4 basic questions 90% of screenplays don’t answer

May 18, 2010
Number 4

There are 4 questions every screenplay should be able to answer. Yet 9 out of 10 scripts don’t. What are the 4 basic questions for dramatic storytelling?

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What I learned about deus ex machina from dominoes (and Gary “Big” Ross)

May 10, 2010
Tom Hanks in Big movie poster

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever had about dramatic writing came from Gary Ross. It involves dominoes.

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Why Schindler’s List won Best Film and Saving Private Ryan didn’t (in 27 words or less)

May 10, 2010
Thumbnail image for Why Schindler’s List won Best Film and Saving Private Ryan didn’t (in 27 words or less)

Spielberg won Best Director Oscars for Schindler and Ryan but his Holocaust film won Best Film and Best Screenplay while his other WW2 film won neither. Why?

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Why David Stratton didn’t dig Beneath Hill 60

April 15, 2010
Brendan Cowell and Gyton Grantley in Beneath Hill 60

Beneath Hill 60 is a decent film but it “didn’t connect” with David Stratton. We look at why and how a good basic story could have been tweaked to make a better film.

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Did you catch Hitchcock in Date Night?

April 13, 2010
Steve Carell and Tina Fey in Date Night

While the dearly departed Alfred Hitchcock didn’t perform one of his famous cameos in Shawn Levy’s Date Night, the master’s fingerprints were all over the Steve Carell-Tina Fey comedy.

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How to write a logline

March 25, 2010
LIam Neeson and Ben Kingsley in Schindler's List

Before you write a single scene of your 120-page screenplay, try to express your film’s logline in 27 words or less. This simple early test can help focus your narrative and save years of wasted effort.

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Why can’t people write good endings any more?

March 10, 2010
Jeremy Renner as Blaster One in the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker

The Hurt Locker, Up in the Air and No Country for Old Men are all good films spoiled by the finales. Have screenwriters forgotten how to satisfy audiences or are they perversely choosing to frustrate us?

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How to transform your character from wimp to hero

August 26, 2009
Todd (Ethan Hawke) in Dead Poets Society

One of my students just asked me how his hero could gain courage. This question goes to heart of character arcs so I thought I’d share my response.

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Why Baz Luhrmann’s Australia didn’t work

August 26, 2009
Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman in Baz Luhrman's Australia

There are some fairly obvious story flaws in Baz Luhrmann’s Australia. But the reason it didn’t work was far more fundamental.

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