Sunday, June 04, 2017

A Word From Wilder

I used to teach a course in screenwriting, believe it or not.  I'd try to take my class through the process, showing them what sort of thing works and what definitely doesn't. (More than anything, they wanted to know how to get an agent.)

The best advice is write--and rewrite--a lot, and see a lot of movies.  There are no guarantees, except that nothing will happen if you don't make an effort.

I recently came across this list by Billy Wilder, one of the greatest writers (and directors) Hollywood ever had.  I wish I had it then.  It would have saved me a lot of time:

Billy Wilder on screenwriting:

1.  The audience is fickle.

2.  Grab 'em by the throat and never let 'em go.

3.  Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.

4.  Know where you're going.

5.  The more subtle and elegant you are hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.

6.  If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is the first act.

7.  A tip from Lubitsch: let the audience add up two plus two.  They'll love you forever.

8.  In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees.  Add to what they're seeing.

9.  The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie.

10.  The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then--that's it.  Don't hang around.


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