Go Into The Story -- Screenwriting 101


Alexander, Scott: "But through the scripts, I'm able to act out and scream at everything that bugs me..." 

Alibar, Lucy: "Writing that scene, I ran a lot that day. I would write, go for a run, and come back."

Allen, Jay Presson: "I do a script very fast, because I don't stop. All day. All night, until I'm too sleepy..."

Amel, Arash: "I am a great believer in the psychology of character in screenplay. I think that almost..."

Anderson, Paul Thomas: "“Bad movie dialogue speaks in complete sentences without any overlapping..."

Arndt, Michael: "On Tuesday, May 23, 2000, at 4:27 p.m., I sat down to write Little Miss Sunshine..."

Aronofsky, Darren: "Then comes the great leap which is the first draft, I call it 'the muscle draft...'"

Arriaga, Guillermo: "I want to have dark parts of my characters' history so they can surprise me..."

August, John: "I don't write in sequence at all... I just write whatever scene appeals to me to write..."

Axelrod, George: "The first half of any script of mine has been rewritten forty—fifty times..."

Ball, Alan: "[In American Beauty] Lester's a man who in midlife has completely lost his passion..."

Bass, Ron: "Everything I write is in three acts, and I actually start with three pieces of paper..."

Beall, Will: “The process is that I force myself to sit down and write and hope it doesn’t turn out shitty...”

Beckwith, Nikole: "I think if you’re inviting people into a story, you should invite them into all parts..."

Benedek, Tom: "Every script we write is a piece of ourselves. We may say we are writing a script..."

Bennett, Charles: "The construction [of the story] is the most important goddamned thing..."

Bentivegna, Roberto: "I think it’s very dangerous when you get bogged down in rules, because that’s..."

Benton, Robert: "We made a set of decisions, the first of which was to not pass moral judgment..."

Bird, Brad: "To make something really great and different and interesting means taking risks and..."

Black, Shane: "I’ll write down... snippets for scenes and... dialog... and throw them all in a shoe box." 

Black, Shane: "I assumed there weren’t many rules and you just sort of did whatever you wanted to..."

Blanchard, Carter: "If you grab people that early in a script, they’re going to keep reading."

Boal, Mark: "So the structure came about in an attempt to be faithful to the reality of the situation..."

Boam, Jeffrey: "Plot tries to engage intellectually but that's not how an audience responds..."

Borrelli, Chris: "You should always be open to ideas and stories. I have an idea file. I look back over it..."

Brickman, Marshall: "The first script of Annie Hall was much more episodic, tangential, and novelistic..."

Brancato, John D.: "I’ve read screenplays, plenty of them, where the writer obviously hates what he’s..."

Brown, Rita Mae: "You sell a screenplay like you sell a car. If somebody drives it off a cliff, that's it..."

Broyles, William: "Writing really is a process of discovery.  The biggest enemy is being satisfied..." 

Burnett, Allison: "A lot of writers try to get approval and love way too early. Get the script right first."

Burnett, W.R.: "The trouble with most film writing is that too many writers have no feel for film..."

Cain, James M.: "Slack is one fault and slick is another. Both are bad faults in story.”

Carolin, Reid: "There’s a magic to being present when you’re actually writing a character..."

Chandler, Raymond: "The challenge of screenwriting is saying much in little and then take half of..."

Carpenter, John: "You need some thematic element that gets the audience going, reaches out to them.”

Chayefsky, Paddy: "I have no compassion when it comes to cutting. No pity, no sympathy..."

Chayefsky, Paddy: "My dialogue is precise. And it’s true. I think out the truth of what the people are..."

Chervin, Stan: "I think it’s always easier to revise a script, even a truly awful one, than face the tyranny..."

Cholodenko, Lisa: "So it's really important to know not to panic, it's all going to come together..."

Cody, Diablo: "Every week I learn some new word the kids are saying and I try to integrate it..."

Cody, Diablo: "I don’t have a formal rewrite process; I just compulsively groom and regroom scenes..."

Coen, Joel: "Every movie ever made is an attempt to remake 'The Wizard of Oz.'"

