What are the 100 Best Screenplays of the 21st Century So Far? (per the WGA)
"We weren't making art, we were making a living" said Julius Epstein of his time working under the early Hollywood studio system. Writers, what, if anything, has changed since then ? Are screenwriters ever allowed to stay true to themselves and their visions, or are we still always at the mercy of the bottom line?
According to journalist Paul Brownfield in his analysis of the WGA's most recent list of 101 best screenplays of the 21st century (*so far), the very concept of writing for the screen is in existential crisis. What do we think of that take here at Script E.R.?
It’s true that the Wild West of Streaming galloped into town quite a few years ago now, upending our old movie-going habits and giving us a bewildering and sometimes exhausting array of choices to click on at home. Exec layoffs abound, buying mandates change seemingly every five minutes, and people call Doomsday on the entire industry a heck of a lot. Not to mention we’re facing another impending WGA strike, which will no doubt be painful, and as usual, the most financially crippling to the least powerful writers in town.
However. As this weekend's uplifting and occasionally charmingly earnest 95th Oscars showed, despite a bunch of relentless behind-the scenes machinations and spin, the magic and allure of cinema shows no sign of dying, and new voices and styles are emerging all the time, and finally being rewarded for their uniqueness.
It was inspiring to watch Cate Blanchett's performance in the best actress category this year for TAR - even if she didn't win, and no matter what you made of Todd Field’s film itself, the fact that cultural mores have now shifted to allow a female performer to fully inhabit a *total* human role - for good, for ill, for ugly, for whatever - is very different to only a decade ago, when women screenwriters in Hollywood were routinely advised to flip the genders in their screenplay if creating a vibrant, self determined female lead with just an ounce of heroism. No joke.
So let's celebrate the diversity and uniqueness of this new WGA list, in the spirit of optimism for the future of our industry.
Read Brownfield’s full piece here ….
Script E.R co-founders to adapt Irene Gut's Holocaust memoirs as a feature film for Good Deed Entertainment
Irene Gut Opdyke was an extraordinary person. As a seventeen year old Polish Catholic, having suffered unspeakable abuse at the hands of the invading Russian Military, she then found herself forced to be a Housekeeper for a Nazi Major. Realizing that her Ayran looks and fluent German gave her an advantage, she used her position to eavesdrop on SS plans for the Final Solution and warn the local Jews. Having become close to the Jewish laundry workers she oversaw daily, she took the extraordinary measure of hiding them in the basement literally beneath the feet of of the Germans when the Ternpol Ghetto was liquidated. They remained concealed there until the end of the War. But Irene's bravery did not come without huge personal sacrifice.....
Zoë Green and Patrick Given, co-founders of Script E.R have been hired by Good Deed Entertainment to write a feature film about Irene's inspiring life.
Read the Deadline Hollywood announcement here
“I’ve got a purple yoga mat, and I have a little table about that size. That’s sort of what it looks like. I hoover; I find odd places to polish. Places that I haven’t seen in a long time; sometimes parts of my own body. And there’s a lot of crying in fetal positions.” – Emma Thompson.
Oscar-winning screenwriter Emma Thompson gave a wonderfully entertaining lecture at the BAFTA Screenwriters Conference in London last month. Equipped with props, (including a vacuum and the aforementioned yoga mat) she explained her unusual process of writing to the audience. Quirky as it may seem it makes you consider the type of environment a writer needs to feel comfortable enough to actually write. While many professionals would agree that real writers should be able to “create” at any time of the day, despite how they feel; it certainly helps when the mood is right.
“I’ve sometimes made the analogy with eating. Why do you eat? You’re hungry. You are sort of in the mood to eat, and if you are in the mood to, the food tastes better; you’re more interested in what you’re eating. The whole experience is more “creative.” It’s the same thing in art except that, in art, the hunger is the need for self-expression.” – Aaron Copeland
And let’s face it - writing a script isn’t easy. It can be a grueling, frustrating process that oftentimes leaves you a little more gray behind the ears or with patches of hair missing altogether. You’d be hard pressed to find a screenwriter who loves the entire process from start to finish. Having a solid conducive process can be the best way to kick start the creative process into gear.
“I used to write late at night; I would start when my family went to sleep and just work until I ran out of gas. But now that I have to wake up at 6:30 and drive the kids to school and attempt to "exercise" so I don't die, the only way I can write is to just tell my assistant, "All right, we're going to start at 9 tomorrow, and let's unplug the phones for four hours." And it's awful. Usually I have to give myself a reward. So I'll say, "If I write a good hour, I'll watch one episode of The Wire." – Judd Apatow
What’s your method to get the creative juices flowing?
Writers in Hollywood- Raymond Chandler
The great Mr Raymond Chandler still has it painfully right on the life of the screenwriter after 80 years.... Some elements of the movie business may wax and wane but many of his philosophical observations on how writers are treated remain all too accurate. Read it and identify....
The Economics of Screenwriting- The Artful Writer
This is one of the best and most concise articles we've read on how screenwriters actually get paid. What can you expect to earn as a 'baby writer? Once you're produced? What's the difference between selling a spec screenplay and getting hired on an open writing assignment? How much do you get paid at point of script sale or at 'commencement' of your writing services, and how much do you get if your project actually goes into production?
Bear in mind that Hollywood writers frequently get replaced mid project. So your lawyer should always advise you if your contract states that if the very large looking greenlit bonus will actually diminish quite considerably should you share credit with a subsequent writer.... Read on, and then talk about the finer points with your Script E.R mentor next time you stop by for class.
After the midpoint, a screenplay often loses its way. This is the dreaded second act sag. A couple of techniques to avoid this letdown:
1. Introduce a new character.
2. Introduce a new tension.
In older films, you will notice that rich, varied characters will often be introduced more than halfway through the film. For some reason, modern films shy away from this. But it's a perfect way to give your screenplay new direction and life.