotti, Nunnally Johnson, Sonya Levien, Ben Hecht, Norman Reilly Raine, Seton I. Miller, John Bright, Robert Buckner, John Huston, and Jeannie Macpherson made their reputations during the sound era on historical scripts. Veteran Anita Loos, who had begun writing intertitles for Griffith on Intolerance (1916), maintained her independence at MGM with her period film San Francisco. Loos's independent achievement was remarkable at a studio notorious for its mistreatment of writers and its constant, expensive, and often unhappy collaborations. Often when critics praised a prominent director's skill, others realized that the credit was due to the writer. In his 1941 study of Hollywood, Leo Rosten quoted Gilbert...

The Question of American History in

Griffith began filming a sound biography of Abraham Lincoln. Although he was arguably the father of American historical cinema, it was not certain whether Griffith could reclaim Hollywood's past artistic and economic feats. For the past few years, the director's boxoffice potential had slipped. Although his last American historical production, the romantic Revolutionary War narrative America (1924), had been popular, some critics found his film treatment as dated as the subject matter.4 In planning Abraham Lincoln, he still maintained his taste for period stories but wisely hired a professional historical screenwriter to sharpen his lengthy treatment. Hiring Stephen Vincent Benet, author of John Brown's Body, was a public-relations coup for United Artists, but Benet was not all that different from a slew of other New York writers who came to Hollywood in the early sound era. He thirsted for Hollywood money but had an equal contempt for filmmaking and its artistic...

Copyright in Selection and Arrangement

When we think of what can be copyrighted, we often think of types of expression, like paintings, sculptures, films, screenplays, etc. In addition to these works, a particularly creative arrangement or selection of materials may also be copyrighted, despite the fact that what is arranged or selected may be in the public domain. (See Public Domain, p. 252).

Federico Fellini b Rimini Italy January d October

Acclaimed film director, accomplished screenwriter, and cartoonist, Federico Fellini is one of Italy's most celebrated filmmakers. In 1943 he married actress Giulietta Masina, who starred in several of his films. When World War II ended, Fellini wrote important neorealist screenplays, including Roberto Rossellini's Roma, citta aperta (Open City, 1945) work that earned him his first Academy Award nomination, Paisa (Paisan, 1946) and L'Amore (Ways of Love, 1948), which contains Il miracolo'' (The Miracle'') Alberto Lattuada's Senzapieth (Without Pity, 1948) and Pietro Germi's LI Cammino della speranza (The Path of Hope, 1950). Subsequently, Fellini launched a series of major works dealing with Italian provincial life that won him international fame, including Lo Sceicco bianco (The White Sheik, 1952), La Strada (The Road, 1954), and Le Notti di Cabiria (The Nights of Cabiria, 1957). The last two films won Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film. Shortly thereafter, Fellini completed one...

Fifteenth Assignment Writing A First Draft

Consult our examples or the short screenplays in Appendix B for the appropriate format. Then, keeping your portfolio of exercises and assignments nearby and your outline at your elbow, begin writing. Remember that the first draft of any screenplay is an exploration the main thing is to get the story on paper so that you have something to revise. If you find it difficult to work at home, go to a caf if you find the word processor wearisome, go to pen or pencil if you find any or all of the process daunting, break the actual writing into 10-minute segments.

The Bridges of Madison County

Kathleen Kennedy and Steven Spielberg were the ones who had optioned the book. They actually had a couple of screenplays done before I even came on the scene, and they had put it together here at Warner Bros. When the head of Warner Bros. called me and asked if I'd like to do it, I really wasn't familiar with the project, but I knew the book was a big hit. It turned out that producer Lili Zanuck had given me the book about a week before that because she saw me in it. I had just finished reading it when they called. So I said I was interested, but it needs this and it needs that. Then they gave me the screenplays to read three or four of them, as I recall. They were all off in different directions, with some of them changing the story line completely. Spielberg and I rewrote it. He was back East in the Hamptons for the summer, and I was up in northern California in Mount Shasta, so we wrote it and sent it back and forth by fax machine. I'd fax them to him, and he would make some...

