Free Screenwriting Resource: Over 80 Legal PDF Movie Script Downloads

August 29th, 2014 by

Read scripts. It’s one of the keys to learning the craft of screenwriting. Good news: There are plenty of online sites which host movie screenplays. Bad news: Most of those scripts are hosted illegally and without the permission of movie companies.

However for the last several years as part of their For Your Consideration campaigns for various movies during award season, movie studios and production companies have been making some of their scripts available online. We have aggregated over 80 of those and made their PDF downloads available to you. Free. Legal. And most of them are shooting scripts, the closest draft you can find to what was actually produced.

Some of the notable titles: 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Frozen, Gravity, Looper, Moonrise Kingdom, Prisoners, The Social Network, and The Wolf of Wall Street.

Go here to access all of those scripts. And be sure to come back in December as the 2014 For Your Consideration scripts become available.

Go here to access links to all of the select group of Free Screenwriting Resources from Go Into The Story.

Each day in August, I’m going to highlight a screenwriting resource available on the blog. Why? Because with over 15,000 posts and 70+ archive topics, I want to make sure readers are aware of the many, many assets available here for reading and research. And they are all free!

Great Character: Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow (“The Avengers”)

August 29th, 2014 by

The Great Character theme for the month: Action Heroines. Today: Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow from the 2012 movie The Avengers.

Scarlett Johansson has been known for not just unanimous sex appeal, but for keeping her acting resume diverse and intriguing. She has already earned four Golden Globe nominations three years straight (2004-2006) before the age of 30: Lost in Translation, Girl With a Pearl Earring, A Love Song For Bobby Long and Match Point. Johansson has also been directed by a respected collection of “Action” and “Cut” callers such as: The Coen Brothers, Woody Allen, Christopher Nolan, Sofia Coppola, Spike Jonze and Cameron Crowe.

But with the cardiovascular requirements of playing the Marvel Comics kicker-of-butts Natasha Romanoff AKA Black Widow in Iron Man 2, Scarlett Johansson upped the ante straight through the ceiling as a highly believable action heroine. Most recently Johannson has made an appearance as the Black Widow in another blockbuster Marvel sequel: Captain America: The Winter Soldier. But it was Scarlett’s strong ensemble contribution as the Russian spy S.H.I.E.L.D. member Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow in 2012’s biggest movie money machine The Avengers ($1,518,594,910) that helped blast her off into more “Mrs. Action” film possibilities outside of the Marvel vault: like the summer 2014 Mind-Over-Mankind Luc Besson hit Lucy.

The Avengers IMDB:

Heroes across Earth and the universe must assemble to stop a fierce demigod from taking over New York and the world, but they must assemble since the battle will not be won with just one.

The Avengers presented two huge tasks for Johansson to tackle, which she handled extremely well by the way. The first obstacle was to not get overshadowed by the collective radiant acting talent and stardom of Robert Downey Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Mark Ruffalo, Jeremy Renner, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans in the eyes of cinephiles. The second potentially harder challenge was for her lesser-known character to not turn invisible next to the likes of highly established heroes like Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America and Thor by Comic-Con comic book customers. Done and Done. Scarlet’s Black Widow needs no heroic husband to make her relevant. Look no further than the highly memorable interrogation scene where Natasha reverses any idea of being some helpless damsel in distress while the big boys get to play rough.

Not only does the Black Widow sting on a physical level in The Avengers, but her “Snowcap Mountain-Cold” deadpan statements can also be categorized as comedic timing when necessary.

NATASHA ROMANOFF: Cognitive re-calibration. I hit you really hard in the head.

Along with her long-time associate Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Black Widow is the only other Avenger with zero cosmic, scientific or technologically enhanced abilities. She is kicking it old school with her killer combat strategy: two feet and two fists.

NATASHA ROMANOFF: This is Loki. This is monsters and magic and nothing we were ever trained for.

There is a dark side to the Black Widow, and Natasha Romanoff is still haunted by the nightmare-inducing drama that her drastically desensitized eyes have unfortunately been open to. It appears that the same poison-hearted training and assignments that have made her deadly have also sickened her enough to instigate a redemptive purging to purify her conscience.

