Posts tagged ‘how to write a script’

September 18, 2013

The Un-Rules of Screenwriting: What We’ve Learned So Far

E.B. White wrote that there are “no inflexible rules by which the young writer may steer his course. He will often find himself steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion.” With this in mind, we’ve asked working screenwriters to share a list of the “un-rules” that they find most helpful in their writing careers.

Every week we’ve been posting wonderful lists of “un-rules” from successful screenwriters working in the industry today. These un-rules, or “principles” as Robert McKee would call them, are the guiding ideas that each of these writers find most important to their creative process.

Today, I want to take a step back and look at what we’ve learned. Below are the rules that I have found most insightful, practical, and helpful thus far:

  1. Respect the craft of screenwriting. This includes mastering format and becoming an excellent storyteller. There is no easy way to success. If you believe that your first script will make your career, you will be humbled when you learn that your craft is bigger than you’ll ever be. (Mark Sanderson)

  2. If you can’t pitch your idea in a sentence, toss it in the garbage. There’s a very good chance the person who has the power to buy your script will never read it.  They will simply ask the exec underneath them (that did read it), “What’s it about?” (Joe Gazzam)

  3. Don’t be afraid to extensively outline.  Get examples of outlines where you can.  Outline your favorite movies and favorite screenplays to teach yourself about structure. (Kirsten Smith)

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September 11, 2013

The Un-Rules of Screenwriting: Karen McCullah’s List

E.B. White wrote that there are “no inflexible rules by which the young writer may steer his course. He will often find himself steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion.” With this in mind, we’ve asked working screenwriters to share a list of the “un-rules” that they find most helpful in their writing careers.

We’re excited to have a new list of screenwriting principles this week from Karen McCullah (@KarenMcCullah1). Karen and her writing partner Kirsten Smith (who shared her own list of rules here) are the team responsible for such hits as Legally Blonde, 10 Things I Hate About You, and The Ugly Truth. (See their full list of credits here.)

With her list, Karen decided to keep things short and sweet. These are the three screenwriting rules that she found most important to share with budding writers:

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September 6, 2013

The 3 Commandments of Writing

5304492399_805a329467_nJames Clear has put together a variety of interviews from famous fiction writers on their daily writing routines. While I don’t think any of these writers are screenwriters, what they have to say lines up perfectly with everything that I have learned about screenwriting.

Of course, everyone writes a bit differently, and you have to find what works for you. But there are a few truisms present throughout James’ list that I have seen repeated over and over again in articles and books, and from those truisms I have created a list of writing commandments.

I have trouble taking this list to heart in my own writing, but I truly believe that no one can succeed as a writer until they follow each of these screenwriting commandments:

1. Write regularly.

Many writers say that you must write every single day (though I think some of these same people technically mean five days a week), and while I think that is an amazing goal to strive toward, it is also a setup for failure. When I miss a day of writing, I feel shitty, and that discourages me from writing the next day.

I think the more prudent advice is to set a schedule for yourself and write as often and as much as you can. Maybe with your busy work life, that means you commit to writing at least 3 days a week, and it doesn’t matter which days those are. Maybe with your more easy going student existence, you can commit to writing every afternoon for at least two hours. Personally, with my flexible freelance schedule, I’m going to commit to writing for at least three hours every weekday morning. (Hold me to it.)

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August 14, 2013

The Un-Rules of Screenwriting: Erik Bork’s List

E.B. White wrote that there are “no inflexible rules by which the young writer may steer his course. He will often find himself steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion.” With this in mind, we’ve asked working screenwriters to share a list of the “un-rules” that they find most helpful in their writing careers.

This week we’re honored to have a list of “un-rules” from Erik Bork (@flyingwrestler). Erik is best known for his work on the HBO miniseries BAND OF BROTHERS and FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON, for which he wrote multiple episodes and won two Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards for helping to produce. Erik has also sold a variety of drama series pitches to the big four networks and recently developed a comedy pilot with one of the studios. He’s worked on the writing staff for two primetime dramas, and written feature screenplays on assignment for companies like Universal, HBO, TNT, and Playtone. In addition to all of that, Erik teaches in National University’s MFA Screenwriting Program and for The Writers Store, speaks regularly at writing conferences, and offers one-on-one consulting to writers.

Erik got his start as an assistant to Tom Hanks, who gave Erik the opportunity to help him write and produce FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON after reading some sitcom spec scripts he had written.

Erik has an excellent article on his screenwriting website, Flying Wrestler, which provides deeper information about each of his following ten rules:

  1. Concept, then story, come first.  Getting those right is the most important part.  The “words on the page,” while important, are less critical.

  2.  “Compelling, unique, real and entertaining” is what every scene and every story should be.  The audience needs to believe in and care about the main character’s situation, and enjoy the process of watching them confront it – without feeling that they’ve seen it all before.  This is not easy to do!

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July 24, 2013

The Un-Rules of Screenwriting: Rick Suvalle’s List

E.B. White wrote that there are “no inflexible rules by which the young writer may steer his course. He will often find himself steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion.” With this in mind, we’ve asked working screenwriters to share a list of the “un-rules” that they find most helpful in their writing careers.

This week’s list comes from Rick Suvalle (@RickSuvalle). Rick has been a professional film and television writer for over 15 years. He is currently writing and Executive Producing a sci-fi/action web series for NBC Universal. Other recent credits include two television movie premieres: The Hallmark Channel Original Movie Honeymoon For One and the Syfy Original Movie Roadkill (see his interview about writing movies for television here). Rick has also created and produced an original pilot presentation for 20th Century Fox, and he served as the Executive Story Editor on Pamela Anderson’s hit syndicated series “V.I.P.” where he also wrote 15 episodes.

Needless to say, Rick knows this business (like, really knows it) from both the film and television sides. Here are his un-rules:

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