Screenwriting on typewriters...

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  • Screenwriting on typewriters...

    I was watching TRUMBO last night and it made me think how hard it was for those writers in that era (actually until the 80's or so) to knock out their screenplays with typewriters. I started writing scripts in the early 80's myself, but there were already word processors with memory. So I never had to deal with writing and editing screenplays without the benefit of a computer -- and later screenwriting software. Maybe I'm wrong, but I would think if you made revisions along the way (or at any point), you'd have to go back and retype the entire script to make adjustments including page numbers and all. Unless the typewritten screenplays had extra pages with edits, etc. Any thoughts on this from anyone? I'm real curious to know how the process worked without the benefit of a computer and/or software.

  • #2
    Re: Screenwriting on typewriters...

    Quentin Tarantino still writes scripts by sitting down with some paper and a pen, he does every first draft like that, it's a part of his process. There's something about sitting with some paper and a pen that makes the story come through.

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    • #3
      Re: Screenwriting on typewriters...

      Some people typed and retyped. Others used someone who could take dictation or who could turn their hand-scrawled or typed with cross-outs and pasted sections into a flawless typed document.

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      • #4
        Re: Screenwriting on typewriters...

        Ah, makes sense. But what a chore compared to today!

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        • #5
          Re: Screenwriting on typewriters...

          I love pecking away at a typewriter for first drafts, I've actually been looking for a vintage one to work on. They still sell electric typewriters but the quality is iffy (offices sometimes keep them to type envelopes, forms, etc.).

          There's something about the clickety sound and pressing on the keys, it's energizing. But you're right, when it comes to making changes it's a pain to retype a new page.

          For corrections of a draft, I used to use thin white adhesive paper strips to lay over the old text, then write the new edits to be typed in the new one. Very unwieldy and stuck to your fingers. That tape was used most by printers for key-lining when making up a page for print.

          List of authors and their typewriters: http://mytypewriter.com/authors/index.html
          Last edited by castilleja32; 03-19-2016, 02:32 PM.

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          • #6
            Re: Screenwriting on typewriters...

            Apparently Jeffery Archer does 12 copies of his manuscripts but hand, then turns them in the publisher
            I heard the starting gun


            sigpic

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            • #7
              Re: Screenwriting on typewriters...

              Originally posted by Cyfress View Post
              Quentin Tarantino still writes scripts by sitting down with some paper and a pen, he does every first draft like that, it's a part of his process. There's something about sitting with some paper and a pen that makes the story come through.
              I still start with a pencil and paper. I used to write the whole draft that way -- more often now I start that way, then go to Movie Magic. It seems to flow better for me if I start out longhand.
              "I just couldn't live in a world without me."

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              • #8
                Re: Screenwriting on typewriters...

                Originally posted by Pasquali56 View Post
                Unless the typewritten screenplays had extra pages with edits, etc. Any thoughts on this from anyone? I'm real curious to know how the process worked without the benefit of a computer and/or software.
                I imagine first drafts were written by hand until time to be typed as final drafts. But production drafts are built the same way today, I think. You have page 22b, 22c. They have different color pages for different number drafts. If a lot is cut out, there's like a scene number but it's blank and says "omitted."

                People paid typists to produce clean drafts of their stuff.
                "IMO"

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                • #9
                  Re: Screenwriting on typewriters...

                  Originally posted by Pasquali56 View Post
                  I was watching TRUMBO last night and it made me think how hard it was for those writers in that era (actually until the 80's or so) to knock out their screenplays with typewriters. I started writing scripts in the early 80's myself, but there were already word processors with memory. So I never had to deal with writing and editing screenplays without the benefit of a computer -- and later screenwriting software. Maybe I'm wrong, but I would think if you made revisions along the way (or at any point), you'd have to go back and retype the entire script to make adjustments including page numbers and all. Unless the typewritten screenplays had extra pages with edits, etc. Any thoughts on this from anyone? I'm real curious to know how the process worked without the benefit of a computer and/or software.
                  I started writing on a manual typewriter, then an electric typewriter, then all the way up through those electric typewriters with tiny little memories that let you erase and re-type a word, a line, etc.

                  But how did I do it? First, you learned how to type the old-fashioned way, which means in a way that minimized typo's (typing skills that have completed eroded in my case since the dawn of the computer era).

                  Second, regarding any significant change -- if it's an idea that has to do with the page you're on now, you throw the page away and rewrite it.

                  If it's a few words, you scribble them in and leave it for the final draft copy.

                  If it's some major change or something that has to be inserted earlier or changed earlier, that's going to effect how things are going to proceed from where you're at now -- that's a big problem.

                  At that point, you can either finish the version you've got now and see where it's at, or throw it away, go back and start writing the whole thing again, copying over the stuff that's the same. There really just wasn't any other way to do it.

                  But, for me at least, that didn't usually happen -- that is, the big changes didn't come until I'd reach the end and then figure out what was wrong -- and "then" I'd go back and start writing from the beginning - because new drafts, when you were working on a typewriter would just start on page one and go all the way through. You just have to copy it all over and put in the changes as you went.

