Craft

the theory and practise of screenwriting

 Jeffrey Kitchen

Reverse Cause and Effect

Reverse Cause and Effect

Discover what's necessary for your story! Jeff Kitchen explains how to use Reverse Cause and Effect to construct your plot.

Reverse Cause and Effect is a unique development tool that enables you to wade into a complex mix of story material and pull it together into a tight sequence of events. Cause and effect is a crucial part of good screenwriting because Plot Point A should cause Plot Point B which causes Plot Point C, […]

 Joe Gilford

The Building Blocks of Story

The Building Blocks of Story

Joe Gilford explains how to organize your ideas into an effective screenplay structure.

Imagine that there was one foolproof way to come up with a story for your screenplay. Well, keep dreaming. It’s all well and good to think up incredible ideas. In the end, though, a screenwriter has to turn them into something. Workable story ideas can, though, be developed into a solid, industry-ready script—a combination of […]

 Tim Long

Heart: The Emotional Core of Screenplays

Heart: The Emotional Core of Screenplays

Tim Long discusses the emotional glue that binds us to story.

With over twenty-five years of professional story development and screenwriting experience, and nearly two decades of teaching screenwriting at the MFA level, I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate on hundreds of screenplays and films.  During my career, hands down the most common problem I see in screenplays is that they lack an emotional core, or […]

 Kieron Moore

Tarantino’s Rewriting: The Hateful Eight

Tarantino’s Rewriting: The Hateful Eight

What changed in Tarantino's rewrite of The Hateful Eight... and why.

Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight had a notoriously difficult route to the screen. In January 2014, barely two months after the writer/director had announced he was working on a second Western after 2012’s Django Unchained, an early draft of the script leaked onto the internet and caused Tarantino to abandon the project. It was only […]

 Alex Bloom

The Importance of Stakes in Screenwriting

The Importance of Stakes in Screenwriting

Alex Bloom discusses the #1 ingredient missing from most scenes in spec scripts.

By Alex Bloom. Having been in the script consultancy business for some time, if I had to name the single most significant factor as to why a spec screenplay does or doesn’t get picked up, there’s one in my opinion that towers head and shoulders above the rest… a lack of stakes in each and […]

 James Napoli

Surprise or Suspense?

Surprise or Suspense?

James Napoli explores the difference between the use of surprise and suspense in screenwriting.

By James Napoli. I had an interesting experience while binge-watching the first two seasons of the beautifully acted and tonally flawless British television series Broadchurch. In an attempt to keep this article spoiler-free, I will simply say that the program, which concerns itself with the murder of a child in a small town, is exceedingly […]

 Art Holcomb

The Destructive Power of Good Enough

The Destructive Power of Good Enough

Art Holcomb on why first-time screenwriters have to be better than established writers, the Hollywood No, and the importance of the re-write.

By Art Holcomb. “Screenwriting is the most prized of all the cinematic arts. Actually, it isn’t, but it should be.” Hugh Laurie     Nearly 40 years as a writer has taught me some important lessons, one of which is that writers, whether they’re just starting out or well into their career, all need access […]

 Jacob N. Stuart

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” 7 Tips for Great Dialogue

“Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” 7 Tips for Great Dialogue

Jacob Stuart's advice on writing dialogue for screenplays.

By Jacob N. Stuart. Hollywood has a short attention span. Unlike writers, who may have all day to sit and ponder, plotting out their next script, or revising and revising a screenplay until their fingers are numb, the truth is: the people you need to impress with your script don’t. So in your writing breaks, […]

 Ken Miyamoto

Learning From The Stranger

Learning From The Stranger

ScreenCraft’s Ken Miyamoto examines what a children’s book can teach screenwriters about storytelling.

By Ken Miyamoto. The truth of the matter in screenwriting, and storytelling as a whole, is that writers all too often over-complicate the notion of engaging an audience, especially when writing mysteries, thrillers, and compelling dramas. It’s an understandable task because engaging an audience and keeping them engaged throughout the story is the most vital […]

 Brianne Hogan

How to Save the Cat!

How to Save the Cat!

Beat Sheets, Saving the Cat, and Genres: José Silerio discusses three key concepts from Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat!

