Craft

the theory and practise of screenwriting

 Lauri Donahue

Eli Attie: From the White House to the West Wing

Eli Attie: From the White House to the West Wing

Writer Eli Attie discusses writing speeches for Al Gore, writing scripts for Aaron Sorkin, and the demands of different genres.

By Lauri Donahue. It’s a credit to Aaron Sorkin and John Wells that West Wing is a world where speechwriting is a sexy noble job, which is never how it was in the real White House. One of the premises of the West Wing, which I think is a wonderful thing and a rare thing, is that intelligence […]

 Art Holcomb

To Every Character Their Moment

To Every Character Their Moment

Art Holcomb discusses the importance of Moments for characters, and offers advice on how to use them in your own scripts.

By Art Holcomb. Moments. They’re what the audience remembers about a great movie. They’re what actors (and script readers) look for in a good script. Moments can be more important than structure; when strung like pearls on a necklace, it is the moments of a film that link writer-to-actor-to-director-to-viewer. They are what turn film into […]

 Donna Marie Miller

Write Every Day: Screenwriting Advice from Scott Frank

Write Every Day: Screenwriting Advice from Scott Frank

Scott Frank talks about on how he became a writer, how luck has played a part in his career, and offers advice on how to improve your screenwriting craft.

By Donna Marie Miller. Screenwriter and director Scott Frank has one hard-and-fast rule that he says has led directly to his success: he writes every day — for at least 10 minutes. Some days, that effort stretches into two hours or at the most, four hours. I am at my desk or in my chair […]

 Michael Welles Schock

Heart, Mind and Gut: Visceral Storytelling Part II

Heart, Mind and Gut: Visceral Storytelling Part II

"Great films do not get by on the visceral alone." Michael Welles Schock concludes his two-part article on Visceral Storytelling.

By Michael Welles Schock. In my previous article Gut Reaction: Visceral Storytelling Part I, I established the cinematic audience’s three levels of psychological need: The Intellectual The Emotional The Visceral Though storytellers can create audience satisfaction by appealing to any one of these needs, the most exciting of stories rely heavily on the visceral. This […]

 Brianne Hogan

Meet the Reader: Phil Clarke

Meet the Reader: Phil Clarke

"The good news for fledgling writers is that it's okay to suck." Phil Clarke talks about about lessons he learned from the greats, common mistakes that drive him crazy, and the differences between the film industries in Hollywood and the U.K.

By Brianne Hogan. Phil Clarke is a London-based script consultant who’s never known a time when he wasn’t interested in films. From a very early age, Clarke would “stare mesmerised at movies playing on the TV,” he recalls. “Not just the magnificent visuals, the larger-than-life characters, but also the strange list of names at the […]

 Scott Essman

The Academy Nicholl Fellowship: Opening doors for Emerging Writers

The Academy Nicholl Fellowship: Opening doors for Emerging Writers

"Writing is the foundation of cinema.” Interviews with the 2014-15 Academy Screenwriting Nicholl Fellows.

By Scott Essman. “Very often screenwriters are like shadows passing through the history of cinema.” Jean-Claude Carriere The Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting is an international screenwriting competition established to identify and encourage talented new screenwriters. The Academy has 17 different branches, but screenwriting is the only branch with a dedicated fellowship. “Over the years, […]

 Ron Suppa

Getting Noticed in Hollywood: Writing the Showcase Short

Getting Noticed in Hollywood: Writing the Showcase Short

Ron Suppa discusses the importance of Short films, and offers crucial advice on how to create them.

By Ron Suppa. It’s how Spielberg, Coppola, Lucas and Scorsese got their start. As a producer, I found the first three filmmakers I ever worked with through short film showcases. Always on the lookout for new talent, I still try my best to make it to film festivals, film school screenings and private showings of […]

 James Napoli

Writers: Know Your Place

Writers: Know Your Place

James Napoli discusses what to do – and what not do to – when setting scenes in your screenplay.

By James Napoli. EXT. STREET – DAY A car is parked at the curb. Inside, a group of screenwriters wait at the corner of nothing and nowhere, failing to set the scene with any specificity and therefore failing to engage the reader into something resembling a cinematic experience. Every screenplay should be set somewhere. Forget […]

 Art Holcomb

Collaboration

Collaboration

Art Holcomb's tips for successful collaboration with a writing partner.

