Alejandro Jodorowsky, El Hombre, La Leyenda, La Guionista


Alejandro Jodorowsky, el hombre, la leyenda, la guionista  (The man, the legend, the screenwriter). Chances are once you see a film by Jodorowsky you probably won't forget it. He has been writing films and blowing our minds for over half a century. In addition to being an accomplished screenwriter, he is a novelist, poet, musician, comic book writer, and mystic. But his scripts and films that out the most (to us). The Chilean artist's films are magical surrealism laced with hauntingly beautiful imagery and mystical eroticism.  

Prior to writing the screenplay The Holy Mountain, Jodorowsky stated that he did not sleep for seven days, took a large dosage of LSD, and embarked on a spiritual journey. That's one hell of a way to get inspired to write a screenplay. His other film, El Topo, is regarded as a Mexican Acid Western film which has had profound impacts on film in society. So much so that John Lennon wanted to buy the films rights and Dennis Hopper wanted to be in his films. When writing his screenplays, Jodorowsky often went through intense and disorderly lengths to finish writing and shooting them. 

Notoriously, Jodorowsky was set to write and direct the film adaption of Dune, based off the Frank Herbert novel. The film was going to feature the ultimate dream cast of artists including Mick Jagger, Orson Welles, and Salvador Dalí. However, the film never did get made. In wasn't until the early Eighties when another mystical artist David Lynch wrote and directed the classic sci-fi film. 

Jodorowsky’s recent film Endless Poetry shows that he hasn’t lost his magical touch for the absurd—even late into his 80s. Although the film’s topsy turvy madness takes us on a wild ride, it's the beautifully articulated writing that allows us to follow the characters throughout their heartbreaking voyages. 

As for Jodorowsky today, he said that although he’s approaching 90, he has absolutely no plan to stop writing and making films

Jordan Peele's "Get Out" Wins Oscar for Best Original Screenplay!


Tonight is the 90th Academy Awards ceremony and like most of us here, we were especially jazzed for the screenplay category! Jordan Peele won the award for best original screenplay for his film, "Get Out." This is a crucial and amazing win, as he is the first black screenwriter in history to win this award. Peele has stated that the film almost didn't get made, but we are beyond thrilled that it did. The writing fits into a category of its own by being a blend of thriller-meets-horror-meets satirical humor. 

If you haven't seen this film yet, now is the perfect opportunity. The script is full of complex and nuanced conversations about liberal racism, social constructs, and systemic oppression. Peele's writing is so timely at pointing out the deep layers of our society's underbelly that often don't get written about. In an interview, he stated, "Being a black filmmaker almost seems like an impossibility at times. ... Obviously, there are exceptions to the rule, but we as a society have done a systemic disservice to young, black filmmakers by essentially saying that your vision won’t be accepted in Hollywood." 

Moments after winning the award the screenwriter tweeted, 

Golden Globes 2018: "Three Billboards" Wins Best Screenplay, Motion Picture


It's the beginning of new year and tonight marked the 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards. Graciously, this evening wasn't the typical red carpet affair centered on women's outfits rather than their bodies' of work. Instead, the evening put the #MeToo campaign in front and center, showing open support for survivors of sexual assault. Actors and actresses also addressed issues of racial and gender inequality. 

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri won the award for best screenplay in the motion picture category. The film, written by Martin McDonagh, centers around a mother's emotionally overwhelming experience of trying to find her daughter's murderer and rapist. Within the film are tense discussions involving racism and oppression of people of color. However, these aren't exactly subjects that can be tackled without some amount of backlash. Many have found flaws in the depiction of a "racist bad cop turned good" as well as a lack of diversity in the film's characters. These conversations are critical to be had in order to learn and grow--and film is a good catalyst for these discussions. 

Read the screenplay!

Top Gift Ideas for Screenwriters

Leonardo DiCaprio Yacht.jpg

Screenwriters are a diverse bunch, but they all have two things in common: they like to write, and they like movies. The best gifts for screenwriters are relevant to at least one of these--ideally both.