By Brianne Hogan. “I first learned how to tell effective stories…selling a shampoo or household cleaning product. But isn’t that what storytelling is all about – selling the hero’s story?”  From this prosaic storytelling education, José Silerio became Save the Cat! author Blake Snyder’s Development Director. Now Silerio now actively works with screenwriters who have projects […]

 Steven Barnes

The Ten Commandments of Brainstorming

The Ten Commandments of Brainstorming

Steven Barnes offers advice and exercises for the generation of ideas.

By Steven Barnes.   Life is trying things to see if they work. Ray Bradbury   Creativity is a matter of both self-expression and problem solving. In both arenas, the ability to generate vast quantities of ideas is essential: “the only way to have a good idea is by coming up with a lot of bad […]

 Art Holcomb

The Rule Book

The Rule Book

Art Holcomb uncovers the emotional rule book inside us all, and explores how to use this in developing characters.

By Art Holcomb. So much of good storytelling is about cause and effect, set-ups and payoff, motives and consequences. Consider for a moment: if there are two separate story paths that exist in each script we write, then there is a story engine – a consequence mechanism that drives each and they are quite different […]

 Brianne Hogan

Steve Cuden on Screenwriting

Steve Cuden on Screenwriting

Steve Cuden on creating compelling characters, the essential beats that all successful Hollywood films have, and where new writers often go wrong.

By Brianne Hogan. Steve Cuden’s love for movies is practically embedded in his D.N.A. “I have had film in my blood stream since I was a little boy,” he says. “I have been watching television and movies since I was a child. In fact, it used to be the bane of my father’s existence. I […]

 Mike Fitzgerald

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Learning from Stoppard

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: Learning from Stoppard

Mike Fitzgerald examines Tom Stoppard’s draft of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, to discover what it can teach us about screenwriting.

By Mike Fitzgerald. Comparing two drafts of a script can be hugely instructive, revealing point-by-point how a writer went about improving the story. When I stumbled upon an earlier draft of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, I discovered a dazzling, glittering trove of lessons as nourishing as eternal life itself. Well, nearly so. Last […]

 Michael Welles Schock

What a Story Believes In: The Thematic Argument

What a Story Believes In: The Thematic Argument

Michael Welles Schock provides an introduction to the basic structure behind a story's communication of theme.

By Michael Welles Schock. Theme is an abstract concept by nature, and thus has always been difficult to define or comprehend. To put things most simply, the theme is what the story “believes in.” It contains the underlying values, principles, or beliefs the story intends to express. A clear and recognizable theme will guide the […]

 Elan Mastai

Six Ways to Improve Your Screenplay

Six Ways to Improve Your Screenplay

Elan Mastai explores how to rethink your writing, avoid unoriginality and reveal yourself through your writing.

By Elan Mastai. At some point, all writers get writer’s block. And when you get stuck, it’s natural to reach for something you know has worked before: a cliché. Of course we all want to write the most original, unexpected, vivid version of our story. Usually, the main challenge isn’t imagination—it’s time. Great writing takes time. The less […]

 Brianne Hogan

Story is Story: Art Holcomb on Screenwriting

Story is Story: Art Holcomb on Screenwriting

Art Holcomb discusses the fundamentals of storytelling, what he finds most fascinating about screenwriting, and the importance of premise.

By Brianne Hogan. When Art Holcomb was eight years old, his maternal grandmother, a poet, gave him a blank book. It was to encourage him to write out his feelings. She also shared with him books by the greats, like Shakespeare and Cummings. By the time he watched A Midsummer Night’s Dream at ten, he […]

 Brock Swinson

Befriending Writer’s Block

Befriending Writer’s Block

Depth psychotherapist Philip Ruddy discusses breaking down writer’s block through exploring the unconscious, Active Imagination, and courage.

By Brock Swinson. Philip Ruddy is a depth psychotherapist with a masters degree in Counseling Psychology, who also happens to have fifteen years’ experience working as a writer and producer. As such, he is well-equipped to understand the creative mind, and he works with writers, artists and performers to help them with creative blocks, anxiety, […]

 Brianne Hogan

Billy Mernit on Writing the Romantic Comedy

Billy Mernit on Writing the Romantic Comedy

Bill Mernit discusses the current state of romantic comedies, what fascinates him about the genre, and why his beats are so essential in writing a solid rom-com script.

