STRUCTURALLY UNSOUND?: Some random thoughts on screenplay structure


top-50-screenwriting-blogsFirst, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
 
Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay?  Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013.  Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
 
blog3 I’m somewhat in the downtime of providing coverage for screenplay competitions (to everything there is a season, and this seems to apply to independent contractors of the script consultation kind as well). So I thought I would muse a bit on some issues in writing screenplays.
This time around, I’ll write about structure. There really isn’t a rhyme or reason to what I have to say here. It’ll just be a series of random thoughts that I hope will come in handy. These are based on my reading for contests as well as my own private consultation services.
First, an overall note. There will always be exceptions to any conclusions I make here, so consider well before automatically doing something just because I tell you to.
One of the main issues I run across is when a story is not focused enough. The plot tends to ramble on without a sturdy anchor to it or without a definite flight plan. One of the key clues to this is when you ask the writer for a log line and s/he gives you a tag line or the logline is rather longer than what is suggested, or even, and this has happened, the logline doesn’t match up to the story at all. Continue reading

THE RULES OF THE SCREENWRITING GAME: Truth or clichés in a couple of screenwriting tropes


First, a word from our sponsors: I am now offering a new service: so much emphasis has been given lately to the importance of the opening of your screenplay, I now offer coverage for the first twenty pages at the cost of $20.00.  For those who don’t want to have full coverage on their screenplay at this time, but want to know how well their script is working with the opening pages, this is perfect for you.  I’ll help you not lose the reader on page one. 
First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r
 
and check out my Script Consultation Services: http://ow.ly/HPxKE
scream laptopThere are two sayings about rules that I hear quite often when it comes to screenwriting and I think it’s time to take a closer look at both of them and consider whether they are actually correct, or whether they are more something that we say because, well, people who write books say them, and all these gurus say them, and all my teachers said them, and all my friends say them, and hasn’t everybody been saying them since people have been saying things?
I mean, sometimes I think that if screenwriters were told that to write a good screenplay you have to jump off a bridge, they’d do it.
The two sayings are: “Rules are made to be broken” and “you have to know the rules to break them”.
The first one, rules are made to be broken, is actually one I have no strong issue with. In fact, I often say, as soon as someone creates a rule, break it. Let’s face it, if you don’t, someone else will.
At the same time, I do think in many ways that’s the wrong way to approach it. I think there is a better way to look at that attitude, something more beneficial to you as a writer.
As for the second one, “you have to know the rules to break them”, this is one that I’ve never really understood or bought. Continue reading

ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL: Variations on structural engineering and storytelling when it comes to screenplays PART FOUR: SCREENPLAYS THAT USE TIME TO STRUCTURE THEIR STORY


UntitledFirst, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

 

 

clockIt’s been far too long a period of time since I contributed to this series of essays revolving around alternative structures for screenplays. No excuses. Let’s simply say that life got in the way (as it always seems to, gosh darn it; life, can’t live with it, can’t live without it).

 

At any rate, as of this point in time, the following essay should be the penultimate entry for the subject. The final one will be a miscellany compilation.

 

This time round (in case you haven’t noticed, this is the third time, well, now it’s the fourth, that I’ve mentioned time, a stylistic choice which is known in the industry as foreshadowing), the focus of the essay will be on screenplays that use time to structure their story in some way. Continue reading

MY INTERVIEW ON MAXIMUM Z by Paul Zeidman


Paul Zeidman, who writes the blog, Maximum Z, had me fill out a questionnaire on screenwriting.  Thanks, Paul.  Loved the result.

1. What’s the last thing you read/watched that you thought was incredibly well-written?

Right now, screenwriting and moviemaking in the U.S. are at a crisis point. Very little is being done that is interesting or exciting. Most of it is bland, boring, or even if entertaining, falls short of a real success when it comes to quality. I feel we are treading water, waiting for a group of filmmakers and writers to come rescue us. We are in need of a new wave.