NATASHA ROMANOFF: It’s really not that complicated. I’ve got red in my ledger; I’d like to wipe it out.

Before we get to see director/screenwriter Joss Whedon’s riveting Act III Good Guys Vs. Bad Guys extra large epic showdown, the heroes and their heroine have to get past some internal quarreling first. Black Widow finds herself in a situation that doesn’t exactly put the “T” in Teamwork – she has to defend herself from a ballistic bipolar Hulk spaz session and a mind-controlled good-turned-evil plot-twisted Hawkeye.

She can kick, punch work her way around a weapon for two, negotiate with reluctant rage-mongers for the greater good and remain smart and crafty without ever appearing to be just some hot talking cat suit. Natasha Romanoff and her alter ego Black Widow are both brutal and brilliant.

For her cunning, quick-thinking tactics, her complex character subtext and her heavy-duty conflict resolution talent that shines amongst A-List comic book legends – Natasha Romanoff the Black Widow is one marvelously GREAT CHARACTER in the gladiator gallery of action heroines.

I really enjoyed The Avengers and one reason why is because of a central theme: A dysfunctional family learning how to work together. At the beginning, a collection of individual superheroes and super-egos. By the end, they had worked through their differences to work together as a team. And then that post-credit scene:

What does a ‘family’ do, but eat together. And if they know each other well enough, they don’t need to talk. They understand the situation and their group dynamic, so they are comfortable enough to sit in silence… enjoying their shawarma.

Thank you, Jason, for this post. Please join us in comments to discuss The Avengers.

You may follow Jason on Twitter: @A2Jason.

Daily Dialogue — August 29, 2014

August 29th, 2014 by

Dr. Harvey Kelekian: You have cancer. Miss Bearing, you have advanced metastatic ovarian cancer.
Vivian Bearing: Go on.
Dr. Harvey Kelekian: You are a professor, Miss Bearing.
Vivian Bearing: Like yourself, Dr. Kelekian.
Dr. Harvey Kelekian: Why, yes. Now then, you present with a growth that unfortunately went undetected… in stages one, two, and three. Now it is an insidious adenocarcinoma…
Vivian Bearing: Insidious?
Dr. Harvey Kelekian: Insidious means undetectable at an early…
Vivian Bearin: Insidious means treacherous.

Wit (2001), teleplay by Emma Thompson & Mike Nichols, play by Margaret Edson

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Delivering Bad News.

Trivia: The play “Wit” won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama in 1999.

Dialogue On Dialogue: These are the very first lines of this HBO movie, literally: “You have cancer.” A compelling way to grab the viewer particularly with Kelekian (Christopher Lloyd) staring into camera… straight at us. This immediately poses the question in our minds: What if I did, indeed, have cancer? And that draws us closer to the story’s Protagonist Vivian Bearing (Emma Thompson).

September: Classic 70s Movie Month

August 28th, 2014 by

In December 2013, we had a series called Classic 80s Movies Month in which I invited readers to select noteworthy movies from the decade of the eighties and provide a condensed overview of it. That resulted in this: A list of links to movies you should know about. Then in May 2014, we did the same thing for 90s movies. Here is a link to that archive.

Those series went so well, I thought why not do this for more decades? Over time, we will aggregate a decade by decade resource I can point people to who know they need to watch movies, but might not have an idea which ones.

So what if we make September: Classic 70s Movie Month? That’s what I proposed in this post earlier this week.

I’m looking for 22 volunteers to write guest posts to go live Monday through Friday in September, each entry featuring a 70s movie you think screenwriters should know about and hopefully at some point watch. If more people volunteer, then we can expand the series into 30 posts.

Here is a template you can use for your guest post:

Movie Title


Writers (screenwriters and any authors whose books were used as the basis for adaptation)

Lead Actors (Just the main ones)


IMDB Plot Summary (You can find that directly under the Your Rating box. If you don’t feel the summary does the story justice, feel free to write up a logline of your own.)

