2018 WGA Screenwriting Award Nominees

Ten nominations for Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay.

The Writers’ Guild of America just announced the nominees for the 2018 Best Original Screenplay and Best Adapted Screenplay. They are:

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

The Big Sick, Written by Emily V. Gordon & Kumail Nanjiani; Amazon Studios

Get Out, Written by Jordan Peele; Universal Pictures

I, Tonya, Written by Steven Rogers; Neon

Lady Bird, Written by Greta Gerwig; A24

The Shape of Water, Screenplay by Guillermo del Toro & Vanessa Taylor; Story by Guillermo del Toro; Fox Searchlight

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Call Me by Your Name, Screenplay by James Ivory; Based on the Novel by André Aciman; Sony Pictures Classics

The Disaster Artist, Screenplay by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber; Based on the Book The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside the Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell; A24

Logan, Screenplay by Scott Frank & James Mangold and Michael Green; Story by James Mangold; Based on Characters from the X-Men Comic Books and Theatrical Motion Pictures; Twentieth Century Fox Film

Molly’s Game, Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin; Based on the Book by Molly Bloom; STX Entertainment

Mudbound, Screenplay by Virgil Williams and Dee Rees; Based on the Novel by Hillary Jordan; Netflix

Some wonderful movies and writing represented here. Congratulations, writers!

For all of the other 2018 WGA Awards nominations, go here.


2018 WGA Screenwriting Award Nominees was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

The Business of Screenwriting

Free downloadable Go Into The Story eBook by Scott Myers.

Why am I smiling? Because today I’m making available to the public the 12th in a series of twelve eBooks featuring some of my 23,000+ Go Into The Story posts. And it’s free! Just click on the link below to download the eBook titled: “The Business of Screenwriting”. It is 245 pages long — you read that right…245 PAGES!… and feature 95 articles from my popular GITS series.

Link.

The idea is that having the content available as an eBook will be another useful way for writers to digest ideas and information from the blog.

Think of it as a kind Go Into The Story Greatest Hits collection.

Each is free. Download them. Read them. Pass them along.

With that, we cap off an initiative which began in January of this year!

A very special thanks to Trish Curtin and Clay Mitchell who stepped up to handle the process of turning blog posts into eBooks. I could not have done this without the incredible efforts of these two fine people.

Do me a favor: If you’ve downloaded any of the eBooks, please click on RESPONSE below and let Clay and Trish know you appreciate their efforts.

A final note excerpted from the eBook’s preface:

The collection contains my reflections and takes on basic tenets of the craft. If any of them resonate with you, great. If not, feel free to ignore them. Each writer needs to figure out their own approach to screenwriting. My hope is to help feed that process and provide writers with inspiration along the way.

For background on this series, go here.

For Volume 1: 30 Things About Screenwriting, go here.

For Volume 2: So-Called Screenwriting ‘Rules’, go here.

For Volume 3: Writing a Screenplay, go here.

For Volume 4: Rewriting a Screenplay, go here.

For Volume 5: A Screenwriter’s Guide to Aristotle’s “Poetics”, go here.

For Volume 6: A Screenwriter’s Guide to Reading a Screenplay, go here.

For Volume 7: Everything You Need to Know About Spec Scripts, go here.

For Volume 8: A Screenwriter’s Guide to Character Types, go here.

For Volume 9: A Screenwriter’s Guide to Story Types, go here.

For Volume 10: Ten Screenwriting Traits and Skills You Need, go here.

For Volume 11: Dumb Little Writing Tricks That Work, go here.

Spread the word, would you? And the download link to the new free eBook.

Onward!


The Business of Screenwriting was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

Screenwriting News (November 27-December 3, 2017)

The week’s writing deals and movie project news.

Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy sell thriller spec script “Ready or Not” to Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Destin Cretton and Andrew Lanham writing drama “Just Mercy” for Warner Bros. Pictures with Cretton directing.

Misha Green writing remake of “Cleopatra Jones” for Warner Bros. Pictures.

Rashida Jones adapting graphic novel series “Goldie Vance” for Twentieth Century Fox with Jones to direct.

Christopher Landon adapting and directing supernatural drama “Ernest” for Legendary Pictures.

Tony Mosher sells action spec script “Sirius” to Sentient Entertainment.

Simon Rich adaptation of comic book “Imagine Agents” for Twentieth Century Fox with Richie Keen to direct.

Frederick Seton adaptation of children’s book “Crenshaw” at Twentieth Century Fox lands James Mangold to direct.


Screenwriting News (November 27-December 3, 2017) was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

Reader Question: What about ageism and screenwriting?

