Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Billy Wilder's Tips for Screenwriters
This was originally in the Cameron Crowe (Almost Famous, Jerry Maguire) book Conversations With Wilder - a fantastic read if you're interested.
Keeping in mind that all rules are meant to be broken - until you ARE Billy Wilder (my favorite writer/director of all time), may be best to start with the basics.
1. GRAB 'EM BY THE THROAT AND NEVER LET GO.
This is page one of Wilder's "Some Like It Hot" - the AFI's number one comedy of all time.
"A hearse of Late Twenties vintage is proceeding at a dignified pace along a half-deserted wintry street.
Inside the hearse, there are four somber men in black - and a coffin, of course, with a wreath of chrysanthemums on top.
One of the men is driving, another is in the seat beside him. The other two are sitting in the rear of the hearse, flanking the coffin. All four seem fully aware of the solemnity of the occasion.
Now they hear a SIREN, faint at first, but rapidly growing louder. The driver and the man next to him exchange a nervous glance. The other two men move tensely toward the rear door of the hearse, raise the black curtain over the glass panel, and peek out cautiously.
Through the glass panel they see a police car bearing down on them, the red light blinking, the SIREN screaming.
The two men at the rear window gesture to the driver to step on it. He does.
The hearse, obviously a souped-up job, instantly picks up speed, weaves crazily through traffic, the police car in hot pursuit. The hearse careens around a corner at eighty miles an hour, the police car right on its tail.
By this time the policemen are leaning out of their car with drawn guns, firing at the hearse."
2. DEVELOP A CLEAN LINE OF ACTION FOR YOUR LEADING CHARACTER
What they want the whole way through.
3. KNOW WHERE YOU'RE GOING
4. THE MORE SUBTLE AND ELEGANT YOU ARE AT HIDING PLOT POINTS, THE BETTER YOU ARE AS A WRITER.
5. IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH YOUR THIRD ACT, THE REAL PROBLEM IS IN YOUR FIRST ACT
6. LET THE AUDIENCE ADD UP TWO PLUS TWO; THEY'LL LOVE YOU FOREVER
7. IN WRITING VOICE-OVERS BE CAREFUL NOT TO DESCRIBE WHAT THE AUDIENCE ALREADY SEES. ADD TO WHAT THEY'RE SEEING
8. THE EVENT THAT OCCURS AT THE END OF THE 2ND ACT CURTAIN TRIGGERS THE END OF THE MOVIE
9. THE THIRD ACT MUST BUILD, BUILD, BUILD IN TEMPO AND TENSION AND THEN THAT'S IT. DON'T HANG AROUND
10. THE AUDIENCE IS FICKLE
There it is from the best whoever did it. On the AFI's list of 101 best screenplays ever he has 4 before you even get to 30 - in multiple genre's.
If you want a copy of Some Like It Hot, feel free to email me and I'll shoot it over to you.
Posted by Short. at 10:23 AM