Text Interpretation

Because Billy Wilder began as a writer and continued writing his own screenplays throughout his directing and producing career, the text has always remained clear and forceful. The virtues of Wilder as a dialogue writer and a world-weary critic of capitalism and communism are focal points of books written about Billy Wilder and his work. Because my focus here is on his director's idea, I will examine one particular polarity that for me best illustrates how the existence of characters in Wilder films is continually at stake the coexistence of extreme romanticism and extreme darkness, or cynicism, in his characters and their stories. Wilder used the clash of these two 167 opposites to raise the stakes for his characters.

Detective Work On Scripts

Every film begins with a screenplay, ideally a good one. Still, even in very good screenplays the director's investigation may uncover flaws as the screenplay is broken up into its smallest parts, even if the director is also the writer. A more intense focus, a more powerful lens, must be brought to the text now. The essence of every dramatic moment should be discovered and related to a dramatic whole. If we think of the screenplay as a forest and the dramatic moments as trees, we ought to be able to immerse ourselves in the forest, to see every tree in minute detail. At the same time, we should be constantly aware of each tree's specific place in the forest its job in the film. The first step in this journey of discovery begins with reading the screenplay. This is also the first step in our previsualization methodology to see our film before we shoot it.

On the Lookout for Good Material

While there are some companies that will only accept completed screenplays, and some agents who will tell you that you can't sell a project without a script, it's done every day. There are many producers who sell ideas and concepts, backed up often by just a short treatment. Some can sell an idea with just a verbal pitch, and many make very good livings by selling compelling stories they've found in newspapers or magazines. It could be a story heard on the radio, a television magazine show or even a news broadcast. Good stories are all around us, and many producers routinely have others helping them scout for material. They're always on the lookout for fascinating, gripping, touching and larger-than-life true stories that would make good films. One of the projects I'm currently out pitching came to me via my brother Peter, who knew a man who, during WWII, had been a hero and had an awe-inspiring story to tell. You never know where it's going to come from, so those who are writers,...

Aguirre Der Zorn Gottes

Producer Werner Herzog screenplay Werner Herzog, from the journal of Gaspar De Carvajal photography Thomas Mauch editor Beate Mainka-Jellinghaus sound Herbert Prasch music Popol Vuh special effects Juvenal Herrera and Miguel Vasquez. Herzog, Werner, Aguirre, The Wrath of God,'' in 3 Screenplays, New York, 1980.

The Films of Paul Schrder

Schrader attended UCLA's film school and became a film critic for the L.A. Free Press and an editor for Cinema magazine. Schrader's first success as a screenwriter came with his screenplay for The Yakuza, directed by Sydney Pollack in 1974. By the late 1970s, he had produced classic screenplays for director Martin Scorsese, including Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and The Last Temptation of Christ. In 1977, Schrader made his directorial debut in the searing drama and social commentary, Blue Collar. Affliction, produced in 1999, proved to be his biggest commercial success, garnering various award nominations, including an Oscar for Best Director. Although not all his films have been favorably received, they continue to reflect his fascination with the human condition.

Second Assignment Rewriting In Format

And to put the results into proper screenplay format. Follow the master-scene format of Dangerous Liaisons, but don't be daunted by Hampton's elegant style, as he is a professional writer, more gifted than most, with many plays and screenplays to his credit. Still, if you are going to learn by imitating and analyzing, as we suggest, then it makes sense to imitate and analyze the work of a master.

Nineteenth Assignment Getting Feedback

As the saying goes, discretion is often the better part of valor. It is wise not to use family or friends as your first readers unless they are screenwriters or filmmakers themselves. Most people are unfamiliar with screenplays, and do not know how to respond to such bare-bones writing. In some cases, friends and family may be taken aback by what your writing self has come up with. And they are (understandably) often more interested in you than in your script. It makes sense to show them a later draft, when you have less need of informed feedback and support. At this point in the evolution of your script-in-progress, what you need are knowledgeable readers who can offer feedback on where it seems to work, and where it doesn't. Even so, before handing the script over, it might be a good idea to explain that this is an early draft, and that you don't yet need advice on polishing specific passages of dialogue or description. What you do need is to hear their candid first thoughts on the...