Cohen, Larry: "When I write, I'm watching the movie in my head, imagining it. I want to be in it..." 

Cohen, Spenser: "People always say, write what you know, and I think it’s write what you know..."

Coogan, Steve: "To write from personal experience, you also need the humility to be able to..."

Coppola, Francis Ford: "Always try to discover what the theme of the movie is in one or two words."

Cretton, Destin Daniel: "When I start writing, I just have to keep reminding myself to make every..."

Crowe, Cameron: "The most exciting thing is when you take the pages you've just written and heft..."

Curtis, Richard: "I like to really live with an idea. A film is not a flirtation, it’s a relationship."

Darabont, Frank: "How much do you love it? How much are you willing to give it? Only the person...”

Darabont, Frank: "Everybody wants to hear, ‘I can teach you a three-act structure, I can give you a...'"

DePalma, Brian: "The problem with writing a movie is you’ve got to have a great idea."

Densham, Pen: "I interpret this to mean that all stories come from fundamental issues of human..."

Derrickson, Scott: "Many filmmakers, especially young ones, are afraid being ‘pigeonholed’, but..."

DiPego, Gerald: "The first thing the executive said was, ‘We really like your script for what it can be.’"

DiLapo, James: "Emotional authenticity... is more important than historical authenticity. If you can get..."

Dobbs, Lem: "You have to inculcate movies, not ‘screenwriting.’ There are shapes and patterns..."

Duncan, Patrick: "Every time I write, I find myself going through a form of self-examination..." 

Dunham, Lena: "“It’s amazing to me that Hollywood persists in writing these two-dimensional female..."

Dunne, Philip: "Every scene should advance the story.  The other thing... let the characters tell the..."

Dunne, Philip: "If you get an idea in the middle of the night, it’s a good idea to write it down, or it’s..."

Durand, Allan: "The way I did it is every 5 to 10 pages, I wanted a big fist to come out of the..."

DuVernay Ava: "When I write a screenplay, I’m writing for myself. I’m the director and I need to create..."

Elliott, Ted: "If you look at a movie and say, ‘That’s crap, I can do better,’ then basically all you’re..."

Ellis, Trey: "I haven't always loved Hollywood, but I've always loved roller coasters. It wasn't till I..."

Epstein, Julius: "It's the words, it always gets back to the words..."

Eszterhas, Joe: "Write it from your heart. Life is short; shorter than you think..." 

Farrelly, Peter: "Our feeling is you need three-dimensional characters for our type of comedy to work..."

Feig, Paul: "I say [dialogue] out loud. If I can’t say it and make it sound convincing and not clunky..."

Fergus, Mark: "They’re [actors] giving you a truth test on your own material.”

Ferguson, Larry: "Take a yellow Marks-A-Lot and highlight every verb in this screenplay..."

Ferguson, Larry: "Get an audience to care before you throw ‘em into an action sequence.”

Foner, Naomi: "If you’re doing it to tell stories that need to be told, you can get yourself through..."

Foreman, Carl: "“When I first came out to Hollywood, it never occurred to me that the story had to be..."

Forte, Joe: "It’s important to build a broad life that feeds you, that nourishes you, gives you stability.”

Frank, Scott: "Then I tell my own story and filter it through my own point of view..."

Frank, Scott: “The best writing is subconscious where you don’t know that you’re doing it..."

Frazier, F. Scott: "I firmly believe that the currency of the screenwriter is a finished script. Not an..."

Friedman, Jeremiah: "It’s tricky because you have to walk that line between staying open to feedback..."

Ganz, Lowell: "We're always trying to have [what a character says be]... specific, honest, and emotional."

Garcia, Liz W.: "Outlining is really tough work, it’s the necessary work that I loathe. It’s necessary so ..."

Garland, Alex: "Stories are my primary concern because I think they are a... vehicle for themes..."

Gilroy, Tony: "Screenwriting is the biggest bunch of rules anywhere. It's gotta be 125 pages, gotta be..."

Goldman, William: "“Nobody sets out to fuck up your movie. It’s not like the director or the star wake..."

