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Top 7 Myths About Screenwriting

By Author: Jack Simmons
Total Articles: 38

1. You have to be famous and/or rich in order to know how to write a good screenplay. This basically proves that you know what you're doing.
This one is probably the worst! Three of the most well paid teachers of scriptwriting have never written a successful script. McKee, Vogler and Seger. (Although McKee wrote some Columbo scripts in the 70s, he never wrote a successful film script.)
Does this mean they don't know what makes a good script? No. Not only have these three taught at some of the best film schools and companies (AFI, SCU, and Disney) but several award winning screenwriters credit them for helping teach them how to write better stories.
Writers become famous and stay famous for several political reasons that have little to nothing to do with knowing how to tell a story. Fame does not equal storytelling competence. If you want the fame, read Micheal J. Wolf's The Entertainment Economy.
2. Write what you know.
This is a close second. It's called fiction because you're making it up. Not because it's something you know. Aaron Sorkin said he doesn't know about any of the stuff he writes about. He wrote about Facebook and didn't have an account. This is a trend found in most of his work.
3. I need a unique idea.
90% of scripts are based on existing ideas that are doing well in some other form of entertainment. You don't need new ideas. Just combine two already existing ideas into one logline.
Jaws in Outerspace = Aliens.
Heat meets The Departed = The Town
4. My characters and dialogue need to be real and natural.
Real is boring! That's why people look to entertainment to entertain.
Scenes end while they are interesting... life keeps going even if you get bored.
People answer questions straightforwardly in reality. In films people answer questions in riddles, more questions and actions. People also interrupt and yell a lot.
In the real world you would avoid people like that because they are rude and annoying.
Characters are not people - they are characters. More specifically, they are types.
Heroes, Villains, Sidekicks, Mentors, Love interests etc.
The audience can identify with these types because everyone has a piece of each type within them. People are way more complicated than characters on the screen.
5. I can't write. I'm not a writer.
Read Art and Fear. Also read Walter R. Fisher's Human Communication as Narration.
According to Fisher the above statement is a conclusion that said person came to after several events that could fit into a narrative (i.e. a story)
All said person would have to do is explain how they came to that conclusion and they would see that they are indeed telling a story.
Take your thoughts about not being able to write and write that down. Wala! You're a writer. Set up an intro (I need to finish this paper, song, script etc) Write the outro (I finish the piece or I don't because of a sacrifice, restoration or shocking twist)
Then tie those two ends together with a love triangle, ticking time bomb, deep secret you're afraid to get out, and a race against your enemy for a prize and you have your story.
6. It's virtually impossible to sell my script.
If you move to LA and become part of the Hollywood community, after 10 years you'll be surprised at how many opportunities will come your way. It won't happen over night though.
7. Film school is a waste... Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach and go to film school
The man who initially said this went on to teach and lecture. He also funded a school. He also said that education is the sole salvation of a society. Years later, he finally "did." He made an academy award winning screenplay that was about a teacher teaching. It was called Pygmalion and his name was George Bernard Shaw.

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