Riding the Alligator: Strategies for a Career in Screenplay Writing and Not getting Eaten

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A bestseller that is the first artist-friendly screenwriting guide to success by an Oscar nominated Hollywood insider whose productions have grossed more than a billion dollars.
Riding the Alligator is different from other screenwriting books in that it takes a non-dogmatic approach to finding your own personal creative process, and shares Pen’s best kept ...

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Riding the Alligator: Strategies for a Career in Screenplay Writing and Not getting Eaten

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A bestseller that is the first artist-friendly screenwriting guide to success by an Oscar nominated Hollywood insider whose productions have grossed more than a billion dollars.
Riding the Alligator is different from other screenwriting books in that it takes a non-dogmatic approach to finding your own personal creative process, and shares Pen’s best kept secrets for selling your creations and yourself.
Pen is your own, warm, funny, personal mentor as you read this book.  Actress Robin Wright says: “It is like getting a UC screenwriting course for under $30!!!”. 
Pen draws from his own extremely simple breakthrough techniques, shares his inspiring philosophy of finding a personal well of creativity from your inner voice, to overcoming the many challenges in a unique business, managing stress, the real secrets to selling your work, finding the right agent and being true to one's nature to create a lasting and passion filled career.
The book is hailed by Hollywood luminaries like Ron Howard, Paul Haggis, Jeff Bridges, Morgan Freeman, as well as heads of major motion picture studios and academics from top film schools including USC, UCLA, NYU and AFI.
Also included are short, personal essays by A-List Hollywood scripters such as Shane Black (Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang), Nia Vardalos (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), Eric Roth (Forrest Gump), Robin Swicord (Memoirs of a Geisha), Ron Shelton (Bull Durham/White Men Can't Jump), Laeta Kalogridis (Shutter Island/Avatar), Todd Robinson (White Squall/Phantom), Andrea Berloff (World Trade Center), Anthony Peckham (Sherlock Holmes) and more.
Additionally, Pen provides an ‘Instant Library’ summarizing 10 other popular books on Hollywood, as reviewed by his USC Film Students.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Pen’s book is unique in that it addresses the entire landscape of movie writing as a career, and most especially encourages artists who write from the heart and strive for originality.” - Ron Howard, Filmmaker
“If you’re thinking about writing a screenplay, do yourself a favor and hop on Pen Densham’s Alligator. The ride’s enlightening.” - Jeff Bridges, Oscar winner.
“His deep understanding of the screenwriting process is at once inspiring and empowering. ” - Robert Mandel, Dean of AFI 
“His words on the creative process are inspiring and useful, and his insight into the business is essential.” - Paul Haggis, Oscar Winning  Filmmaker.
“This book would have saved me years! — it's like having a close friend in the business to help guide you through the screenwriting process from idea, to script, to sale, to career.” — Jack Epps, Jr., Chair, Writing for Screen and TV, USC
“Pen’s book is wise, encouraging, helpful and kind – everything the business of moviemaking is sometimes not.” - Tom Rothman (recent) Co-Chairman, Fox 
“It is one of the few books on the market that comes from a screenwriter who has actually been in the trenches.” - Philip Taylor, writer/professor - Journal of Film and Video - UFVA 2013
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781932907841
  • Publisher: Wiese, Michael Productions
  • Publication date: 1/1/2011
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 688,176
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Pen Densham is an Oscar nominated writer-director-producer active in Hollywood today. He’s produced 16 features and over 300 hours of TV series. He created the story for the revisionist Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and co-wrote and produced the screenplay with his Trilogy Entertainment Group partner, John Watson. He wrote and directed Moll Flanders for MGM, as well as writing and directing Houdini for TNT. Trilogy’s latest is Phantom (2013).
He personally revived both the Twilight Zone and the Outer Limits series to TV.  And is honored to work with talent like Ed Harris, David Duchovny, Jay Baruchel, Jeff Bridges, Bill Murray, Morgan Freeman, Ron Howard, Kevin Costner, Sylvester Stallone, Jodie Foster, Emile Hirsch, Mark Ruffalo, and Robin Wright.
Pen also shares his philosophies and techniques at several major academic film institutions like USC and the Canadian Film Center.

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Table of Contents


Foreword by Jay Roach


    1.            The Golden Rule

    2.            In the Beginning

    3.            We All Have Doubts

    4.            Are My Ideas Any Good?

    5.            How to Structure a Story

    6.            Roles a Star Will Want to Play

    7.            We Can’t have Heroes Without ’em

    8.            Now You Have a First Draft

    9.            Entering the Jungle

  10.            You and Your Story Go For a Ride

  11.            How Do I Survive Until I Get Paid to Write?

  12.            I Made a Sale. I’m in Development?

  13.            Beating the Blues

  14.            Thoughts from Other Screenwriters

  15.            Instant Screenwriting Library

  16.            Inspiration and Explorations

  17.            How do You Measure Passion?

  18.            Famous Last Words


Gator Glossary

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 1, 2011


    Although Pen Densham provides his readers with a really nice map for writing a script, Riding the Alligator is not just a step-by-step guide to screenplay writing. In this straight-from-the-heart account of his Hollywood writing career, Densham openly shares his experiences, his feelings about them, and tactics for surviving the life. As he introduces us to a career based on selling our stories for their celluloid value, he gently takes us under his wing, mother-henning us through the potential trials and tribulations we are sure to face as we set out on our adventure in his world. He introduces us to other screenwriters, reviews ten good books on screenwriting, and gives us a character development worksheet to inspire us and help us get started. But Densham's book is a marvelous read for anyone wanting a career in any kind of writing; indeed much of what he has to say can apply to any kind of career. The best thing about his book is that I come away feeling as if he is my personal friend and mentor.

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    Posted October 7, 2011

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