And who is the oldest person to win an Academy Award for Best Screenplay?

Question from Mike:

Who is the oldest person ever to win an Oscar for best Screenplay?

Tom Stoppard won an Oscar in 1998 for co-writing Shakespeare in Love. He was 61 at the time. But he was a mere lad compared to David Seidler who, in 2011 at age of 74, became the oldest winner of the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for The King’s Speech. He held this record for one year, until Woody Allen won for Midnight in Paris at the age of 76 in 2012.

David Seidler was the oldest screenwriter to win an Oscar for one year.

Allow me to broaden the scope of your question into something that should be of interest to those of you who are 40 and older: What about ageism and screenwriting? This is a very real issue in Hwood, where studio and network execs can be in their late 20s. It’s especially true in TV, witness an email the WGA sent out to all its members back in 2010:

LEGAL NOTICE

If you are age 40 or over and wrote or were interested in writing for television, a proposed settlement may affect your rights.

Seventeen television networks and studios and seven talent agencies have agreed, subject to Court approval, to settle age discrimination allegations in connection with the hiring and representation of television writers age 40 or over, in nineteen separate class action lawsuits, for a collective payment of $ 70,000,000. (Insurance carriers are paying approximately two-thirds of the settlement amount.) If you qualify, you may send in a claim form to get benefits and may comment on or object to the settlement. If you do not want to be part of the settlement, you can exclude yourself.

Who’s Included?

The settlement defines two classes — (a) persons age 40 or over who have previously written for television, and (b) other persons age 40 or over who have been interested in writing for television. There are various qualifications and exclusions. If you believe that you may be a settlement class member, you can get more information, including a detailed notice, at the websites or telephone numbers below.

What’s This About?

The separate lawsuits all claim that the networks, studios and talent agencies discriminate on the basis of age in their employment and representation decisions. The defendants (including ABC, APA, Carsey-Werner, CBS, Columbia TriStar Television, Inc., DW SKG TV LLC, formerly known as DreamWorks SKG TV LLC, Fox, NBC Universal, Paradigm, Shapiro-Lichtman, Sony Pictures Television Inc., Spelling Television, The Gersh Agency, The Endeavor Agency, The WB Television Network, Touchstone Television, TriStar Television, Inc., Twentieth Century Fox, UPN, UTA, Warner Bros. Television, William Morris Agency, and William Morris Endeavor Entertainment LLC) deny that they discriminate, but believe it makes sense to end the litigation, which has been pending since 2000. The Court did not decide which side was right.

What does the Settlement Provide?

Of the $ 70 million settlement, the lawyers representing Plaintiffs and the Settlement Class (“Class Counsel”) estimate that about $ 43 million will be used to pay awards to Settlement Class Members, pay taxes on those awards, fund activities beneficial to the Settlement Class Members, and fund certain reserves required under the Settlement. One-third of the Settlement will be used to pay Class Counsel’s court-approved contingent fee award. The remaining 6.7% will be used to pay and reimburse expenses related to litigation of the claims and notice and administration of this Settlement. Part of that expense portion will be contributed to fund programs for Settlement Class Members.

The share of the fund that each eligible claimant receives will be based on a formula that, once devised, will be submitted to the Court for approval. It will consider many factors, including your income from and qualifications for television writing.

Did this lawsuit change matters for TV writers? Doubtful. Fortunately, it’s a considerably different story on the movie side. Mark Boal, who won an Academy Award in 2009 for writing the screenplay for The Hurt Locker, was 37 at the time. Geoffrey Fletcher, who won an Academy Award in 2010 for writing the screenplay for Precious, was 40. Those were the first writing credits for both, so not exactly spring chickens when they broke into the screenwriting trade.

Back in 2008, Variety’s 10 Screenwriters to Watch list included J. Michael Straczynski, who is in his 50s, and Paul Webb, who is described by Variety as being a “60-year-old British rookie.”

John Cleese co-wrote the screenplay for A Fish Called Wanda with veteran writer Charles Crichton when Crichton was 77 years old.

The movie Main Street was produced from an original screenplay by Horton Foote, who was 82 when he finished writing the script.

I have a theory about why this age stratification would appear to exist between writing for TV or movies.

1. Writing for TV is a brutal lifestyle. If you’re working on a series with 22 yearly episodes, that means for a half-year or more, you’re balancing pre-production, production, and post at the same time. That translates into enormously long hours for weeks on end typically with unrelenting pressure from the network, actors, crew, and staff, making sure each script works, etc. It is unfair to hire / not hire on the basis of age, but the fact is a TV writer must have the vitality of youth — even if they’re not young.

