Screenwriting : Screenplays are stories. Not formulas by Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Screenplays are stories. Not formulas

Screenplays are stories, not formulas
Screenplays are stories, not formulas
William Goldman has famously written, "Screenplays are structure." That is true in a tangible sense because at some point, a script becomes a blueprint for the production of a movie.
Owen Mowatt

When I first started out, knowing nothing about screenwriting, I read Syd Fields book. After 6/7 pages I threw it in the bin. If that is what screenwriting is about then it wasn't for me. Luckily I realised early enough that it wasn't.

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Whatever works for the individual writer that gets you to THE END. I agree there should not be any formulas also. Story Characters, Concept that is at the heart of EVERY great screenplay. Just write every day with passion and soul.

Christopher Binder

Formulas are guides for stories.

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

A great story with compelling characters does not need a formula. Just my opinion. Every writer is DIFFERENT. If a formula works for you and as DovS-S Simmons says gets you from Reel to Deal(His Book not nine) Than beautiful God Bless.

Izzibella Beau

Thank you for the article.

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

You 're welcome Izzibella. FYI-- I am just taking network requests from METRO NYC. Doing my best to build City & Suburban Motion Pictures into a going concern. I will be a lot more relaxed after we do our first table read for "Hope Saves Manhattan" our first copyrighted feature film. on June 26th at Shetler Studios @ 244 West 54th Street here in Manhattan. All the best. Thanks.

Joe Bell

Open-ended question: Has anybody here ever used Dramatica? If so, what did you think of it?

Steven Harris Anzelowitz

Patricia-- A clear and concise description on your process. Very informative. Most appreciated. Let the learning continue for all of us "Happy Writers"

Dan Guardino

People have been successful using formulas and not using formulas so there is no right or wrong answer to this question. Personally I have had good results both ways. If someone hasn't had any results then they are only guessing what will work for them.

Dan MaxXx

Someone here should write a rom com about a his/her writing team fighting on how to write a script! Think "Harry met Sally" meets "Barton Fink." Wrestling, guns, orgasms. When u pitch, just say J Lawrence & Bradley Cooper.

Hannah Strickland

It seems to me that story IS formula. Let me explain. When not writing my own material, I help new writers edit and rework theirs. Recently, I received a hot mess. It was nearly 200 pages, had almost that many named characters and probably 100 locations. It was a true story and the author was very close to the characters. There were delightful scenes, interesting transitions and flashbacks and a ton of information, but no story. It was difficult to identify a lead, a character arch, a climax, a crisis etc. The author had a hard time seeing the forest for the trees and it took stepping back and imposing structure over the whole thing to see the story. Once the formula (or the structure) was imposed on the script, a story emerged. The story was complex, it had more than one main character, it did not fit neatly on a beat sheet, however, it did have the basic structure and this made it comprehensible. A story has to have, at minimum a beginning, middle and end. To make it interested there has to be a twist, something that makes it more than a recounting of facts. Many argue that something like Snyder's beat sheet creates monotony, however, I agree with Patricia, it's not the structure that is boring, but the content.

Regina Lee

Screenplays are structure. - Bill Goldman (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vr7VIb4_QAE)

Dan Guardino

The industry standard for structure are the three acts.

Jeff Lyons

This is a really complicated topic... but, IMO, formulae and structure are very different things. Every story has a structure, if it doesn't then it's not a story, it's something else (see my post here on what that "something else" is: https://www.stage32.com/lounge/screenwriting/Stories-vs-Situations-Blog)... but every "story" has a formulae regardless if it's a story or something else ...that's called a genre. All genres are formulae (like cake recipes). Formulae are not bad or wrong, they're just what they are. They exist for a reason: they work. But you can't just bake the same chocolate cake a million times--you'll get bored. You have to mix it up, add some strawberries, or brandy to the mix, or whatever. Make it original, unique, add something of yourself to the recipe. The formulae (genre) is still underneath, but it stands out because you added something special to the mix (YOU!)... it transcends the genre. How many love stories (a major formulae) have been made? A few milliion? How many do you remember as special? A handful. They all follow the love story formulae ... but only a handful transcend the recipe. You need the formulas (genres) ... but you have to bring your own originality to the thing for it to stand out and be memorable. My 2 cents.

Dan Guardino

Yes but there are some pretty bad recipes out there. Most formulas used to write screenplays came from gurus that couldn't make a living writing screenplays.

Jeff Lyons

@Dan-- gurus come up with cookie cutters, not formulas... the formulas (genres) are created by readers/audiences.... more readers than movie goers. Demand drives genre creation, not writers. Readers say, "Hey, I like how you did that writer... give me more of the same." And writers comply, because they want to sell more books. Screenwriters only jump on the bandwagon... (sorry). Gurus have zero, zilch, nada to do with formulas (genres). Snake oil... yes... but not formulas. But let me ask you a question.... what guru cookie cutters are bad... in and of themselves? What's an example of a bad "recipe." And can you explain why it's bad? I'm just curious.

Jeff Lyons

Here are some formulas you might want to check out... and this guy has sold some stuff... :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oP3c1h8v2ZQ&app=desktop

Dan Guardino

@Jeff. According to the merriam-webstera dictionary a genre is a category and a formula is a plan or method for doing, making, or achieving something. This dictionary doesn’t say anything about readers, audiences or movie goers. I sold scripts too so I don’t need to watch this guy’s theory.

Jeff Lyons

@ Dan... ok.

Bo. R. R. Tolkien

more aptly put, Screenplays are formulated stories. the formula for box office success now a days relies on past success, remakes, reboots, prequels, sequels, not anything new, original or inventive. and movies now a days must have a plot twist and it must make sense. even if it's a bio pic, there's going to be a plot twist. I blame that bitch Shamalayan.

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