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room arguing laughing
Articles

10 Cinematic Scenes of People, Arguing and/or Laughing

Cinematic Scenes of People, Arguing and/or Laughing It sounds like a dull writing exercise. Put your characters in a room and see what happens, arguing or laughing. But here are 10 great, cinematic scenes that prove being stuck in one room doesn’t have to mean being stuck in a boring

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Kurt Vonnegut
Articles

31 Writing Lessons From Iconic Author Kurt Vonnegut

31 Writing Lessons From Iconic Author Kurt Vonnegut With his deceptively simple prose style, novelist, playwright and essayist Kurt Vonnegut, jr. (1922 – 2007) bridged sci-fi and literary fiction. Novels like Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat’s Cradle and Breakfast of Champions didn’t exactly open readers to new worlds as new ways of thinking. Perhaps this is why

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screenwriter species
Articles

Which Species of Screenwriter are you?

The ‘building-block’ nature of screenwriting is such that any screenwriter needs a selection box of varying skills . As you’d expect, different screenwriters tend to find themselves drawn to, and more skilled at, certain aspects of the process. Whether its creative story ideas, unique characters, or a structure so tight,

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Adam Driver, Paterson, low stakes
Articles

OPINION: The Perks & Pitfalls of Low Stakes Screenplays

Is it possible to have a film that tells a story without conflict? Conventional wisdom would say no. However, this doesn’t mean that every film needs a world-ending threat. Not every film needs to have escalating stakes. It is possible, but difficult, to tell a great story with low stakes. The physical

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Cosmo Lawlor in Sing Street
Articles

GENIUS CHARACTER REVEALS: Cosmo Lawlor (SING STREET)

In our Genius Character Reveals series we examine scenes and moments where a film or TV show reveals a tremendous amount of character information in a compressed amount of screen time. This instalment focuses on Conor, a.k.a. Cosmo Lawlor (newcomer Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), from SING STREET. Cosmo Lawlor and SING STREET From writer-director John Carney (ONCE), SING STREET

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character sacrifice in Wrath of Khan
Articles

OPINION: Writing a character sacrifice that works

A character sacrifice is a difficult moment to get right. Audiences today are incredibly cine-literate. They’ve seen it all before, and can tell when a film or TV show has used storytelling shortcuts. When It Works Still, like any common trope handled well, a character choosing to die can still be very effective

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Dale Cooper thumbs up, Twin Peaks
Articles

GENIUS CHARACTER REVEALS: Dale Cooper (TWIN PEAKS)

In our Genius Character Reveals series we examine scenes and moments where a film or TV show reveals a tremendous amount of character information in a compressed amount of screen time. This month’s instalment focuses on FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle Maclachlan), the lead character from TWIN PEAKS. Dale Cooper and TWIN PEAKS TWIN PEAKS is the

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Screenwriter - Unsettle Audience
Articles

OPINION: When Screenwriters Should Unsettle Audiences

There’s an old Hollywood saying to writers that if you want to send a message, use Western Union. The idea is that audiences want films to entertain them, not to make them think. Studio heads and producers didn’t want to unsettle the audience. This is depicted in the Coen brothers’

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create intrigue in screenplays - the ultimate guide
Articles

Top 5 Story Questions That Pique Our Interest

Stirring Interest If a story doesn’t pose a dramatic question, you’re probably reading a shopping list. Story questions are the narrative equivalent of a sales pitch, the means by which we’re convinced to stick a story out instead of mowing the lawn or something. Story Questions Moment to moment, the

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3D audience, cinema experience
Articles

OPINION: Screenwriters Should Consider the Cinema Experience

It’s a cliché, but the entertainment industry is an industry. Show business is a business. It behoves screenwriters to remember this and to consider why write films in the first place. What makes the cinema experience worthwhile? When deciding whether an idea is worth developing and writing, it’s worth asking first: Is this

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Tom Reagan in Miller's Crossing
Articles

GENIUS CHARACTER REVEALS: Tom Reagan (MILLER’S CROSSING)

In this series we look at scenes and moments where a film or TV show has revealed a great deal of character information in a short amount of screen time. In this instalment, we focus on Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne) from the 1990 crime film MILLER’S CROSSING.   MILLER’S CROSSING The

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Riverdale - teenage characters
Articles

OPINION: Crafting Convincing Teenage Characters

A major problem with crafting convincing children and teenage characters is that as we grow up it’s too easy to forget what it’s like to be young. Whether a project is aimed at children, teens, adults, or a range of ages, badly written young people stand out. The result is that