By Brianne Hogan. Billy Mernit knows a thing or two about romantic comedies. Actually, he knows seven things about romantic comedies. Those seven things being the essential plot beats of what makes a solid romantic comedy. Once a successful romance novelist who penned love stories for Harlequin under a nom de plume, Mernit, who has […]

 James Napoli

On-the-Nose Dialogue

On-the-Nose Dialogue

James Napoli explains that sometimes it’s OK to use On-the-Nose dialogue.

By James Napoli. Near the end of Richard Wenk’s screenplay for 16 Blocks (which became a rather entertaining and underrated film in 2006), the protagonist’s sister, a nurse, unloads a little diatribe about her brother, a washed-up cop who is on the run protecting a witness being hunted by a corrupt police force:   DIANE […]

 Brianne Hogan

“Stories are Trances.” Steven Barnes on Screenwriting

“Stories are Trances.” Steven Barnes on Screenwriting

Steven Barnes discusses adaptations, the importance of telling the truth in your work, and why the steps of the Hero's Journey are like piano keys.

By Brianne Hogan. According to Steven Barnes, screenplays and stories are “like conversations with friends you have yet to meet,” which is a comforting thought to the lonely writer holed up in their apartment, banging out words. A screenwriter and sci-fi novelist himself, Barnes always wanted to a writer. “I always told stories,” he says. […]

 Art Holcomb

The Question of Theme

The Question of Theme

Art Holcomb discusses the use of theme in story, and provides a step-by-step example of how to build your screenplay around a central theme.

By Art Holcomb. From academics in film school to producers in Hollywood, ‘Theme’ is a term that gets tossed around a great deal. I’ve heard it used as a label for any myriad of aspects within the narrative structure; anything from plot structure, to emotional character motivations, to ways of explaining genre designations. I believe […]

 Erik Bauer

David Koepp: Writer Not Auteur

David Koepp: Writer Not Auteur

David Koepp reveals why all screenwriters want to be directors, why directing is psychologically-damaging, and why new film technologies are like pornography.

By Erik Bauer and David Goldsmith. Growing up in Pewaukee, WI, Koepp initially pursued acting, but eventually studied screenwriting at UCLA Film School. His first screen credit was Apartment Zero, co-written with brother-in-law Martin Donovan. This Argentinean drama didn’t light many fires in Hollywood, but his next screenplay Bad Influence, would net Koepp a young […]

 Richard Walter

Richard Walter on Static Vs. Dynamic Scene Settings

Richard Walter on Static Vs. Dynamic Scene Settings

Richard Walter explores how to invigorate a script merely by changing the venues in which scenes are set.

By Richard Walter. My sister is an actor. For decades she was best known for her femme fatal role in the first movie ever directed by Clint Eastwood: Play Misty for Me. That led to thirty years of bad girls: Women in Cages, Women in Chains, and u-name-it. In recent years however, thanks to her […]

 Carla Iacovetti

Calculating Emotions: Elements of Screenwriting and Human Behavior

Calculating Emotions: Elements of Screenwriting and Human Behavior

Author and professor of psychology Dr. William Indick reveals how to connect an audience to story.

By Carla Iacovetti. There is nothing like a film that jolts your emotions. Whether you are moved to tears, or nearly fallout on the floor laughing, when your reactions to a story are vivid, you will remember the story long after you’ve digested the popcorn and moved on with life; it is indelible. But lasting […]

 James Napoli

Flashbacks and Monologues

Flashbacks and Monologues

James Napoli comes to the defense of two often misused screenwriting techniques.

By James Napoli. Flashbacks Nothing provokes a more knee-jerk “don’t do it” reaction from screenwriters than the decision to include one or more flashbacks in one’s screenplay. We can, of course, understand this compulsion to remain linear, and the gut instinct that to tell the story from beginning to end is the only pure way […]

 Richard Walter

Richard Walter on Why There’s No Success Like Failure

Richard Walter on Why There’s No Success Like Failure

Richard Walter explains why the failure to sell a script can prove to be the beginning of launching a career as a screenwriter.

