Screen-Writer's Handbook

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9780064634540: Screen-Writer's Handbook

This is a step-by-step guide for the beginning screenwriter from the original idea through the completed-and marketed-motion picture script. It tells how to plan and organize the screenplay, how to develop characters, how to write dialog, how to prepare the script, and how and where to submit it for sale.

Also included are interviews with well-known film professionals (Ernest Lehman, Robert Evans, Delbert Mann, Frank Rosenfelt, Michael Zimring, Gene Wilder); excerpts from actual scripts; a glossary of terminology; and a list with addresses of agents. The authors have had experience both in creative writing (films, short stories, and novels) and in business.

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Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One

As a viewer you already know that films are an audio-visual art form. As a writer you should also know that, first of all, they must evoke a strong emotional response. The audience has to react viscerally to the plight of your characters whether they are larger-than-life heroes and villains or seagulls and dolphins. What the audience sees and hears does not stand alone. Behind the sights and sounds, and enlarged through them, is the spirit of you, the screenwriter, as it is sifted through your imagination, your experience, and your view of the world about which you write.

As a screenwriter you should keep constantly in mind that your audience must become emotionally rather than intellectually engrossed in what is unreeling on the screen. Television programs have commercial breaks; plays have intermissions; and one can always put a book down. But in a movie theater the audience has no time for introspection, for pondering, or for questioning the film's intent. The film reels steadily onward and the audience must know, or believe it knows, what is happening every second. This does not mean that there will be no dramatic surprises; it means simply that there must be no surprises which do not, as they unfold, make total sense to the audience. Loose ends or unexplained developments will cause a loss of audience concentration and strike a heavy blow against your screenplay's success.

As you write, put yourself in the audience. Try to see through its eyes and to anticipate its expectations and reactions. Continually reach out to it; do not expect it to reach out to you unless you have made it imperative for it to do so. You have to go the whole way.

Motion pictures are just that-pictures that move, giving the illusion of actual events on the screen before you. It is through this process that your creation will, in a magic sense, achieve reality. Whether you enlarge the vision of your audience or shake its complacency or plague its dreams is up to you. It is essential to the success of your screenplay that your audience is made to experience it.

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Constance Nash, Virginia Oakey
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