Why I Think This Is A Classic 70s Movie (Feel free to write as much as you’d like up to a half-page or so.)

My Favorite Moment In The Movie

My Favorite Dialogue In the Movie (IMDB has a Quotes section for almost every movie, so you can find key dialogue in your movie’s site.)

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching This Movie

Please use this exact template to help me in the editing process.

If you can find a YouTube clip from the film or its trailer, please include that URL.

When you are done with your guest post, you may simply copy and paste the content into an email to me or create a Word document and attach it to an email.

I will run the posts in the order I receive them.

If you are interested in doing a guest post, please indicate in Comments or send me an email with the movie you would like to cover.

Here’s your chance to feature a personal favorite from the decade of the 70s. And for every contributor, I will send a special gust of creative juju your way.

If you need to look at some examples of posts, go here and here, and click on any link.

UPDATE: Once again, the GITS community responds! We have 30 volunteers. Please get your guest posts to me by September 4 for scheduling purposes. For those with a time crunch, let’s set a second target date: September 10.

Here is the list of wonderful writers and the great 70s movie each has chosen to write about. I have put in bold those who have already sent their guest post to me.

A2Jason: Taxi Driver
Rob Bell: The Friends of Eddie Coyle
chriscaleo: Being There
cilly247: Close Encounters of the Third Kind
cschillig: The Exorcist or Halloween
Markham Cook: Jaws
Eric Rodriguez: Logan’s Run
Ryan Gilmore: The Godfather, Part I and Part II
pgronk: Chinatown
John Henderson: Smokey and the Bandit
Steve Huerta: The Getaway
Jacob Holmes-Brown: Alien
Zach Jansen: Dog Day Afternoon
Will King: Colossus: The Forbin Project
LateNightDoom: What’s Up, Doc?
Lynn: Carrie
mafatty79: McCabe & Mrs. Miller
maveric1974: Apocalypse Now
Karla McNeese: Murder by Death
Debbie Moon: Three Days of the Condor
N D: Network
Daryl Powell: Rocky
Jon Raymond: The Conversation
Greg Scharpf: Shampoo
Arnaud Talaia: All the President’s Men
Barbara Thomas: Young Frankenstein
rich_trenholm: The Man With a Golden Gun
Michael Waters: The Sting
Thomas Wüstemann: Harold and Maude
Turk187: Monty Python And The Holy Grail
Bretton Zinger: Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope

If there is a 70s movie you don’t see listed here you think deserves to be in our archives as a resource to others and you have a strong desire to write about it, I’m happy to include additional posts in the series. Email me with your suggestions.

If you have already volunteered, please try to email your posts to me by September 4. And again, let’s target a second drop date for those who need additional time: September 10. Thanks!

2011 Screenwriters Roundtable, Part 4: Chris Borrelli, F. Scott Frazier, Jeremiah Friedman, Nick Palmer, Justin Rhodes, Greg Russo, John Swetnam

August 28th, 2014 by

As something of an elder member of the screenwriting community, one of the wonderful experiences I have had since I started the blog is to get to know dozens of writers who I think would be fair to describe as ‘Young Turks’. Not necessarily young in terms of their age, but rather with regard to their zeal for the craft and their brazenness in how they approach storytelling. There is a kind of fearlessness in evidence among this group, along with obvious talent, and I find their words, both in conversation and in their scripts, uplifting and inspiring.

Back in 2011, I corralled several of these writers for a screenwriters roundtable which I ran as a series of blog posts. Readers loved it. So I reached out to the group again in 2012. They agreed to another roundtable. Again, readers loved the conversation.

By this time, a thought occurred to me: Visiting with this same core group of writers in an annual roundtable would not only give us the benefit of their perspective on the craft and state of the movie business, it would also allow us to track their individual and collective development.

I discussed this with the group and thankfully, they agreed to do another roundtable at the end of 2013.

In two weeks, I will be featuring that new installment of the screenwriters roundtable, but I thought as a run-up to that, it would be a good idea to reprise both the 2011 and 2012 interviews.

