How the great films are different
To discover the art of a story, you must look beyond plot and into the realms of character and theme. Here are some articles and essays offering clues on how to do that.
Studies on the Art of Screenwriting
Some basic elements of art, to keep in the back of your mind.
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)
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)
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 more)
Adapted from How Do You Know If a “Good” Script Is a Good Story? published on slated.com, 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)
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)
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)
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 Master/Servant Power Switch as Depicted in August Strindberg’s Miss Julie and Lina Wertmuller’s Swept Away