Goldman, William: "Rule of thumb: You always attack a movie scene as late as you possibly can..."

Goldman, William: "The first thing is, I read it and decide, 'Do I really care about this project?'"

Grahame-Smith, Seth: ""Writing a novel and writing a screenplay have nothing to do with each other..."

Grillo-Marxuach, Javier: "A great script... creates an irresistible narrative flow that propels the reader..."

Guggenheim, David: "I think screenwriting is the cleanest and quickest way to break into the industry."

Hart, James: "Find that material which speaks to you and has a certain truth..."

Hart, James: "So I listen to my kids. Even now, at ages eighteen and sixteen, our story meetings..." 

Hart, Julia: "I write a ton and then I’ll cut a bunch of it out. I’ll write like seven lines where there..."

Hayes, John Michael: "I want to put as much as I can into the first draft... to get all the emotion, color..."

Heisserer, eric: "You know you’re in the presence of a screenwriter in command of their craft when..."

Hensleigh, Jonathan: "Well made action pictures, the action sequences don’t exist in a vacuum..."  

Herskovitz, Marshall: "If I have a criticism of many screenwriters, it's that they are too wedded to..."

Hill, John: "Terrific scenes are the coin of the screenwriting realm. But what are some characteristics..."

Hill, Walter: "When I'm working alone, the old hard way. Longhand. Fountain pen. Legal pad..."

Hitchcock, Alfred: "To make a great film, you need three things – the script, the script and the script."

Hitchcock, Alfred: "First we write the screenplay, then we add the dialogue."

Houston, Velina Hasu: "The vigorous desire to make something happen... is mandatory for writers..." 

Hyams, Peter: "If you’re not prepared to be rejected, don’t try to write films.”

Ingelsby, Brad: "What does a character want and why do they want it? Those are what I look at when..."

Jackson, Peter: "I think [humor] helps make these people feel as real as you or I, rather than being...”

James, Elgin: "We have all this beautiful wreckage inside, then you try to get it out somehow..."

January, Michael: "Hollywood lives and dies on something that seems new, but is very much like..."

Jones, Amy Holden: "Roger Corman taught me a very valuable lesson..."

Kasdan, Larry: "Very often my films are about the conflict between our ideas and our desires..." 

Kaufman, Charlie: "I'm interested in trying to find a real moment between people..."

Kaufman, Charlie: "That’s something I always ask myself: ‘Is this a movie that I would go to see?’"

Kazan, Nicholas: "'No' is the single most important thing a writer can say..."

Kelley, William: "The secret to screenwriting is short sentences, small words, and BIG pictures."

Khouri, Callie: “It [Thelma & Louise] wasn’t meant to be a literal ending..."

Killen, Kyle: "We talk around things, at things, and about things, without ever overtly stating them..."

Kunka, Daniel: "No matter what the concept is, no matter what spectacle you put out there..."

LaBute, Neil: "When you look at the stories I’ve written, the situations are already ripe for trouble..."

Launer, Dale: "Take away the story, and you have no movie..."

Lagravenese, Richard: "I have to check whether I lean toward doing something as a temptation or as a..."

Lawton, J.F.: "You do have to fully commit to what you do and not be worried about the consequences..."

Lehane, Dennis: "Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite.  That first draft is just spaghetti on the wall..." 

Lehman, Ernest: "It's a juggling of beginnings, middles and endings so that they... seem to be moving..." 

Lemkin, Jonathan: "If you let your lifestyle expend your last check, you then say yes to a really bad..."

Lieber, Jeffrey: "If the end of the scene is obvious from the beginning of the scene, there’s no point..."

Lochhead, Seth: "That’s our job, to spark curiosity and emotion from an audience, to allow them to..."

Lubitsch, Ernst: "It is the task of the [screenwriter] to invent little pieces of business..."

Luhrmann, Baz: "Packing the house was the primary and foremost concern for him [Shakespeare].”

Lynch, David: "If you want to make a film, you get ideas for 70 scenes.  Put them on 3-by-5 cards..."