First, many readers will not have had the chance to read either of those conversations. Also this will give us a sense of how the careers of these writers are evolving. Indeed, as we speak, two of them are directing their first feature length movies.

So each day this week, I will post the 6-part 2011 screenwriters roundtable featuring Chris Borrelli, F. Scott Frazier, Jeremiah Friedman, Nick Palmer, Justin Rhodes, Greg Russo and John Swetnam. Next week, the 2012 roundtable. Then the week of September 8th, the newest installment of our screenwriters roundtable.

Here is Part 4 of the 2011 Screenwriters Roundtable.

[Originally posted March 8, 2012]

A special treat this week on GITS as each day I will be posting excerpts from a screenwriter’s roundtable I did with some of the best and hottest young screenwriters in Hollywood: Chris Borrelli, F. Scott Frazier, Justin Rhodes, Greg Russo, John Swetnam and the writing duo Jeremiah Friedman & Nick Palmer. How good are they? Over the last 2 years, they have combined to sell 12 spec scripts, and that doesn’t include the numerous writing assignments they have landed or original pitches they have set up.

Here are the 12 spec scripts they have sold:

Chris Borrelli: “The Vatican Tapes” [Black List 2009], “Wake”, “Sad Jack”.

F. Scott Frazier: “The Numbers Station”, “Line of Sight” [Black List 2011], “Autobahn”, and a fourth project as yet unannounced.

Jeremiah Friedman & Nick Palmer: “Family Getaway” [Black List 2010].

Justin Rhodes: “Second Sun”.

Greg Russo: “Down”, “Autobahn”.

John Swetnam: “Evidence”, “Category Six”.

Our conversation covered many topics and is a unique opportunity to learn what it’s like to go from aspiring to professional screenwriter. Beyond their insights into the craft, I’m sure you will be inspired by their passion for what they do, their love of movies, and just in general how much fun they are.

Screenwriter’s Roundtable: Part 4

SM: That gets into the whole area where you’re trying to give them [producers, studio executives, directors] some ownership over the project or the story, right?

Scott: You absolutely have to. Here’s the thing: My dad was a TV writer and he gave me advice as I was getting into the business over the last couple of years. And one of the things that he would always tell me, having spent time on TV shows and sets for two decades, is that it’s a collaborative process. There are gaffers and grips and catering people: This is their livelihood, right? They want to be a part of the process. They don’t just want to come in and service a movie, they want to actually be a part of it. And that goes from executives to directors, too. As much as we start a process, we just start with a blueprint. And being able to hand that blueprint over to other people, and being okay handing it over to other people, and then saying okay, now you add to it. Nobody sets out to make a bad movie. Nobody sets out to collaborate on getting bad ideas into a movie. It’s one of those things that you have to be okay with. It’s a shared vision. Unless you’re a guy like Quentin Tarantino who gets to write and direct and edit, it’s a collaborative medium. We have to share.

Justin: Something that I would add, one of the areas that you do have control over is who you get into bed with. So if you’re worried about getting bad notes or a bad collaborative experience or them having ownership over something, it’s kind of “Don’t make a baby with a woman you don’t want to live with.” That’s my perspective on this. If you’re going to sell a screenplay, you don’t have to sell it to the first guy who asks if you don’t want to. Or you go to a meeting and you don’t think you guys are going to gel.

John: My problem is that they give me money, I’ll just sleep with anybody.


SM: Let’s talk about that now because it’s a big difference now you’re all established and in the business. You’ve got representation, you’ve all been working with some top agents and managers. How much help are they in that regard, in terms of interpreting those types of people that you may or may not want to work with? Just in general, what’s your working relationship? What do you expect from your agents and managers and what do they expect from you?

Scott: They expect us to write, that’s what they want from us. They want us writing scripts, they want us writing movies. I always say that the currency of the screenwriter is a completed script. Very few people are going to pay you for beat sheet or an outline or an idea: It’s a completed script. That’s what I bring to the table for them and I expect advice about navigating the tricky waters of Hollywood. And I take their counsel seriously. I wouldn’t be repped by them if I didn’t respect and appreciate their counsel.