If you're stumped about what to get for the screenwriter in your family or friend's group, hopefully the list below will serve as a basic guide. We'll assume Leonardo DiCaprio's yacht is out of the question. So, beyond that, here are a few ideas:

1. Subscription to a Filmmaking or Writing Magazine

Getting serious about screenwriting means getting connected to the film industry. An easy way to get something a sneak peak behind the camera is to subscribe to an industry magazine like Variety or the Hollywood Reporter. You may also consider a subscription to more writer-focused like Writer's Digest or even something literary like McSweeney's Quarterly Concern

Subscribe to Variety or Hollywood Reporter!



2. Classic Screenplays (Hard Copy)

Reading screenplays is a pastime almost exclusively enjoyed by those who write screenplays. But it's also a necessary pastime for anyone trying to write a great script. Classic screenplays can often be purchased used for a few bucks on Amazon. For classic scripts, we recommend starting with The Big LebowskiPulp Fiction, Annie Hall, or anything by David Mamot or Billy Wilder. For newer scripts, consider, perhaps, Napoleon Dynamite or Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.




3. Books for Screenwriters (Beyond the Obvious Ones)

There are plenty of obvious books for screenwriters, like Story by Robert McKee, Screenplay by Syd Field, and Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder. Here are a few suggestions that aren't so obvious. Note, these are "how to" books, just books screenwriters will likely enjoy (or at least appreciate): 1) This Movie Will Require Dinosaurs by C. W. Neill, 2) Catching the Big Fish by David Lynch, 3) Three Uses of the Knife by David Mamet, 4) Film by Samuel Beckett, and 5) Alternative Movie Posters by Matthew Chojnacki.



4. Lucid Dreaming Mask

Ideas often come from dreams--especially lucid dreams. Apparently these lucid dream masks help facilitate that particularly creative state. Who knows, maybe this mask could help someone develop the next great high concept film idea?

Buy the REM-Dreamer for inducing lucid dreams


5. Camera and Filming Equipment

If you have a somewhat larger budget for gifts, consider getting the screenwriter in your life some new filming equipment. Often the difference between a screenwriter and a filmmaker is simply a matter of access to a nice camera.

Buy the Cannon Rebel for $352


6. Standing Desk

Sitting too long, they say, is the new smoking--it's bad for your health. Too much sitting is also a killer of creativity. Thankfully there's an easy solution: a standing desk. A low-end but highly functional laptop table (like the one pictured) goes for about $30. The great thing about these is that they're portable and easy to fold up and store. Full standing desks are a bit pricier and take up much more space.

Buy the iCraze Adjustable Laptop Table

7. Absinthe

If you truly care for the screenwriter in your life, don't let them drink cheap beer or bottom shelf wine. Get them a nice bottle of booze. A nice bottle of bourbon is fine, but since you're buying gifts for a writer, after all, there's really no better choice than a good old fashioned bottle of absinthe. We recommend getting your hands on St. George Absinthe, if possible (because it's delicious).




Brit Marling, Screenwriter

Brit Marling Screenwriter

Brit Marling wrote a brilliant article for the Atlantic discussing the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Recounting her own disturbing experience with the (formerly) powerful man, she describes how she was able to find the courage to stand up and walk out of Weinstein's hotel room:

...I had entered as an actor but also as a writer/creator. Of those dual personas in me—actor and writer—it was the writer who stood up and walked out. Because the writer knew that even if this very powerful man never gave her a job in any of his films, even if he blacklisted her from other films, she could make her own work on her own terms.

It's impossible to read those words without feeling a huge amount of respect and admiration for Marling—and also for the power that lies in being a creator. The same sentiment has been expressed by writers before in times of extreme adversity. Anne Frank, for example, wrote, "I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn."

Marling is most well-known as an actor, but this seems like a good chance to celebrate her specifically for her work as a screenwriter. So, here's a look at three of the major projects she has co-written:

Another Earth - 2011, co-written with Mike Cahill

Sound of My Voice - 2011, co-written with Zal Batmanglij

The AO - 2016, co-created with Zal Batmanglij

Screenwriter Spotlight: Sean Baker After 'Tangerine' and 'The Florida Project'

Sean Baker Screenwriter.jpg

Tangerine is one of those films where the moment you start watching it, you immediately think: "Okay, what's going on here? This is amazing! Who wrote this?!"

