Screenwriting 101: Paddy Chayefsky

October 6th, 2015 by

screenplay“Artists don’t talk about art. Artists talk about work. If I have anything to say to young writers, it’s stop thinking of writing as art. Think of it as work.”

— Paddy Chayefsky

Screenwriting 101: Neil Simon

September 29th, 2015 by

screenplay“I think the best ideas come together at the same time. In other words, the most interesting characters plus a very interesting conflict. If I just have one without the other, then I’m not sure where the thing is going. Those kinds of conflict always interest me. When people are confined in a physical space, or in a situation, and must deal with each other. It’s why marriage as a subject interests me, because you must deal with it.

I try not to write villains per se, because I think life is the villain. I think how we cope with life is the conflict. And so it just seems too easy to write about somebody who is an out and out villain, because the audience makes up their mind very quickly. You’ve made up their minds for them. But when the two people are equal in their conviction of what the particular problem is they’re dealing with, then it’s like a badminton game, the audience doesn’t know which side to be on.”

— Neil Simon from “Word Into Image”

Screenwriting 101: Christoper McQuarrie

September 22nd, 2015 by


“Screenwriting tip: A mystery is only as good as its conclusion, especially if that conclusion is a monologue explaining the mystery.”

— Christopher McQuarrie (via Twitter)

Screenwriting 101: Sterling Silliphant

September 15th, 2015 by

screenplay“I map out five pages a day, thirty-five pages a week. I keep revising the schedule and the four weeks become six weeks or eight weeks, but to take more than eight weeks for the first draft would be reprehensible.”

— Stirling Silliphant

Screenwriting 101: Allan Scott

September 8th, 2015 by

screenplay“I think writing is the only way to live that I have been interested in. Not to liberate my soul or correct any imperfection in an imperfect world. Just for the incredible pleasure of working and the discipline now of daily being surprised at what is happening as I live; so that when the end comes, I shall doubtless be found with my head mashed on the keys of the typewriter. All I’m trying to say here is that I think the craft of fiction is just a jigsaw puzzle; and half the fun is doing it.”

— Allan Scott

Screenwriting 101: Alvin Sargent

September 1st, 2015 by

screenplay“Rigidity is the mother of rigidity. It’s very exciting to be ridiculous. I wish I could be even more so than I am. Jump! Jumping is a lifeline. It brings you to life. Take the character and put him where he least wants to be. If it’s honest, it’ll be worth exploring.”

— Alvin Sargent

Screenwriting 101: Wells Root

August 25th, 2015 by

screenplay“Generally speaking, the most successful stories are those of human character. The most important thing in a script is to have strong leading characters. Plot and structure and the rest are really secondary. It’s how your characters behave and what they say that really makes a film live. The most effective screenplays and films are those solidly based in human characters.”

— Wells Root

Screenwriting 101: Frank Pierson

August 18th, 2015 by

“Frank Daniel, who started AFI and was the head of Sundance, said a very interesting thing–we can have 10 or 15 very different advisors, people who do radically different kinds of pictures, but we all see the same problems in a script. He remarked that that insight is enormously encouraging because it indicates there is some science and craft to the making of motion pictures. But then he added that when we sit down to discuss how to solve the problems, everybody goes in totally, wildly different directions, which is also encouraging because it indicates that making motion pictures is an art. It is our craft that gives us the ability to hang on year after year and keep on writing. As far as the art, the mystery is concerned, we hope we can always stay in touch with our demons and our childishness, as God knows, the divorce courts can testify to the writers’ record on that score. Both are necessary, there’s no question about that. But the craft may dominate because it allows us to accommodate the art.”

— Frank Pierson (WGA Journal, February 1993)

Screenwriting 101: Whit Stillman

August 11th, 2015 by

“I find scriptwriting pretty painful until enough of the world and characters are in motion–which can be a very long time. At the start, I find it’s all lame and bad–it’s just bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, and then more bad. I don’t like to write too many hours in any one session because I find, after a few hours, I just keep going down the pike of some bad idea. The scripts that worked and became films took me years to write–18 months at least. I feel writing is like this stream that does not have a lot of gold. I’m prospecting, I’m panning for gold–or, rather, anything of value–and this stream is very weak on precious metals. Look at Woody Allen’s productivity versus my productivity. Or, rather, don’t look at it! I mean, he really is a comic genius–incredibly fecund with ideas. I feel that I don’t have that many ideas and I really have to work them. It’s the tortoise and the hare–and I’m a total tortoise.”

— Whit Stillman (FilmCraft | Screenwriting, P. 148)

Screenwriting 101: Eleanor Perry

August 4th, 2015 by

“Each writer starts differently, but I think the only valid way is to start with character. Character is plot. Character is story. The human behavior and human feelings and emotions and thought is what makes a story.”

— Eleanor Perry