By Richard Walter. When I was invited to join the faculty of the UCLA film school it was technically the late ’70s. Spiritually, however, it was still the ’60s, with its hippie-dippy disregard for accomplishment and achievement. The third worst act a writer could commit was to actually sell a screenplay. That was mere commerce, […]

 Richard Walter

Richard Walter on Hollywood Trends

Richard Walter on Hollywood Trends

Richard Walter explains why the biggest mistake a writer can make is to pay attention to Hollywood trends.

By Richard Walter. What is the ‘trend’ today in Hollywood? I’m standing smack-dab in the middle of the town and haven’t a clue. As in algebra, however, let’s say that there is a trend and let’s call that trend ‘X’. It’s too late to get in on that trend for the simple reason that it […]

 Brock Swinson

Ben Cahan on Talentville and Rising to the Top

Ben Cahan on Talentville and Rising to the Top

Ben Cahan, creator of Final Draft, discusses his online script critiquing platform, Talentville.

By Brock Swinson. After the success of screenwriting software Final Draft, creator Ben Cahan shifted gear to create his newest industry innovation, Talentville. Ideally, the program is much like an enhanced version of a University screenwriting course that allows for writers to share, read, network, learn, and potentially find footing in an overcrowded industry while […]

 John Davis

Creative Screenwriting’s Virtual Panel

Creative Screenwriting’s Virtual Panel

Our experts offer advice, discuss screenwriting rules and guides, and offer their thoughts on the future of the industry.

Chaired by John Davis. Creative Screenwriting has a wealth of experts and industry professionals writing for us, from screenwriters to screenwriting teachers, from critics to producers, from consultants to directors. We’ve gathered them together for the first of what we hope will prove to be a series of virtual panels, to put to them questions […]

 Jason Nawara

Brian Herskowitz: A Unified Theory of Screenwriting

Brian Herskowitz: A Unified Theory of Screenwriting

In the second of a two-part interview, Brian Herskowitz discusses his latest book Process to Product, screenwriting guides, and his Horror Equity Fund.

By Jason Nawara. Creative Screenwriting readers may be familiar with Brian Herskowitz, whose lecture Crafting the Outline for Your Feature Film is available to purchase on our website, and who has recently released one of the most pragmatic books on the craft of screenwriting: Process to Product. Besides writing, producing and directing dozens of projects, from […]

 Dan Frazier

“There is no such thing as an action movie.” Steven E. de Souza on Screenwriting

“There is no such thing as an action movie.”  Steven E. de Souza on Screenwriting

Steven E. de Souza discusses adaptations and writing from the villain's perspective, offers advice on writer's block, and reveals who wrote that line from Die Hard.

By Dan Frazier. It’s impossible to imagine Hollywood without a barrage of summer blockbusters, but in 1985 the action genre was defined when a bodybuilder-cum-actor starred in an explosion friendly flick titled Commando. Behind the creative death scenes and heavily accented one-liners, was the work of screenwriter Steven E. de Souza –who had already established […]

 Art Holcomb

String of Pearls: An Alternative Way to Create a Story

String of Pearls: An Alternative Way to Create a Story

Forget for a moment all story structure, acts, beats and technical terms. Forget the guru and screenwriting experts. Art Holcomb explores an alternative method of screenwriting.

By Art Holcomb. Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist. Pablo Picasso     One common problem I see in my practice is when aspiring screenwriters cannot separate the Creating Process from the Drafting Process. Many beginning writers sit down at the keyboard, type FADE IN and rush […]

 Leslie Dallas

It’s a Richard Walter World

It’s a Richard Walter World

Leslie Dallas looks at the life of legendary screenwriting teacher Richard Walter.