Jeremiah: Yeah, we’ve had some friends who’ve had less fortunate experiences with representation than we’ve had once we ultimately signed, and I think for us we expect honesty above all else. That when we give them material and we ask for their opinion or we ask about a meeting or an executive we want to have a truthful conversation about that stuff. We try and work as much as we can as full partners. I think there’s a lot of preconceptions about what agents are going to be like, but if you can find your way to relationships that feel like a partnership…

Nick: Yeah, feel like a partnership and that you can turn into a partnership and think of it as a team effort, then it can be incredibly beneficial.

Greg: Your agent, your manager… They’re your eyes and ears. They’re out there laying down covering fire while you’re down in the shit. They’re out there scouting what’s ahead of you trying to find the best way to get you through. It really has to be that team or else you’re going to get killed down there. I’ve been thoroughly impressed by that with my team and I love when they come back and say that they’ve got all this research on a project and who’s going in and this is where they’re going to position me. That’s what you need cause you can’t be worried about that. Your job is to just go in there and kick ass when you get the chance.

John: For me, I had been through a couple different managers and agents over the last few years, and after going through the process with a lot of different people… and they were all really good people, they were all really good friends and partners in a lot of ways… but what I wanted for me now was I wanted to talk about my career. My future. It always seemed to be about the spec you have. When you get your first manager or first agent with that spec, a lot of the talk is about the strategy of that particular spec. And what I want to talk about is where am I going to be in ten years. How do we get there? What do I need to start doing now in order to become the guy I want to be in five years? And when I met my guys, I had a meeting with a bunch of different people, and that was the reason why I signed with them. Because I went into the day and said, “Loo, this is where I want to be.” And it wasn’t just… I’m pretty arrogant, as Scott can probably tell you, but I have these huge goals, and I wanted these guys to believe in those goals and that they actually had a plan to help me get to that place that I wanted to get to. So it’s about thinking about the future and planning ahead, because this business is way too hard for just right now. All of us want to be doing this conversation in five years. That’s the important part to me… longevity.

SM: I want to jump to something that I think Scott said, basically that the stock and trade for a screenwriter is a completed script. I think there’s something going on with you guys. I’ve been around 25 years now and I’ve tracked the spec script market every year since then. And there’s something going on that’s different. Now. With this group of people. It used to be that Joe Eszterhaus would come along and he’d actually sell two or three specs or what not, but by-and-large what happened, the paradigm was you’d use a spec to break in, then you’d go after writing assignments and pitches and the rest of it. And  very rarely would working writers come out with spec scripts. It happened, but not that often. You guys, some of you in particular, you seem to be going back to that. That is your stock and trade in a way: You keep going back to these spec scripts. So I’m curious, is that strategy? Is that driven by your desire to get that story written? What’s going on there where you’re going back and putting spec scripts out on the market, even though you’re well-established in the business.

Chris: For me, I found it was a trap early on, where I was creating documents. I had a script, but I was just creating documents for execs, and a year went by and what had I created? What had I added? And thinking again, not from our point of view as writers, but thinking from the point of view of buyers, and people who make money off the buyers — agents, managers, etcetera — our real value is to create story, to create scripts. There’s a saying in business — nothing to do with film — don’t look for a job, create a job. So I don’t ever plan to stop writing specs. I’d love to do two a year, if I get really busy, maybe less. Maybe I can do more. I’m no Frazier, I can’t do seventeen specs a year, but I can do some. I think that’s our value: always be creating. And another thing about a spec is that it’s a wonderful advertisement for you. It’s the best commercial you can do for your career. It goes out to a hundred people who read it, and they may not need it/want it/like it, but hopefully they like it enough that you’re on their radar even stronger than you were before. I’m a big fan of it. And I also believe… I call it brick-laying. I’m never happier career-wise than when I finish writing five pages a day. And that movie, whatever it is, feels closer to me. It’s not just a document. It feels somewhat real. I’m a big fan, I don’t ever plan to stop writing specs.