Lynch, David: “The world to me is a mixture of the two. Intuition is thought and feeling working..."

Macpherson, Jeanie: "Each scene must be a drama in itself. The whole picture must be made up of..."

Mamet, David: "Theoretically... what one wants to do is put the protagonist and the audience..."

Mamet, David: "[Screenwriting’s] all about working on it and working on it until it comes out even..."

Mamet, David: "Forget every rule Syd Field, Robert McKee or any other screenwriting guru ever taught..."

Mann, Michael: "I can arrange the sequence of all these encounters without regard to chronology..."

Marion, Francis: "It is true... that a character exists only in his emotions and sensations..."

Marks, Justin: "Sometimes you’re swinging your way through a first draft like a blind miner with a..."

Marshall, Garry: "There are three drafts of a screenplay in the development process..."

Martin, Steve: "Pure writing is the most rewarding... because it is constantly accompanied by a voice..."

Martin, Steve: "I want three comic scenes in the movie that are funny because they have been set up..."

Mazin, Craig: "I want comedies to be about something. I want movies to be about something. I want..."

McCoy, Chris: “Good dialogue comes from character development. The better you know your..."

McKee, Robert: "Screenwriting is the art of making the mental physical. We create visual correlatives..."

Meyer, Nicholas: "The only change I made was to eliminate the words 'cut to,' which always seemed..."

Meyers, Nancy: "My first draft was exactly 250 pages. I didn't have brads deep enough, long enough..."

Milius, John: "I used to tell a screenwriting class, ‘I could teach you all the basic techniques in fifteen..."

Nathanson, Jeff: "A big mistake people make is to over-research, and it seems to show in the movies."

Nolan, Christopher: "The thriller is the one genre where it’s absolutely demanded that character be..."

Norman, Marc: "The thing you have to remember is that you better put some passion on the page..."

Norman, Marc: "My best writing has been on the the scripts I wrote as suicide notes to the industry..."

O'Dwyer, Declan: "Cinematic language tells us there’s going to be showdown at high-noon..."

Otto, Shawn Lawrence: “I took a class in screenwriting because I wanted to strengthen my sense of..." 

Palmer, Nick: "Clever writing and smart dialogue are great, but they can’t make up for a weak, central..."

Payne, Alexander: "Humor comes from the most painful situations you can think of..."

Payne, Alexander: "I don't think you can have drama without comedy and vice versa..."

Phelan, Anna Hamilton: "Your first enemy... is yourself... that little critic that says, 'This is terrible'..."

Pierson, Frank: "One thing I’ve discovered about writing is to form a habit that becomes an addiction..."

Pizzo, Angelo: "A few ideas important to me. Before writing Fade In..."

Price, Richard: "There's such a difference between written dialogue and spoken dialogue..."

Price, Richard: "The one thing that never fails to surprise me is how even a little dialogue is always too..."

Price, Richard: "It’s all about what happens next, what happens next. It’s speed chess, not chess.”

Ramis, Harold: "For me, a screenplay starts with something I can tell other people in five minutes..."

Ray, Billy: "Putting a scene in a location that puts your characters under pressure is a good thing."

Ray, Billy: "When I know what it is I’m going to be writing next, I’ll go out and buy a soundtrack..."

Rhodes, Justin: "Writing is a journey through complexity to simplicity. What is the simple emotional..."

Rifkin, Adam: "It’s always good to write something that you know you can write really well especially..."

Rivera, Jose: "I did a film for Disney. It was a one-word idea they had: ‘shadows'"...

Robinson, Phil Alden: "One of the reasons that people resent writers is because where we are writing..."

Rodriguez, Robert: "The trick is not getting up to get coffee or other distractions. Hours will fly by."

Rosenberg, Scott: "My rule is always, if I finish a spec script, there's five people that I give it to..."

Ross, Gary: "So many kids work backward methodically, calculatingly... instead of from the inside out..."

Ross, Gary: "You have to be patient enough to let the movie talk to you and to listen to it."

Roth, Eric: "I think part of being a good screenwriter is being as concise as possible...." 

