Screenwriting - Courses & competions or Natural?

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  • -XL-
    replied
    Re: Screenwriting - Courses & competions or Natural?

    This might be a long post. Apologies if so, but hey, you asked Take it all with a pinch of salt. Just my humble opinion.

    Originally posted by MPrince View Post
    Out of the various ideas for different films, i came up with 20. Now I know I can knock up a draft for each one, but how do I turn into something that's vivid and eye-catching and "reads well"?
    20 ideas? Right. Firstly, at least half probably aren't as good as you think. This is natural. You want to write the gems. Don't waste your time on semi-precious. There are only so many hours in the day to write. Pick the one that excites you most and (if you're writing with the hope of selling something) that seems commercially viable. Talk to people about it and see if it excites them. I know when an idea's worth writing when my writer friends curse at me for thinking up the idea first. Write the **** out of it. While you're doing that think up more concepts and add them to the list. Once you're done with that script, look over the list again and re-choose. And on and on...

    Crafting something that reads well takes hard fvcking work, lots of reading, ten times as much writing and a natural skill with words. Those missing one of the components generally have to make up for it by working harder in another. I don't believe you can be taught this but you can learn.

    What I'm saying is that: Is it better to learn screenwriting from courses & competitions or can it only come to you naturally?
    You can't learn from a competition. The purpose of competitions is clear from the name. The deadlines can help you get something finished. The right competitions can be rewarding, but entering the Olympics when you're still perfecting walking isn't the greatest idea.

    The best way to learn - and I mean this as an absolute - is by writing and examining. Examining both your own choices and the choices other writers make. Why do they/I do this? What effect does it have? What other ways are there to write this? What effect would that have? etc etc...

    I believe there's a natural element to it. Some people are just better at it. Everything in life works that way. So if you're not exceptionally gifted (and most writers fall under this category) then you have to be willing to work twice as hard as everyone else.

    Courses: see below.

    I would like to know is it worth going to a local college and applying to get on their writing courses or entering various competitions or is it only a Natural skill which can be boosted through read screenwriting books and studying scripts.
    I'm currently in my last 3 weeks on a Scriptwriting BA down in Bournemouth. Taught by industry writers with individual project tutorials from working writers. If you really want to write I can't recommend it highly enough. To be honest, I don't think I've learnt much in lectures I didn't already know from internet forums and scriptwriting books but that's because I've worked my ass off absorbing all the material I can get my hands on for years. However, the main things the course has given me are 1) time to write (it's a full-time course and with student loans and odd part-time jobs I've scraped by working very little and writing much more than if I'd been working full-time) 2) deadlines (and god I'll miss them when they're gone) 3) access to working writers (brainstorming ideas, professional notes and feedback). Honestly, I've improved a huge amount while here but I wouldn't credit the bulk of it to being taught, rather to learning through experience and critical feedback.

    If you're going to take a course take one run by professionals. A local college course won't likely add anything more than you could learn by shelling out for a few books. (e.g. One of my classmates taught a course over last Summer in London. He's a good writer but, IMO, not experienced enough for people to really get any more benefit from than they could a couple of books.) If you can't get to one taught by a pro then think about online. There are a few good ones taught by Pros.

    I mean I've bought a bunch of books (not Robert McKee's Story, though, I've heard that's too complex for beginners ) and tried to study scripts but I'm none the wiser. I've written a script, but I'm worried if I'm just trying emulate other scripts.
    That's very possible. My first few were like that, I'm sure. How many scripts have you read? An interesting technique I tried when starting out is retyping a script. Pull up a copy of SCREAM and retype it in Final Draft. It's kinda like having a pro hold your racket over your hand and show you how the shots supposed to feel.

    The books I wish I'd read straight away:
    How Not to Write a Screenplay - Very basic and don't take it as gospel but it's great when you have no idea what you're doing.
    Bill Martell's "Secrets of Action Screenwriting" - It's out of print but his blue books are fantastic too. Easily the best book I've read. It's not critical advice of finished movies but actual technique advice on crafting your scripts.
    How to Build a Great Screenplay - David Howard.
    Blake Synder's Save the Cat - can be hit and miss but well worth the read.

    So is Screenwriting a natural skill or can you learn it?
    Both. But even for a natural you have to work your fvcking arse off to excel.

    I'm not yet writing to the best of my ability but I'm busting my ass every single day to get better. Reading, writing, analysing. And, likely even more than most people on this board, I'm your competition.

    *shrug* as they say, if it was easy everyone would be doing it.

    Hope it helps.

    Leave a comment:


  • JoeNYC
    replied
    Re: Screenwriting - Courses & competions or Natural?

    "So is screenwriting a natural skill or can you learn it?"

    -- In the world of music, Mozart was a natural, but this is a rare case. Most individuals have to learn how to master their skill.

    Some writers will have an innate ability from growing up reading literature, watching movies, genes, etc., but it'll be raw. They'd still have to learn in order to write and present their stories at a professional level.

    And it takes years and a lot of writing to master this skill.

    The craft part can be learned, but the art part can't be taught.

    Meaning, a person can be taught how to take his creative art that he imagined in his head and put it on paper in a clear, concise and powerful way.

    The craft part is the tools, techniques, principles, etc. that a writer can use to construct an effective and compelling screenplay.

    The art part is what writers such as Koepp, Kaufman, Goldman, etc. create. Their art comes from their imaginations. This is unique to each individual and can't be taught. You either have a great imagination or you don't.