The Language A Similarity

The realities of economic survival demand that both actors and directors be capable of moving with ease from theatre to film or television if they have the desire for a roof over their heads and food on their tables. It is well known among members of our industry that working in the theatre is a luxury ill-afforded if it means taking time from the much more lucrative remuneration offered by film and television. There is frequent mourning by the theatre community over the apparent loss of talented playwrights who have opted for the good life by writing screenplays and who have seemingly deserted the theatre. In the days of what is lovingly called the golden age of theatre (the forties, fifties, and sixties), the motion picture industry derived much of its material and talent from the theatre. Plays were purchased from successful runs on Broadway and adapted into films. Actors were discovered in Off-Broadway plays and quickly became stars, As I write this book, it seems the worm is...

John Sayles b Schenectady New York September

Like his fellow cineastes Francis Coppola and Martin Scorsese, John Sayles got his first big break from exploitation impresario Roger Corman, for whom he wrote a screenplay for the tongue-in-cheek gore-fest Piranha (1978). A year later, Sayles earned legitimate success, winning a Los Angeles Film Critics Award for his more personal screenplay, The Return of the Secaucas Seven (1980), his debut as a writer-director. The Return of the Secaucas Seven, the story of a handful of twentysomethings trying to make sense of contemporary America, established something of a template for Sayles with its emphasis on dialogue and multiple intersecting narratives. With the money earned for his screenplays for the Corman-produced sci-fi quickie Battle Beyond the Stars Sayles cemented his reputation as a political filmmaker by focusing his attention on race issues. The Brother from Another Planet (1984) told the story of a black alien who lands in the inner city and gets hooked on drugs. The ironically...

Im a Friend of Marcs and Jeffs

Being in such a competitive business, it's rare to find people generous enough to gather and share so much information with so many. And not only has this information been the source of jobs and valuable connections to countless others, but building his massive network, helping others and making the effort to get to know as many people as he can has also been a key element to his own success. His first job as a literary manager was a result of sending out an e-mail asking if anyone knew of any openings. He now uses the same network in searching for clients and screenplays.

Development Money For Talent

What about the possibility of having to pay talent for a letter of commitment, so that you can use their name recognition in your Memorandum as a selling point Back in the eighties, I worked for a year as creative director of a Dutch development company based in America, called R A Entertainment. We were well funded, and our purpose was to develop two screenplays for preproduction. The two we chose for development were The Substitute, which I wrote, and The Johnson-Blues, which Rocco wrote. Then we prepared Memorandums, budgets, et cetera. For The Johnson-Blues, a perverse black comedy-thriller about a single mother and her daughter fending off an attack on their brownstone in Lower Manhattan by inbred Ramapo Mountain hillbillies, we felt a name in the Memorandum might help to overcome the weirdness of the plot. Of our development budget, ten thousand dollars was allotted to secure such a commitment. I approached Glenda Jackson, with whom I'd worked...

Just an Old Fashioned

My directorial style is I want to have as invisible a style as possible. I want to stay behind the camera and be the man behind the curtain and let the story lead the way. So in that sense, yeah, I think I'm painfully old-fashioned. Whether that works in my favor or not in the long run, who's to say I don't know. It's for other people to decide. I'm glad that there are enough people out there who want to see a movie like that and who are willing to put aside the MTV attention span and really absorb a film. I'm glad that there are enough people out there to warrant my making films. But boy, there are times when I really feel out of step. I feel like I'm a throwback. Am I a dinosaur Is there room for my kind of filmmaking anymore Luckily, there has been. At least there still is, because I don't know what else I'd do for a living. Maybe go back to the day job and write screenplays for other people. Who knows

Samuel Fuller b Worcester Massachusetts August d October

Samuel Fuller is a key figure in the history of the American war film because his movies are shaped by his own experience in combat. Fuller became a crime reporter by the age of seventeen and moved to Hollywood to begin writing screenplays in 1936. He joined the army after World War II broke out, serving in the Sixteenth Regiment of the First Army Division (''the Big Red One''), receiving the Bronze Star, the Silver Star, and the Purple Heart. Fuller fought the full European war, from the African campaigns on through Sicily and Anzio to, ultimately, landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day. His combat experience became the seminal event of his life. No matter what settings his films take, they are all in some way about war. In Jean-Luc Godard's Pierrotlefou (1965), Fuller, appearing as himself, states his credo ''Film is like a battleground love, hate, action, violence, death.'' Although other directors, such as Oliver Stone, have been in combat, it is fair to say that no other movie director...