By Art Holcomb. What to these people have in common? Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright. Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel. The Farrelly Brothers. Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. Joel and Ethan Coen. All are famous screenwriting teams that went on to great success. And all are screenwriters who once made the decision that they were […]

 Carla Iacovetti

Creating Believable Characters

Creating Believable Characters

Carla Iacovetti explores the importance of good characterization, and discusses the issue with award-winning scriptwriter Glenn Benest.

By Carla Iacovetti.   “Structure is very important to a story, but you’re really missing the boat if you think structure is the only reason that a movie works. The big difference is character.  The heart of the movie is how deeply you (the writer) and the audience connect emotionally with the protagonist.”  — Glenn M. […]

 Matthew Wade Reynolds

Heart, Head and Hand: Do You Write With All Three?

Heart, Head and Hand: Do You Write With All Three?

"Screenwriting, a lot of it – when you’re in the weeds trying to figure it out – is mathematical. It’s about solving puzzles." Rob Edwards.

By Matthew Wade Reynolds. Once upon a time, a young aspiring writer fresh out of college could write a letter to a television producer, asking for advice. Not only would he hear back, but he might just have lunch waiting for him at a venerable Los Angeles deli, with a handful of the producer’s friends […]

 Shanee Edwards

Shakespeare For Screenwriters

Shakespeare For Screenwriters

Timeless Writing Tips from the Master of Drama.

By Shanee Edwards. What does The Empire Strikes Back have in common with Taming of the Shrew? Or Scarface with Lady Macbeth? More than you might think. This fascinating new book for screenwriters will have you rethinking the way you create characters and tell stories by taking a close-up look at perhaps the best English-language […]

 Art Holcomb

Are Your Scripts Written in Clay or Written in Marble?

Are Your Scripts Written in Clay or Written in Marble?

How Art Holcomb's process can make your writing more efficient.

I do think the challenge, in a way for me, is to write a narrative film and when you finish watching it you feel like it’s a collage. You tell the narrative, you tell the story, but you feel like you’ve created this tapestry. But it also has a shape, a story.  Shane Black   Writers have […]

 James Napoli

From the Over Describer to the Compulsive Recapper: Eight Screenwriting Screw-ups to Avoid

From the Over Describer to the Compulsive Recapper: Eight Screenwriting Screw-ups to Avoid

Script Reader James Napoli gives us a run down of the most common mistakes he sees, and how to fix them.

By James Napoli. Many of the most common mistakes found in screenplays are also easy to rectify. So if you are working on a screenplay of your own, make sure that you do not fall into one of these types.         1. The Compulsive “We See-er” We see an eyeball staring directly […]

 Erik Bauer

“I Like Violence” – Shane Black

“I Like Violence” – Shane Black

An in-depth interview with action genre pioneer Shane Black.

by Erik Bauer. Shane Black is a Pittsburgh native whose solo screen-play credits include Lethal Weapon, The Last Boy Scout, and The Long Kiss Goodnight. In addition to these original scripts, Black co-wrote The Monster Squad and The Last Action Hero. Black enjoyed spectacular success in the ’90s spec-screenplay market, earning $1.75 million for his […]

 Dennis MaGee Fallon

Building A Better Script: Michael Hauge’s Blueprint

Building A Better Script: Michael Hauge’s Blueprint

Screenwriting guru Michael Hauge breaks down his thoughts and theories on structuring the perfect screenplay.

By Dennis MaGee Fallon. Screenwriting guru and story consultant Michael Hauge sat down with Creative Screenwriting to talk about his “blueprint” for building excellent scripts. After all, we can talk great ideas, heartwarming characters and shocking story twists all day, but if you don’t know how to put your script together, it’s into the trashcan […]

 Michael Welles Schock

Gut Reaction: Visceral Storytelling Part I

Gut Reaction: Visceral Storytelling Part I

How dramatic films appeal to the primal instincts within us.