For the rest of the interview, go to:

http://ow.ly/BVFIz

MY INTERVIEW WITH ANN KIMBROUGH ON HER YOUTUBE SHOW SCREENWRITERS BEAT


First, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

On Saturday, July 26, I was interviewed by Ann Kimbrough on her YouTube show Screenwriters Beat.  It was a great interview and I had a lot of fun.  We covered such topics as my book (of course–see left), as well as some strategies for new screenwriters and what they can do to become better known and get their scripts more recognized.
Here it is.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

IS THERE A BATTLE FOR THE SOUL OF SCREENPLAY COMPETITIONS: BONUS ROUND


UntitledFirst, a word from our sponsors. Ever wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks when he reads your screenplay? Check out my new e-book published on Amazon: Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader, including my series of essays, What I Learned Reading for Contests This Year, and my film reviews of 2013. Only $2.99. http://ow.ly/xN31r

I really didn’t envision writing a fourth part to this series. I really thought I was done with it after my last entry. But my essay provoked a very intelligent and lengthy discussion on social media and I decided that perhaps there was indeed more to say.

 

FIRST, SOME HISTORY (OR AS WE SAY IN THE STATE OF THE ART: THE BACK STORY)
My original thesis is that the idea of saleability, commerciality and marketability (heretofore s/c/m) of a screenplay was creeping more and more into determining who would win or at least make their way to the forefront of screenplay competitions.

 

But since I wasn’t sure anymore that screenplays are always bought and sold and made into movies the way they once were, and that, in fact, new ways of financing and making films are appearing every day, it was my contention that screenplay competitions should reflect that change and not necessarily get caught up in choosing winners based on whether someone or some company or some something will buy them or not. Continue reading

RANTINGS AND RAVINGS OF A SCREENPLAY READER Now Available Through Amazon


UntitledEver wonder what a reader for a contest or agency thinks of your screenplay?  Maybe this will throw some light on the subject.
I am proud to announce the publication through Amazon of my book Rantings and Ravings of a Screenplay Reader. This is a culmination of many of my blog writings as well as my 2013 movie reviews.
“I got a Kindle addition of Rantings and Ravings about three days ago. I’m maybe a fifth or a quarter of the way into the book. And I see a lot of good things you are pointing out that are mistakes that writers are constantly making in screenplays, and some laughs at some of the unintentional things writers often do. Your book would be $3.00 well spent for 80 or 85% of the writers here…” Eli  Donaldson (for the complete review go to: http://ow.ly/CGqhQ )
“Not just a nice perspective of a contest reader but some helpful … hmm, tips is the wrong word … insights (that’s better) into the writing process–again, the wrong word — reading of the writing process. We write to be read. So how one’s screenplay is read is as important as how it was written. This book reminds us of the importance of the read as the read proceeds all the other steps that lead to a viewing.” Tim Lane
“Information that needs to be heard.” L.A. Sidsworth
“Don’t be fooled by the amusing title of this fascinating book. Howard never actually rants or raves, but instead provides a plethora of valuable insights into the art and business of screenwriting. If you’ve ever entered a screenplay contest and have wondered what goes on once your script is received, look no further. Howard pulls back the curtain to give us a rare, behind-the-scenes glimpse at the judging process, and he’s not afraid to reveal the different factors that go into choosing the winners. (It’s not as cut and dry as you might think.) If you are just starting down the path of pursuing a screenwriting career, you’ll definitely want to check out the chapters on common mistakes, what works best and what to avoid. For the more seasoned cinephile, the book is also crammed full of thought provoking essays on the art and craft of cinema, as well as an eclectic assortment of movie reviews. Quite a lot of bang for just a few bucks. And best of all, Howard’s encyclopedic knowledge of cinema, combined with a keen sense of humor, makes for a very enlightening and entertaining read.” Jeremy Carr
To purchase the book, please go to http://ow.ly/xK2L0.  More reviews follow:

Continue reading