Meet Sean Baker, director and co-writer of Tangerine. His latest film, The Florida Project, just saw a limited release on October 6th. For anyone who follows screenwriters, these two films make a strong case that Sean Baker is the new guy to follow.

In an interview with Film Courage, Baker named Harold and Maude as one of his favorite films. This turns out to be a pretty solid reference point for his work, given the elements running through the classic 70s dark comedy: social commentary, playful rebelliousness, strong characters experiencing a sense of destiny, memorable symbolism... 

While Baker's latest filmmaking work follows in the tradition of older comedies, he's definitely charting his own territory, takings risks, and exerting his artistic vision with force and some measure of calculated chaos. Tangerine, for example, isn't really an update to the tradition of Harold and Maude -- it's like Harold and Maude directed by a young Harmony Korine. It's got all the grit and nuttiness of Korine's Gummo, but with a coherent screenplay.

Speaking of which, you can read the full screenplay for Tangerine online.

To get a true introduction to the work of Sean Baker, start by watching Greg the Bunny, a humorous TV show Baker co-created in the early 2000s. It's not the world's best television, but it shows Baker's knack for comedy and controlled chaos.

Screenwriters Go Deep, Get Real on the Joe Rogan Experience Podcast

Joe Rogan Podcast - Screenwriters

Comedian Joe Rogan hosts one of the most popular podcasts out there. Whether he's talking with comedians, athletes, actors, or professors, he keeps the conversation loose and fun--often for up to three hours.

Occasionally he brings a screenwriter onto the podcast, and lately he's had a few of the best, including Guy Ritchie, Judd Apatow, and Bill Burr (who's currently a writer for his Netflix show "F Is for Family"). Standard interviews with these guys (like on the Daily Show or the Late Show) don't last long enough to delve into topics beyond the obvious. That's what's great about the podcast format: if you've got to talk to Joe Rogan for three hours, you're destined to reveal a few of the hidden things that really drive you, make you tick.

Joe's interview with Guy Ritchie was especially illuminating. Writers and artists are often thought of as quirky people who spend too much time alone perfecting one specific craft. But here's Guy Ritchie who's well-informed and incredibly articulate about a range of topics, and who also pursues so many hobbies it was impossible to keep track of them all--and he takes them all quite seriously. 

For example, he's a black belt in Jiu Jitsu, he's opening a raw milk dairy, and he's opening a brewery ("I like any form of caveman chemistry," he says). Also, he has quite an interesting spiel about the importance of "owning" the suit you wear (based on ideas from the book "Extreme Ownership" by retired Navy SEAL Jocko Willink).

The point is: all of these varied interests inform upon Ritchie's artistic life. There's got to be a maxim buried in there, something about being an interesting person to make interesting art.

Check out the full interview with Guy Ritchie below.

Philip K. Dick - Top Screenplays Based on the Sci-Fi Classics

Philip K. Dick does at least one thing better than anyone else: mix philosophy with sci-fi drama. His philosophical questions are almost never subtle. And they almost always play out in an over-the-top world of sci-fi perfection. Even if it's a little forced, who cares? At this point, PKD is a sci-fi legend. Calling his philosophical musings "forced" is like saying Woody Allen's characters are too verbose.

Hollywood has been making good use of Philip K. Dick's books and short stories since the early 1980s when Ridley Scott directed Blade Runner. Since then, there have been at least 13 films and half a dozen television series based on his works.

There's no substitute for an original work by PKD. But if you've read his books and seen the movies, you'll be happy to find some very quality writing in the pages of the following screenplays.

Based on PKD's 1968 book "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep," the Blade Runner screenplay was written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples. This film set the groundwork for a Hollywood truism: PKD books make good movies. (There's a fascinating backstory to why the movie adaptation of Dick's book was titled "Blade Runner." Suffice it to say, the movie has nothing to do with William S. Burroughs' book "Blade Runner (a movie)."