2. Movies generally require a depth of understanding. Understanding nuance, understanding characters, understanding story, understanding life. Not every movie, of course, but most. And whereas an hour-long episode of broadcast TV can run $ 3M+, if you were a studio exec, would you be comfortable giving a green light to a $ 100M film project based on a script by a 22 year-old?

While Hollywood is constantly frothing to find ‘new blood’ in the form of young screenwriters, the studios also value maturity and understanding — and for some, probably many writers that requires experience that only years of living can bring.

And how does Hollywood grasp a writer’s maturity and understanding? The same way they assess a writer’s talent: through their writing.

So yet again, we come back to the same mantra I’ve uttered time and time before: Write a great script.

If you write a great script, it doesn’t matter if you’re 16 or 86. If Hollywood thinks they’ve found a great story — and something from which they think they can make a profit — they’ll buy it, regardless of the writer’s age.

Comment Archive

For more Go Into The Story Reader Question articles, go here.


Reader Question: What about ageism and screenwriting? was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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The Business of Screenwriting: Sometimes you’re just going to get it wrong

In which I got it completely and utterly wrong about a movie project which went on to win 6 Oscars.

In Hollywood, actors are often called “the talent.” And although it’s less frequent in this era of belt-tightening, if the talent gets big enough, they can, if they wish get a studio production deal. Which is how it comes to pass that in 1993, we are sitting in the production office of Tom Hanks with his “people,” in this case the head of his production company. She has read a script we have written, likes it quite a lot, and asks to meet with us to discuss possible projects.

This is Tom Hanks before Philadelphia, more known at the time for his roles in comedies like Bachelor Party, The Money Pit, and Dragnet.

“You may think of Tom as just a funny guy,” our host says, “but he’s really smart, reads tons of books, and has broad interests.”

She proceeds to tell us how Tom loves NASA and the space program, and has a passion for history (“He’s looking to do a World War II story”). She runs through a number of projects they have in development and some of them are quite surprising in terms of the subject matter. But there’s one that surprises me more than the rest, the project Hanks is currently filming:

“It’s a period piece about a boy who’s born… let’s just say he’s kind of slow. You know, in the head. Also he’s got polio, so they fit him with these leg braces. Some bullies chase him and he starts running, then the braces fall off, and guess what? He can run like the wind. He gets recruited to play football for the University of Alabama, which is why he’s there when the school gets desegregated… you know that famous photograph when Governor George Wallace is standing in front of the entrance to block the way of those first African-American students? This guy — his name is Forrest — is there in that scene. Anyway Forrest gets drafted and goes to Vietnam and meets a guy named Bubba who is like really into shrimp, only Bubba dies, and so Forrest comes back to the United States to start a shrimping business. Wait, I forgot about the ping pong. He goes to China to play ping pong. Oh, I also forgot that he wins a medal and goes to meet President Johnson and shows him the wound he got in Vietnam on his butt. Anyway he takes up jogging and that becomes all the rage. And he discovers the Watergate break-in and basically becomes like this really famous person who pops in and out of like really important moments in history, kind of a Zelig kind of thing. What do you think?”

I walk out of that meeting, turn to my writing partner, and these are the exact words that come out of my mouth:

“That is the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard of.”

The next year, Forrest Gump is released and wins 6 Academy Awards.

Which just goes to show that sometimes you’re just going to get it wrong. You can work up a pitch. Write a spec script. Go in with your take for an open writing assignment. Turn in a draft. And yes, sit in a meeting determining how you feel about an idea. Sometimes you get it right. But sometimes, you take a swing, and you flat-out miss.

I confess that I did feel pretty sheepish about having gotten Forrest Gump so utterly wrong. However my intersection with the project didn’t end there.

A few years later, we’re sitting in yet another office, one of the producers of Forrest Gump, and she tells us a rather remarkable story.

“You know it took four writers to nail that story,” she says. “Three writers turned in drafts, one after the other, but it just wasn’t clicking. Then we brought in Eric Roth. He read the book, went through the other drafts, then came in for a meeting. He said, ‘I know what the problem is. There’s no love story.’”

“Wait,” I say, “You mean the other scripts…”

“No love story. Can you imagine Forrest Gump without that?”

Of course not. The Forrest-Jenny subplot provides the emotional spine of the story, without it, everything that happens to Forrest would be reduced to a series of meaningless events. A love story seems so obvious, right?

And yet three other writers, each of them apparently at the top of their game, took a crack at adapting the book into a screenplay, and never once thought about adding an overarching love story for Forrest.

