tips on screenwriting

January 14, 2008

okay, here’s a direct copy-paste of some of David Bordwell’s blog. he’s writing about the time he spent recently in Rome where he met a man named Amos Poe who, among many other things, is a screenwriter and teaches … well, here, i’ll let David tell you:

We enjoyed the conference, and one standout aspect was the presence of Amos Poe. Poe is probably best known for his first feature, Alphabet City (1985), and for his 16mm film on the Punk scene, The Blank Generation (1976). His Triple Bogey on a Par Five Hole (1991) has also attracted attention. For three decades Poe has worked as a director, producer, screenwriter, and teacher. The Sundance festival is playing Amy Redford’s The Guitar, which Poe wrote and coproduced.

Amos was great fun. A soft-spoken man with a quick and wicked sense of humor, he enlivened our dinners at various ristoranti. He also spoke extensively about screenwriting, which he teaches at NYU and at NYU’s Florence program. Like many screenwriters, he’s extremely intelligent and articulate about his craft. Three examples:

*How to learn screenwriting? Get a script version of a film you admire. Read the first ten pages, then closely watch the first ten minutes of the movie. Go back and read the next ten pages, and go ahead and watch the corresponding ten minutes. And so on until the end. Do this with three first-rate films, and you will have a concrete, intuitive understanding of how a screenplay works.

*A screenplay, Amos points out, isn’t a short story or novel or play. It’s a movie in words. It must make the reader see and hear an imaginary film, and not only the action, either. Without indicating specific shots, the descriptions should suggest the flow of long-shots and close-ups (”Her lipstick leaves a smear on the cigarette butt”). “The screenwriter is a filmmaker.”

*Write sounds into the background of scenes, setting them up for fuller presence later. If a train becomes important late in the story, mention the wail of a distant train early in the screenplay. This sort of auditory planting quietly strengthens the structure of the story in your reader’s mind.

A link to David Bordwell’s blog can be found on the side of my page under the “blogs” heading, or click here.

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2 Responses to “tips on screenwriting”

  1. ericsanpablo Says:

    thanks for that. Makes sense. Personally, sometimes I find writing the damn thing more enjoyable than actually making it.

  2. poetamilenio Says:

    thanks for the information. i wonder if you have any script that you can lend me, or if you know where i can find one of those.


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