screenwriting

It really is to no surprise that over the years many filmlovers have had the nerve to call John MacKenzie’s The Long Good Friday “the British Godfather.” As much as such similes often miss the point, mislead future viewers and stand as an offense to the uniqueness of movies, with MacKenzie’s 1979 thriller it seems obvious that we’re dealing with an amazing gangster film fully capable of standing in the same paragraph with the best works of Coppola and Scorsese. The break-out film of the great Bob Hoskins’ career is a compellingly energetic story of a London-based gangster controlling the criminal underground and setting his plan in motion for the transformation of the London dockyards into a venue capable of hosting the 1988 Olympics. Things suddenly and unexpectedly turn for the worse when a series of bombings shakes the protagonist’s criminal empire and, faced with a faceless enemy of unknown origin, our determined but growingly panicky antihero is forced to act viciously and swiftly as he watches his kingdom crumbling down bit by bit.

Possessing a violent sense of humor, exhibiting passionate, career defining performances from both Hoskins and his gun moll, the beautiful Helen Mirren, offering a stunningly deep and compassionate portrait of the main character, The Long Good Friday is an engaging, entertaining and utterly absorbing piece of filmmaking that has every right to be considered a highlight of British moviemaking of this type. Its feverish momentum holds you firmly in its grip, its powerful music makes the story sink in more efficiently, its acting completely wins you over and creates the impression you’re given nothing less than precious insight into real people and their very real problems. Hoskins’ character is a deeply complex one—you see him act savagely, brutally and without a trace of remorse, but then again, a few moments later an image of his joking around with the neighborhood kids or an intimate scene with his mistress turn the tables around and he suddenly seems like an approachable guy easy to understand and relate to, or even show sympathy for. It’s not only Hoskins to thank for this: former journalist Barrie Keefe’s script is constructed so competently it doesn’t strike us as pretentious to compare it to the best works within the genre. The British Godfather, you say? When a film has a combination of talent this impressive, and a firm legacy to testify to its greatness three decades upon release—why not?

‘The Long Good Friday’: The Epitome of British Gangster Films

“This book is not going to promise you that you’ll get rich or win an Oscar. But if you want to take a shot at success—and let’s define that as writing a script that not only sells but reaches the screen in a form reasonably similar to what you wrote—you first have to know the craft. And if you want to learn the craft, this book can show you how.”

- Joseph McBride, Writing in Pictures: Screenwriting Made (Mostly) Painless

On adaptations [part 2]

If the novel is a poem, the film is a telegram” - Michael Hastings

Creating a film is an expensive and risky business. Basing a film on an already known novel, is some kind of guarantee that the new creation will attract a number of viewers. Even if the film ends up not being successful, it will probably not be a financial disaster. Most often, the best stories are found in novels. (source: Engelstad Arne)

Films and novels though, showcase certain important differences.

A novel usually deals with a person’s internal life. Thoughts, feelings, surprises, memories..all these happen at the core of a novel. It usually takes place in the head of the main character.

Novels communicate through words. Words express ideas more than the story, the characters, and the events. Usually, that main idea is as important as the story, if not more.

Films give out information much faster through images. In a film, we can have information about the plot, the characters, the ideas, and the aesthetic, at the same time. In a novel, we follow the narrator, on which of the above parts he’s chosen to focus at that time.

The narrator is the one who leads us, in a novel. It may be a separate character, or the writer himself/herself, showcasing the special meanings and importance of certain events. A film can give us the exact same information, but without trying to explain the symbolisms and ideas, and through a more objective point of view.

In a novel, time is fluid. It moves back and forth, in the present, the future, the past. Some times, instead of advancing chronologically, the narrator moves deeper into an event, pointing out how a single event affects and connects the past and the future. In a film, this is not entirely functional. A non-linear timeline, in a movie, might confuse and tire the viewer, and take away some of the deeper ideas and functions of the film. This excludes the use of flashbacks - flashbacks that don’t alter the direction of time. Non-linear timelines are usually present in experimental films. 

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The early draft of the script for Return of the Jedi was more or less the same as the movie we wound up with, until about halfway in, when it took a 12-parsec left turn into the crazy sector. In the script Luke Skywalker travelled to the capital of the entire Empire, a lava planet called Had Abbadon, to confront Vader in a final duel. He winds up stranded on a rock in the middle of a lava lake, and suddenly becomes aware of someone standing behind him. He turns around to meet … Obi Wan Kenobi! Obi Wan explains to Luke that he’s come back to help him defeat Vader and the Emperor because apparently he could just come back from the dead any time he wanted, which would have been super helpful the first time Luke engaged in a climactic duel against Vader in The Empire Strikes Back. And if this wouldn’t have made the audience groan hard enough, the next line in the script is:

Suddenly, Yoda appears beside Ben.

6 Baffling First Drafts Of Famous Movies

rowlingandmoffat asked:

My dream is to be a screenwriter (especially for Doctor Who). Do you have any advice?

