In recent years screenwriting blogs have begun taking the place of once seminal books on the subject. Information may travel faster online but by no means is the learning curve any shorter– there still aren’t any real short cuts. These past few days have seen a debate over screenwriting blogs and that got me thinking about my favorite sites. I have bookmarked a lot of screenwriting sites, but there are really only a few that I visit every day.
John August is the screenwriter behind Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Big Fish as well as Charlie’s Angels and Go. Mr. August is always at the top of my go-to list when looking for a professional’s take on screenwriting. Quite often I’ll find the answer to a question buried somewhere in his site’s archives. These days there seems to be a lot more posts about John’s life and projects (which are still interesting) and his take on things like last year’s writer’s strike. However, when John has the time to answer questions or offer fresh advice, it’s always presented in a helpful and authoritative way. This is a guy who thinks before he writes. A lot of writers offer opinions on what makes a good script, but John’s site provides more information than you’d get from the movie trailer version. His answers are what I call “the university answer.” You have to go home, think about what has been said, work through it on your own, and finally, if you work at it, you might be able to ace the test. This is the site for serious writers.
Go Into The Story
Go Into The Story is written by Scott Myers, an established writer who currently works as an Executive Producer and teaches screenwriting on the side. His site provides a lot more than a single daily dose of screenwriting advice. It’s more like several booster shots to make it through the day. Most other sites I can check once a day and then get on with my own work. Scott’s prolific posting schedule has me checking back several times a day. The topics range from the business side of script sales to examples of great dialogue and scene construction. Scott tackles any question his readers can throw at him.
This is a particularly good blog for both hobbyists and aspiring professionals. Nobody wants to be an amateur writer, but this is where most writers with the time to read blogs every day will find themselves. As well as offering countless tips and examples, Scott provides a lot of encouragement for writers. Rather than telling you to read lots of scripts and then leaving it up to you to find them, he goes out and finds them for you. His site has a real inclusive feeling to it. The honesty, enthusiasm and passion for sharing reminds me of my work at Guitar Noise. Not surprisingly, Scott’s site has attracted a loyal community of followers.
Reading a lot of scripts is an important habit for all would-be writers to learn, but most of us don’t have time to read a different script every single day. Thanks to Carson Reeves and ScriptShadow it’s no longer necessary. His site reviews unproduced scripts five days a week. Though still unproduced, many of these scripts are already quite notable; some of them have won contests, sold for large sums of money or landed on the Black List (Hollywood’s list of the best unmade scripts). The format of the reviews is appealing and consistent with a valuable “What I learned” section at the end of each review. The comments section is also very active.
The road to screenwriting hell may be paved with good intentions and the site’s growing popularity is something of a problem. ScriptShadow is an excellent aide to aspiring and amateur writers; but it sometimes irks producers and executives and potentially harms working writers. Perhaps these issues will be addressed as Carson seems like a decent guy. He obviously loves scripts like a librarian loves books.
For my own personal use, I generally read most of the reviews but rarely download the scripts themselves. If a script sounds especially good I might give it a read. There’s only so much time for reading scripts and when I’m supposed to be writing and finding my own voice.
Just F*ing Entertain Me.
Julie Gray is the voice and personality behind Just F*ing Entertain Me. Apparently this will be the title of her upcoming screenwriting book which culls lessons from her previous screenwriting blog The Rouge Wave. Many of the posts from the old blog are reprinted on the new one and updates occur on a near-daily basis. Julie earned her stripes as a script reader, one of the film industry’s gate keepers. Readers know more than anyone else that a lot of the scripts making the rounds repeat the same mistakes. With a positive outlook, Just F*ing Entertain Me encourages writers to continually strive for their best while avoiding the common pitfalls most writers face. Julie offers insights on writing great characters, moving a story forward, and basically just surviving the emotional ups and downs of being a writer no one has heard of.
Julie’s unique voice is a lot like a fourth grade teacher that really wants her class write better and enjoy doing it at the same time. Writing is a lot of hard work. Having a little more confidence and inspiration helps a lot. I’m looking forward to seeing Just F*ing Entertain Me on the bookshelves soon.
Screenwriting Tips… You Hack
Screenwriting Tips… You Hack offers a different tip every day. They are usually short and presented tongue in cheek. I try to absorb as many of these gems into my writer psyche as possible. This site is run by a current Hollywood script reader. Nothing could be more insightful or helpful than reading about what bugs turns these gate keepers off a script completely. Since this is the person who may be manually moving your script into the garbage bin it’s only natural to try and give them what they want. A couple hundred more tips and this site could be made into a book too.
There are a lot of other sites that I haven’t mentioned here. Many of them are also worth perusing. These are only the ones I dig into regularly. The rest of the time I’m supposed to be writing.