Development And Planning

Once the range of projects was decided in terms of budget and genre, work commenced on planning the individual films. Projects normally originated with the script department, a unit all major producers had instituted by 1911. Normally, potential scripts were selected by readers from existing sources such as novels, plays, radio shows, or even existing movies. The Wizard of Oz (1939), for instance, had previously existed in all these forms by the time it was put into production. Other films began life as original screenplays, normally by writers under contract to the studio, since producers rarely purchased original screenplays from freelance writers for fear of copyright infringement. Once the script department had made its recommendations for potential productions, selected scripts were allocated to associate producers who oversaw the development and production process. This process normally began with a scenario describing the plot in prose form. It was followed by a treatment...

Production Management

Those in physical production routinely prepare proposed schedules and budgets for those screenplays in development to help ascertain the feasibility of each one. As projects move closer to a greenlight, the physical production team will spend more and more time researching and suggesting various location scenarios, as well as lining up necessary resources and personnel. Sometimes, a studio will give a flashing yellow light to a project and allocate limited funds to actively prepare for the probability of the greenlight that's expected to follow, making sure everything's ready to go once the light does change. So the physical production department is heavily involved in pre-production even before pre-production has officially begun. And while they don't physically produce the

FOCUS International Art Cinema Auteurism

Wong Kar-wai was born in Shanghai, mainland China, in 1958. His family moved to Hong Kong in the early 1960s. In 1980 he graduated in Hong Kong as a graphic designer. He began a career in television production, graduating to 'AD' on a host of low-budget and low-quality series, while working on his own screenplays. Building on his production and writing experience Wong Kar-wai has scripted as well as directed his features. However, possibly in reaction to the tight restrictions of television, his cinema work has been characterised by a formal freedom based not least on the lack of any detailed screenplay.

Three Visual Openings

What follows are detailed accounts of the openings of three short films regarded as classics. Each uses little or no dialogue and no voice-over, although their sound tracks play important roles in establishing mood and tone. Note that these are not excerpts from the screenplays but simply descriptions of scenes from the finished films. In Incident at Owl Creek (Robert Enrico, 1962), the following sign is prominently placed on a burnt tree trunk

Spines For A Piece Of Apple

Before we decide on the spine of the three characters, we must first decide on the spine of the screenplay the main action of the film. There is no one answer. It is the director's interpretation of what the writer has written. But whatever the decision as to the main action of the film, it must be able to incorporate under its umbrella the spines of the characters. I have come up with the following spines Aside from the unifying aspects of the screenplay's spine, it will, as pointed out by Clurman, help lead us to our style, tone, mood, atmosphere, and emphasis.

Spirit of the Beehive Spain Director Victor Erice

Producer Elias Querejeta screenplay Francisco J. Querejeta, from an idea by Victor Erice and Angel Fernand z Santos assistant director Jos Ruis Marcos photography Luis Cuadrado editor Pablo G. del Amo sound Luis Rodriguez sound effects Luis Castro and Sire Castro art director Adolfo Cofino music Luis de Pablo.

France Italy Director Luis Bunuel

Producers Robert Hakim, Raymond Hakim production manager Henri Baum screenplay Luis Bunuel, Jean-Claude Carri re, based on the novel by Joseph Kessel assistant directors Pierre Lary, Jacques Fraenkel photography Sacha Vierny editor Walter Spohr sound Rene Longuet art director Robert Clavel.

Forbidden Games France Director Ren Clment

Producer Robert Dorfmann screenplay Fran ois Boyer adaptation and dialogue Jean Aurenche, Pierre Bost, and Ren Cl ment, from the novel by Fran ois Boyer photography Robert Juillard editor Roger Dwyre sound engineer Jacques Lebreton art director Paul Bertrand music adaptation and interpretation Narciso Yepes costume designer Major Brandley.

