Seven, written by Andrew Kevin Walker and directed by David Fincher, is one of the great thrillers of the 1990s, a decade with several exceptional thrillers. Walker’s screenplay for Seven shot him to the Script Doctor A-list, establishing him as a hot writer of dark material on spec, like 1999′s 8mm, as well as garnering him uncredited rewrites on films such as Fight Club, The Game (also Fincher-directed films) and Stir of Echoes (directed by Walker’s mentor, David Koepp). read more
I’m more interested in being a part of an entire piece that I think is brilliant, even if it’s a small part to play.
The Shawshank Redemption screenplay by Frank Darabont, based on the novella by Stephen King, is a powerful character-driven drama that covers many years in the lives of multiple characters, all tied together around the theme of “preserving hope in the most hopeless of situations.”
The Godfather may be the most famous example of a great movie made from a poorly-written book. With the release of this page of text from Mario Puzo’s novel with hand-written notes by Francis Ford Coppola, we can see this claim in action! In other words, if you click on the image below and actually read the text, you can see how bad Puzo’s writing really was and breathe a sigh of relief that Coppola meticulously planned his translation to the screen.
Two seminal films in the pantheon of cinematic history, Revenge of the Nerds and The Beastmaster, employ a scene archetype that we see in the climax of many a story — the beat that occurs when the friends that the hero made earlier in the movie, whom we’d forgotten about, return to help save the day, thus facilitating the hero’s triumph over evil. Sometimes, they are former enemies who have become allies out of respect for the protagonist’s actions since they first met. read more
Ed. note: Here’s one of my favorite essays that I’ve polished up for your reading pleasure…
I’d like to tell you what I love to see in a great Thriller screenplay.
Dan’s 2-Minute Screenwriting School is back in action with an expert panel of top screenwriters including Dustin Lance Black (Milk, Big Love), Josh Olson (A History of Violence), Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely (Captain America, Chronicles of Narnia) and Diablo Cody (Juno). These professional script doctors discuss the importance of writing multiple projects at once. read more
Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay E-Book is ready for purchase. Go HERE for excerpts, a sample story map and three options, including a “Booster Pack” with 12 new story maps!
Continuing this Excerpt from Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay (Part One here):
I love it when I see a movie or read a script and the writer is willing to “go there,” to take the story to the extremes of the dramatic conflict. Not afraid to shock, offend or make their audience uncomfortable, but to be true to the story and the dramatic elements that they have built.
In The Hangover, the guys tell Phil (Bradley Cooper) not to leave the baby in the car alone and he argues, “I cracked the window!” Awful…but hilarious.
In Million Dollar Baby, Maggie (Hilary Swank) is not just hurt but she is paralyzed from the neck down. Her condition worsens in horrible ways and she asks Frankie (Clint Eastwood) to euthanize her. There is no last-minute save; he must end her life to allow his arc to come to fruition.
In Sideways, Jack (Thomas Hayden Church) has already had one affair and got his nose broken in 3 places, but he still insists on sleeping with the waitress, leading him to get caught by her husband. It gets worse when Jack makes Miles (Paul Giamatti) go back to the house to retrieve his wallet, and Miles gets chased by the naked husband. This represents the ultimate test of Miles’ loyalty to his friend.
Or in Total Recall, when this happens to Arnie…
Now that’s good writing.
Scott Rosenberg is a very successful screenwriter whose produced credits include Armageddon, Beautiful Girls, Things to do in Denver When You’re Dead and Gone in 60 Seconds. I had been a fan of his for years before I met him at the Austin Screenwriters Conference. read more
Here is a compilation of questions I was asked by screenwriters on varying topics a few years back and my advice still holds firm — some helpful screenwriting tips that I’ve learned over the years and I hope this information can help you…
Questions Below (links removed):
- What is the criteria for script contests?
- How long should I wait to submit my work to the industry?
- Getting the read
- How long will it take me to break through?
- What do you look for in a story?