So the next time you flub something in one of your scripts, just remember: Sometimes you’re just going to get it wrong. Even professional writers do. It may not make the problems with your script go away. But at least you’ll know you have company.

Comment Archive


The Business of Screenwriting: Sometimes you’re just going to get it wrong was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

“Meet Cute Screenwriting Service”

A guest tongue-in-cheek post by Anthony Giambusso.

In May 2015, I featured a satirical article titled “How To Write A Screenwriting Book” by Anthony Giambusso.

Recently Anthony reached out to me with two new posts from his blog. Here is an extended excerpt from the first one: “Meet Cute Screenwriting Service”.

What is a meet cute?

Romantic comedies particularly, and many other genres, include a meet cute: a scene in a movie where two characters who will eventually become a couple meet in an adorable manner. Meet cutes are considered, according to the screenwriting elite, to be some of the most difficult scenes to construct. Imagine then, the endeavor for young screenwriters attempting to break into the business.

What is there to do?

I myself am a screenwriter, with a special ability to devise meet cutes almost daily. I am not sure why I have been blessed with this skill, but I have proven my proficiency time and time again. I have tried on numerous occasions to teach the composing of meet cutes, leaving both me and my students frustrated at the lack of translation. This is why I have taken it upon myself to sacrifice all other aspects of my screenplays, and to offer my meet cutes to the world.

A solution emerges.

Of course, and I know I’ll get flack for this, one cannot support themselves on altruism. But as I am a screenwriter, and want to support my fellow screenwriters, I am offering my meet cute service at an unprecedented value.

“You know what, I’ll just write my own meet cute.”

That’s a brave move. Script analytics have shown that a meet cute that slips even slightly below average have drastically negative effects on the screenplays they inhabit. According to screenplanalyze.net, screenplays with a meet cute rating of nine or higher gave screenplays a 95 percent chance of being sold and a 50 percent chance of being produced and taking in a profit.

You won’t see them listed in the trades, but every studio has someone like me on staff who solely writes meet cutes. The professionals all inevitably delegate to the studio’s on staff meet cute writer. So who does the young writer look to? That’s why I’m reaching into my bag of golden meet cutes and tossing them all across town.

What are my options?

Meet cutes are rated on a cuteness to believability ratio. That’s as sciency as I will get, as it becomes very confusing after that. Please, for your own good, browse the packages below. Below the packages are some sample meet cutes that I included just so you know this is not all nonsense.

Packages:

One meet cute outline: $ 200. With backstory: $ 450

Two meet cutes outline: $ 350. With backstories: $ 700 (savings of $ 200!)

One meet cute fully scripted (min 3 pages): $ 600

I will read a one page of your screenplay and construct a meet cute based on YOUR characters: $ 1200 (no backstory option).

Phone consultation: You get a 45 minute phone conversation with me. We will discuss and compose your meet cute together. $ 2000

Hey, screenwriters! How many of YOU have clicked through the websites of screenwriting consultants and so-called ‘gurus’ with packages like this?

For an actual meet cute sample courtesy of Anthony and the rest of his post, go here. While you’re there, check out the rest of Anthony’s site.

Twitter: @TonyGiambooyah.


“Meet Cute Screenwriting Service” was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

5th Annual ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship Wants to Help Jumpstart Your Career

Tired of your scripts languishing in obscurity? Then you should look into this awesome opportunity from ScreenCraft.

If you’re an aspiring screenwriter, you need to know about what ScreenCraft has been cooking up for you. For the fifth straight year, the ScreenCraft Screenwriting Fellowship is looking for talented emerging screenwriters to take part in their annual fellowship program, which not only offers mentorship opportunities but a trip to Los Angeles for meetings with and introductions to key entertainment executives, producers and representatives.

According to ScreenCraft co-founder John Rhodes, every single winner from last year have signed with managers. In fact, one of their past winners not only sold a script, but has been hired as a staff writer on a Netflix TV show. So, people, this is the real deal. Rhodes goes on to say:

We look forward to discovering emerging screenwriters whose talent and work has positioned them to make the most of this unique program.

As always, ScreenCraft has put together an exciting panel of judges to read your scripts:

Read More

No Film School

Reader Question: How does a 15 year-old get experience screenwriting or directing?

Nowadays with digital filmmaking, the mantra is: Do something!

From Lence1818:

Scott, my question is how would a young person, such as myself, go about finding internships and other opportunities for screenwriting or directing? Ones that don’t exclude people who don’t have much experience and aren’t in college yet. I’m 15 so it’s probably near impossible.