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Manchester by the Sea, flashbacks
Articles

OPINION: Flashbacks and the (Rare) Stories that Need Them

One of the major exceptions to the oft-repeated “show, don’t tell” screenwriting rule is the equally common received wisdom that screenplays should avoid using flashbacks. The criticisms are familiar from scores of screenwriting books. They weaken the dramatic tension, breaking up the momentum of the story to show the audience things

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Ricky Baker, Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Articles

Character Reveal: Ricky Baker (Hunt For The Wilderpeople)

In this series we look at scenes and moments where a film or TV show has revealed a great deal of character information in a short amount of screen time. In this instalment, we focus on Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) from the coming of age film HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE.

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godfather part 2 featured
Articles

The Genius, Multi-Conflict Opening of THE GODFATHER PART 2

There are, broadly speaking, two ways to convey conflict: implicitly and explicitly. The former involves illustrating some kind of dissonance through setting, silence, the way one character looks at another; the latter involves someone saying ‘I hate you’, punching, or a deliberate explosion. THE GODFATHER PART 2 is rich in both

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John McClane Die Hard
Articles

GENIUS CHARACTER REVEALS: John McClane

In this series we look at scenes and moments where a film or TV show has revealed a great deal of character information in a compressed amount of screen time. In this instalment we focus on John McClane (Bruce Willis) from DIE HARD. DIE HARD is the quintessential, archetypal modern action

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Boogie Nights
Articles

10 Screenwriting Lessons We Can Learn from…BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997)

Like much of Paul Thomas Anderson’s work, the BOOGIE NIGHTS screenplay has an odd structure, divergent POV and a hefty length, yet every page of it is full of worthwhile lessons for screenwriters. Here are ten: Conflict doesn’t need to be constant Conflict is often billed as screenwriting currency: you’re

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write omnisciently featured
Articles

Should Screenwriters Write “Omnisciently”?

To write omnisciently as a screenwriter often entails, for better or worse, including elements that may never show up onscreen: jokes in descriptions or insights into characters’ thoughts and histories that only a reader will ever truly experience and appreciate. This statement is unlikely to surprise anyone sentient, but film

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screenwriting lessons featured
Articles

10 Screenwriting Lessons From ANGEL HEART (1987)

ANGEL HEART Alan Parker’s ANGEL HEART is an odd blend of genres, taking noir, psychological thriller and horror to a three-way shotgun wedding. The screenwriting lessons it can teach us are similarly diverse. The basic plot is this: a private detective named Harry Angel is hired by the mysterious Louis

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thriller screenplays primer
Articles

10 Thriller Screenplays You Should Read

Thriller Screenplay Power As a genre, ‘thriller’ tends to gently caress several others, namely horror, sci-fi, and drama. As such, thriller screenplays provide a goldmine of various narrative and structural techniques. These may well be films you’ve seen; it’s just that some of them might not have left you desperate

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second act subplot listen up philip
Articles

Why Screenwriters Should Consider a Second Act Subplot

While first and third acts pose their own challenges, it’s in the weeds of the second act that many scripts (and movies for that matter) go astray. Introducing a second act subplot can be a strong solution, if executed well. The Challenge of the Second Act Alexander Mackendrick, the director

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Annie Wilkes in Misery
Articles

GENIUS CHARACTER REVEALS: Annie Wilkes

In this series we look at scenes and moments where a film or TV show has revealed a great deal of character information in a short amount of screen time. This installment focuses on Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) from MISERY. MISERY saw legendary screenwriter William Goldman adapting a Stephen King

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screenwriting contests scripts
Articles

10 Script Notes You May Choose to Ignore…

Whilst advocating the deflection of script notes may be a strange thing for a dedicated script consultancy to do, the truth is that there is a great deal of bad advice handed out by script consultants at the murkier end of the industry (read also: “11 Reasons for the High

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minor characters arc
Articles

10 Minor Characters Who Still Have a Great ARC

One facet of screenwriting which causes writers enormous headaches is conveying a lot with a little. Studying great minor characters is one way of learning this kind of efficiency. Minor Characters To Finer Characters The best minor characters can be just as rich as main characters. Ideally they should feel like they

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Jim Donovan in Bridge of Spies
Articles

GENIUS CHARACTER REVEALS: Jim Donovan (BRIDGE OF SPIES)

In this series we look at scenes and moments where a film or TV show has revealed a great deal of character information in a short amount of screen time. In this installment, we focus on how BRIDGE OF SPIES introduces Jim Donovan (Tom Hanks). Steven Spielberg directs, from a screenplay

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unresolved plot thread inception totem
Articles

Unresolved Plot Threads: Magic or Madness?

