The DOs And Do Not DOs of Screenwriting


Here are some tips by screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg for writers:

DON’T IGNORE OR RAIL AGAINST NOTES

There may a grain of truth in a pile of otherwise useless notes. Although some readers vent their frustrations on writers, they generally try to be helpful. The suggested fix may be wrong, but it may highlight a problem in your script.

DON’T THINK YOUR LAST DRAFT IS THE BEST

Screenplays are living, breathing, evolving beasts. Some executives believe that it takes two or three drafts before you truly find your story. Keep rewriting.

DON’T RUSH IT

Some writers like to “vomit out” a first draft so they can see something on the page. Take your time in crafting your story.

DON’T CLING TO FIRST IMPRESSIONS

The producer you hate may end up being your staunchest ally, and the sweet talking executive may be the one who dumps you first.

DON’T START A CRITIQUE WITHOUT OFFERING PRAISE

Very few scripts are totally without merit. Beginning your critique by summarizing the positive aspects of your scripts will make the screenwriter more amenable to your criticisms. If you hate something, offer a viable solution.

DON’T BURN BRIDGES, HOLD GRUDGES OR ANNOY PEOPLE

Most film communities, even Hollywood, are smaller and more incestuous than you think. Everyone knows someone who knows someone. This is a relationships business. If you don’t like someone, don’t work with them.

DON’T CLING ONTO SCENES, LINES, STORYLINES AND CHARACTERS

Every element of a screenplay is dispensable. You must learn to kill your babies for the greater good.

DON’T SAY THE FIRST THING THAT POPS INTO YOUR MIND

If you must, take a deep breath first. It just isn’t worth it and you are unlikely to change someone’s mind. Be diplomatic.

DON’T COMPLAIN ABOUT THE INDUSTRY

Nobody likes an incessant moaner. We all know things are tough, but studies show your complaining won’t help.

DON’T GIVE UP

Be resilient. Write for the sheer pleasure of creating art. I’ve lost count of the number of films that have been stuck in development hell for five to ten years. It’s the norm not the exception.

Advertisements

2 Comments Add yours

  1. jurgen wolff says:

    Great points. I would add, when somebody gives you a stupid comment, try to find out what problem they think they’re solving with that suggestion. Often their solution is stupid but they’re not wrong about the problem. Once you’ve identified that, you can come up with a better solution (while, of course, flattering them about their insight).

    1. JG Sarantinos says:

      Like many humans, readers can sense something is off in a script but can’t pinpoint the exact problem, so their comments appear uninformed. And of course, we need to be ever mindful of the artistic, temperemenal ego.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s