“A miracle is something that’s impossible but happens anyway.”
WHAT MAKES A GOOD STORY?
YOU ALREADY KNOW
You’ve been watching movies and TV all your life. So you already know many of the
basic principles of dramatic writing. You also know what you enjoy and admire in
films. Story Rescue helps apply your intuitive knowledge to the ages-
If this is how you experience stories, then read on. If you think you can just sit down and write a screenplay–then DEFINITELY READ ON.
THE STORY IS ALWAYS BEING TOLD
One of the most common mistakes aspiring screenwriters make is not telling the story. This means that as the action unfolds, many writers allow their story to falter, slow down and become dull. Solving this problem is simply a matter of sticking to one basic rule: “ALWAYS TELL THE STORY.” Every good movie does this. But it’s another matter to learn how it’s done.
Unfortunately, dramatic writing is not like cabinetry. There is no absolutely correct formula. But like cabinetry, the pieces must fit together to make the work strong. There are fundamental principles of craft that we can follow in order to create a dramatic story; a story that does what it needs to do—excite and engage the audience. This audience also includes actors, directors and producers.
I like to say, “Screenplays aren’t written–they’re BUILT.” Because the purposeful and thoughtful arrangement of a story is what makes a good script good. You do need to write it, otherwise our scripts would be simply storyboards. Strangely enough, we need to connect our audience to an emotional experience. So writing is the most effective way to do it.
ART v. COMMERCE
Believe it or not, your script can be artistic AND commercial. Somehow, a myth has developed that these two qualities are in opposition. Some of the most commercially successful scripts are also the most artistic. This runs the full spectrum from “Dumb & Dumber” to “Chinatown” to “Breaking the Waves” to “The Sopranos” and long running sitcoms like “Friends.”
Good stories are simply GOOD and appeal to an audience. Sometimes that audience is large, sometimes it’s small. But it must appeal to SOMEBODY.
Sounds easy, but this is where the hard work begins.
After years of writing and teaching I have come upon an approach that I feel works for many writers, including me. It has also served me well as a screenwriting professor since 1999 with hundreds of students at NYU and other institutions.
WRITE A SCRIPT THAT WORKS
If great scripts and stories were plentiful, then you wouldn’t be reading this, I wouldn’t be pitching you on my talents, and there would be 100 contenders for the Best Picture Oscar every year, not just five. In fact if things were different, we would almost never complain about seeing bad movies and plays or reading lousy novels.
But that’s not how it is.
Writing, especially for film or stage, has been described by Woody Allen like this:
“Writing is either very easy or it’s impossible.”
My favorite quote comes from one of our greatest filmmakers, Stanley Kubrick:
“A good story is a miracle.”
By this he meant that a good story is rare, requires a lot of hard work, and depends upon a series of circumstances that are completely unpredictable.
Wait. Didn’t we say there’s a method to this? In the spirit of the “miracle,” our process will be only the beginning of the many circumstances and collaborations that will affect the completion of your script.
As much as luck is “being in the right place at the right time,” it helps to have a good solid story. The great Hungarian émigré producer, Alexander Korda had a sign hanging behind his desk: “It is not enough to be Hungarian—one must also have a good Second Act!”
All of the feedback you receive will be supportive and positive. This doesn’t mean it will all be “praise,” but you will get plenty of positive reinforcement. We’ll find your skills; what you do best as a writer and make them work for you.
You’ll also get an objective point of view that will help you see more clearly what the problems are and—most importantly—HOW TO SOLVE THEM. For every problem we spot, we will also devise an appropriate solution.
Your script will be carefully reviewed, given the proper analysis and evaluation, and you will be able to move onto the next revision with confidence that you can write a script that works.
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