Endings are crucial. The feeling an ending gives an audience is the feeling they leave the cinema with. It’s the feeling that will colour their perception of their whole experience and the whole film. How do unresolved plot threads make an audience feel? Often, creating a satisfying ending means tying

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screenwriting commandments
Articles

10 Commandments of the Accountable Screenwriter (Download)

There are two kinds of rugby player”, the legendary Scottish coach Jim Telfer told his players, “there are the honest ones, and there’s the rest. The honest player gets up in the morning and looks himself in the mirror and sets his standard, sets his stall out, and says: “I’m going

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low stakes in The Big Lebowski
Articles

10 Films That Make You Invested in The Protagonist’s Goal

In 9/10 cases the protagonist is the driving force of a successful film narrative. We invest in their story because we identify with their goal and become invested in it; but some goals are more easily conveyed than others. Convincing an audience to root for a character fighting an evil

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Kate Mercer (Charlotte Rampling) in 45 Years
Articles

GENIUS CHARACTER REVEALS: Kate Mercer

In this series we look at scenes and moments where a film or TV show has revealed a great deal of character information in a compressed amount of screen time. Writer-director Andrew Haigh followed up his acclaimed film WEEKEND and HBO show LOOKING with 45 YEARS, which he adapted from a short

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Anachronisms in the Alex Cox film Walker
Articles

OPINION: Screenplay Anachronisms Can Bring the Past to Life

Films that are set in the past are often judged for their authenticity. The “goofs” section of IMDb is overrun with anachronisms: this porcelain wasn’t made until six years later; or this character shouldn’t have shaved underarms. However, anachronisms can actually be useful for bringing the past to life. It’s hard for an audience

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Setting as Character
Articles

14 Brilliant Uses of Setting AS Character in Film and TV

Ask yourself this: what is a setting? Really think about it. Is it just a backdrop on which to stage the events of your story? A static playground, conveying only time and place? Or can it be something more? Where is the screenplay electricity? Sometimes the best settings reveal something

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25 Francis Ford Coppola Quotes
Articles

25 Francis Ford Coppola Quotes For Writers & Filmmakers

Francis Ford Coppola Francis Ford Coppola is one of the greatest writer-directors to come out of the so-called “New Hollywood” wave of filmmaking, having made THE GODFATHER, THE GODFATHER PART II, THE CONVERSATION, and APOCALYPSE NOW all before reaching the age of 40. Nowadays, largely satisfied with his Hollywood filmography,

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avoid cliche
Articles

How to Write “Mythically” but Avoid Cliche – PDF Guide

Writing mythically with cliché is relatively easy: watch a couple of films, read a couple of books then regurgitate the obvious stuff: quasi-religious story world, the quest, the mentor, initiation, testing, the final battle, rebirth etc. Writing mythically without cliché, by contrast, is not easy at all… In the 3rd

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James Cameron Quotes
Articles

20 Great James Cameron Quotes on Storytelling

20 Great James Cameron Quotes on Storytelling With a filmography that boasts the likes of THE TERMINATOR, ALIENS, and THE ABYSS, James Cameron is undoubtedly one of the finest genre filmmakers and storytellers the film industry has ever seen. “There are many talented people who haven’t fulfilled their dreams because

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no country
Articles

10 Almost-Great Screenplays

An almost-great screenplay can be more frustrating than a really bad one. The potential is strong and the execution is almost there, but something went wrong at the final hurdle. Of course, it’s easy to pick out flaws in retrospect or to credit (or blame) the writer for something that

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inciting incidents the goonies
Articles

15 Genius Inciting Incidents by Screenwriters

15 Genius Inciting Incidents by Screenwriters You’ve created a fully developed character or series of characters and are now pondering their motivation through the narrative you’ve started to develop. Inciting incidents come in all shapes and sizes, so you should try to think of something clever, inspirational or at least interesting

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The Insider Interviews: Michael Kuhn
Articles

