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Secrets of Film Writing Paperback – June 2, 2001

3.8 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Tom Lazarus has had five feature films made from his original screenplays, including the number-one movie Stigmata, and has written six movies of the week and over thirty hours of network drama. He is also an award-winning educational filmmaker. He has taught screenwriting for ten years as a UCLA Extension Instructor and continues to write screenplays while writing and directing independent features.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin; 1st edition (June 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312269080
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312269081
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,263,561 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I wasn't sure what to think of this book at first. It's a little unorthodox, a little unorganized, a little rambling. But I think there is a method to Lazurus' madness. He manages to bring his ideas across in easily digestable chunks. My one complaint is that the book reads a little more like a rough draft rather than a polished manuscript.
Of all the screenwriting books I own (that would be all the big ones and some of the not-so-big-ones) this most clearly brings out what it is really like to be a living, breathing screenwriter. Lazurus is one. He's not the pedantic Syd Field (who to my knowledge has never sold a script) or the methodical Michael Hauge, but what he offers in pragmatism makes up for any shortcomings in presentation.
-rdg3
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A Hollywood insider, Tom Lazarus has taken the time to organize his book into understandable parts. He begins with what could be the earliest expectations of the novice writer. Then as he develops the approaches to writing and the usual twists and turns that a writer would encounter in writing a script, he adds the personal comments, anecdotes, and metaphors that entertain as well as elucidate the writer's growth and development and challenges.
Like William Goldman's more autobiographical "Which Lie Did I Tell" Lazarus puts his heart, mind, and strengths right on the table. He writes like a good friend telling you almost everything you want and need to know. He has the guts to tell you what will and will not work. I applaud him for that. As a writer of a How To book, he took the time and risked the emotional upheaval of writing from the heart to give us the goods. He also revised this book enough times to make it easy and fun to read and understand. This book is what you need to know to write a good script. Period.
Thank you for a great book, Mr. Lazarus!
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Format: Paperback
Though it has a few decent points, this book feels like a vanity press publication that, in the main, is little more than the author ranting about how Hollywood doesn't appreciate his immense genius, even though that genius has produced nothing other than Stigmata (a film, I should add, whose deep, dark secret - the Gospel of Thomas - is so secret that it has been available as a paperback for many, many years). At one point he claims that most books about screenwriting are merely cynical attempts for failing screenwriters to make a fast buck. He adds that this book is not one of them. He is wrong, it is.
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Format: Paperback
All readers will be pleased with Tom Lazarus' SECRETS OF FILM WRITING, since it affords all budding screenwriters a welcome alternative to the much maligned three-act structure paradigm. Lazarus, author of five produced feature films, including STIGMATA, allows us to enter his screenwriting mind vicariously: the reader follows Lazarus' thought processes as he teaches screenwriting principles and reinforces them via examples from scripts he has written and/or directed. Best of all, no lesson is omitted. We learn about the traditional three-act structure, and then Tom Lazarus takes us through a screenwriting program unparalleled in screenwriting pedagogy: not only do we learn by reading from a plethora of examples from Lazarus sold/produced scripts, but we also learn key insights from reading some of Lazarus revisions: e.g. five different drafts of one piece of writing. I bought SECRETS OF FILM WRITING today and couldn't put it down until it was finished. I'm sure I'll read it a dozen times. Buy Lazarus' book immediately, read it several times, and add it to your permanent screenwriting reference library: books by Jennifer Lerch, Denny Martin Flinn, David Trottier, Irwin R. Blacker, Paul Argentini, Richard Walter, William Froug, William Goldman, Cristopher Vogler, Michael Hauge, and many other wonderful screenwriting instruction books. Yet despite this long and distinguised list of screenwriting authors, this much is for sure: Lazarus SECRETS OF FILM WRITING is a unique source book in form and content. What an exciting addition to screenwriting pedagogy...a wondrous new paradigm in screenwriting instruction!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've read this book twice, six years apart, and it wasn't until I had completed 4 screenplays that I appreciated the beauty of this book. I have accumulated over 40 books on screenwriting since the bug bit me back in the mid-1990's. This is the best book I have found to assist with re-writing.

Tom Lazarus shows how to clarify and increase readability and drama of a scene. The writer is very opinionated and has lots of experience in the field. Including many years writing for TV and the hit movie Stigmata (1999). This book is a short, easy read but densely packed with 30 plus years of his experience. Lots of anecdotes from his good old days, but he doesn't try to wow you with his credits, he talks plenty about his problems (yes, even after a major motion picture release an experienced writer has trouble getting scripts read) and how the Hollywood scene is changing for writers. Tom also mentions how a lucky break helped get him started. He also covers pitching and has some advice on why a log line is so important even before you start writing.

This book will be a waste of time if you haven't completed at least one full length screenplay. Way to prickly for a primer, but for those who have been struggling and want to continue perfecting their craft, this book is like studying with a master.
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