    What I recommend for beginners is to get one of the basic books on screenwriting, such as Trottier's or Syd Field's. These books will give you the basic foundations of screenwriting in an easy and understandable way.

    Another book I recommend for beginners is Linda Seger's "Great Script" book.

    These two books would give the beginner a good start.

    Read successful pro scripts.

    Reading bad scripts from pros and non-pros would help also because the weaknesses that you'll see pop out at you, would only make you more aware of what you need to do for your own writing, but I recommend getting a little understanding of the craft first before reading bad scripts so you don't think that's the way it's suppose to be done.

    You specifically would want to read like 5 successful scripts that are similar to the story that you're writing.

    Not to steal plotlines, scenes, dialogue, etc., but to learn and adapt the methods and techniques they used to get across theme, structure, scene construction, dialogue, characterization, etc. in an effective way.

    There are a lot of different ways and opportunities to study the craft in order to become a strong screenwriter: web sites like Done Deal, writer's groups, classes at local Universities (if none in your area, on-line classes), seminars, screenwriting festivals, participating on sites that offer an opportunity for you to give and receive feedback on yours and others' scripts (Will, how about a forum to post ones' script here on DD).

    One thing to remember, studying the craft is important, but nothing beats actual writing.

    As a screenwriter in training, your number one priority -- always make time to write.

    Leave a comment:


  • DaltWisney
    replied
    Re: Screenwriting - Courses & competions or Natural?

    Talent and study both play a role.

    At some point during the tail end of my junior year of college, I downloaded a copy of Final Draft and decided that I was going to write screenplays. I wrote my first script in about three weeks. I wrote my second script in about four weeks. The second script won a $2,000 writing award, got my name in the trades, and lead to phone calls and e-mails from places like Fox, United Artists, and Disney.

    It took me six weeks of writing to get farther than most aspiring writers ever do. That's talent.

    But talent alone doesn't make you a viable screenwriter. After managing to crank out my pretty decent award-winning script, I proceeded to write 4 or 5 weak scripts in about 18 months. As I learned more about the craft, my writing became more mechanical and my scripts suffered. I look back on some of the stuff I wrote and cringe. How could the same guy who once wrote a pretty good script churn out so much utter crap?

    What you discover is that the learning curve of this trade is rather steep. And while talent might help you get a head start, you'll probably have to become a real student of the craft if you hope to become a working professional.

    I'm still less than two years into my screenwriting career, but I'm amazed by how far my knowledge has progressed since this time last year (or even since this time six months ago).

    I blame it on study. Read enough scripts and you'll probably start to notice some trends in what works/what doesn't work. But this is actually an issue of talent, because talent dictates your ability to learn.

    To make an analogy, when most 17th century British folks saw an apple fall from the tree, they just saw an apple fall from a tree. But when Isaac Newton saw an apple fall from a tree, he saw the fundamental laws of physics at work (or so the legend goes).

    A bad writer never sees past the surface of a script. A good writer sees deep into the script and is able to discern its various components as individual units that contribute various functions to the whole. Good writers don't just read scripts. They study them. They detect patterns. They start to develop an understanding of screenwriting devices. This type of learning takes talent.

    Also, the ability to come up with creative solutions, dialogue, gags, characters, story beats, and concepts largely hinges on talent. Some people just aren't capable of creating something exciting and innovative.

    So, like I said, becoming a viable screenwriting takes a combination of hard work and talent. But in some respects, one's ability to perform the hard work is a function of one's talent.

    Leave a comment:


  • La Femme Joyeuse
    replied
    Re: Screenwriting - Courses & competions or Natural?

    Take some classes; get in a writing program. It will introduce you to other writers and it will make your learning curve much easier. You might have natural talent but screenwriting is very execution and craft-driven. Give yourself a running head start; you won't regret it.

    Leave a comment:


  • IanFraser
    replied
    Re: Screenwriting - Courses & competions or Natural?

    'technique' is always good to learn, as are 'the industry norms' - after that, you throw most of it out of the window, and rely on your own imaginative writing and concepts. It can never hurt to learn the basic structures and techniques, and then bring your own imagination and stories to overlay it.

    Leave a comment:


  • M4estro
    replied
    Re: Screenwriting - Courses & competions or Natural?

    IMO, experience.

    Some elements you learn, some is natural. But the more you do it, the better you get at it. And eventually, you'll figure out your 'thang'. It's just like with any skill (Learning to drive, or playing sports). There are probably thousands of others out there had have the potential to do/play better than some of the professionals that's already out there, they just never attempted/trained for it for the long haul.

    And being in it for the long haul is how you tap into your talent. That's my opinion.
    Last edited by M4estro; 04-21-2007, 10:15 AM. Reason: SP

    Leave a comment:


  • MPrince
    started a topic Screenwriting - Courses & competions or Natural?

    Screenwriting - Courses & competions or Natural?

    Out of the various ideas for different films, i came up with 20. Now I know I can knock up a draft for each one, but how do I turn into something that's vivid and eye-catching and "reads well"?

    What I'm saying is that: Is it better to learn screenwriting from courses & competitions or can it only come to you naturally?

    I would like to know is it worth going to a local college and applying to get on their writing courses or entering various competitions or is it only a Natural skill which can be boosted through read screenwriting books and studying scripts.

    I mean I've bought a bunch of books (not Robert McKee's Story, though, I've heard that's too complex for beginners ) and tried to study scripts but I'm none the wiser. I've written a script, but I'm worried if I'm just trying emulate other scripts.

    So is Screenwriting a natural skill or can you learn it?
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