Read the screenplay!

PKD's short story "The Minority Report" first appeared in 1965 in a sci-fi magazine. It went on to become Spielberg's iconic 2002 film that regularly enters into public discussion anytime technology gets closer to helping police solve crime before it happens. The film script was written by Frank Scott and Jon Cohen.

Read the screenplay!


3. A SCANNER DARKLY (Charlie Kaufman version)
In 2006, Richard Linklater wrote and directed the indie film "A Scanner Darkly," which received fairly mediocre reviews. But there was an earlier adaptation of PKD's book by none other than Charlie Kaufman. His version was never produced, but it's worth checking out (especially for Kaufman fans). Dick's original 1977 book was semi-autobiographical, exploring drug culture and police surveillance in dystopian Orange County. 

Read the screenplay!

Dick's book, "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" not only inspired this Schwarzenegger movie, but also a sequel, a 2012 remake, a comic book, a television series, and a video game. Not bad. 

Read the screenplay!



Dick's short story "Adjustment Team" served as the basis for this 2011 film written and directed by George Nolfi. Like other memorable PKD stories, its scope is incredibly ambitious.

Read the screenplay!




Beyond the top 5, there are still a number of scrips worth checking out, including NEXT, based on PKD's short story "The Golden Man," and IMPOSTOR, based on PKD's short story of the same name.

Oscar Nominated Original Screenplays 2016

The Oscars are just around the corner! Here are the five scripts nominated for Best Original Screenplay for 2016. There are some truly great writers appearing among this year's nominees, including Kenneth Lonergan, who's known for "Gangs of New York" and "You Can Count on Me." His script for "Manchester by the Sea" is possibly his best script yet. He recently went into detail about writing the script in an interview with NPR.

After you've seen the films, check out the scripts below. 

Screenplay by Taylor Sheridan
Directed by David Mackenzie 

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster, and Chris Pine

Read the Screenplay! 



Screenplay by  Damien Chazelle 
Directed by Damien Chazelle

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, and John Legend 

Read the Screenplay! 




Screenplay by Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou
Directed by  Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, and John C. Reilly

Read the Screenplay! 




Screenplay by Kenneth Lonergan
Directed by Kenneth Lonergan

Starring: Michelle Williams, Casey Affleck, Kyle Chandler, and Lucas Hedges

Read the Screenplay! 



Screenplay by Mike Mills
Directed by Mike Mills 

Starring: Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Megan Ellison, Greta Gerwig and Billy Crudup

Read the Screenplay! 

A Look at Moonlight’s Screenwriter Barry Jenkins


For good reason, "Moonlight" is acclaimed as one of the most moving films of 2016. Written and directed by Barry Jenkins, the film was adapted from the play "In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue" by Tarell Alvin McCraney.

Like the play, Jenkins' script delves into an intimate examination of a young black man questioning and discovering his sense of self. Much of this script is a reflection of both Jenkins’ and McCraney’s lives. The setting for the film is the neighborhood where Jenkins grew up in Miami, Florida. But like any great script, it's more than a work of biographical drama: it's full of wisdom and cultural significance.

Before Jenkins set out to write the screenplay, he wrote the adaption of James Baldwin’s novel "If Beale Street Could Talk." Unfortunately, the film was never produced because he didn't own the rights to the novel. Jenkins is also known for writing and directing the independent film "Medicine for Melancholy."

Next up, Jenkins will be writing screenplays for an adaptation of Colson Whitehead’s award winning novel "The Underground Railroad" and a film about the American Olympic boxer Claressa Shields.

After you see the film, read the screenplay!   

Top Five Screenplays About Cults

Everyone can list their favorite cult films—but how about a list of films about cults? Here are our top five.

"The Master" by Paul Thomas Anderson tops our list. It’s an ambitious script that pulls the veil off Hollywood’s favorite religion (cult): Scientology. Anderson's scripts can be a challenge to get into at first blush, but once you find your way into his characters, there's nothing better. Kind of like joining a cult, you might say...

