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Screenwriting is the art and craft of writing for film, television or video games.


  • I often attribute my screenwriting to journalism because they drill in the who, what, when, where and why – but we really need to land on that why. That’s what I’ve been exploring in my writing for many years and trying to get better at.
  • [Screenwriting] is no more complicated than old French torture chambers, I think. It's about as simple as that.
  • I moved into directing for a couple of reasons. ... Most directors, I discovered, need to be convinced that the screenplay they’re going to direct has something to do with them. And this is a tricky thing if you write screenplays where women have parts that are equal to or greater than the male part. And I thought, 'Why am I out there looking for directors?'—because you look at a list of directors, it’s all boys. It certainly was when I started as a screenwriter. So I thought, 'I’m just gonna become a director and that’ll make it easier.'
  • Mostly, you write a script and someone’s gonna rewrite you. They get hundreds of—not hundred but they get ten writers to write something. If you have a big budget, you can go and get a lot of people to write on script .... I just actually heard that somebody said, 'Well, your screenplay got bought and now someone like Carrie Fisher will come in and rewrite you.' And I feel terrible, you know, because that’s not what I mean to do. My idea was never to raid something and trash it, you know. ‘Cause that – that’s more work for me!
  • It seems to me it's the hardest thing 'cause you're starting from nothing and creating something. Everybody else is interpreting what you've written. Everybody else is an interpretive artist. Even the best of them. Stanley Kubrick was an interpretive artist. The best actors in the world are interpreting what's on the page, and they use it as a springboard to something else, but if it's not there, there's nothing to spring from. So the writer is the only person who's taking absolutely nothing, and 120 pages of it, and dirtying it up in such a way that it's gonna gross hundreds of millions of dollars and make a lot of people happy.
  • A rule says "You must do it this way". A principle says, "This works... and has through all remembered time." The difference is crucial. Your work needn't be modeled after the well-made play; rather it must be well made within the principles that shape our art. Anxious, inexperienced writers obey rules. Rebellious, unschooled writers break rules. Artists master the form.
    • Robert McKee, Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting (2010)
  • The people who make movies are actually desperate for good material. They’re desperate. And honestly if you write a brilliant script they really wouldn’t care if you were a 95-year-old grandmother from Duluth. They really want something that’s brilliant on the page. And it’s actually one of the main reasons that I chose it, is that it’s very subject to elbow grease, subject to hard work.
  • Well, Jack Warner may have been celebrated for calling writers "Schmucks with Underwoods," but 20 years earlier Irving Thalberg … said, "The most important person in the motion picture process is the writer, and we must do everything in our power to prevent them from ever realizing it."
  • why screenwriting pays so well. They don't pay me to write. I'd write for free. They pay me NOT to punch people in the neck.
  • Interviewer: The book also assembles several scraps of paper, on which you wrote bits of dialogue or character development on the fly. Is that how you operate, scribbling something down whenever an idea pops into your head?
Mathew Weiner: Yeah. I used this in the show, but at a certain point, especially when you're starting out, you don't realize that a lot of these stray thoughts you have are actually valuable. And after working with David Chase [on The Sopranos] and seeing these key bits of life, or dialogue, or anything, you think, if it's important, you'll remember it. But you don't, really. I said in the show, and it was actually quoted by some other writers on the Sopranos, that Chinese proverb: "The faintest ink is better than the best memory." I'm like, "I'm an experienced enough writer to know that some of these stray thoughts are valuable, and I'm too old to think that I'm going to remember anything." The more you get in the habit of writing things down, the more you're like, "Wait, that was important to me." So, I learned to take my passing thoughts seriously. That said, anybody reading this should know that 90 percent of them were useless.

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