- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions (January 1, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1615932135
- ISBN-13: 978-1615932139
- Product Dimensions: 4.8 x 0.5 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 42 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,074,574 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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.
In the book “Notes to Screenwriters,” authors Peterson and Nicolosi do a masterful job of explaining how Hollywood might not actually think your script is great. And then how Hollywood approaches telling you your script isn’t great – but how it can be made better.
Broken down into many categories (character, dialogue, theme, plotting, acts, structure, etc.) – Peterson and Nicolosi go over the types of notes one might get pertaining to those categories or subjects. These notes give the writer of the screenplay some insight into what the issues might be and how the screenwriter can make them better...but that’s the trick: making your screenplay better. And not only your screenplay – but your synopses, or your treatment and relationships with those who might help you further your career.
Years ago someone described handing off their script as watching your baby’s skull bashed in with a claw hammer. Peterson and Nicolosi’s book basically softens those blows – as much as they might hurt you when your great screenplay gets handed back to you with notes that don’t make sense to you, or you quickly dismiss them as “stupid” or “didn’t get it.” Maybe the notes aren’t stupid and maybe they did get it and maybe your script needs work.
The only notes that I would give Peterson and Nicolosi in regards to this book – is that I would encourage them to remind the screenwriter out there that Hollywood is, first and foremost, a business. Sometimes (most of the time) a brutal one. When a writer realizes this (and pushes Goldwyn’s quote to the far recesses of their mind), they can approach Hollywood the same way one approaches the mechanic who says that they need to possibly get their gaskets checked. You can do it or not, but you might run into trouble down the road.
The other note that I would give them is to make sure that whoever is reading this book has already vetted their screenplay through others (there’s a small paragraph about feedback from your peers). Whether those others be teachers, writers, friends, family (probably not your family). But to also make sure, clearly, that those who read your screenplay before you give it to Clint Eastwood’s gardener’s brother – that you are able to have a dialogue with them. The biggest issue with many people who give you notes is that there seems to be “closure” with them (certainly depending on the note you get). Hopefully anyone who gives you a note will be willing to discuss with you whatever issues they’re having. Ultimately the focus should be on making the script better and in turn, you a better screenwriter.
Bottom line: As a screenwriter you will, at some point, need to give your “baby” to someone to read. Most likely, those people will give you notes. Getting notes on your screenplay may be a necessary evil...but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn and grow and change as a writer. “Notes to Screenwriters” is a great buffer to help soften those potential blows to your ego and your skills as a writer. The book goes beyond the basics of just notes and gives everyone, both beginners and veterans, something to help them in the writing process.