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Crafty Screenwriting: Writing Movies That Get Made Paperback – October 8, 2002
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“Alex Epstein brings a screenwriting pro's honesty, skill, and expertise to a field otherwise crowded with how-to-write quacks.” ―John Badham, director of Saturday Night Fever
About the Author
Alex Epstein has worked as a development executive, screenwriter, and television story editor for more than a decade. He has helped develop projects with directors such as Richard Attenborough and John Badham. A graduate of Yale University and the UCLA School of Film and Television, he is the creator of the popular website www.craftyscreenwriting.com.
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On top of that, if all screenplays would have multiple interested parties, all screenplays would sell for $5 million. This just isn't going to happen.
On top of that, he introduces stupid rules like for instance what names you should and shouldn't give to your characters, that some people seem to have broken in highly successful films already (No Country for Old Men, Coen Brothers), maybe even just to prove him wrong.
The only reason you want to buy this book, is because the chapter on how to write dialogue is relatively exceptional, relatively speaking to any other book I've read. Although other books (The Art of Dramatic Writing, Lajos Egri) contain the general rules and are spot on, this book explores the result of these rules in a bit more detail.
Buy it for the chapter on dialogue. Ignore the relatively condescending description of what success means.
1. Screenwriting 434. (A simple, non-threatening intro.)
2. Linda Seger's book on character--more important than plot. I want to emphasize that in my course.
3. Story. The best book on creating story. Good screenwriting really does require structure. It's almost never good to write it free-form. This book teaches structure wonderfully.
4. This book, Crafty Screenwriting. It contains all sorts of clever tips and tricks on creating and then selling your book, which alas, may be more difficult than writing a great script.
Specifically, Epstein covers these topics:
1. Coming up with a "Hook," an exciting idea that can grab the attention of both show business people and audiences.
2. Working out your Plot.
3. Developing your Characters.
4. Writing Action into your scenes.
5. Crafting appropriate screenplay Dialogue.
6. Understanding different movie Genres.
7. Getting writing Help as you learn to improve your scripts.
8. Rewriting and rewriting until you get a great script.
9. Getting your script made into a movie by working with agents, development execs, producers, and the general business of Hollywood.
I read a criticism on one of the previous reviews that pretty much disparages Epstein for only having one writing credit in movies. I don't know what that person's copy of Crafty Screenwriting says, but the cover of my copy reads, "A development executive's real-world approach..." In other words, Epstein never claims you should listen to him because he's a super-accomplished writer with many credits. But he is a development executive. And it's very important to know how development executives think and what they want to see in screenplays. So I think his opinion is valuable.
When I first decided to pursue screenwriting, I thought I had the right idea of how I should proceed and how show business worked. Turns out I was wrong on both counts! If you're just starting out, and you want to know the basics of the business of movie development and the foundations of screenwriting theory, I absolutely recommend this book. But get some highlighters! There's a lot to learn!
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