By Michael Welles Schock. I know of writers who like to pen very intelligent scripts. These scripts can be clever and witty. They often contain skillful wordplay and philosophical premises. But often, no matter how well-written, these scripts fail draw in the reader. They are like museum pieces. They have aesthetic value, yet can only […]

 Art Holcomb

The Most Common Mistake in Spec Scripts

The Most Common Mistake in Spec Scripts

Four steps to coming up with a great script concept.

By Art Holcomb. “Most aspiring screenwriters simply don’t spend enough time choosing their concept. It’s by far the most common mistake I see in spec scripts. The writer has lost the race right from the gate. Months — sometimes years — are lost trying to elevate a film idea that by its nature probably had […]

 Dennis MaGee Fallon

Formulaic is Good!

Formulaic is Good!

Screenwriting guru Michael Hauge on the balancing act all commercial screenwriters must perform.

By Dennis MaGee Fallon Films follow patterns. TV shows have arcs. Narratives have structure. No matter the medium, stories seem to repeat the same beats, framework and through lines. Anyone who’s read a screenwriting book or taken a class or even seen a few movies can say, whether from study or intuition, that “I’ve seen […]

 Carla Iacovetti

To Flashback or Not to Flashback, That is the Question

To Flashback or Not to Flashback, That is the Question

David Trottier on The Use of Flashbacks.

By Carla Iacovetti. “About 95% of the flashbacks in unsold scripts don’t work. In first-time scripts, usually a flashback is used as a crutch; a cheap way to introduce exposition.” – David Trottier. David Trottier has sold or optioned ten screenplays (three produced). As an award-winning teacher and in-demand script consultant, David has helped hundreds of […]

 Michael Welles Schock

The Humility Arc

The Humility Arc

How fairy tale morality leads to a near-universal rule of screenwriting.

“I can’t beat him… I’ve been out there walking around, thinking. I mean, who am I kidding? I’m not even in the guy’s league.” – Rocky “I don’t want to know who I am anymore. I don’t care. Everything I’ve found out I want to forget.” – The Bourne Identity “I killed her, Red. I […]

 Jennie E. Park

Protected: Jeffrey Kitchen on Screenwriting, Part I

Protected: Jeffrey Kitchen on Screenwriting, Part I

In the first of a two part interview, Jeffrey Kitchen begins an overview of his screenwriting tools and techniques, including Dilemma, Crisis, Decision, Action and Resolution, the 36 Dramatic Situations, the Enneagram, and Research and Brainstorming.

There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.

 Jennie E. Park

Protected: Jeffrey Kitchen on Screenwriting, Part II

Protected: Jeffrey Kitchen on Screenwriting, Part II

In the second of a two part interview, Jeff discusses the Central Proposition, Sequence, Proposition and Plot, reflects on the weaknesses of both experienced and novice writers, and offers his greatest piece of advice to writers of all levels.

There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.

 Michael Lent

Syd Field, An Appreciation

Syd Field, An Appreciation

Creative Screenwriting columnist Michael Lent remembers Syd Field and his groundbreaking work on screenplay structure

by Michael Lent Most writers are nonconformists who hate to be told how to structure their lives. “I have to wake, work and sleep when? Says who?” That aberrant inclination carries over to our actual writing. We say things like, “I just want to write and see where the characters and the story take me.” […]

 Michael Lent

Elmore Leonard Tribute

Elmore Leonard Tribute

by Michael Lent In a world of lettuce, Elmore Leonard was meat. Patron saint to crime novelists and screenwriters, his prose got to the meat of things. Quickly. His writing style was crisp, direct and never called attention to anything but the story. His titles were blunt like a punch in the nose. Leonard’s characters […]

 Charles Deemer

What Can We Learn from Harold Pinter?

What Can We Learn from Harold Pinter?