When Lence1818 posted the question, mommyfollows offered a terrific response:

It might very well be impossible for you to do those exact things, except in whatever form a summer camp might take, but it’s not impossible for you to write and direct your own projects right this very second no matter what your age. I was about your age, sophomore in high school, when I first started trying to puzzle a story together. That was fiction, nothing meant for the screen, but every word you write for any storytelling format is another brick in the path toward a successful completed project, and every minute you spend putting together a film, no matter how short, is a chunk of experience you just won’t have if you don’t do it. Read about the 10,000 hour rule and take it seriously, or strive to be the exception; and study storytelling in general, and solicit honest, raw feedback. Do SOMETHING.

Do something. Today more than ever, aspiring filmmakers can create content. Digital cameras. Digital editing. You don’t need an internship to make a short film. Just go out and do it.

Don’t compare yourself to Spielberg or J.J. Abrams. They started somewhere. Their first efforts probably sucked. If you want to direct, trial-and-effort is a great way to learn.

Who are your favorite screenwriters? Who are your favorite directors? If you don’t know, what are you favorite movies? Find out who wrote and directed those. Then read and watch everything you can on those filmmakers. Books, articles, interviews, DVD commentaries, obviously their scripts and movies.

Then go make a short film. Write a script. Shoot it. Edit it.

Watch more movies. Read more scripts. I can’t begin to convey to you how important it is to immerse yourself in the world of cinema. Scorsese, Spielberg, Coppola, Tarantino, Abrams, pick any of great director and I can assure you they have an encyclopedic knowledge of movies. They have gone through probably hundreds, if not thousands of films, and broken them down scene by scene, shot by shot. Do that.

Then go make another short film. Write a script. Shoot it. Edit it.

If you want a film school education without the cost, you can get a good start here: Deep Focus: The Go Into The Movies Project:

Subject Area I: Movies

Subject Area II: Scripts and Screenwriting

Subject Area III: Film Analysis and Criticism

Subject Area IV: Filmmakers

Subject Area V: The Evolution of Filmmaking

Deep Focus In Brief syllabus: 25 movies, 25 screenplays, 5 books [For those with limited time or looking for a good starting point]

Go through that. Make another short film. Write the script. Shoot it. Edit it.

So to add one piece to mommyfollows’ great advice: Learn something. Do something.

GITS readers? What advice do you have for a budding 15 year-old filmmaker? Please hit comments and share your wisdom with this young person. Who knows. They could our next generation’s great writer-director.

UPDATE: Since I originally posted my response to this question in 2012, the situation has evolved. Digital technologies have made it even easier for anyone to make a movie. Web series have exploded on screen. The Internet continues to grow as a distribution platform.

The mantra “Do something” has never held more meaning than today. And if you want more inspiration, I just remembered that in 2009, I interviewed a then 17 year-old Emily Hagins who had by that time written and directed two feature length movies. You may read that 3 part interview below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Emily Hagins then.
Emily Hagins now.

Since 2009, Emily’s film and TV credits include My Sucky Teen Romance (2011), Grow Up, Tony Phillips (2013), and Coin Heist (2017).

If you’re a teenager, take a tip from Emily: Do something.

Comment Archive


Reader Question: How does a 15 year-old get experience screenwriting or directing? was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

Keys to the Screenwriting Craft: Think Concepts

The foundation of a good script is a strong story concept.

It started with this GITS post years ago:

Watch movies. Read scripts. Write pages.

Long-time followers of my blog are familiar with this screenwriting mantra. In fact Annika Wood was kind enough to send me a coffee cup with these very words inscribed on it. I have it on my office desk as a personal reminder.

Reminder of what?

How important these activities are for those committed to learning the craft of screenwriting.

Over time I have added two more to the list: Think concepts. Live life.

This week, a series on all five.

Today: Think concepts.

If you write a spec script based upon the first story idea that comes into your mind, that script will likely suck. Even if it’s decent, it probably won’t sell.

Why? Because almost assuredly, it is not a strong story concept.

It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of a story idea to the eventual success of a spec script.

  • A good story concept enables producers and studio execs to ‘see’ the movie.
  • A good story concept provides ammo for marketing departments to advertise the film.
  • A good story concept emboldens managers and agents to sell the crap out of your script.

I believe a script’s concept can represents about half of the value of a screenplay to a potential buyer. That’s right, half.

Are you thinking of story ideas every day? Do you have a master list of story ideas that is… growing? Is one part of your brain on auto-pilot, always sifting through the daily data that comes your way in search of possible story ideas?

Nobel Prize-winning scientist Linus Pauling said this: “The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.”