Scott: For me, I went out on a lot of assignments this year and it’s not like it was a choice to only do specs, but I’ve gotten sent out on a bunch of assignments, and I’ve gotten close, but they’ve never materialized. But I have sold two specs this year, and I sold two last year, and so I’m being successful in that. It’s what I’ve kind of gotten used to. And if I wake up every morning and I’m not writing, I feel off, I feel weird. So if there’s nothing else to be working on, I might as well be writing my own thing…

Chris: — that you love –

Scott: — exactly, that I love to do. That I’m fortunate enough to be able to do.

John:  Yeah, I only wrote my last spec because I was tired of Frazier fucking selling so many, and I had to keep up so I had to go write another one. I was just going to sit around and do nothing and drink but… thanks, Frazier.

Scott: I’ll tell you a funny story about that. The first time Swetnam and I ever met, it was the middle of the summer and I’d been doing a lot of assignment after assignment, where I was putting together documents, beat sheets, all this crap. And I hadn’t written an original page in probably two-and-a-half months and it was getting to me. I was literally like physically itchy. I needed to write. So Swetnam and I go out to get a burger, and it was three days before his movie Evidence started shooting, and he was telling me about how awesome it was, and they were building sets out in Valencia, and they were about to shoot a movie. And I was like, son of a bitch. I need to write a movie. So I went home — and this is no joke — and I was so pissed at Swetnam for getting this movie made, and I’m thinking, what is a movie that I could write really quickly? And I had three or four ideas that I’d had sitting on the back-burner, and one of them was a contained thriller. And I went home that night after burgers with John Swetnam and I sat down and wrote the first draft of Autobahn in like ten hours. Because of John Swetnam.

John: Where’s my fucking ten percent, dude?


Scott: So, I don’t know. We push each other.

John: Then I went and wrote Category Six because he pissed me off writing a script in ten hours, I wrote mine in four days and I was really pissed. So I just wrote one last week in a weekend, so fuck you, Frazier.

Here’s something about screenwriters: We’re competitive. Oh sure, some of the nicest people you will meet. Well, at least most of us. But when we read about someone selling a script or a pitch, at least some part of us is going, “Damn him/her!”

We want those gigs. We want those headlines. We want that money.

The competitive spirit can be destructive. But it can also be incredibly creative. Read up on John Lennon and Paul McCartney. They did just like I said: Paul would write a song one day and play it for the guys. John would come back the next day with his song. Then Paul. Then John. That led to greatness.

So embrace your creativity. But also embrace your competitive drive.

You’re going to need it to make it in Hollywood.

Each day for this series, I’m going to highlight one of the writers. Today: Justin Rhodes.

Justin Rhodes writes, directs, and lives in Los Angeles. He came to filmmaking by way of animation after a detour through architecture. In 2011 he sold his spec “Second Sun” to Warner Bros. after developing it with producer Scott Aversano. Earlier the same year, he sold a pitch to Summit for producer Wyck Godfrey and Temple Hill. In 2008 he directed a cheesy low-budget action movie on location in Trinidad called Contract Killers, and in 2010 co-wrote an indie political comedy called Grassroote for director Stephen Gyllenhaal starring Jason Biggs, Joel David Moore, Lauren Ambrose, Cobie Smulders, and Cedric the Entertainer. He drinks entirely too much Red Bull. If you find him laying dead from a heart attack, please inform the paramedics that it was probably a caffeine overdose in case they have stuff for that. If they do, he’ll owe you a life debt and be your own personal Chewbacca. If they don’t, he won’t be in a position to blame you for not being more helpful.

For my one-on-one interview with Justin here.

You may follow Justin on Twitter: @twopointfour.

For Part 1 of the roundtable discussion, go here.

Part 2, here.

Part 3, here.

Tomorrow: Part 5 of this exclusive screenwriter’s roundtable. Much more to come over the next few weeks.

Thanks again to Chris Borrelli, F. Scott Frazier, Jeremiah Friedman, Nick Palmer, Justin Rhodes, Greg Russo and John Swetnam for their participation in this conversation.

Infographic: Anatomy of Films

August 28th, 2014 by

Here it is! Your guide to formulaic writing!

