Screenwriting 101: Stephen J. Cannell

February 9th, 2016 by

Screenplay“I just loved it. When I was writing stuff that I liked, it just felt so good. I would read it over and think, ‘God this is really good — I really did this.’ And then sometimes I would write stuff that wasn’t very good — I’m very tough on my material — and I would read it again and say, ‘God, I missed this — it’s just horrible.’ And I would try to figure out how to fix it and not to make the mistake again. I was self-taught, but I also was using a lot of rules that I developed myself for plotting and for character construction. When I’d come across something that was valid, I would make sure that I never forgot it. It just was for me such an exciting thing, and still, I do it strictly for fun.”

— Stephen J. Cannell

Screenwriting 101: Rita Mae Brown

February 2nd, 2016 by

Screenplay“Character is destiny. The resolution of any plot must come from within the character. The redemption or destruction of any character is not the result of an external event, but the result of that character’s motivation. The inner life of people drives and manipulates their outer lives. We are the architects of our own Fate… Survival alters ideology. As life buffets you and your characters, this sentence will intensify in meaning. Change, growing from within and forced from without, is the mainspring of character development, of the process of human maturation.”

— Rita Mae Brown

Screenwriting 101: Catherine Turney

January 26th, 2016 by

Screenplay“Never attack a scene head on, always do it obliquely, if possible. Never have anything on the nose. It makes the audience more curious if you approach your points sideways. Avoid sentimentality… Keep away from it, keep away from it! Give it a hard edge.”

— Catherine Turney

Screenwriting 101: Roger Simon

January 19th, 2016 by

Screenplay“Richard Dreyfuss, who had always wanted to play the Moses Wine character, said, well let’s do it together. So we got a deal at Universal, and went off to a New York hotel suite. Dreyfuss said Spielberg used to tell him the way to adapt books was to throw the book away and start writing what he remembered. That’s when I realized most of what I wrote in detective fiction I had to throw away to write the screenplay. In a book, we have to be real to the emotional intelligence of the protagonists, and to the central intelligence of the book. In a movie, we have to be real to the events themselves.”

— Roger Simon (Enemies: A Love Story, Love in a Mall)

Writer’s Guild Journal, November 1992

Screenwriting 101: Robert Towne

January 12th, 2016 by

Screenplay“A movie is really only four or five moments between two people; the rest of it exists to give those moments their impact and resonance. The script exists for that.”

— Robert Towne

HT to Pj Woodside

Screenwriting 101: Tim Blake Nelson

January 5th, 2016 by

Screenplay“I have to be responsible to a schedule to be the sort of writer/director I want to be. Every day I get up and put myself in a frame of mind for inspiration to come, and manipulate and coax inspiration into stories that can actually be made. And that takes day-in, day-out dedication.”

— Tim Blake Nelson

Via New York Times

HT Susan Winchell

Screenwriting 101: Danny Strong

December 29th, 2015 by


“I always try to make the opening image of the film reflect the theme or the story in its entirety. I don’t always succeed, but that is my goal when I write the opening.”

— Danny Strong

Screenwriting 101: Jeff Nichols

December 22nd, 2015 by

Screenplay“Find a way to get around linear thinking. Stories, even ones with jumbled timelines and time periods, are linear. They start, stuff happens, they end. When working out a story, I try to stay away from traditional outlines. Trying to sit down and begin by listing the scenes in order seems overwhelming. My answer is to use notecards that I spread out on the floor. Ideas for scenes go on a card and initially aren’t required to work in concert with other scenes. This process ends up creating connections and story lines that might not have been discovered otherwise. You never know where a card might land on your floor.”

— Jeff Nichols (Take Shelter, Mud)

Screenwriting 101: Joe Eszterhas

December 15th, 2015 by

Screenplay“Don’t pitch stories, write spec scripts. Why try to convince a roomful of unread egomaniacs that you can write a good script about something. Just sit down and write the damn thing. It’s much more honest to do it well than to promise to do it well… Don’t let the bastards get you down. If you can’t sell your script, or if you sell the script and they bring in another writer to butcher it, or if the director claims in interviews that he really wrote your script, or if the actors claim that they improvised all of your best lines, or if you’re left out of the press junket, simply sit down and write another script. And if the same thing happens to you on that one, write another and another and another and another, until you get one up there that’s your vision translated by the director to the big screen.”

— Joe Eszterhas

Via @AdviceToWriters

Screenwriting 101: Andrew Bujalski

December 8th, 2015 by

Screenplay“Write out the scene the way you hear it in your head. Then read it and find the parts where the characters are saying exactly what you want/need them to say for the sake of narrative clarity (e.g., ‘I’ve secretly loved you all along, but I’ve been too afraid to tell you’). Cut that part out. See what’s left. You’re probably close.”

Andrew Bujalski on writing good dialogue