We, as writers, should be generating “lots of ideas.”

How to do that? Perhaps the single biggest key is two simple words: What if?

Consider anecdotes from three screenwriters:

Bob Gale: “The inspiration for coming up with the story [Back to the Future] is that I was visiting my parents in the summer of 1980, from St. Louis Missouri, and I found my father’s high-school yearbook in the basement. I’m thumbing through it and I find out that my father was the president of his graduating class, which I was completely unaware of. So there’s a picture of my dad, 18-years-old… The question came up in my head, ‘gee, what if I had gone to school with my dad, would I have been friends with him?’ That was where the light bulb went off.”

James Hart: “The secret, the great key to writing Hook, came from my son. When he was six, he asked the question, ‘What if Peter Pan grew up?’ I had been trying to find a new way into the famous ‘boy who wouldn’t grow up’ tale, and our son gave me the key.”

Marc Norman: “The Shakespeare in Love screenplay was written by Marc Norman and playwright Tom Stoppard, although the original idea was rooted in a third creative mind — one of Norman’s son’s, Zachary. It was in 1989, while studying Elizabethan drama at Boston University, that the younger Norman phoned his father with a sudden brainstorm of a movie concept — the young William Shakespeare in the Elizabethan theater. The elder Norman agreed it was a terrific idea, but he hadn’t a clue what to do with it. Two years later, with bits of time stolen from other projects, the notion had formed — what if Shakespeare had writer’s block while writing his timeless classic, ‘Romeo and Juliet’”?

What if I had gone to school with my dad? What if Peter Pan grew up? What if Shakespeare had writers block?

Want to jump start your ability to think concepts? Make the words “what if” an essential part of your brainstorming vocabulary.

Tomorrow: Watch movies.

Comment Archive


Keys to the Screenwriting Craft: Think Concepts was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

100 Screenwriters on Screenwriting

Professional screenwriters reflect on the craft.

“My one note of screenwriting advice is: Make sure you can *see* the movie before you start writing the actual script.”

— Arash Amel

“Sometimes you’re swinging your way through a first draft like a blind miner with a pick-axe. That’s OK. Just get it done.”

— Justin Marks

“It’s really important to start off well. If you grab people early in a script, they’re going to keep reading.”

— Carter Blanchard

“No matter what the concept is, nobody cares if there’s not an empathetic way into the story.”

— Daniel Kunka

“The challenge of screenwriting is to say much in little and still preserve an effect of leisure and natural movement.”

— Raymond Chandler

“Outlining is necessary work, but you have to have something left to discover during the writing or you won’t be inspired.”

— Liz W. Garcia

“I think it’s always easier to revise a script, even a truly awful one, than face the tyranny of the blank page.”

— Stan Chervin

“You have to empathize with, even love the villains you write. Otherwise it just becomes caricature.”

— Lisa Joy

“A screenwriter’s currency is a finished script. Not an outline, a take, a beat sheet, a rough draft. A finished script.”

— F. Scott Frazier

“My best writing has been on the scripts I wrote as suicide notes to the industry — sort of, ‘Fuck you, guys, I’m outta here.’”

— Marc Norman

“I have learned the first rule of screenwriting is having no rules. Everyone has to find their own way of doing things.”

— Guillermo Arriaga

“Eighty percent of a motion picture is writing, the other twenty percent is the execution.”

— Billy Wilder

“If you’re not prepared to be rejected, don’t try to write films.”

— Peter Hyams

“The single most important question one must ask oneself about a character is what are they really afraid of.”

— Robert Towne

“Each scene must be a drama in itself. The whole picture must be made up of a series of small dramas.”

— Jeanie Macpherson

“Plot does not drive characters. Characters drive plot. Characters want, need, feel, act, react. This creates plot.”

— Chuck Wendig

“Screenplays don’t have to read like an instruction manual for a refrigerator. You can write them as a pleasurable read.”

— William Goldman

“If you’re inviting people into a story, invite them into all parts of it. Inhabit each character as fully as possible.”

— Nikole Beckwith

“Every five to ten pages, I want a big fist to come out of the screenplay and punch the reader in the gut.”

— Allan Durand

“If I have anything to say to young writers, it’s stop thinking of writing as art. Think of it as work.”

— Paddy Chayefsky

“Interesting things happening to interesting people is basically the only rule of screenwriting.”

— Brian Duffield

“That’s something I always ask myself: ‘Is this a movie that I would go to see?’”

— Charlie Kaufman

“Each writer starts differently, but the only valid way is start with character. Character IS plot. Character IS story.”