Pinter provides a model for using sentence fragments to create “good” writing

by Charles Deemer The students who enter my screenwriting classroom at Portland State University bring with them considerable language habits. Some write well, some not so well, but all of them have been taught the principles of “good writing.” It’s a shock, therefore when they learn that many of these values are not important in […]

 Scott Essman

Turning the Page: Storytelling in the Digital Age

Turning the Page: Storytelling in the Digital Age

Exploring the screenwriter’s role in the new digital landscape

Article by Scott Essman Research by Rebecca Chacon In spring of 2013, in an effort to illuminate how new digital technologies are impacting filmmakers, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences held a series of seminars open to Academy members and special invitees. To explore the screenwriter’s role in this new digital landscape, the […]

 Carla Iacovetti

David Ball on Breaking Down the Action

David Ball on Breaking Down the Action

Using backwards and forward writing to craft a cohesive screenplay

“An event is anything that happens. When one event causes or permits another event, the two events together comprise an action. Actions are a [screenplay’s] primary building blocks.”—David Ball   by Carla Iacovetti In order to comprehend how a screenplay works, you need to have a keen understanding of action and be more than familiar […]

 Charlie Tarabour

Todd Berger on Rewriting

The value in re-doing your screenplay until it is right

by Charlie Tarabour Writing is rewriting, they say. Pure, original thought makes up a small minority of the time spent screenwriting. It’s mostly molding and forming and re-molding and re-forming until satisfied. First drafts are never satisfactory, especially to the writer. They are Frankenstein’s monsters, lacking purpose and riddled with visible stitches and inconsistencies. The […]

 Shanee Edwards

Divergent and Hope Springs Writer Vanessa Taylor

<i>Divergent</i> and <i>Hope Springs</i> Writer Vanessa Taylor

Describes her bumpy transition from Game of Thrones to feature film writing and gives advice for women working in Hollywood

by Shanee Edwards Television scribe Vanessa Taylor has had great success on the small screen. She’s written for such shows as Alias, Everwood, Tell Me You Love Me, and most recently, seasons two and three of the uber-popular Game of Thrones. But moving to the large screen with last year’s Hope Springs and the upcoming […]

 Dr. Rachel Ballon

A Diagnosis

A Diagnosis

Is the problem the script or the scriptwriter?

“What you think of yourself is much more important than what others think of you.”—Lucius Annaeus Seneca by Dr. Rachel Ballon Is self-doubt sabotaging your writing? Do you become insecure when your writing is rejected or your producer doesn’t like your screenplay? Is your ego and self-worth tied up in your writing? Well, most writers […]

 Mark Miller

I Love Being a Writer

I Love Being a Writer

Except for the writing

by Mark Miller It’s no secret that when it comes to sitting down to actually doing the writing, we writers excel at procrastination. If, anywhere within a five mile radius of the computer, we happen to notice an unsharpened pencil, a window, a refrigerator, a phone, unopened mail, a magazine, something needing dusting, the TV […]

 Michael Lent

C – H – A – N – G – E

C – H – A – N – G – E

The terrifying six letter buzzword you need to embrace

by Michael Lent Author’s Note: Usually, I write nuts and bolts pieces like “Five Bears You Need to Avoid and Seven Ways to Fend Them Off With Toe Nail Trimmers;” however, since this is the inaugural column of the Creative Screenwriting re-launch, this conceptual piece is my way of saying, “Good to be home.”   […]

 Dennis MaGee Fallon

Craft Guru: Michael Hauge

Craft Guru: Michael Hauge

Michael Hauge on finding the theme.

by Dennis MaGee Fallon Theme can be a tricky thing.  It’s often hidden in good scripts, heavy handed in bad ones, and sometimes nowhere at all.  But, as many screenwriters, critics and film buffs can attest, a powerful theme can make all the difference in a great story.  So, what is theme and how can […]

 Ari Eisner

The Business and Craft of Animation Writing

The Business and Craft of Animation Writing

Jeffrey M. Howard discusses Disney’s adoption of the Pixar way

by Ari Eisner Jeffrey M. Howard’s been a member of the Disney family since 1998. Although he started on the executive side of the business, being a creator is what he’s really always wanted to do. Howard tells us, “I grew up loving cartoons and drawing my own comics and things like that. I studied […]

 Brock Swinson

What’s the Cowboy Hat

What’s the Cowboy Hat

Blake Masters on finding your emotional stakes

by Brock Swinson Blake Masters is a genuine Hollywood writer. After twenty years of battling his keyboard, he is dangerously close to becoming a household name. A self-proclaimed turtle writer, he continues to chip away at pilot episodes, film adaptations and original content. Masters’ methodical schedule allows for him to write a television episode in […]


Video Store

Joss Whedon on Screenwriting

Richard Walters