The last in our three part series: A Screenwriter’s Toolkit.
I think that this one will vary the most from writer to writer as we each have a myriad of sources from which we hopefully pick the good parts, the parts that work, and discard the ones that don’t for us individually. I encourage all the writers out there to post their own suggestions in the comments section.
The Hollywood Standard - Christopher Riley – If you don’t format your script properly it won’t be read. Simple as that. The Hollywood Standard is the most straight forward guide to formatting and style there currently is. It’s recommend by people far more successful than me so I think it should be ok for you too.
Oxford American Writer’s Thesaurus – One of the most profoundly interesting and helpful books a writer, of anything, could purchase. It’s not your typical thesaurus as it has “enhanced” areas with word lists, style guides, and mini-essays. If you love words, you’ll love this book. If you get paid to write words, this could be a lifesaver.
The 101 Habits Of Highly Successful Screenwriters: Insider’s Secrets from Hollywood’s Top Writers - Karl Iglesias – Of all the books on craft and life as a screenwriter, I found this to be the most inspiring and full of wonderful advice.
The War of Art - Steven Pressfield – A slim and highly motivating little volume that I’ve returned to time and time again for a swift kick in the ass. Pressfield also runs a great blog where he has multiple inspiring series such as “Do the Work Wednesdays“, “Writing Wednesdays“, and “What It Takes“.
JohnAugust.com – John is not only the amazing screenwriter behind such films as Go and Big Fish but very generous with his advice for aspiring screenwriters. Not only are the archives of johnaugust.com worth digging into for invaluable advice, but he and Craig Mazin do a weekly podcast, ScriptNotes, that is funny, smart, and informative. John and his assistant/tech people also contribute interviews with working writers and develop software to push forward the industry. His current pet project is a Q&A site for answering screenwriting questions, screenwriting.io.
WordPlayer.com – I’m going to go old school on you with this one. Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio’s site is probably one of the oldest online about becoming a working screenwriter. They’re the successful duo behind Aladdin, the Pirates franchise and a ton of other massive hits. I’ve revisited their essays over time and they still hold up. Definitely worth checking out.
Go Into the Story – Scott Meyers, a professor of screenwriting at my alma mater, runs this constantly updated site that covers a much broader range of screenwriting topics daily. He keeps tabs on spec sales, throws in a post on the business of screenwriting, and will follow-up by linking to an interview with a screenwriter. You never know what you’ll find each and every day.
Living the Romantic Comedy – For those wanting to introduce a bit of humor and romance into their writing. Mr. Mernit updates less frequently than he used to but I highly recommend going into his archives as the advice given is not only applicable to rom-coms, a genre he hopes to reinvigorate, but to writing good movies in general.
You can’t be a good writer without reading and studying what has come before. There are plenty of places to find scripts online. If you’re in Los Angeles, you can also spend time reading them at the WGA Library or purchase them at these locations.
SimplyScripts – http://www.simplyscripts.com/
myPDFScripts – http://www.mypdfscripts.com/
TV Writing – https://sites.google.com/site/tvwriting/
Charlie Kaufman Scripts – http://bit.ly/krOsdr
Several screenwriters are generous enough to share copies of their works as well:
Tim Minear: http://timminear.net/archives/cat_downloads.html
John August: http://johnaugust.com/library
Something A Little More “Me” Specific
These are little more personal to me and what has influenced my thinking on how I go about my attempt at this writing thing. They are not necessarily specific to the craft of screenwriting, but an overall influence on shaping my approach in general.
The Paris Review Interviews - Either try and find the full interviews in the archives or buy the wonderful collections in paperback. While avoiding writing I like to read about how other writers avoid writing. Have a seat with Billy Wilder, Budd Schulberg, James M. Cain, or William Faulkner for a long chat and be fascinated.
In a different form, this time via podcast, you can sit in the audience as some of today’s best tv writers are interviewed over the course of an hour during weekly Nerdist Writer’s Panel.
A more direct influence on our upcoming short film, UPLDR, is the ‘mystery box’ TED talk from J.J. Abrams: http://www.ted.com/talks/j_j_abrams_mystery_box.html
I also like to return to this profile of Tony Gilroy at the New Yorker every now and then and remind myself of “Tony’s Rules”:
1) Bring it within two hours.
2) Don’t be boring.
Another interview I’ve returned to many times is this one with Francis Ford Coppola where he talks about “risk, money, craft, and collaboration” available here.
Here’s a great quote:
“An essential element of any art is risk. If you don’t take a risk then how are you going to make something really beautiful, that hasn’t been seen before? I always like to say that cinema without risk is like having no sex and expecting to have a baby. You have to take a risk. “
I tend to collect quotes like that, put it on a little sticky note with a Sharpie and place it on the wall directly above my monitors so my eyes will fall on them when I look up. Some are practical, some are mantras, some are to mull over internally.
A few others:
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellent then is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
“We have a right to our labor, but not to the fruits of our labor.” – Krishna to Arjuna, Mahabahrata
“Show the world what they cannot go see first hand.” Joao Silva, photographer.
This has been a pretty long post to digest but I hope it has been helpful in providing not only essential resources to add to your physical and digital libraries but some other things to help encourage and entertain you in the pursuit of this craft.