                  And then, when everything was finally done, because I had a really crappy typewriter, we'd go through the script and proof it and then we'd go into my wife's office over the weekend, because they had really cool high-end business typewriters, and I'd spend two days copying out a final draft version, with me typing and my wife proofing the pages for errors as I typed it (and what a pain in the ass it was to put the page back into the typewriter and line it up again to correct an error once you'd taken it out).

                  Yeah, just for the record - while I suppose I have some vague nostalgia for typewriters, on the whole, they sucked.

                  NMS

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                  • #10
                    Re: Screenwriting on typewriters...

                    I worked in university public relations in one of my previous careers, and it was back in the day before personal computers. I wrote news stories for that job, but I was also in graduate school in that era and wrote countless academic papers, including a PhD dissertation, on a typewriter.

                    You just did whatever you had to. You struck things out with the x or hyphen key. You rolled the paper up a couple of inches and marked things out with a pencil and (if you were double spacing) wrote or typed things into the blank line above your mistake. You retyped a paragraph or part of a page and taped or stapled it over the text being revised. You used correction tape for a letter or two or a short word. You used Liquid Paper to white out words or lines, and then you fanned the page madly to make the liquid dry faster.

                    Writing with typewriters was better than writing things by hand, but that was about all that they offered. I do not miss them except for addressing the occasional envelope.

                    "The fact that you have seen professionals write poorly is no reason for you to imitate them." - ComicBent.

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                    • #11
                      Re: Screenwriting on typewriters...

                      I began on a Smith Corona electric. Pre-correction fluid (thanks Mrs. Nesmith!). You retyped pages. It was great for rewrites, because words and sentences and sometimes scenes and characters that really didn't matter didn't get retyped. All of that work for some character who didn't matter? Easier to leave them out.

                      NINJA BUSTERS was written on a typewriter, and I did on set rewrites on a typewriter.

                      Oh, and carbon paper... that thing that came before cheap photocopies. You could maybe get an original and two copies.

                      NINJA BUSTERS was part of a three script deal, but the other two films never happened... after I turned in the only copy of the script! There was a carbon, sent to the WGA registration service. So no copies of LIGHTNING STRIKES or FIGHTING MAN exist today. That was one of the problems when everything is hard copy and there is no suck thing as back up.

                      - Bill
                      Free Script Tips:
                      http://www.scriptsecrets.net

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                      • #12
                        Re: Screenwriting on typewriters...

                        I wrote my last treatment all in hand, fleshed out the whole story that way. It took two and a half A5 Moleskins. Going back looking for certain passages along with deciphering my own handwriting was such a pain in the ass I probably won't do it again. But yeah, it felt pretty nice, retro, didn't feel such a spud in a coffee shop. Just no where near as practical. Not sure I'd ever go as far as the Hemingwrite.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Screenwriting on typewriters...

                          I wonder if Hollywood's dependence on pitching is a holdover from the typewriter days.

                          If you're writing everything on a typewriter and there's only one copy of it, it definitely makes sense for the story to exist primarily in a verbal sense, where it can be told from person to person easily.

                          But if you think about it, pitching is a really bizarre thing. It's the verbal presentation of the written schematic for a visual art form. And, due to the human mind's inability to process too much detail in a 20-30 minute pitch, it requires an organization and style that is very different from what the final product will be.

                          You would think that execs would prefer to vet stories through treatments or outlines. Something concrete that they can forward to their boss, or make pointed notes on and send back to the writer.

                          And yet this town is still ruled by the pitch.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Screenwriting on typewriters...

                            I think pitching and loglines are about people in Hollywood not wanting to bother to read a script -- or pay someone to read it -- unless they like the short form enough.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Screenwriting on typewriters...

                              Originally posted by Bunker View Post
                              I wonder if Hollywood's dependence on pitching is a holdover from the typewriter days.

                              If you're writing everything on a typewriter and there's only one copy of it, it definitely makes sense for the story to exist primarily in a verbal sense, where it can be told from person to person easily.

                              But if you think about it, pitching is a really bizarre thing. It's the verbal presentation of the written schematic for a visual art form. And, due to the human mind's inability to process too much detail in a 20-30 minute pitch, it requires an organization and style that is very different from what the final product will be.

                              You would think that execs would prefer to vet stories through treatments or outlines. Something concrete that they can forward to their boss, or make pointed notes on and send back to the writer.

                              And yet this town is still ruled by the pitch.
                              I'm new/amateur at this, but I didn't think that Hollywood is dependent on pitching. Well, not for spec writers. I thought that the way things generally go is: first an email query with a logline and maybe a synopsis; then a read request; and then the writer either gets ignored, or a pass, or an offer to option or purchase the script, and with that maybe an invite to meet and pitch.
                              Know this: I'm a lazy amateur, so trust not a word what I write.
                              "The ugly can be beautiful. The pretty, never." ~ Oscar Wilde

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