Honorable mention for this list goes to "Sound of My Voice" written by Zal Batmangliji and Brit Marling. 

The Master
Screenplay by Paul Thomas Anderson
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams

Read the screenplay!




Martha Marcy May Marlene
Screenplay by Sean Durkin
Directed by Sean Durkin

Starring: Elizabeth Olson, John Hawkes, Sarah Paulson, and Hugh Dancy

Read the screenplay!





Rosemary's Baby
Screenplay by Roman Polanski
Directed by Roman Polanski

Starring: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Maurice Evans, Ralph Bellamy, and Angela Dorian 

Read the screenplay!



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Eyes Wide Shut
Screenplay by Stanley Kubrick and Frederic Raphael
Directed by Stanley Kubrick

Starring: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Sydney Pollack, and Marie Richardson

Read the screenplay!



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The Wicker Man

Screenplay by Anthony Shaffer
Directed by Robin Hardy

Starring: Edward Woodward, Britt Ekland, Diane Cilento, and Ingrid Pitt

Read the script!

Why Isn't There More Diversity in Hollywood Screenwriting?

The lack of diversity in Hollywood is no secret. It's obvious with all the white actors taking up screen time, but even outside the camera (and off the set), it's an issue. Just think "Straight Outta Compton"--of all films in the world, it, too, was written by white folks (Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff). 

Also, an upcoming film about the life of 21-year-old Barack Obama was written guessed it: a white dude (Adam Mansbach).

But there's progress being made! Right? Just Google "screenwriter diversity" and you'll find a few glimmers of hope for a more diverse future. For example: the WGA's list of writer diversity programs, Conferences, and Festivals.  

Still, these programs have been around for a while at this point. If progress is being made, we're starting to wonder when we'll start seeing some real results (in the writer's room and on the screen). As it stands, the Oscars continue to nominate films that are overwhelmingly white and male. Many people are convinced that Hollywood actively engages in systemic racism by denying people of color roles as actors, directors, and screenwriters. It seems that women and people of color are only rarely considered for awards in the film industry. This was all summed up for us in the hashtag: #OscarsSoWhite. 

According to The Washington Post, the best way to combat the lack of diversity in film is to focus on the hiring process. It's a no-brainer. Simply hire more women, people in the LGTBQ community, people with disabilities, people of color, and those with different religious backgrounds, as screenwriters, directors, and actors.

Why does this matter? Aside from the obvious (systemic oppression in any form is kind of a bad thing), there's also a subtle but compelling reason for increasing diversity in Hollywood. Films are about stories. Stories are about life. Life is inherently diverse. If the film industry limits the kinds of stories it tells, it's not only hurting itself, it's also just a damn shame.

Also, the picture above is from the film "Dear White People" Read the screenplay!

Read All 5 Scripts Nominated for Best Original Screenplay, Oscars 2015

Ready for some quality reading time? Any of these five scripts should fit the bill. "Spotlight" came away with the 2015 Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, but any of the scripts nominated are worth a read. "Bridge of Spies" is our personal favorite.

Screenplay by Tom McCarthy, Josh Singer
Directed by Tom McCarthy

Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery, Stanley Rucci

Read the screenplay!



Screenplay by Matt Charman and Joel & Ethan Coen               

Read the Screenplay!




Screenplay by Alex Garland    

Read the Screenplay!





Screenplay by Jonathan Herman and Andrea Bernloff  

Read the Screenplay!





Screenplay by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley

Read the Screenplay!

Most Popular Lists at ScreenplayLists

There are a lot of lists on, and we're always adding more. While some are lucky to get a passing glance every few weeks, others are constantly getting read. So, what are the most popular screenplay lists?

It's no surprise that Woody Allen holds the top spot. The guy's been writing films for 50 years, he won 3 Oscars for Best Original Screenplay, and...he's Woody Allen, possibly the only household name in the screenwriting biz. 

