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Notes to Screenwriters: Advancing Your Story, Screenplay, and Career With Whatever Hollywood Throws at You Paperback – January 1, 2015
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About the Author
Barbara Nicolosi is the Founder and Chair Emeritus of Act One, Inc. a non-profit mentoring program for screenwriters and producers in Hollywood. She is a member of the Writers Guild of America-West and has written screenplays for several Hollywood production companies. She has been a development executive, story consultant and script doctor for hundreds of projects as well as a grants panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, and a reader for the prestigious Humanitas Prize for screenwriting. Barbara has been an adjunct professor of screenwriting at Pepperdine University and Azusa Pacific University.
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Anybody can write a script. Few can tell a decent story. Even less can do it to industry standards.
The reason Starbucks is filled with wannabe screenwriters is that even though they may have a new Mac and the latest version of Final Draft, they have no idea of how to tell a story, (or at least not a good one, anyway). The best thing about NOTES TO SCREENWRITERS is it puts the focus on the story where it should be, not on the actual process of writing a script, even though it does a good job of covering that as well.
NOTES is broken down into three sections. There are suggested writing exercises and prompts. You don't have to do them, but you'd be stupid not to - the point of the book is to improve your writing, isn't it?
Section One covers the basics of story, characters, dialogue, themes, tone and genre. The single greatest flaw of any story is when the reader can't get past knowing it's all just words on a page. NOTES explains how to make your story, setting and characters real, or actually, "more than real." Even if you have a few scripts in the works and know your way around a keyboard, it wouldn't hurt to give this part a good once-over or two.
Section Two shows how to format your script correctly. No matter how good your story, it's on a one-way trip to oblivion if it does not conform to industry standards. Typos, wordiness, and bad grammar only guarantee it'll get to the dumpster faster. This section is relatively shorter than the other two, but it has info that'll make or break your script.
Section Three is all about putting it all together into a nice package. The person looking at your script only has to glance at the first few pages to see if you've got your act together. If it's going to get past the first line of defense, it'll have to look and read like a winner, or at least something that deserves a second look. This section also gives you a good idea of what you'll be getting into if you decide to call yourself a screenwriter. It's not a pretty picture, but it is an accurate one.
The end of the book has four appendices; a list of one hundred of the most influential movies, a correctly formatted title page, first page, and interior page. Screenwriting has come a long way from some guy sitting in front of a beat-up Remington and banging away on the keys, but the results are still the same - you have to get it all down and spill some ink on the paper sooner or later.
Bottom Line. NOTES is the only book out there that not only tells you what you need to know, but also what you might not want to hear. If you don't have what it takes to make it in the industry, you'll need to find out before you go wasting days, months or years on a dream that will stay one. If you've got the gift, the talent, the skill AND the persistence to sit down and do the work, NOTES will tell you how it's done.
On a personal note, I wish NOTES were available as an audiobook (my eyes get tired sometimes), but I can see where it needs to be in print in order to give good visuals on formatting. Also, a plus is that the authors are easily accessible on social media. NOTES covers everything you need to know, but it's nice to know someone is out there ready to answer questions if you have any.
The book is useful for any sort of writer, not just for writers of screenplays. There's a lot of information about how to tell a story that any writer can benefit from. Plus, it's great for movie lovers and story lovers of all sorts, because it helps the reader see how a good story is told and what makes it good. I found it very helpful as a writer and very interesting as a movie viewer.
The conceit is that screenwriters get their screenplays back with "notes" but the notes don't always convey much. How do you interpret "I didn't relate to the characters," for instance? The authors have organized the chapters into addressing categories of such notes, and use that as their hook to explain how to tell a story, how to make a character interesting, what makes a story a story versus a list of things that happen, and so on. Chapters specific to screenwriting (the one and only format and typeface that are acceptable, and so on) are kept that way, so the reader can consult them for a job, check them out if curious, or skip them entirely.
The premise of the book is also nicely explained with real world examples: Helping screenwriters understand the meaning of the “notes” they receive, as well as helping producers understand why writers sometimes react oddly to their “notes.”
Rich with great storytelling examples and exercises at the end of chapters, I highly recommend "Notes to Screenwriters" for anyone who earns a living telling compelling stories: Filmmakers, public speakers, directors, writers of anything, and corporate managers. This book is a unique, “peek behind the curtain” written by people who understand storytelling.