By Leslie Dallas. It’s the self-referential moment to beat all self-referential moments in a town that thrives on them, in an industry built on them: Richard Walter watches Richard Walter doing Richard Walter. There he is standing in front of Creative Screenwriting Magazine’s booth at the UCLA Festival of Books, joined by the writers of […]

 Brianne Hogan

Meet the Reader: Cameron Cubbison

Meet the Reader: Cameron Cubbison

"Write for the pure joy of writing." Cameron Cubbison discusses what excites him as a reader, what makes a good note, and how a writer becomes a better writer.

By Brianne Hogan. ScreenCraft’s Cameron Cubbison’s love for movies is palpable, to say the least. “I love movies because they’re life without the dullness, anticlimax and disappointment,” he says. “Film as an art form offers the most crystallized, vital and cathartic emotional experience possible. It’s the amalgam of every other form of human expression: ideation, […]

 Jim Fisher

Getting the Science Right

Getting the Science Right

Jim Fisher on why screenwriters should get the science in their stories right, and how to do so!

By Jim Fisher. Why should you worry about getting the science right in your next manuscript or screenplay? Seriously, what’s in it for you? For one thing, I’m pretty certain you don’t want Neil deGrasse Tyson commenting on scientific gaffes in your story. He wouldn’t do that, would he?  Would he?  He would?  Yes, he […]

 Jason Nawara

Brian Herskowitz: A Black Belt in The Film Industry

Brian Herskowitz: A Black Belt in The Film Industry

In the first of a two-part interview, Brian Herskowitz discusses his writing career, the screenwriting lessons that can be learned from martial arts, the importance of balancing belief and realism, and how to give and receive notes.

By Jason Nawara. Creative Screenwriting readers may be familiar with Brian Herskowitz, whose lecture Crafting the Outline for Your Feature Film is available to purchase on our website, and who has recently released one of the most pragmatic books on the craft of screenwriting: Process to Product. Besides writing, producing and directing dozens of projects, from […]

 James Napoli

Groundhog Day: Streamlining the Story

Groundhog Day: Streamlining the Story

James Napoli examines the differences between the screenplay and the final version of the film, and discusses why these changes were made.

There are many screenplays available online, but one in particular has some terrific lessons in it regarding the streamlining of a story, and what decisions are made between the page and the screen that can be particularly instructive to writers. That screenplay is Groundhog Day, the second revision by the late (and hugely lamented) Harold […]

 Ron Suppa

Reel Dialogue: Movie-Speak Part I

Reel Dialogue: Movie-Speak Part I

In the first of a two part article, Ron Suppa discusses dialogue in films, the difference between real conversations and 'movie-speak', and the importance of brevity.

By Ron Suppa. Forgive the cliché, but a picture is worth a thousand words. Unlike stage plays, movies don’t have to rely on words to tell the story. In fact, the first movies were silent. If today’s action blockbusters are any indication, we may be heading back that way. And for good reason – communication […]

 Matthew Wade Reynolds

“95% of scripts are overwritten.” Robert Flaxman on Screenwriting

“95% of scripts are overwritten.” Robert Flaxman on Screenwriting

Robert Flaxman on deep feedback, turning novelists into sceenwriters, and writing your own version of The Godfather.

By Matthew Wade Reynolds. It’s a situation all too familiar – the hard work of writing the script is done, now for the tricky task of getting it read. Friends and family are too nice. Agents too busy. And producers don’t know what they want until after someone else gets it. (“How about a talking […]

 Brianne Hogan

Not a Lottery: Michael Ray Brown on Screenwriting

Not a Lottery: Michael Ray Brown on Screenwriting

Michael Ray Brown discusses his Screenwriting Structure Checklist, go-to screenplays that every screenwriter should read, and his biggest piece of advice for aspiring writers.

By Brianne Hogan. Growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, story analyst Michael Ray Brown hunted for crawdads in a creek, and whiled away days reading comic books in a treehouse. “Going to movies was a rarity in our family,” Brown says. “One of my fondest memories is when we all saw It’s a Mad, Mad, […]

 Ron Suppa

Reel Dialogue: Movie-Speak Part II

Reel Dialogue: Movie-Speak Part II

In the second of a two part article, Ron Suppa explores strategies for creating good screen dialogue.