Here are the top 10 most popular lists:











Runners up to the top 10 include: Top Romance Screenplays, Top Horror Screenplays, and Top Crime Screenplays. Way down towards the bottom of our list of most visited screenplays, there's Sci-Fi scripts. Apparently not many people are interested in reading the scripts for Star Wars, The Matrix, or Inception? That's doubtful... We'll just go ahead and name Top Sci-Fi Screenplays as our most underrated list. 

Screenwriters Who Won the MacArthur Fellowship

Cormac McCarthy MacArthur Fellowship Winner

The MacArthur Fellowship, or "Genius Grant," is given out to about 30 people a year. The fellowship is given to anybody who shows "extraordinary originality and dedication in your creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction."

Winners include folks from just about any discipline, from seismology and genetics to poetry and dance. And of course, screenwriting. Yes, even some screenwriters have made the list (even despite the fact that the fellowship seems to prefer artists working in fields that are essentially dead or dying).

Interestingly, none of the obvious suspects have ever won. No David Lynch, no Coen Brothers, no Charlie Kaufman... Not yet, anyway. However, the fellowship doesn't recognize past achievements; rather, it is "an investment in a person's originality, insight, and potential."

So, what screenwriters have won the MacArthur Fellowship?

1. Cormac McCarthy: Known primarily as a novelist, McCarthy has also written a few original screenplays. He most notably wrote the script for The Counselor, a British-American crime thriller released in 2013. His other scripts include The Sunset Limited (2011) and The Gardner's Son (1976). McCarthy won the MacArthur Fellowship in 1981.

In case you were wondering, the screenplay for McCarthy's novel The Road was written by British writer Joe Penhall.

2. John Sayles: A versatile writer, director, and actor, John Sayles won the MacArthur in 1983. In 1992, he won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for his scripts Passion Fish and Lone Star. He was also the writer and director for Men with GunsSunshine State, Silver City, and many other independent films.

3. Ruth Prawer Jhabvala: A celebrated novelist and screenwriter, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala won the MacArthur in 1984. She's best known as the writer of two Academy Award-winning screenplays: Howards End (1992) and A Room with a View (1987). She also won a BAFTA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for Heat and Dust (1984).

4. Charles R. Johnson: A MacArthur winner in 1998, Charles R. Johnson is best known as a novelist, essayist, and African American scholar. As a screenwriter, he's written teleplays including Charlie Smith and the Fritter Tree (1978). He was honored with a Writers Guild Award for his work as a writer producer for children's television shows.

5. David Simon: The creator of HBO's series The Wire, David Simon won the MacArthur Fellowship in 2010. He most recently served as writer and executive producer of TV shows Treme and Show Me a Hero.

Trashy Screenwriter Spotlight: John Waters

John Waters Screenwriter

Even if you love him, chances are you don't think of him as a screenwriter. It's more likely you think of him as a "filmmaker," or simply as John Waters--a personality too grand for a single job title.

In his book, Role Models, John Waters says he doesn't have hobbies. Hobbies? Please! He doesn't do something as a hobby; everything he does, he does all the way.

So the fact that John Waters happens to have written screenplays shouldn't be taken lightly. Despite his immaculate personality, his status as a culture icon, and his mustache, he is indeed a serious screenwriter.

Great screenwriters are very often great writers of prose, too. See: William Goldman. See also: Joan Didion. Same goes for John Waters, who has written a number of highly entertaining, witty, and even enlightening books. His prose is incredibly reader-friendly and personable, to the point where you even feel like you know the guy after just a few pages. Few writers can pull that off.

Our personal favorite: Carsick. But now, as for his screenplays...

The Pope of Trash as Screenwriter

John Waters Screenwriter Pink Flamingos

So begins the script for Pink Flamingos. And the weirdness doesn't let up. Just as with his books, his screenplays (even the weird ones) are surprisingly accessible and enjoyable to read.

It's not easy finding quality versions of his scripts online. If you find any, let us know! However, his works are available in paperback. You can pick up a used copy from Amazon for about $4. Not bad! We recommend these two:

We have Cry-Baby on our reading list. Looks like the best place to pick up a copy for this is eBay. Although it seems more appropriate to pick up a John Waters script in a dusty second-hand store. Anyone want to join us for a weekend John Waters screenplay scavenger hunt?