I tried to answer this concisely. I failed. Please excuse the rambling screed that follows…

Write. Write every day, in one way or another. If you don’t love writing, then choose another dream. Sometimes writing is hard. Sometimes it’s the worst and you hate it and you hate yourself, and you think you should probably stop for the good of all humanity and maybe make cabinets instead because at least cabinets are useful. Those feelings are normal, don’t worry. But if you go through all that guff and still wake up the next day and love writing all over again, then you’re a writer. Congratulations/commiserations.

Eavesdrop. Wherever you go, listen shamelessly to people talking. Soak up the rhythms of speech. Collect idioms and slang. Relish the different ways that people lie, flatter, disparage, condescend, flirt, threaten and divert. Think about how people’s words would look on the page as dialogue. Has someone used a word or turn of phrase you’ve never heard before? If so, leap upon it. Note down scraps of dialogue that particularly delight you (I store quotes in the notes app on my phone). Even if you never look at that note again, by writing it down you’ll have filed it away in your brain for another time. Listen for what people aren’t saying. Can you sense when someone is deliberately holding back? How? What are they revealing about themselves and their motives without realising it? Does their tone of voice or their body language contradict their words? If so, how would you succinctly express that on the page of a script so that your reader understands what isn’t being said? Basically be nosy as hell. It’s fun.

Read scripts and screenplays. Read as many as you can get your hands on. Read a script, then re-read it while watching the finished product on screen. Learn how screenwriters put words on the page in a very different way to prose writers. Get to know the styles of different screenwriters, and develop your own opinion of what works and what doesn’t. You can find a whole library of TV scripts at the BBC Writer’s Room, and there are loads of feature film scripts to be found free online. Also, you can usually find published screenplays going cheapish at second-hand bookstores – they’re often stashed in with the plays.

Learn about the industry. If you’re lucky enough to have IRL access to someone who works in TV or film, pick their brains. If you don’t, then check out blogs and podcasts from industry professionals to build up a picture of what your dream job entails. Make sure it’s the right world for you. I highly recommend the Children of Tendu podcast from TV writers Javier Grillo-Marxuach (Lost, The Middleman, Helix) and Jose Molina (Sleeply Hollow, Agent Carter, Firefly). Javier and Jose share a wealth of advice and experience from the world of TV writing in the US, most of which is still relevant for those of us in other countries. The Nerdist Writers Panel is also great if you want to hear from a broader selection of writers, but I think the best thing about Children of Tendu is that Javier and Jose seem like genuinely nice humans who value working with other genuinely nice humans. They talk a lot about how to remain a good person while working in TV – a vital subject for every writer or would-be writer at any stage in their career.

Consume stories in a thoughtful way. Watch TV, watch movies, read novels, read fanfic, read non-fiction, read the news. Obviously you do all of that stuff already, but if you can, try to do it with an awareness of story and craft. Think about how each story is told. Where it begins, how it ends, what voice is used to tell it. You know, all that fun stuff from English class at school. If a story was well told, think about why it worked. If it was unclear or unsatisfying, think about that too. I’m pretty sure the bulk of my education about film and TV has come (and continues to come) from passionately dissecting stories with my friends after we exit the movie theatre or switch off the TV. If you’re enjoying a story so much you forget to think about the storyteller’s choices, odds are they did a really good job. So, watch/read that story again. This is where being an obsessive fangirl really pays off and puts us ahead of the pack. :)

Be critical of film and TV, even the stuff you love. One of the things I love most about tumblr is the widely accepted truth of the problematic fave. If you want to be a truly good writer, you can’t have sacred cows. If other people think an episode of your favourite show is sexist or racist or short-sighted in some way, hear them out and consider their point of view. You can enjoy a piece of media while also acknowledging its shortcomings. However, if you hold your favourite writer or producer above criticism, then you’ll likely fall into the same traps as they do, and you too may alienate or hurt people with your work. Accept that no one is perfect, not even your hero. Accept that no one’s writing is perfect, even if it’s hugely entertaining; we all have unconscious hang-ups and prejudices, and many of us write from a position of privilege. One of the best things you can do as a writer (and a person) is to listen to the way other people receive stories. Tumblr is brilliant for this. Accepting that your fave might be problematic is hard, but doing so won’t negate the things you still love about that episode, or that show, or that creator. On the other hand, being a good listener and practicing empathy will make you a better writer and a better person.  

Learn how to accept criticism of your own work. This is hard. If you’re a writer, then odds are you’re probably the sensitive sort. We pour our hearts into our stories, and make ourselves vulnerable when we give them over to an audience; of course it’s going to sting when we receive criticism. But know this: how you take criticism is going to define you as a writer for the rest of your career. Writing for TV involves working in a team, which means getting regular professional feedback on your ideas and your writing. If you fall apart every time your pitch doesn’t fly, or get defensive at every note on your script, your career is going to grind to a halt very quickly. No one will want to work with you, and your writing will stagnate. Of course, not every note you get is going to be helpful; a big part of the job is sorting the good notes from the bad, and learning how to react to both with equal grace. Not everyone you work with will be smarter than you, but if you’re really lucky they will be. Stick to the smart people like glue, listen to their criticism, learn how to respond to it, and let it improve your work. Even when it hurts.