Anatomy of Films humorous infographic

Now go out and write some formulaic scripts!

…just kidding.

Movie Trailer: “Unbroken”

August 28th, 2014 by

Screenplay by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen and Richard LaGravenese and William Nicholson, book by Laura Hillenbrand

A chronicle of the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner who was taken prisoner by Japanese forces during World War II.


Release Date: 25 December 2014 (USA)

Free Screenwriting Resource: Dialogue! Dialogue! Dialogue!

August 28th, 2014 by

If you need some inspiration writing dialogue, boy, have we got you covered! Every single day this blog has been in existence, I have featured a post called Daily Dialogue. We are talking well over 2,000 posts spotlighting notable movie dialogue. You can check out the posts year by year:

And check this out: The GITS Daily Dialogue Topic Index! You can read about Liz and Allie, two sisters who are big fans of the blog, and were inspired to create the index.

Either way, a great resource for writers looking for inspiration for their own dialogue writing.

Go here to access links to all of the select group of Free Screenwriting Resources from Go Into The Story.

Each day in August, I’m going to highlight a screenwriting resource available on the blog. Why? Because with over 15,000 posts and 70+ archive topics, I want to make sure readers are aware of the many, many assets available here for reading and research. And they are all free!

Daily Dialogue — August 28, 2014

August 28th, 2014 by

Olive: [going over eye test pamphlets] Mom, Dwayne’s got 20/20 vision!
Sheryl: I bet he does…
Olive: Now, let’s see if you’re colorblind. [opens the pamphlet] What’s the letter in the circle?

Dwayne looks confused.

Olive: No in the circle. The letter… in the circle?
Frank: Can you see a letter, Dwayne?
Olive: It’s an A. See? Right there?
Frank: It’s bright green. [to himself] Oh man.

Dwayne scribbles anxiously on his notepad – “What?”

Frank: Dwayne, I think you might be colorblind.

Pause, Dwayne holds up his notepad again – “What?”

Frank: You can’t fly jets if you’re colorblind.

Dwayne starts to panic, starts hitting the window and the chair in front of him, he then attempts to open the door. Races outside and down a hill. Then –


Little Miss Sunshine (2006), written by Michael Arndt

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Delivering Bad News.

Trivia: After Olive hugs Dwayne and they begin to ascend back to the van, a sign can be seen in the background reading: “United we stand”.

Dialogue On Dialogue: Such a memorable moment in this movie, the bad news causing Dwayne to break his vow of silence. I love this movie so much! Anybody else with me?

Also be sure to check out the video above. A fan of the movie went to the very spot they shot the Dwayne freak-out. Cool thing to do.

Reader Question: How do you determine if a script is good?

August 27th, 2014 by

Question from 14Shari:

In one of your posts you advice to have at least three scripts in your portfolio. how do you decide which ones are good examples? Are there any measurements or standards one can use?

This is a great question, Shari. At a basic level, you’d like to have a strong belief in the material yourself. In December 1986, I mailed a letter along with the final draft of the spec script K-9 I had just edited. In that letter, I wrote to my writing partner something to the effect that if somebody didn’t buy the script, everyone in Hollywood was crazy. I said that based on two things. First, an utter lack of understanding about how unfathomably hard it is to sell a spec script in Hollywood (in that respect, I was the one who was crazy). Second, my absolute belief in the story.

But I would not recommend putting material out to Hollywood reps and buyers based solely on one’s belief. All writers can be blind to a story’s quality – or lack thereof – getting swept up by the material and the writing process.

[Piece of advice: After you finish a draft, set it aside for at least 2 weeks. You may think you've written the Great American Screenplay, perfect in every way. When you read it again after a break with a 'fresh' set of eyes, you'll likely be amazed at how imperfect the script is.]

As a matter of course, I would recommend you have any script you write evaluated by professional readers. In point of fact, one of the reasons I believed so fully in K-9 was because the previous draft had been reviewed by two studio executives, who provided some extremely helpful feedback which ended up being incorporated into that final draft.

