max adams’ down & dirty screenwriting primer for beginners
January 7, 2014
Was just asking about screenwriting, which she’s interested in, and getting up and running learning the basics. I threw some advice at her and here it is again for anyone out there looking to start and not knowing where to start, screenwriting:
I sometimes teach beginning classes through Gotham Writers, but I don’t have any on the schedule right now and they aren’t cheap. The bulk of my classes are through The Academy of Film Writing [AFW] and are master classes, you have to have the basics to get into those.
Screenwriting U advertises free classes from time to time which might be a good place to start. They have a Facebook page. I don’t know how good they are, but free is free.
A book I highly recommend is David Trottier’s The Screenwriter’s Bible, which is a good place to start. That’s on Amazon.
Also, hit Terry Rossio’s Wordplay and read everything in the archives, all of Terry’s articles on writing are really educational, I make a lot of my students read those.
Read scripts. Scripts, scripts, and more scripts.
This is a good source site for screenplays online: MovieScriptSource.com
Not all of these titles will be on there but some really great scripts in no particular order are When Harry Met Sally, Moonstruck, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon, Romancing the Stone, The Terminator, Fabulous Baker Boys, Blade Runner, Accidental Tourist, Last Boy Scout, Jaws, Shawshank Redemption, John Carpenter’s The Thing, American Beauty, and The Fugitive.
Don’t get thrown by format. Format has five parts: scene headers, scene description, dialogue cues, parentheticals, and dialogue. That’s it. Five parts. People get all whacked out by format like it’s this big complex math equation but it isn’t, script format has five very simple parts, the end, and some people don’t even use the parentheticals.
Pay attention to verbs in scene description, reading scripts, that’s where motion comes from. And to the details given in character descriptions when they are introduced, that’s character work and the first impression a reader gets of a character. Character intro’s are especially strong in Shawshank Redemption and in The Fugitive.
There you have it. Max’s down and dirty screenwriting primer for beginners.