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Lessons in Screenwriting March 9, 2010

Posted by pacejmiller in Study.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Tonight’s screenwriting class was pretty interesting.

First we discussed the readings for the week and did that round table thing where everyone eventually gets picked on (I hate that shit).  Luckily, the readings were actually quite interesting.

One of the articles discussed the poor quality of Australian screenplays, which tend to lack character transformation.  According to the author, the central character’s personal journey and ultimate change is what makes the audience relate to the film.  I don’t totally agree.  Of course, there are other elements to a film other than just a character’s transformation – it really depends on the type of film, doesn’t it?  And there’s also the budget issue.  Australian films usually always have difficulty finding financiers, which tend to channel Australian screenwriters into producing screenplays that don’t require a big budget.  The result?  Lots and lots of boring dramas.

We then watched the intros of Michael Clayton (2007) (starring George Clooney as a corporate lawyer) and the award-winning Australian flick Somersault (2004) (starring Abbie Cornish and Sam Worthington), about 10-15 minutes of each.  Both were excellent, and left me wanting to watch more.  Actually, I’m itching to watch Michael Clayton right now, especially since the intro clip ended on a cliffhanger and I still don’t know what the heck the film is about.

Next, we studied the intros of the Michael Clayton screenplay (by Tony Gilroy) and the Little Miss Sunshine screenplay (by Michael Arndt), just a few pages each.  Reading and contrasting the two was useful – helped us realise that each screenwriter has his or her own style and ways of describing characters, locations and solving problems.  While there are a number of industry-accepted conventions, there is plenty of room for creativity.

At the end of the day, it’s all about hooking the audience (or in the case of a screenplay, the reader and potential producer).  But that’s always easier said than done.  They can teach us what makes a screenplay good and what makes a screenplay bad, but there are no set rules for what will make a screenplay work, or ensure that it’ll be a success.

I’ll have to start working on my own screenplay soon and I still have no idea what to do or where to start.  Whatever.  It’ll be fun.  Hopefully…



1. Nate - March 10, 2010

Michael Clayton isn’t half bad, it’s worth watching only to see Tilda’s awesomeness and Tom Wilkinson’s wtf freak out scene. Summersault? I like it but wasn’t that impress with it overall.

Screenplay writing is something I abhorred. I’m really interested on your thoughts here. I just have never been able to get comfortable with the style/format. I agree with you on the character transformation shit. There are plenty of movies where no transformation occurs and you still relate to the film. There’s way more to a film than transformation.

The round table bit? I too hate that shit, I actually hate any type of picking on, get up and say your name and a bit about yourself shit….basically any type of spotlight introduction, tell us about you crap. It’s almost like: Hello? I’m here because I want to be a writer, meaning I don’t have to interect with no one but my characters, I’m not here to socialize now leave me alone! hahahaha.

pacejmiller - March 10, 2010

I just watched Michael Clayton! I’ll have to review it some time, along with the 10 or so other movies I watched recently! Tilda Swinton was truly awesome.

Screenwriting is tough, but I like the challenge of trying something new and seeing if it will work. I think it’s weird that the director and the actors get most of the credit but a screenplay is one of the most important aspects of any film.

Ha, you hit the nail on the head with that comment. I don’t want to interact with people! I’m going to write a new post ranting about the round table soon.

2. Jim - March 10, 2010

LOL – that last paragraph Nate was priceless, I can totally empathize with you.

And to Pace – definitely see Michael Clayton as soon as you can – masterful screenwriting by a truly great writer.

pacejmiller - March 10, 2010

Thanks Jim. I just visited your awesome site! Hope you don’t mind me adding you to my blogroll

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