Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Writing Movies, Gotham Writers' Workshop


It's taken me a little while to finish this one, purely because someone whom I won't name (someone else who reviews on this site) decided to pilfer it off me to read and I had to sneak it out of his bag, in order to finish it.

The thing about Writing Movies is: if you are a movie-fan, of any genre, or if you are interested in movies in any way, shape or form, or if you would one day like to be a successful screenwriter, then this is the book for you. It really helps you analyse movies that you've enjoyed and helps you concentrate on so many more things going on at the same time on the screen, that you as a layman might not notice the first time around. Another thing about Writing Movies: if you are a writer, across any genre, of novels or short stories, this is also the book for you.


I can see you thinking: yah, yah, Liz has eventually lost the plot. But I promise you, I haven't. I have probably learned more from Writing Movies about tightening up scenes and character exposition, than I have from some of the other How To writing books out there. It also shines this spotlight on your own work which leads you to examine your own writing in a very critical way and you realise there is a lot you can pare off and trim, something Mr. Stephen King is very clinical about in his "On Writing".


It makes you think, when looking at the screenplays they hold up as examples, or when you examine your own favourite flicks, that no matter how long the movie is, that the stories are told in scenes that are strong and vivid along with tight dialogue -not an ounce of fat to be had, no matter how languorous the shots are over the landscape - cue John Woo's Brokeback Mountain.


And carrying that with me and looking at books I've recently read, Two Pearls of Wisdom, The Painted Man and especially Young Samurai, the stories have been pared down to be lean and interesting, with strong characters and no unnecessary dialogue, whilst retaining their vividness at the same time. It is a skill, there's no kidding about that. And you don't necessarily have the luxury to rely on your editor or agent to do this for you. Especially if you are a newbie, just starting off in the business.


Writing Movies is a genuinely good read and very affordable, more so than some other books out there on writing screenplays and writing novels, and it is worth every penny. It focuses on plot structure and character development, it crucially points out how to show not tell and it provides an interesting insight into the topics of description, voice, tone and theme. It walks you through the different stages of your script and crucially, that dreaded Revision period. The cheat sheets at the back are really handy and will be of use to novelists and screenwriters when it comes to checking up on your various necessary points such as subplots, characters, premise, plot, dialogue and scene, etc.


I would really recommend the book to aspiring novelists and screenwriters, including people who like to know the "how is it done" behind it all. It is a comprehensively easy to read and dip into-book and ranks up there with his majesty Syd Field's body of work, but probably a bit better, purely because it has such cross-over appeal!


Writing Movies gives you access to the screenplays and templates for the exercises online and it also supplies strategies to break into the business. What, you think Diablo Cody got lucky? ;-)

The Gotham Writers workshop can be found online here. Writing Movies has been published by A&C Black here in the UK and can be bought directly from their website or from any online retailer or any good bookshop.

1 comment:

PopinFresh said...

I have a friend who would love this novel. Good review!

Also, I've given you an "I love your blog" award.

~ Popin