— Eleanor Perry

“A writer can always write. That’s one of the great luxuries we have: Words are cheap.”

— John August

“When you make a movie, always try to discover what the theme of the movie is in one or two words.”

— Francis Ford Coppola

“I start thinking about key scenes. I write those scenes first, out of order. I call it ‘the scent of blood.’”

— Jim Uhls

“If you trust the moment as you write, it will always bring you what you need.”

— Bruce Joel Rubin

“I’m not romantic at all about the creative process. I feel like a plow horse — just one foot in front of the other.”

— Caroline Thompson

“At the top of my computer in big, bold letters, it says, ‘What is the simple emotional journey?’ I look at that all the time.”

— Billy Ray

“Forget every rule Syd Field, Robert McKee or any other screenwriting guru ever taught you. Except one: Never be boring.”

— David Mamet

“I force myself to sit down, write and hope it doesn’t turn out shitty. If it turns out shitty, I change it.”

— Will Beall

“It’s not until you really throw your character into the story that you can genuinely understand who they are.”

— Elijah Bynum

“Never attack a scene head on, do it obliquely. It makes the audience more curious if you approach your points sideways.”

— Catherine Turney

“For me, a screenplay starts with something I can tell other people in five minutes.”

— Harold Ramis

“I endlessly chart and re-chart a movie. Before I write, I have all the scenes listed, what happens in each scene.”

— Paul Schrader

“Good dialogue comes from character development. The better you know your character, the more specific the dialogue will feel.”

— Chris McCoy

“The job of the screenwriter is to run the film in the reader’s imagination. And nothing should get in the way of that.”

— Colin Higgins

“If I could say anything, it’s keep going. Don’t go back and fix that scene, that dialogue. Just write the next word.”

— Anna Hamilton Phelan

“A movie is about an emotional struggle. The physical struggle is a manifestation of that.”

— John Gary

“It’s the words, it always gets back to the words…”

— Julius Epstein

“Character is destiny. Change, growing from within and forced from without, is the mainspring of character development.”

— Rita Mae Brown

“The first draft is the one thing they can’t take away from you, so revel in it.”

— Daniel Waters

“Character exists in emotions and sensations. Without it, they no more represent a living person than a fleshless skeleton.”

— Francis Marion

“A bad script written is still better than an amazing one that isn’t.”

— Jon Boyer

“Write what you want to see. If you don’t, you won’t have any true passion in it, and it won’t be done with any true artistry.”

— John Milius

“That’s our job, to spark curiosity and emotion from an audience, for them to discover what’s going on in their own heads.”

— Seth Lochhead

“Screenwriting is all about what happens next, what happens next. It’s speed chess, not chess.”

— Richard Price

“One day, you will sell your screenplay, and then your problems will begin.”

— Audrey Wells

“I realized screenwriting was a real art form. I had to prostrate myself before it and study it if I wanted to be good.”

— Stephen Gaghan

“Writing is the best gig in the whole business, as far as I’m concerned. You just sit down and make shit up.”

— Robert Mark Kamen

“To make something really great and different and interesting means taking risks and following these ideas in your head.”

— Brad Bird

“Reprogram your brain so THE END isn’t a giant finish line. You got pages done today. You’ll do more tomorrow.”

— Eric Heisserer

“It’s really important to know not to panic, it’s all going to come together; you’ve just got to keep pushing forward.”

— Lisa Cholodenko

“Emotion, by definition, is invisible. So cinema is, by definition, dealing with the invisible.”

— Jim Sheridan

“The blank page is the greatest moment of writing a script… be happy that you have the privilege of facing it.”

— Lorenzo Semple Jr.

“Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. MAKE.”

— Joss Whedon

“I think one of the reasons that people resent writers is because when we are writing, we are God.”

— Phil Alden Robinson

“The people I believe in the most create work about people who are real. When people see truth in art, it resonates.”

— Jill Soloway

“Sometimes you’re swinging your way through a first draft like a blind miner with a pick-axe. That’s OK. Just get it done.”

— Justin Marks

“What does this character want and more importantly why do they want it? Those are what I look at as I’m writing dialogue.”

— Brad Ingelsby

“The more you adhere to some kind of screenwriting formula, the more likely you are to end up with a formulaic screenplay.”

— Gary Whitta

“Quality prep work makes writing the script much easier. I know what I need out of each scene going forward.”

— Jeff Morris

“If you’re doing it to tell stories that need to be told, you can get yourself through the bad moments.”

— Naomi Foner

“Audiences go to movies to feel. When the movie becomes too mechanical instead of organic, audiences detach from the film.”