As for writing for Doctor Who specifically… There’s no simple advice for that. Um… get some other TV writing credits under your belt? Live/work in the UK. Show aptitude for writing sci-fi/fantasy TV. Have a good spec script to showcase your skills. Be chock full of Doctor Who story ideas and Very Strong Opinions about the show, so that when someone asks you why you’d like to write for Doctor Who you can chew their ear off for hours until they cry mercy and give you a chance at a script.

I hope that helps! Good luck with your writing.
 

TOP SCREENWRITING COMPETITIONS

We wanted to get a sense of what screenplay competitions you value most. After a survey of 1000 screenwriters, here are the results:                                                

1. Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting

 2. Page International Screenwriting Awards

3. Austin Film Festival Screenplay& Teleplay Competitions

4. Emerging Screenwriters Screenplay Competition

5. BlueCat Screenplay Competition

6. Scriptapalooza

There’s a misconception out there that only the top screenplay competitions can change your career. That’s simply not true.

7.  Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Contest

8. Screencraft Contests (multiple genres)

9. Script Pipeline

10. Tracking Board – Launch Pad

The ISA would like to introduce you to some noteworthy screenplay contests also capable of helping you take your career to the next level!

11. Slamdance Screenplay Competition

12. Table Read My Screenplay (multiple cities)

13. Fresh Voices

14. StoryPros

15. Creative World Awards

16. Nashville Film Festival

17. Screenplay Festival

18. Industry Insider Screenwriting Contest

19. Reelwriters Screenwriting Contest

20. Cinequest Film Festival

Again, this information has been gathered by surveying your fellow writers
and the contests they value.

Remember, advancing your writing and your career should be the #1 goal when submitting to a contest. If you’re a new writer or written a brand new script, entering contests that receive 4,000 or more entries may not be the best use of your hard-earned money. Unless you’ve done your homework, received a bevy of notes, done the rewrites and are sure the money you are spending will get you somewhere with a top contest entry, you should take one step at a time.

We’re not saying it’s unheard of to win outright but extremely rare, and with the risk, you may get far more value and recognition through a smaller competition. With a one-time chance only for many of the top contests you really want to be sure you’re ready. With a better chance of placing with the 2nd half of this list, you will build confidence, expand your resume and could even attract the right type of industry professional to help develop your project into an Oscar Winner. It’s all about taking the right steps, even if it means starting at the bottom of this list.

Remember, Cameron Crowe didn’t receive an Oscar straight out of the gate for Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Say Anything or Singles. He worked and worked at it for years before finally truly discovering his voice and becoming a master at his craft. That’s when he wrote the Oscar-nominated Jerry McGuire and then eventually his Oscar Winning script Almost Famous.

Develop your voice then a strategy, before you submit!

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One of the most imaginative children’s movies we’ve ever seen was made in 1981 by the king of the bizarre, the grand maester of visual storytelling, the American odd man out in the Monty Python British lineup—the one and only, Terry Gilliam. With Time Bandits, the fantasy film he wrote with fellow Python Michael Palin, Gilliam created a classic that millions of people from all generations would return to gleefully in the years that followed. Time Bandits is truly a fairy tale, but in the tradition of the best ones, it’s a universally appealing story capable of satisfying the cinematic needs of people of all generations and from all walks of life, a film powerful enough to entertain children, but also completely envelop the adults that brought their family to the movies.

Considered by Gilliam as the first in his Trilogy of Imagination (followed by Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen), Time Bandits is a visually stunning tale of a dysfunctional society and the desire of individuals to escape it. As we follow an 11-year-old schoolboy and his six new dwarven friends in their journey through time, on which they encounter historical and mythical personalities such as Robin Hood, Agamemnon and Napoleon, we’re offered a unique vision of history decorated by instances of entertaining humor, as well as subtle social critique lending the movie an engaging and stimulating character that makes it enjoyable for the more serious members of the audience. On one level, Time Bandits is an exciting, unbelievable journey with fantastic set designs, heart-warming interactions and a bunch of heroes that effortlessly find their way to our hearts. If we scratch a little deeper, we realize Gilliam delivers a smart, cautioning commentary on a world obsessed with consumption and technology. But the commentary is given through eventful action in phantasmagoric landscapes, utterly generous to the eye and stirring the imagination chords in all of us. Time Bandits is, without a doubt, one of the best fairy tales ever produced in the medium of film, and as such proudly stands next to the very best classics of the genre like The Wizard of Oz and The Thief of Bagdad.

‘Time Bandits’: The Ever-Lasting Importance of Terry Gilliam’s Best Fairy Tale