10 Screenplay Terms, Defined by Urban Dictionary

Action: Sexual activity. Hey, you get any action last night? 

Backstory: Euphemism for bootyGuy sees ass related fan service: "look at all that backstory."

Beat: A lame situation. Man, this party is beat! 

Dialogue: The conversations that you have with someone after you have known them FOREVER, and have absolutely NOTHING left to talk about. "Conversations" imply two way, thoughtful, communication. "Dialogue" could be spouted out by a parrot and be the same. 

flashbackWhen the person you've flashed has flashed you back, presumably in the same method in which you flashed him/her. I was just screwing around when I flashed her--but I never expected a flashback!

Hero: Someone who gets a lot of OTHER people killed. 

Montage: A video put on youtube showing off your "skills" on games. Usually people who make these vids just edit out all 300 other failed shots till they get the right one. Montagers also hate hitmarkers. Hate them.

Plot: What Twilight doesn’t have.

Scene: A culture made mostly of teenagers and is relatable to emo. It is a culture derived to reject the "norm."

Screen Play: Someone engaged in thumbing around the screen of their phone. Hillary laughed uproariously as she was lost in screen play.

Joan Didion - a Literary Celebrity as Screenwriter


Shout out to New Republic for their recent article, How Joan Didion Became the Ultimate Literary Celebrity. There was only one problem with the article: the word "screenwriting" only appeared once in passing. No overview of Didion's career as a writer is complete without paying proper respects to the five screenplays she co-wrote.

Joan Didion started writing screenplays relatively early in her career as a novelist. In 1971, she was 37 when her screenplay The Panic in Needle Park came out as an award-winning film starring young Al Pacino.

As with her other scripts, Needle Park was co-written by her husband, John Gregory Dunne. Together, Didion and Dunne fit within a rather high-brow class of screenwriters. While many of the screenwriter ilk came from a world of standup comedy or low-budget film production, Didion and Dunne come from a the world of academia and top-tier literature.

Acknowledging Didion's literary background isn't necessarily a complement--not in terms of screenwriting cred. Usually when a prestigious author delves into writing scripts, the outcome is less than amazing (sorry, Steinbeck; sorry Dave Eggers!).

Joan Didion hasn't exactly had the greatest success with her scripts, either. Her success as a screenwriter obviously hasn't compared to her accomplishments as a novelist and essayist. But Didion's scripts have contributed to some quality films. As with her novels, the films she's contributed to are richly human, culturally relevant, and "literary" in nature.

...If only we could read her actual scripts! We seem to have failed to find any of her scripts online. There are a few clues suggesting that some of her scripts have appeared in print at some time or another. But we haven't been able to locate print copies, either. If anyone out there knows where we can find a copy of a Joan Didion screenplay, let us know! Until then, we can still watch the films:


Should You Pay for a Script Consultant?

Should You Pay for a Script Consultant

The short answer is no, you shouldn't. Or, if you do, don't expect to get your money's worth.

This may sound overly skeptical, but it's unlikely that the advice you receive from a script consultant will be worth the price. If you want to improve your screenplay as best as possible, there are far cheaper alternatives.

Paying upwards of $300 for someone's advice is fundamentally a little desperate, even if you have the money. It's true that using a script consultant will be a good learning experience. A least, for example, you'll learn how easy it is to be ripped off bypeople claiming to help you write better.

Consider for a moment the ever-growing industry that hopes to profit off would-be screenwriters. Even the best intentioned script consultants secretly laugh all the way to the bank as they provide generally obvious advice to eager novices.

Before you fork over a bunch of money to a script consultant, werecommended that you first:

Fix Your Script Yourself

Be your own best editor by putting the time in. Write a number of scripts (say, at least five), and edit each one as if someone were paying you $300 to do it.

Anecdote: A friend of mine worked for several years at Apple's in-store help desk. Most of his customers were middle-aged women who were educated and intelligent, albeit not terribly tech-savvy. After determining the nature of the problem, my friend would ask, "What would you do to fix this?" They would respond "I don't know," but he would push them to do the thing they thought most logical.

