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The Everything® Screenwriting Bookshows you how to:
*Write a sellable treatment
*Create credible dialogue
*Flesh out memorable characters
*Edit and rewrite like a pro
*Find an agent and market your screenplay
Whether you are writing the next Citizen Kane, Some Like It Hot, Annie Hall, or The Pianist, The Everything® Screenwriting Book is packed with information that can make your screenwriting dreams come true!
Robert Pollock, a professor of creative writing at Norwalk Community College, is a former publicity writer for Warner Brother Pictures, production consultant for Paramount Pictures, film critic and columnist for Films and Filming, and Director of Multimedia for the University of California. Mr. Pollock also wrote the first-draft screenplay based on his novel Loophole or How to Rob a Bank, which starred Albert Finney and Martin Sheen. He lives in Bridgeport, CT.
Introduction to Screenwriting
Writing for money is a gamble, and writing for the movie screen is an even less sure way of making a living. So why do so many people want to write screenplays? Perhaps it's because the rewards for the lucky few are substantial-money and prestige. And, of course, it's a thrill to sit back and watch a film that was born as an idea in your head and that you had shaped and crafted into a screenplay.
What Is a Screenplay?
A screenplay or film script is a blueprint from which, eventually, a motion picture will be made. This blueprint is the most important element of a film-you can't produce a film without a screenplay just as you can't construct a skyscraper without architectural blueprints.
The script includes all kinds of information, which appears both directly and indirectly. Most obviously, it contains the dialogue broken down by act, scene, and shot. However, to arrive at the screenplay the screenwriter will have already decided how long the film will be, where it will be shot, how many actors will be needed, and so on. This type of indirect information is equally important. A screenplay is never a work of literature, something one person writes and another reads. It is a blueprint for something that is heard, seen, and interpreted by a viewer.
From Script to Successful Motion Picture
Although most scripts are written by one person, the work inherent in making it into a film requires hundreds of professionals. To organize the venture, the project must have a leader. In the movies, this is the role of the director.
The cinematographer, sound designer and engineers, set and costume designers, editors, composers and musicians, and others working on film production generally receive a copy of the script of the movie they are working on.
The Screenwriter Plays God
Which of the platoon's heroes will die? The comic who is always cracking jokes, the serious lieutenant who always worries about his family back home, the unrelenting sadistic sergeant who is ready to lead his men into battle? It's up to the scriptwriter; he's the one to play God and for a variety of dramatically created reasons frequently will decide who lives or dies.
The scriptwriter might write a close up: slowly the dismembered hand moves and rejoins its wrist. The tendons, muscles, and finally the skin are miraculously healed and the hand and arm look as they used to be.
Then the scriptwriter will save that text and go to lunch. Months later, a special effects computer technician will spend hours creating the effect that eventually audiences will gasp at. That's what the business of movie writing is all about.
The axiom in the movie business is that scripts are not written, they are rewritten. In the process, each page is given a different color. There have been occasions when a completed script arrived without a single white page in it.
No Script-No Movie
It should be firmly fixed in the mind of every scriptwriter that even the most prestigious director would produce a mindless morass of a picture without a script. When all the actors, directors, cinematographers, and editors get up at the Oscar podium to give their thanks for their awards, they might thank the scriptwriter, without whom they wouldn't be at the podium-let alone employed-in the first place.
The Best Screenplays Over the Years
Without a screenplay there is no film, and it follows that the chances of success are enhanced by kicking off with a good one. Here is a list of well-made screenplays that served as a foundation to well-made movies. Note that most of these films demonstrated strong elements of originality.
Casablanca (1942) by Julius and Philip Epstein, Howard Koch Citizen Kane (1941) by Herman Mankiewicz and Orson Welles High Noon (1952) by Carl Foreman Rashomon (1951) by Akira Kurosawa The Maltese Falcon (1941) by John Huston Some Like It Hot (1959) by Billy Wilder, I.A.L. Diamond Lawrence of Arabia (1962) by Robert Bolt
It may be interesting to note that four of these films were directed by the screenwriter: Citizen Kane, Rashomon, The Maltese Falcon, and Some Like It Hot.
No Guarantee for Success
Unfortunately, it doesn't follow that a fine screenplay is all that's needed. Without naming names, there have been examples of films with great scripts, phenomenal casts, plus award-winning directors, cinematographers, and editors that have bombed not only with the critics but at the box office. On the other hand, there have been pictures that started off looking as if they would be a disaster on all fronts that turned out to be classic successes.