I have been itching to do a screenwriting course for ages now. I’ve got a bunch of movie ideas that I don’t really… I don’t know, I don’t necessarily expect to do anything with them, but I want to get them out of my head, just so my brain isn’t cluttered with half-started/half-finished projects. The problem with the way I write, as you probably noticed, is that I find it hard to stay on one track for any length of time. Whenever I would start a screenplay, I would write the ideas I had in a half-assed way and then just hit a wall. I guess this stems from the way I come up with ideas for movies. For example, I want to write something called “JOHN STEELE DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO DIE“, but where the fuck do I begin?
So, after putting it off for months, I finally signed up for the filmbase course – “Screenwriting for Beginners“, which finished a couple of weeks ago.
I found the whole thing very useful. I learned all the sorts of useful ‘cheats’ to get you past the various stumbling blocks you’re likely to run into. Like how to flesh out your characters before you ever put pen to paper (or uh… fingers to keyboard) – useful because you know exactly how your characters will react in any situation you put them in. Or the other cheat of buying a book of baby names for when you find yourself struggling to find a decent name for your characters. (Which led to an interesting moment when I went into Waterstones to buy a book of baby names and got served by a friend of mine – so that’s what gobsmacked looks like).
And the tutor, Lindsay Sedgewick was friendly, helpful and knowledgeable. Whenever I gave her ideas for her to look over, she seemed to know exactly which bits I was unhappy with and always gave me useful suggestions for how to improve them. Although she did poo-poo one of my favourite ideas (involving a lost commune of hippies who have to re-join society after their crop of weed fails), but never mind.
So after finishing it, I started reading a few books on the subject: Joseph Campbell, Robert McKee, etc. So far, doing a good job of avoiding Syd Field. One of the books has really stood out for me: Blake Snyder’s “Save the Cat”. This one stands out because it doesn’t shy away from the ‘high concept’ side of screenwriting. In fact, for this book, the higher the concept, the better, as long as it sells. Which is just fine by us here on lowbrowculture.com. Unfortunately, his IMDB credits make it a little hard to take the whole thing seriously… would you take advice from the guy who wrote “Blank Check” and uh… “Stop, or my Mom will Shoot!”?
But seriously, any other potential would-be-but-not-really screenwriters out there on the interpod could do a lot worse than to check it out. Especially if you would rather be the next Shane Black than the next Wes Anderson.
Oh, and while you’re at it, you should check out Celtx, a free (as in ‘speech’) screenplay editor that is replacing Final Draft for a lot of people.
hey jk, probably the best book i’ve come across on filmmaking, as a technical craft, is Alexander MacKendrick’s ‘On Filmmkaking’. MacKendrick was the director of both ‘The Sweet Smell Of Success’ and ‘The Ladykillers’. The book is a collection of his classroom notes from CalArts Filmschool spanning 30 odd years. everything from screenwriting to storyboards to camera positions, bÃ»t delivered in a no bullshit, practical manner. he uses case studies from his films instead of theory and deconstructs scenes, from both the writing and filming perspectives, to show in detail how he ‘builds’ scenes. for me personally, it’s the bible of filmmaking books and beats any two-bit screenwriting manual, anyday.
“Film writing and directing cannot be taught, only learned, and each man or woman has to learn it through his or her own system of self-education.” – alexander mackendrick