Top Five Screenwriting Resources

For the past 7 or 8 years I’ve been soaking up as much information on screenwriting as possible.  I’ve probably read dozens of books on writing, listened to hundreds of interviews, read thousands of articles.  This was my film-school.

These days I’m having less and less time for research, as I spend that time ACTUALLY WRITING, but I think it’s an important process for those starting out.

What follows is a list of my favorite resources, and the ones that I still revisit on a regular basis:

Writing Movies for Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at the Box Office and You Can, Too!

If you only track down one resources from this list, make it this one.  Written by the State alum Robert Ben Garant & Thomas Lennon, it’s one of the only screenwriting books you’ll find written by ACTUAL SCREENWRITERS.  It’s also incredibly funny.

The book is split into two parts.  Part One: Selling Your Movie takes you through the process of what it’s like to work as a writer in Hollywood – How to Pitch Your Movie, Our Lunch With Jackie Chan, and Why Does Almost Every Studio Movie SUCK Donkey Balls?  It’s pretty eye-opening to learn what the job of a screenwriter actually entails.

The second part, Part Two: Writing A Screenplay, tells you how to… write a screenplay.  Structure, characters, drinking too much, and it’s all fantastic advice from guys who do this stuff for a living.  All you need to write a movie is right here.

Don’t let the cover fool you.  It’s a very smart book.  And in a sea of boring screenwriting books, this is the one that stands out.

The Coffee Break Screenwriter: Writing Your Script Ten Minutes at a Time

Written by Pilar Alessandra, a speaker and script consultant, the book is cutely divided in to ten-minute chunks and filled with ten-minute exercises.  It walks you through the writing of a screenplay from beginning to end.  Extremely detailed, great content on structure and with a much-needed emphasis on rewriting.  And yeah, it literally tells you how to write a movie on your coffee breaks.  So no more complaining that you don’t have time.

This is the only book I still reference while I’m writing.  It helps me focus on specific areas of need when I get lost.  Like having my own little script consultant.

52 essays on the craft and business of screenwriting.  This site has been around for a while and isn’t much to look at, but these essays are just wonderful.  Written by Pirates of the Caribbean writers, Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, you can tell that the articles were born out of real-life screenplay problem solving.  This is the only screenwriting website I recommend checking out.  Not because other’s aren’t any good, but because this puts them all to shame.

The Q&A / Creative Screenwriting Magazine Podcast

An amazing wealth of screenwriting knowledge, The Q&A is usually about an hour long and features interviews with screenwriters of new (and sometimes old) films.  Hosted by Jeff Goldsmith, who after a few listens, you’ll just be dying to make fun of, but he’s one of the best interviewers out there.  He consistently asks great questions and gets the information you wanna know.

You can find older interviews in the Creative Screenwriting Magazine Podcast.  Same guy, same format, just a different name.  You’ll probably find your favorite screenwriter in there somewhere.

Screenwriting Tips You Hack

Xander Bennett gives you short, daily screenwriting tips.  This is also a book.  And a website.  But since all these tips are pretty short, Twitter is the perfect spot for them.  Go back and read all of them – there’s over a 1000.

Honorable Mentions:

Website: ScriptShadow – Carson Reeves reviews unproduced screenplays.

Podcast: ScriptNotes – John August & Craig Mazin discuss the business of screenwriting.

Book: Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies – Blake Snyder walks you through hundreds of examples of structure used in popular movies.

Do you have any favorites that I missed?  Leave a comment and let me know!


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