Screenwriting for Newbies

Books alone won’t teach me (or anyone) the craft of screenwriting . . .

Funny thing, though, I couldn’t get any of the screenwriters and film professionals I spoke with to come sit on this shelf:


And now for a little introduction:

Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting:
Even Brian Koppelman has good words for Robert McKee and the principles — “not rules” — he espouses in this classic. I even did McKee’s Toronto bootcamp a while back. (I hope I absorbed something, because I actually haven’t made the time to reread it yet.)

Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need:
Is there anyone in Hollywood who doesn’t love to hate this book? It’s a quick and entertaining read with a distinct point of view on what makes mainstream movies work, and a fresh take on genre: Schindler’s List, Titanic, The Terminator? Blake Snyder categorizes them as “Dude with a problem.” Other categories include: “Golden Fleece” (Maria Full of Grace, American Hustle), “Fool Triumphant” (Forrest Gump, Legally Blond) and “Rites of Passage” (Ordinary People, (500) Days of Summer). (Might one extended sequence from the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis be a parody of sorts?)

The Dramatist’s Toolkit: The Craft of the Working Playwright: Because I have more experience writing plays than screenplays, I need to make sure that I don’t write a play. And I’m counting on this excellent guide, first read during a high school playwriting class, to keep me on track.

Inside Story: The Power of the Transformational Arc: Several film professionals emphasized to me that plot is no longer enough — characters need to change! That’s where Dara Marks’s thorough exploration of the “transformational arc” comes into play. I’m going to need models like this less when I’m building the initial screenplay and more when I realize that (probably many) something(‘)s (are) wrong with my script but can’t figure out what.

The Art of Adaptation: Turning Fact and Fiction into Film: The midpoint’s a good place for me to stop and remind myself that I’m doing an adaptation. Phew! Or possibly: Yikes!

Making a Good Script Great: Another Linda Seger book — she has many — and another great model that should help me rewrite once I inevitably realize that what I’ve written badly needs its own transformational arc.

Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting: The first screenwriting book. It’s a Bible of sorts. Note to self: If possible, say something good and say it first.

The Journeys of Socrates: I did some editing on this book — more on that in a future post — but I haven’t read it since. When I do, very soon, you’ll be the first to know.