So who constitutes “professional readers”? Not your spouse. Your parents. Your children. Your siblings. Your next-door neighbor. If they are friends or family, especially if they don’t know much about what constitutes a solid script, their opinions don’t really matter all that much, and in fact their praise for your material can lead you to a cloudy assessment of your story.

Fortunately there are professional script readers, many of them available online. A relatively cost-effective way just to get a sense if your script is in the ballpark or not are the Black List readers. [NOTE: I do not make any money from my association with the Black List.] I know many people who have used this service and praise it. Indeed, I’ve tried it on a script project to get impartial feedback. I found the comments on-point and helpful.

Another route to determining if a script is good is the big screenwriting contests, the Nicholl Fellowship and the Austin Screenwriting Competition probably the most prestigious of the bunch. If you do well in either or both, you not only know your script is a strong one, you’re likely to be contacted by Hollywood reps.

The thing is no two readers are alike. You may pay to have several pro readers provide feedback on your script and each may have a differing take on it. This could end up confusing you, providing no clear path through the rewrite. So there are dangers in getting too many assessments.

Frankly, some stories are just going to create widely divergent views. I co-wrote a script featuring a hard-to-like protagonist. My agents at CAA had it covered by two in-house script readers. One thought it was really good. The other utterly loathed it.

So we circle back to your belief. Before you send out a script or query a rep, you should be able to give an honest appraisal of it, and truly believe that you have written a good story. But in my opinion, you should only get to that point after you’ve had the script reviewed by pro readers, and you’ve rewritten the script to address the issues that you feel are worth fixing.

Hey, just as I was wrapping up this response, I remembered an interview I did with writer-director Declan O’Dwyer who sold his spec script “Broken Cove” to Hollywood while living over in the U.K. by submitting it on the Black List website He had this to say on the subject:

That was one of the best things about putting it on the Black List. It’s one of the first times that I’d ever exposed myself to such criticism. I don’t agree with paying £500, $600 and often more, whatever, to one of those industry script reading services to get a generic script editor, ONE script editor, to go through my script and tell me what was wrong with it structurally and thematically and dialogue‑wise? I don’t agree with that – smacks to me as a fucking rip-off – preying on peoples hopes and aspirations. Many (not all) are just looking to tick certain boxes, to hand it to certain people who would like certain things. That’s not what I want.

The Black List is different. I put it up there and I paid for a couple ‘reads’. It’s a very small fee – especially when you think you’re getting people that do this for a living, reading your script, breaking it down, analyzing it, and putting up a review. Whether you like the feedback or not, that’s irrelevant – you learn much more from criticism that you do from praise.

I had some great, great reads for “Broken Cove.” First, a couple of 8’s and then I had a couple 9’s for dialogue n’stuff. Then I had a 4, man, from the dialogue. I was just like, “What? What kinda drugs are you on?”

Yeah man, I used the Black List as my script editor. I found when I got bad feedback and things, I was really honest with myself, really brutally honest, after having that initial, “What the fuck are they talking about?” moment. It was the, “Oh right, yeah, that’s what they’re talking about.” If I agree, I change it. If I didn’t, I didn’t. You’ve got to have faith in your story. I wouldn’t have written it if I didn’t have faith in it because my attention spans’ too short.

Declan used the Black List as his “script editor.” Whether it’s the Black List or some other readers, this is my point: You can use pro readers to give you feedback, consider the critiques honestly, make the changes you think are necessary, and see where that takes you with the next draft. You may need to go through the process several times, like Declan did. But look where it got him!

You can read my interview with Declan here.

But wait! There’s more! Just as I was about to schedule this sucker, a Twitter conversation broke out about script readers. To provide a counter position, here is what Craig Mazin (The Hangover II, Identity Thief) tweeted:

So like everything else with regard to this crazy craft, each writer has to figure out their own process. Some, like Declan, will benefit from getting pro reads. Others may not. At the very least, however, using readers like the Black List is a cost efficient way to determine if your script is on the right track and identify potential areas to work on.

Readers, what are your thoughts? How do you determine if your script is ready to submit somewhere or not? Please head to comments and share your thoughts.