— Simon Kinberg

“Slack is one fault and slick is another. Both are bad faults in story.”

— James M. Cain

“Make sure your first 20 pages kick serious ass. Hook that first reader, get them INTERESTED, then it’s off to the races.”

— Scott Neustadter

“Emotional authenticity is more important than historical. We can’t recreate a world, but we can recreate the emotions of it.”

— James DiLapo

“I’m always looking for stories, that next diamond in the rough, something that’s been looked over or can be reinvented.”

— Lindsay Devlin

“The best writing is also subconscious where you don’t know that you’re doing it, and you don’t realize you’ve done it.”

— Scott Frank

“A great script creates an irresistible narrative flow that propels a reader to an inevitable dramatic conclusion.”

— Javier Grillo-Marxuach

“Every movie ever made is an attempt to remake The Wizard of Oz.”

— Joel Coen

“Characters should never enter. They should storm in, they should skulk in, they should tremble in. Create visual pictures.”

— Larry Ferguson

“I find their voices by writing down every thought that would be in their head and then cutting off the fat.”

— Julia Hart

“I fell in love with screenwriting. It’s like story poetry, the most disciplined form of modern writing.”

— Shawn Lawrence Otto

“I don’t have a formal rewrite process; I just compulsively groom and regroom scenes like a cat with OCD.”

— Diablo Cody

“I want to know my whole story works before I start writing.”

— Tom Schulman

“No matter how big or high concept your story is, it only works if there’s a small, personal story at its core.”

— Chris Sparling

“When I write a screenplay, I create an emotional map, where the characters are, where they’re going and where they’ve been.”

— Ava DuVernay

“People always say, write what you know, and I think it’s write what you know emotionally.”

— Spenser Cohen

“You can dress it up, but it comes down to the fact that a movie is only as good as its script.”

— Curtis Hanson

“I try my very best in every film I’m working on to make you fall in love with those characters.”

— Mark Bomback

“The first draft, the first structure is really important… Do it fast, don’t get stuck.”

— Oliver Stone

“Don’t worry about getting an agent. When you have enough quality work under your belt, they will come calling.”

— Stephany Folsom

“The secret to screenwriting is short sentences, small words, and BIG pictures.”

— William Kelley

“One of the few things I’ve discovered about writing is to form a habit that becomes an addiction.”

— Frank Pierson

“Everything is a more perfect in your head. Once you make concrete choices — one word over another — everything gets worse.”

— Damien Chazelle

“Remember, not every idea is a movie. You don’t want to run out of plot before you run out of pages.”

— Mike Sweeney

“It’s like building a wall. You’re changing the details, but you’re still trying to keep the overall shape of the story.”

— Leigh Brackett

“I rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. I know in advance that my so-called first draft will be my tenth draft.”

— Carol Foreman

“Hollywood lives or dies on something that seems new and original, but is very much like something that made money before.”

— Michael January

“There’s a magic to being present when you’re writing a character. Just spit it out, then go back and edit it later.”

— Reid Carolin

“It’s the words, it always gets back to the words…”

— Julius Epstein

“Roger Corman taught me you could make a movie about anything as long as it had a hook to hang the advertising on.”

— Amy Holden Jones

“I don’t think writing is as much an act as a way of being. It’s the living and thinking that makes the writing.”

— Sean Hartofilis

“Don’t write what they want, they don’t know what they want, just make it GOOD.”

— Nora Ephron

“To make a great film, you need three things — the script, the script and the script.”

— Alfred Hitchcock

“If you’ve got craft, you got game. If you got game, you can write your way in and out of anything.”

— Robert Mark Kamen

“A lot of writers try to get approval and love way too early. Get the script right first.”

— Allison Burnett

“The question to ask about a new story idea: Can you really see it opening at a theater next weekend?”

— John Swetnam

“The writing period is the same: 5 pages a day, 7 days a week. Nothing magical. You just sit there and keep typing.”

— Stirling Silliphant

10 Screenwriters on Screenwriting: Vol. 1
10 Screenwriters on Screenwriting: Vol. 2
10 Screenwriters on Screenwriting: Vol. 3
10 Screenwriters on Screenwriting: Vol. 4
10 Screenwriters on Screenwriting: Vol. 5
10 Screenwriters on Screenwriting: Vol. 6
10 Screenwriters on Screenwriting: Vol. 7
10 Screenwriters on Screenwriting: Vol. 8
10 Screenwriters on Screenwriting: Vol. 9
10 Screenwriters on Screenwriting: Vol. 10

To read 50 Things About Screenwriting, go here.


100 Screenwriters on Screenwriting was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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