HOW TO WRITE A SCREENWRITING: PART 2: ACTION

HOW TO WRITE A SCREENWRITING – Is a new feature that will lead you through the process of  writing a screenplay in the tradition of the great gurus Robert McKee, Syd Field and Damon Lindelof.

Some people would say that we need to start with characters we care deeply about. Others might say what you really need is a great story. A third set of people won’t say anything but will just sit there, but I know what they’re thinking and they’re wrong too. If I had the opportunity to talk to all these so-called experts and naysayers, I would ask them a very simple question. Before the cameras roll on a movie, does the director traditionally shout:

‘Lights, cameras – STORY?’

or perhaps

‘Lights, cameras – CHARACTERS?’

No, he doesn’t. He shouts ACTION goddamn it! ACTION! And if you can’t write action you have no business being in the movies. Goddamn it, I can hear those voices again – what about August, Osage County, there was no action in that film? What about Brokeback Mountain and what about Die Hard? What? August, Osage County had a load of action, in the form of arguing. No flaming explosions? What about Meryl Streep blowing up? Did you miss that? And Brokeback Mountain? Two cowboys going anal? If that isn’t action, I don’t know what is. And Die Hard? Are you f*cking high? Die Hard? That’s the worst example you could have made as a counter argument. It’s like you’re playing right into my hands.

So the point is ‘action’ is supreme – even if I have to redefine ‘action’ to include things like ‘drama’ and ’emotional engagement’ and even ‘stuff happening’ in order to make my point. But don’t worry about that, all screenwriting manuals do that sooner or later.

So how do I write ‘action’? That’s pretty easy. Do you see that key down on your keyboard, next to the ‘a’? No not the ‘s’, the other direction. You see that one that says CAPS LOCK. Well, you’re going to need that. Especially for any action that is going to be LOUD. Then you need a bit of clarity. You have to be clear what you want to see on the screen. Many directors will throw your ideas out and use their own, but you’re not writing for the director yet. You’re writing first of all for the producers and the financiers and maybe an agent. If you’re writing for those guys – who are not directors – they are going to have to see the action and you have to make it clear and dramatic. Not simply They FIGHT. But blow by blow. And finally, action is all about change. Like a song in a musical an action sequence must move the story along. If you can delete the action scene and nothing changes, then it doesn’t matter. There are plenty of movies that have action scenes that really don’t matter. James Bond movies have a tendency to do this. But we’re better than that and a good action scene is something that shifts the story, changes characters, ramps up the danger, moves the action and gets everything going in a different direction or the same direction but faster.

For more on this EXCLUSIVE online Screenwriting course: How to Write a Screenwriting, CLICK HERE.

HOW TO WRITE A SCREENWRITING: PART 1. INTRODUCTION

HOW TO WRITE A SCREENWRITING – Is a new feature that will lead you through the process of  writing a screenplay in the tradition of the great gurus Robert McKee, Syd Field and Damon Lindelof.

Part 1. Story – camera – action.

A man walks into a room. That’s a story! A woman eats a peach that’s too big for her small mouth. That’s a story! A dog has worms and keeps rubbing its rear end on your new carpet. That’s not a story. You just need to take the dog to the vet and buy a new carpet. The point is we are surrounded by story. Story is everywhere. It is in the food you eat, on television, in the newspapers, in the conversation of your co-workers. Story is the warp and woof (there’s that dog again) of life, the rich tapestry from whence we all come, the undiscovered country to whence we all go.

But how do I write a story? Which story should I choose? What story do people want to hear? And what’s the difference between a story in a book and a story in a building?

All these questions will be answered in this 23 part on line course on How to Write a Screenwriting. Whether you want to be the next J.K Rowling and die under the weight of all the money, or you want to be the next Charlie Kaufman and die under the weight of everyone going ‘what?’, How to Write a Screenwriting is the ONLY online resource you need as a screenwriter who wants to write a screenwriting.

Of course writing is not easy. Look at the title to this whole course that I’m writing. Have you looked? Okay, the more perceptive among you will have noticed that there is something not quite right, something that the unkind might refer to as ‘wrong’.  Of course, I wanted to write ‘How to Write a Screenplay’ but I was also thinking of ‘A Guide to Screenwriting’ and so accidentally I wrote ‘How to write a Screenwriting’, erroneously combining to the two titles because I was hungry and I was thinking about dinner – I’m thinking lasagna specifically. So do I go back and change it? NO. Why not? Well, for one thing it’s more work. But the more important reason is that LIFE DEPENDS ON MISTAKES.

Think about it.

All multi-cellular life comes from errors in replication of DNA. If there weren’t any errors, if everything was perfect, then no evolution. No evolution then no complexity; no complexity, then no us. No us, no cinema. No cinema and we’re out of a Goddamned job, just because the asshole DNA worked too damned well. Perfection is the death of life and the death of story. Do you think Jonathan and Christopher Nolan wanted to write Memento? No, they just kept forgetting the story-line and had to keep going back. Do you think Larry McMurty wanted Brokeback Mountain to be a heart-breaking gay love story? No, the original novel has the two cowboys fighting but a slip of the pen and fellatio as all over the page! Do you think Quentin Tarantino meant to write The Hateful Eight? No, his original screenplay was supposed to be called The Careful Eight, but one accidental slip of the fingers and suddenly he has to write something violent to justify the wrong title.

You NEED to make mistakes. And I promise you if you follow this EXCLUSIVE online Screenwriting course, you will be making tons of them.