Screenwriting : Formula or no formula? by Rick Hardin

Rick Hardin

Formula or no formula?

As a new screenwriter I’ve tried to read as much as I can about technique and what sells. Most of what I’ve read claims that the only way to go is using a formula to form the story structure. However I just finished reading several articles by {Cory Mandell}( who claims that formulas stifle creativity and don’t sell. He even claims that Hollywood readers (studios, agents, managers, producers) recognize the formula style scripts right away and reject them. A pretty compelling point of view. What are your thoughts?

Screenwriting and TV Writing Classes Online and in LA
Screenwriting and TV Writing Classes Online and in LA
Corey Mandell is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter who has written projects for Ridley Scott, Wolfgang Petersen, Harrison Ford, Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts, John Travolta, Warner Brothers, Univ…
Rick Hardin

Thanks for the comment Dan. I figure nothing is ever black and white, but it's nice to know what other people's experiences / opinions are especially for those of us trying to break into the biz.

Rachael Saltzman

Formulas force creativity. How to write what you want within parameters. As you grow, push the limits. They exist for a reason.

Eoin O'Sullivan

It's a double edged sword. Studios want something unique, but they are afraid to take a gamble, so they stick with what has been tried and is successful. In film, there is no magic formula as such. A house and a car have a certain form, yet there are lots of unique creative interruptions of both, with in that seemingly limited parameter.

James Coleman

Formulas are meant to be just that, something that, when, you know how to fill in the blanks of a certain genre story, create a viable screenplay (story). Of course, the idea is that favorite, "rules are meant to be broken." And that's when you take chances, because sometimes it works, and most often it doesn't. For me, the idea is not to think about a formula so much as what is your story and what is the most satisfying way for you, as the writer, to go about your task of getting your thoughts out of your head and out where others can see. That's more important that hiding behind anything, formula or otherwise.

Lina Jones

If you reading to make money off screen writing I'd say be versitile what you think won't be a hit just might. Good Luck

Nkosi Guduza

Roger Federer one of the all time greatest Tennis players, does he have his own formula of creativity, yes, wins titles. Nadal, Sampras, etc... Barcelona, Michael Jordan, even Michael Jackson, Do not follow, create and lead. The formula is the lines of the court, Basketball court, stage they are the rules. 90 - 130 pages... etc, format, that's the formula, create freely Rick! :)

Curtis Kessinger

Structure is required, but use it as a guideline not as a must...follow the structure, but don't get specific with page numbers, etc. Use it to give you ideas. Here is a great article I posted on my website outlining the gurus that teach screenwriting (Truby, Vogler, Field, McKee, Hauge, Seger, etc.) Print this out and use it as a guide only, but use your own voice and uniqueness to make your scripts original. This article was written by the creator of Dramatica software, which I do not promote nor own. This is a great tool to use, especially when outlining and whenever you get stuck. Writer's block does not exist! Get busy writing. Best wishes, Curtis

Alex Sarris

Hey Rick, what works for one person doesn't always work for someone else. You really have to work that out for yourself and hat work best for you. Som create a synopis and some a treatment and write fom there. I myself like to spend more time outlining a story and then getting it written quicker. Here I a link to a blog I wrote that you my find interesting.

Sonny Dyon

Formulas are always made to be messed with...your story will come out the only way it can. Just tell it...the rest will happen.

Rick Hardin

I wanted to thank everyone for their wonderful feedback, Lot's a good stuff! But has anyone had any experience with or info on (heavily?) formatted scripts being a tell-tale sign of an amateur and therefore those scripts being rejecting out of hand?

Other topics in Screenwriting:

register for stage 32 Register / Log In