John and Craig discuss suspense and its function in all genres, from thrillers to romcoms. They examine suspense of the known and of the unknown and the techniques available to construct it. We also answer listeners questions about registering scripts with the WGA, how to overcome creative paralysis and unconventional sluglines. Links: The WGA’s page […]
John and Craig review four Three-Page Challenge entries with the help of Daniela Garcia-Brcek (Literary Manager at Circle of Confusion) and Cullen Conly (Literary Agent at ICM). We then invite the writers up to discuss the notes. It’s not just craft, though. Our special guests give us a behind-the-scenes look at the realities of representation. […]
John and Craig attempt to answer the question that many aspiring screenwriters dare not ask aloud: when — if ever — is the right time to give up on the dream of becoming a working screenwriter? Relatedly, is it okay to omit “aspiring” when describing oneself as a screenwriter? How do you ask friends for […]
John and Craig speculate about why the film industry fared better in the transition to digital while the music industry struggled. We also follow up on the WGA elections, hearing John’s priorities as a new board member. Lured back into the intrigue of MoviePass, we discuss new information on this business model. Then it’s another […]
It’s an all-craft episode as John and Craig discuss what they mean when they say good writing. Quality isn’t an objective measurement but rather a subjective experience. It’s the relationship between the reader and writer. From vulnerability to voice, consistency to surprise, good writing shares many characteristics with good acting. We then look at three […]
John and Craig take an in-depth look at two scenes in Damien Chazelle’s WHIPLASH to see how conflicts were structured — and what changed from script to shooting.
Highland’s forced action syntax is a useful way to format unusual patterns in your screenplay.
Craig and John open the mailbag to answer questions on acronyms in dialogue, off-the-air specs and international WGA jurisdiction. Plus we look at the growing trend of non-disclosure agreements on studio projects, and whether the nature of film requires less complex characters.
When dealing with cutaways and flashbacks, screenwriters have a few choices for how to portray it on the page.
Craig, John, and Aline record the 200th episode of Scriptnotes live with a worldwide audience listening in — and chiming in — as they discuss TV showrunning and whether quality really counts at the box office.
Craig and John discuss backup plans, camera directions, and becoming so good they can’t ignore you. Plus we answer two listener questions about specificity in scene headers and how to indicate that a script is intended for animation.
John and Craig discuss this year’s screenplay Oscar winners, including the success of Birdman’s outside-the-box approach and Graham Moore’s speech.
In some cases, you’ll absolutely want to use (cont’d) to indicate a character is still speaking. But it’s not always the right choice, which is why we don’t do it automatically in Highland.
A screenwriter friend just emailed me to ask how she could get one of her scripts to look good on the Kindle. You can’t. It’s the wrong tool for the job.
Today’s one awesome thing comes from the Internet Archive: Herbert Case Hoagland’s 1912 book How to Write a Photoplay: To write a photoplay requires no skill as a writer, but it does require a “constructionist.” It requires the ability to grasp an idea and graft (please use in the botanical sense) a series of causes […]
John and Craig talk with WGA President Chris Keyser about the tentative deal reached between writers and the studios, and why it’s more groundbreaking than it might appear at first glance.
Screenwriters often find themselves with PDF of a screenplay when they actually need a Final Draft (.fdx) file that they can edit. Here are three ways to convert from PDF to fdx, ranging from painful to sublime.
Has a statistician cracked the code on successful screenplay formulas? John and Craig cast a skeptical eye at a New York Times article on Vinny Bruzzese, who claims to have done exactly that.
Craig leads the discussion on how to survive a notes meeting. As screenwriters, our instinct is to defend, deny and debate — but these are almost always the wrong choice. By reframing the discussion about the movie rather than the script, you can often end up at a better place.
John and Craig talk about everything that comes after the oft-discussed First Three Pages, speculating on the kinds of issues they’d spot if they were looking at full scripts.
For work this afternoon, I needed to read a screenplay written in the early 1970s. I think it’s the earliest-dated script I’ve read that wasn’t reprinted in a book.
Musical numbers are a lot like action sequences: you’re trying to convey how it’s going to feel in the final movie, not beat out every little moment.
Only very rarely do you have to do a full dead stop to explain something to readers. I’ve probably done it twice in 40+ scripts.
If you’re staying in one location — or a series of similar locations — you don’t need individual sluglines.
To me, an outline tends to be less prose-y and feature more bullet points, but there is no common consensus in Hollywood about what’s what. We use “treatment” and “outline” interchangeably.