Creating Acquiring and Managing the Film Property

CREATING A SCREENPLAY 61 Writing the Screenplay by Yourself (Sole Authorship) 61 Writing Collaboration (Writing Partners and Joint Authorship) 63 Deal Points 65 8. ACQUIRING SCREENPLAY RIGHTS 73 Buying Rights 73 The Screenplay Option Purchase 74 Major Deal Points The Option Agreement 75 Major Deal Points The Purchase Agreement 77 Hiring a Screenwriter 82 Major Deal Points Writer's Services Agreement 84 Screenplay Adaptations 88

Working Toward Specificity In Visualization

The first version of your film began the first time you read the screenplay, or perhaps, if you were the author, while you were writing. Another version was born after the detective work, and perhaps the latest version after the staging. There will be more versions or maybe we should start calling them revisions as we begin to explore the best way of rendering each moment within the context of the entire film. The Russian director Sergei Eisenstein, in a lecture to film students (published as a monograph titled On the Composition of the Short Fiction Scenario), read a short screenplay by L. Leonov, The Feast at Zhirmuna, as an example of an exemplary scenario. Then he asked the students to think about how they would shoot it. It is instructive how Eisenstein suggested they go about this visualization.

The Crime of Monsieur Lange France Director Jean Renoir

Screenplay Jacques Pr vert and Jean Renoir, from an idea by Jean Castanier photography Jean Bachelet editor Marguerite Renoir sound Guy Moreau, Louis Bog , Roger Loisel, and Robert Tesseire production designers Jean Castanier and Robert Gys assisted by Roger Blin art director Marcel Blondeau music Jean Wiener still photography Dora Maar.

Cleo from to France Italy Director Agns Varda

Producers Georges de Beauregard and Carlo Ponti associate producer Bruno Drigo screenplay Agn s Varda photography Jean Rabier editor Janine Verneau sound engineers Jean Labussi re and Julien Coutellier sound editor Jacques Maumont art director Bernard Evein music Michel Legrand lyrics Agn s Varda costume designer Bernard Evein.

The Tin Drum Germany France Director Volker Schlodorff

Producer Franz Seitz executive producer Anatole Dauman screenplay Jean-Claude Carri re, Franz Seitz, and Volker Schlondorff, with the collaboration of G nter Grass, from his original novel photography Igor Luther editor Suzanne Baron assistant directors Branko Lustig, Alexander von Richtofen, Wolfgang Kroke, Andrzej Reiter, and Richard Malbequi lighting Karl Dillitzer production design Nikos Perakis art director Bernd Lepel sets Paul Weber, Edouard Pezzoli, Marijan, and Marcijus music Maurice Jarre costumes Dagmar Niefind, Inge Heer, and Vashy Yabara sound recording Walter Grundauer, Walter Kellerhaus, and Peter Beil.

The Threepenny Opera USAGermany Director G W Pabst

Producer Seymour Nebenzahl screenplay Leo Lania, Bela Bal sz and Ladislaus Vajda, from the play by Berthold Brecht adaptation for the French version Solange Bussi, Andr Mauprey, and Ninon Steinhoff photography Fritz Arno Wagner editors Hans Oser (German version), Henri Rust (French version) sound Adolf Jansen production designer Andrei Andreiev music Kurt Weill orchestration Theo Mackeben.

Austria Director Michael Haneke

Producer Veit Heiduschka screenplay Michael Haneke photography J rgen J rges assistant director Hanus Polak, Jr. editor Andreas Prochaska art director Christoph Kanter sound Walter Amann sound editor Bernhard Bamberger special effects makeup Waldemar Poktomski Simone Bachl special effects stunts Mac Steinmeier Danny Bellens Willy Neuner costumes Lisy Christl wardrobe Katharina Nikl mixer Hannes Eder production manager Werner Reitmeier united production managers Alfred Strobl Phillip Kaiser post-production Michael Katz Ulrike Lasser script supervisors Katharina Biro Jessica Hausner animals Animal Action dog trainer April Morley.