Character and Theme-focused Screenplay Analysis

Screenwriting Articles

My Take on Craft: What the Good Films Tend to Have In Common

The purpose of this website is to go beyond craft. But so as not to diminish its importance, as well as to make sure we’re all on the same page starting out, I describe here what I consider a minimum level of necessary understanding. (Read more.)

My Take on Art: How the Great Films Are Different

Far be it from me to attempt an ironclad definition of art in screenwriting. This is simply my take on it based on what I have observed. (Read more)

Why Do We Need Metaphor in Film?

In 1932, the Soviet Union adopted a state policy requiring artists to conform to Socialist Realism. Paintings were to depict workers going about their daily work. Music was to be rousing and uplifting. Novels, plays and films were to tell heroic tales exalting state ideals. Above all, the artist was to adhere to “realism,” rendering the work in such a literal fashion that it could have only one possible meaning. In effect, they outlawed metaphor. (Read more)

Advocating for a Character-Driven Screenplay Structure

Filmmaker Magazine, August 11, 2015

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I was considering the possibility that there might be more to screen drama than external conflict-driven plotting when, as if hit by a thunderbolt, a new paradigm of story structure downloaded onto the page in front of me. (Read on Filmmaker site) (Read plain text version)

Save the Baby! On the Benefits of the Three-Act Screenplay Structure

Filmmaker Magazine, November 19, 2014

Poor old three-act structure. It gets hammered away at, like an old punching bag, every time someone wants to challenge the primacy of the formulaic Hollywood screenwriting methods. “Take that! You follow-the-dots, color-within-the-lines, stodgy old armature!” Poor, poor three-act structure. So much to offer. So misunderstood. (Read on Filmmaker site) (Read plain text version)

On Finding New Screenplay Structures for Independent Films

Filmmaker Magazine, June 2, 2014

It often seems to me that the independent film community is not entirely comfortable talking about screenwriting. Or perhaps more specifically story structure. This is not surprising considering a Hollywood Screenwriting Advice Industry has grown up over the past 20 years pushing a mono-minded model of story structure that a creative innovator could find stifling. (Read on Filmmaker site) (Read plain text version)

The Three Dimensions of Story

Adapted from How Do You Know If a “Good” Script Is a Good Story? published on, August 2012.

In screenwriting circles, there is a prevalent definition of “story” that goes like this: First you chase your character up a tree; then you throw rocks at him; then you get him down. My screenwriting professor in graduate school had a different one: Somebody wants something badly and is having difficulty getting it. Both have their uses. But I have distilled down the fundamentals of story to a definition of my own: You have to go from A to B. (Read more)

The Social Criticism of I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang

Reprinted from Release Print Magazine, Online Supplement, Special Focus on Media Activism, July/August 2004

In the summer of 2004, Release Print Magazine asked several writers and filmmakers to write about a film, filmmaker or media event that influenced their own work, sparked a movement, or illuminated a social justice issue. When I was approached, I immediately knew what film I would pick . . . (Read more)

In Defense of Character: Creating Surpassing Drama with Character Transformation Stories

Reprinted from Release Print Magazine, August, 2003

The other day while consulting with a client, I found myself once again defending the function of character in drama. Her screenplay was packed with lively vignettes expounding on socially critical ideas, but the script didn’t have a clearly identified main character. When I told her this, she let out an impatient sigh. “I know,” she said, “you need a main character so you can manipulate the audience into getting involved with your story.” (Read more)

High Ideals: Changing the World with Your Theme-driven Screenplay

Reprinted from Release Print Magazine, March 2003

Not long ago in one of my screenwriting classes, I encountered a student who wanted to change the world. He had an idea for a screenplay that would expose the evils of American foreign policy. I immediately foresaw the challenges, but tried to be upbeat. “Okay,” I said, “what’s it about?” And he launched into his pitch. (Read more)


Studies from Drama History

Contrary to popular belief, film drama did not emerge from the dust in 1910. Early screen dramatists had a rich history handed down to them by centuries of playwrights and drama theorists. Without having studied by-gone eras of playwriting, I would be groping in the dark to figure out modern screenwriting. Read what I learned when I studied the history and theory of drama from the Greeks to the present.

The Story of Hippolytus and Phaedra As Recounted By Euripides, Seneca and Racine


The Battle for Othello’s Soul: How Shakespeare Improved on the Morality Play


A Well-Made Doll’s House: The Influence of Eugene Scribe on the Art of Henrik Ibsen


The Master/Servant Power Switch as Depicted in August Strindberg’s Miss Julie and Lina Wertmuller’s Swept Away


A History of Three-Act Structure


The Uses and Abuses of Aristotle’s Poetics in Screenwriting How-to Books


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