Nine times out of ten, they would end up fixing the problem themselves when forced to take some action. This is to say, they knew the answer all along, they were just too hesitant to take the corrective action because they didn't consider themselves to be "experts."

Take this to heart when editing your screenplay. Sure, an expert could help you fix your third act issue, but I'd be willing to bet that you already know the answer yourself. After all, you've already trained for this moment by watching countless films and probably even by reading Robert McKee's Story or other screenwriting books.

Cheaper, Better Alternatives to Script Consultants

If you need outside advice from somewhat non-partial people:

1. Join a screenwriting Meetup group. If you live in a big city, you can probably find one. If you can't find a Meetup group in your area, start one. From my experience, random people at screenwriter Meetups are more than happy to tear a script to pieces, even more brutally and expertly than high-priced consultants.

2. Sign up for a screenplay workshop or a class at a local college. Screenplay workshops often cost a decent amount of money, but, unlike consultants, they're worth the cost. Rather than being handed down notes from a single person, you'll receive feedback and support from a number of peers and also an instructor of some kind. These exist even outside LA. For example, in San Francisco, a quality screenwriting workshop is hosted at The Grotto.

3. Find low-cost script analysis services. By searching around online, you'll find a number of alternatives to high-priced consultants. For example, by screenwriter Ashley Scott Meyers offers a script analysis service starting at only $67 bucks per script (or less, if you sign up for having three scripts analyzed).

If you still decide you'd like advice from a full-priced industry consultant, proceed with caution. Start out by listening the the consultant's podcast (see: Best Screenwriting Podcasts). If the consultant has written a book, check that out, too. If you decide you that don't share similar aesthetic values with the consultant, then you probably won't fully appreciate--or grow from--their advice.

Irrational Man: 3 Screenwriting Tips from Woody Allen’s Flop

Woody Allen’s Irrational Man hasn’t gone over terribly well. If the actors were to blame, that would be one thing. In this case, it seems to be the script.

Really godawful screenplays can be educational, but they’re especially enlightening when they’re written by Woody Allen. Here are three takeaways from Irrational Man:

1. Don't have the story narrated by a character who's supposed to be in danger. As noted by Mick LaSalle at SF Gate, the fact that Abe (Juaquine Phoenix) partly narrates the film ruins any suspense when the character faces possibly deadly scenarios.

This criticism isn't entirely valid. It’s like saying that novels written in the first person inherently can’t be suspenseful. Everyone knows the hero makes it out alive, for books and movies, whether or not the hero narrates.

But the criticism can be taken as a reinforcement of Robert McKee’s advice: don’t use a narrator unless absolutely necessary. And even in that case, only use one if it actually adds a new dynamic to the story (see, for example, the genius narration in The Big Lebowski).

2. If a character is supposed to be brilliant, make him brilliant. The long-winded exposition in Irrational Man promises that Abe is a brilliant philosophy professor. And yet, the character never proves himself. This isn’t simply a disappointing element of the film, it demonstrates a shortcoming in the script. Out of all the screenwriters out there, Woody Allen might actually have the ability to create a truly brilliant character. Did Abe disappoint as a character out of sheer laziness on Allen’s part?

3. Clichés are always a fatal flaw, even if you’re Woody Allen. Good luck counting all the clichés in Irrational Man—there are a lot of them. Here are a few: A burnt out philosophy professor (1) who is going through a midlife crises (2); a young, hot student who’s excellent at the piano (3, 4, 5); the professor falls in love with the young student (6) and learns/grows from her (7); seemingly intellectual exposition that really only amounts to banal existentialism (8), etc.

There’s a fine line between using archetypes as narrative device vs. using clichés as a result of a fundamental lack of imagination or originality. Sometimes even the most obvious clichés can work beautifully if they’re used ironically or as a parody. That’s not the case in Irrational Man.

One final takeaway, this one for Woody Allen: People are still weirded out about your taboo relationships with women. Maybe for your next movie, just stick to platonic love. That way, no one will have to think too hard about your inspiration for the story.

Read the screenplay!