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Stories from a seasoned screenwriter. Take heart! Your creative source is infinite and un-ending. Sometimes Hollywood just rips up the roadmap back to it. The bottom line is that Hollywood is not at all as bad as it sounds. Additionally, it's worse than you can imagine. Remember to pack a sense of humor.


I am a screenwriter living in Southern California. I've written screenplays for most of the Hollywood studios over the past 20 years. One of the uncredited writers of FANTASTIC FOUR, I wrote FIRE DOWN BELOW starring Steven Seagal, and the TV Movie 12:01 PM starring Martin Landau and MANEATER with Gary Busey. I have directed short films. I have written on numerous Hollywood studio assignments, some for big shot actors, some for small shot nobodies.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Reading is Fundamental

A reader asks:
Can you suggest some screenplays to read that illustrate good writing? Maybe some bad ones that still made money? Where do I find these screenplays (I live in Idaho - so don't tell me to go to the store on the corner of Melrose and Armpit)
It's as good question, and a very important learning tool. For all the self help books about good writing out there, there is nothing that replaces reading a script and seeing how an author laid it out. Seeing how dialogue plays on the page, scene lengths, choice of narrative, etc. Making sure it's a good script doesn't hurt, though you can learn from the bad ones too. The following is a short list of suggestions and where to go to find them.

First, a few of my favorite screenwriters:

William Goldman
Bruce Joel Rubin
Nick Kazan
Charlie Kaufman
John Wells
Richard Curtis
Chris Gerolmo
Paddy Chayefsky
Cohen Brothers

But every list you make will reveal your favorite predilictions in writing. Wit, raw drama, eloquent speeches or near silence and powerful images. It's all good, as long as it inspires you.

And I think it serves you best if you don't limit your reading to screenplays only. A good novel,
non-fiction or poetry that compels you will always shower you with new ways to put words together, explain a moment, create a mood - and set you off to re-capture a mood you were handed by another writer, describe a moment now in only a few words, or come up with an entire new film idea - merely because you read some good writing, and therein will always lie new inspiration.

Sites to go to where you can download scripts for free and see how the others are doing it:

Drew's Script-o-rama

Simply Scripts
All Movie Scripts

Additional note: Thanks to Grubber for the new link:
Scripts For You


Blogger The Moviequill said...

one of my local screenwriter members just sent me a cdrom with over 400 screenplays on it, I have no excuse for not reading now...one of my current faves is Ted Griffin

Tuesday, July 26, 2005  
Blogger Matt Reynolds said...

Quill: Let me know how I can get hold of that! Drop me an email sometime at blacksunfilms@hotmail.com

Suggested screenplays: one of the best screenplays I've ever read is 'Goodfellas'. I've never read the shooting script, but reading over the published screenplay is just an amazing experience because it breaks so many 'rules'of screenwriting. For a mainstream Hollywood movie it was just so influential.

'Crash' by David Cronenburg is another interesting one to read because it's so spare. I think it runs in at 80 pages or so. Really useful for showing how to write screenplays economically.

Chinatown. Yeah, yeah. I know it's almost become a cliche due to the amount of times its been referenced in how to books. But Robert Towne is a great screenwriter and Chinatown is such a complex story. It's really interesting to read the screenplay and see how he tied it all together.

Probably another obvious one -- but anything by Quentin Tarantino. I know he says he's a director first, a screenwriter second. But his writing is just so damn good. Reading his scripts is a joy. They're just such easy reads and he always keeps descriptions to a minimum -- a useful skill for any screenwriter to learn.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005  
Blogger William said...

Right now, I'm reading Seven by Andrew Kevin Walker. Very interesting what didn't make it to the finished film.

Does anyone know where i can get Paul Attanasio's screenplay, Quiz Show for download? I've been looking around for it forever and no one has it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005  
Blogger Grubber said...


You can try this one, you have to pay for it, so not sure if it is above board, but it has Quiz Show listed as available for $14.88


Also, in general, another one to Phils list is www.sfy.ru


Tuesday, July 26, 2005  
Blogger TN_Dreamer said...

I love reading screenplays. My fav is American Beauty, both the original & the final production. Very illuminating.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005  
Blogger Grubber said...

I have one question for you Phil if I may.

I have been reading heaps of scripts to try and teach myself the style of writing...sort of getting used to it. I must admit, one thing I find fascinating is reading early drafts of the movies (after having seen the final movie) as it shows me what they have changed, to hopefully have improved the movie.

Is this a good idea, or should I concentrate more on the final product(I normally read both if I can source them)?

I know you can't give a definite, but would appreciate your thoughts on the matter.


Wednesday, July 27, 2005  

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