By Ron Suppa. As promised in the first part of this article, here are a dozen basic strategies for creating good screen dialogue: Characters don’t talk to each other, they argue. No pleasant chitchat, please, and don’t have your characters preach to us. Dialogue maintains the tension and dramatic conflict between the characters. Especially if […]

 Brianne Hogan

Meet the Reader: Jen Grisanti

Meet the Reader: Jen Grisanti

"Our wounds are the well we should draw from." Consultant and writing instructor Jen Grisanti discusses the key concepts of a great script, and why movies and TV matter.

By Brianne Hogan. Jen Grisanti has always been fascinated with film and TV. For her, it was the escapism and wish fulfillment of it all that ignited her love for story. “I remember seeing The Hardy Boys when Joe Hardy’s girlfriend, Jamie, died. I still remember the song “If” by Bread that played. The story […]

 Karl Iglesias

Karl Iglesias on Unwillingness to Compromise

Karl Iglesias on Unwillingness to Compromise

Karl Iglesias reveals the essence of all stories from the beginning of time.

The following article is an edited excerpt from Karl Iglesias’s DVD seminar Crafting Compelling Stories for Emotional Impact.   Emotional Impact Emotional impact is what craft is all about. In other words, when you hear about honing your craft, that craft is basically your technical ability as a writer, through your  words, through writing a […]

 Brock Swinson

“If it came easy, everyone would do it.” Robert Townsend on writing.

“If it came easy, everyone would do it.” Robert Townsend on writing.

Robert Townsend discusses his writing process and techniques.

By Brock Swinson. The only thing I’ve ever wanted as an artist was to say that I never repeated myself. As an artist, I just want to do more. Sitting in a borrowed office at the 2015 RiverRun International Film Festival in Winston-Salem, Carolina, surrounded by Indie film posters, and with the perpetual aroma of […]

 Holly Grigg-Spall

“Character is Story.” Richard Walter on Screenwriting.

“Character is Story.” Richard Walter on Screenwriting.

Richard Walter discusses teaching, the importance of new media platforms, and explains why we should rejoice in the collaborative process of film-making.

By Holly Grigg-Spall. Richard Walter is the chairman of UCLA’s prestigious graduate program in screenwriting. A screenwriter himself and novelist, he has produced some of the most popular screenwriting texts around, including Essentials of Screenwriting. He has given master classes all over the world and produced a series of DVDs. His students have gone on […]

 James Napoli

We Need to (Not) Talk

We Need to (Not) Talk

James Napoli discusses the use – and over-use – of dialogue.

By James Napoli. A funny thing happened when I decided to revisit the car chase from Bullitt. I found myself on edge in a way I could not quite define. I seemed to be experiencing more of a sense of tension and worry than I normally do in an action scene. Then, about three minutes […]

 Brianne Hogan

Karl Iglesias on Screenwriting

Karl Iglesias on Screenwriting

Karl Iglesias discusses the elements of a well-written screenplay, today’s movie landscape, and writing for emotional impact.

By Brianne Hogan. The emotional response of the audience is the most paramount and important thing when it comes to storytelling. Karl Iglesias Karl Iglesias is an author, script consultant, and much sought-after screenwriting teacher. He also has a habit of being at the right place at the right time. A son of flamenco dancers, […]

 Ron Suppa

Ten Rewriting Strategies

Ten Rewriting Strategies

Ron Suppa discusses the importance of rewrites, and offers crucial advice on how to go about making them.

By Ron Suppa. When I published the following strategies in my book, Real Screenwriting: Strategies and Stories from the Trenches, I received a ton of email thanking me for giving writers somewhere positive to go after they had finished their first drafts. No one likes to celebrate Fade Out only to then tackle the excruciating […]

 Heather Hale

“Learn to love all forms of storytelling.” Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir

“Learn to love all forms of storytelling.” Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir

Writers and screenwriting teachers Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir share their insights on writing with partners, developing scripts for television, and adaptations.

By Heather Hale. Life has a way of getting in the way of writing. How much of our own writing we get done depends on how and where we’re earning our income, our personal responsibilities and our creative energy levels. Add two personalities to all that ebb and flow and the dynamic can get quite […]


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Joss Whedon on Screenwriting

Richard Walters