The Insider Interviews: Michael Kuhn

THE INSIDER INTERVIEWS: MICHAEL KUHN The Insider Interviews series started in 2010 as a set of recorded interviews, featuring the likes of Tom Hiddleston, Gareth Unwin, who produced THE KING’S SPEECH, Ben Wheatley and Hossein Amini, the Oscar-nominated writer of DRIVE and THE TWO FACES OF JANUARY. You can watch these here. The Insider Interviews now exist as live monthly events in central

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Great Ingmar Bergman Quotes
Articles

20 Great Ingmar Bergman Quotes on Storytelling

One of the most influential auteurs of all time, Ernst Ingmar Bergman was born in Sweden and worked as a director, producer and writer across and theatre and screen. He directed over sixty films and documentaries, most of which he also wrote, and directed 170 plays. His most well-known films

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mid film plot twist john doe surrenders
Articles

10 Classic Mid-Film Plot Twists by Screenwriters

10 Great Mid-Film Plot Twists by Screenwriters Too often when watching a film, especially for those of us who have seen many of them, you can read where the story is going and predict what is going to happen onscreen prematurely. However, those screenwriters in pursuit of something that will

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Ned, supporting character, Groundhog Day
Articles

OPINION: Support Your Supporting Characters

While it’s true that the star system is not what it once was, actors can still have tremendous power. Many actors have their own production companies, partly as a route for finding interesting material off the beaten path of Hollywood. Look down Plan B Entertainment’s list of projects and imagine how many would have been

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Charlize Theron in Young Adult
Articles

GENIUS CHARACTER REVEALS: Young Adult

In this series we look at scenes and moments where a film or TV show has revealed a great deal of character information in a short amount of screen time. Screenwriter Diabo Cody and director Jason Reitman first collaborated on the smash hit JUNO. In 2011 they re-teamed for the indie dramedy

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taken liam neeson 750 x 400
Articles

In Screenwriting terms, what is ‘tracking’?

In screenwriting terms, ‘tracking’ refers to being able to follow or ‘track’ the logic of a premise smoothly. The moment the audience starts to think that the story does not make sense – that the logic of the premise being presented to them doesn’t “track” – their oh-so-fragile suspension of

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Secondary Characters in THE BIG LEBOWSKI
Articles

10 Classic Secondary Characters in THE BIG LEBOWSKI

The Coen Brothers‘ ability to create amazing, ultra-memorable secondary characters with only a few lines of writing  is something that all screenwriters can learn from. Consider the giant sea of utterly forgettable characters you’ve seen on-screen in your lifetime. Characters that had pages and pages and pages devoted to them,

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Tallahassee has a drink in Zombieland
Articles

GENIUS CHARACTER REVEALS: Tallahassee

In this series we look at scenes and moments where a film or TV show has revealed a great deal of character information in a short amount of screen time. ZOMBIELAND began life as a TV pilot by writing partners Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (later behind DEADPOOL). Even in its

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John Ford - Storytelling Quotes
Articles

15 Classic John Ford Quotes about Storytelling

The legendary director John Ford enjoyed a remarkably long and successful career, working on over 140 films and winning four Academy Awards for Best Director. His most well known films include: STAGECOACH, THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE and THE GRAPES OF WRATH. Ford is noted for the precision of

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goodfellas
Articles

10 Moments Where Problem Upon Problem Hits the Protagonist

Conflict is essential in every great story. The amount and complexity of the situation can obviously vary greatly depending on the scope, settings and characters involved. In some cases, loading problem upon problem on your character(s) is important in that it shows what they are made of or it shows

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Art of Misdirection
Craft

OPINION: The Art of Misdirection

** SPOILER ALERT: this article reveals key plot points from THE WITCH and THE PRESTIGE ** Holed up alone and away from the world, it can be too easy for screenwriters to forget that films are made for audiences. It’s important to consider what the audience is thinking at each point in

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Jay Cavendish in Slow West
Articles

GENIUS CHARACTER REVEALS: Jay Cavendish

Genius Character Reveals: Jay Cavendish In this series we look at scenes and moments where a film or TV show has revealed a great deal of character information in a compressed period of screen time. It seems improbable: a Western from a Scottish writer-director, produced and shot in the UK and

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Slings and Arrows, Geoffrey Tennant, Genius Character Reveals, Character Intro, Hamlet
Articles

GENIUS CHARACTER REVEALS: Geoffrey Tennant

Genius Character Reveals Welcome to the first of our new series: GENIUS CHARACTER REVEALS. In this series we’ll look at scenes and moments where the film or TV screenwriter/director has revealed a great deal of character information in a compressed amount of screen time. As a courtly bow in the

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