Russell, David O.: "“I have to write down all the things about an idea that excite me and I have to..."

Russo, Greg: "Never stop learning. If every day I’m learning something new as a writer..."

Rubin, Bruce Joel: "If you trust the moment as you write, it will always bring you what you need..."

Sargent, Alvin: "You must write everyday.  Free yourself.  Free association.  An hour alone a day..."

Sayles, John: "When I’m writing a script for myself, my rule of thumb is it’s my story, I focus on what..."

Schrader, Paul: "I endlessly chart and re-chart a movie.  Before I sit down to write, I have all the..."

Schrader, Paul: "Art and screenwriting are functional... they can help you see your life in perspective."

Schulman, Tom: "I want to know my whole story works before I start writing."

Seltzer, David: "If you go in with formula, you come out with formula. The whole thrill of being a..."

Shyamalan, M. Night: "The Sixth Sense started out as a serial killer movie. Malcolm started out as a..."

Shelton, Ron: "Movie stars like to shine. They like to have their movie-star moments..."

Sheridan, Jim: "Emotion, by definition, is invisible. So cinema is, by definition, dealing with the..."

Silliphant, Sterling: "The writing is the easiest part of it.  The trying period is the period of..."

Simmons, Will: "This fast-food style of storytelling is bad for movies. Catharsis comes in many forms..."

Simon, David: "Exposition sucks the life out of your story."

Simon, Neil: "At this point, I don't make outlines at all.  I make an outline only in my mind..."

Solomon, Ed: "The easiest thing to remember about writing comedy is if it generally makes you laugh..."

Sorkin, Aaron : "I'd write it to the end and go back and write it all over again, go back and write it..."

Spaihts, Jon: "“So much of screenwriting is information management. A script is made of interlocking...”

Stevens, Dana: ""The truth is, I couldn't solve my [writer's] block with location. Or silence or..."

Straughan, Peter: "I understand why they want to turn writing into a science, but I think it’s a mistake."

Stone, Oliver: "The first draft, the first structure is really important... Do it fast, don’t get stuck."

Strick, Wesley: "I have two tricks.  One is that I write every day, regardless of whether I want to or not..."

Swetnam, John: "The question to ask about a new story idea: Can you really see it opening at a theater..."

Tally, Ted: "‘The only thing that matters in a screenplay is the first ten pages, and the only thing that..."

Tarantino, Quentin: "I need to know where these [characters] come from. It's a universe I'm creating..." 

Tarantino, Quentin: "The final draft of the script is the first cut of the movie, and the final cut of the...”

Towne, Robert : "The single most important question... one must ask... about a character is..."

Towne, Robert: "In the case of Chinatown, I wrote at least 20 different... long, long step-outlines..."

Towne, Robert: "In rewriting what you have to be able to do is read a piece of material, say what's..."

Towne, Robert: "if you don’t set everything up in the beginning, you’ll pay for it in the middle or in..."

Turner, Guinevere: "I stay positive because most days, I don’t have to get up until I want to get up."

Uhls, Jim: "I write those scenes first, out of order. I call it 'the scent of blood.'"

Verbinski, Gore: "It’s very important to me that when you watch the movie, any character is a door..."

Wallace, Randall: "That's what stories do. They aren't philosophy... or sermons or propaganda..."

Wambaugh, Joseph: "Screenwriters are like little guppies swimming in an aquarium filled with sharks..."

Ward, David S.: "If you’re working on something you’re not really into, you’re not gonna do it very well..."

Waters, Daniel: "The first draft is the one thing they can't take away from you, so revel in it..."

Weber, Michael W.: "I used to hate on bad movies. Now I’m amazed that any movies ever get made."

Weitz, Chris: "That's the worst thing about most comedy writing that goes wrong: nobody has respect..."

Wells, Audrey: "'One day, you will sell your screenplay, and then your problems will begin...'"

Werwie, Michael: "When you’re first breaking a story and when you’re doing that first pass, it’s..."

Wilder, Billy: "If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act..."

Wisdom, Victoria: "Ideas are a dime a dozen, execution is everything..."