- Art Films vs. Popcorn Movies
- A contact wants a “cut” to pass on my script, should I do it?
- To a writer worried about their idea being stolen…
- I know I’m shooting my script as an indie feature, do I need your services?
- Is it a big Hollywood movie or a TV spec sample?
What is the criteria for judging scripts in script contests? If you don’t place in one does that mean odds are you won’t place in another? Is it possible for a good script to not place simply because it wasn’t what they were looking for?
I entered my script into the San Diego Script Competition and found out yesterday I wasn’t even a finalist. I was pretty disappointed and it got me thinking that my script isn’t as good as I thought. I am still waiting to hear from another contest but, I can’t get it out of my head that it is hopeless…
I won’t ever give up and have already begun redrafting, but man did that hurt. Can you offer some insight into to how the whole script contest thing works?
Thank you from a newbie!
Act Three in your screenplay — the final act — is the race to the finish line. It’s a fast-paced, high stakes push toward the climax, which ideally should be a direct confrontation between your Protagonist and your Antagonist. read more
The Meet The Parents screenplay is a classic example of a well-executed, high concept comedy that uses every dramatic element and beat of the Story Maps method of screenwriting.
Well, except one. read more
Which screenwriting software do you use to format your screenplay? There’s more options than ever out there. This article in Variety (squint!) talks about the two majors, Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter, as well as the young upstarts like Scripped.com and ScriptWrite, which exist on “the cloud” (the hot phrase right now). read more
Continued from Page One: Screenwriting Resolutions: Craft Goals
If you aspire to get paid for your writing, you will need to balance your craft development with marketing efforts. We writers are often most comfortable alone in front of our laptops, so it’s tough to put ourselves and our work out there. But you have to do it. There’s no way around it. read more
It’s that time of year again and we’re all making our New Year’s Resolutions.
Or are you avoiding them, like me? (In my defense, I’m just now finishing up a writing assignment and I wanted to maintain my focus on that, so suck on that, haters.)
Ahem. So…let’s give each other a kick in the pants, shall we? Here’s some advice, take it or leave it… read more
It was a bygone era known as the late 90s. I stepped out of the elevator on the 7th floor of the Tribeca Film Center into the lobby of Miramax Films and saw the above poster, beautifully framed, for an upcoming movie named Shakespeare in Love. read more
Anyone else use the old-fashioned, classic index cards to compile your scene list?
Sure, your screenwriting software has a super-cool 3D index card “mode” and you can drag-and-drop those shiny digital cards all you want and the edges will never fray and the ink will never smudge because there’s no edges and no ink.
But it’s just not the same. read more
We watched The Wizard of Oz over the weekend in one of its many post-Thanksgiving television airings and I couldn’t help but think “One classic holiday movie down, several more to go!”
My list of favs includes A Christmas Story, Die Hard, Christmas Vacation, Planes, Trains and Automobiles and the granddaddy of them all…It’s a Wonderful Life, the classic film directed by Frank Capra with a screenplay by six credited writers.
This reminded me of an old article of mine that was published in Script magazine way back in November 2002, so I decided to update it with some new analysis and Story Maps links… read more
A thunderclap rocked the online screenwriter community yesterday when word came out that Amazon Studios hath been born: Amazon.com’s new “crowd-sourcing” filmmakers community site with a mandate to fund theatrical feature films by emerging, as-yet-undiscovered talent.
It looks like it’s basically TriggerStreet.com but with a ton of money behind it and more of a mandate to produce films, rather than just touting the potential that a diamond in the rough might be shown to a bonafide Hollywood star as he masticates his sushi lunch.
At least that’s how it sounds as of now, on Day One of this experiment. It’s definitely going to be interesting to follow this project. Methinks Amazon may have got in a bit over their head on this one, but they’re a billion dollar corporation so they must have a spreadsheet somewhere that calculates a sure-fire upside.
Essentially, Amazon has created the biggest screenplay contest of all time, considering the grand prize purse is $200,000 with the potential of a $400,000 production bonus.