Screenwriting : Screenplays to learn from by Seraphima Nickolaevna Bogomolova

Seraphima Nickolaevna Bogomolova

Screenplays to learn from

Hi to All,

Not so long time ago there was a post on here about David Lynch being a not so good screenwriter (he is a great filmmaker though). This inspired me to think of what kind of a screenplay I, as a screenwriter, would regard as a good one? I looked around and found one that I believe is a perfect example of a great screenplay - please note that I refer to screenwriting skills and talents, not movie making skills. This screenplay is The Beauty and The Beast (2017) by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos. It was a great pleasure to read the screenplay because it read as if it was a movie already – very cinematographic and visual. Beautiful writing too. Here is the link to the screenplay https://www.scriptslug.com/assets/uploads/scripts/beauty-and-the-beast-2...

And what is your favourite screenplay – NOT a MOVIE but a SCREENPLAY?

PS by the way, the movie that was made based on the screenplay is also fantastic!

Lee Bailes

The Script for ALIEN is an amazing example of brevity and precision in scene descriptions: https://www.scriptslug.com/assets/uploads/scripts/alien-1979.pdf

Seraphima Nickolaevna Bogomolova

Hi Lee, why do you consider the scene descriptions 'brave' in the Alien screenplay?

I can see that formatting is different from the modern one - it is the way they did it in 1970s. :-) What is interesting with the screenplays written in 1970s or 1980s or even 1990s is that they have a mixture of cinematographic and novelistic styles and sometimes even theatrical as the screenwriters of that time were coming from theatre or novel writing backgrounds. In Russia, for example, they refer to modern way of formatting and describing scenes as 'Americanka' and the more novelistic way - a literary screenplay, they can be even published as books.

Rutger Oosterhoff

Interview with the Vampire

Dan MaxXx

Raiders of the Lost Ark

Richard "RB" Botto

Raging Bull

Jason Mirch

Dan MaxXx nailed it. Raiders is amazing (and Michael Eisner called it a 'perfect script' when he greenlit the movie at Paramount). I also love Inglorious Basterds as a piece of writing (count the rules that QT breaks so well). And finally, John August wrote a beautiful adaptation of Big Fish.

Seraphima Nickolaevna Bogomolova

Christopher Phillips Re: brevity - yes, indeed - concise descriptions...

Richard "RB" Botto

RAIDERS is a masterclass.

Seraphima Nickolaevna Bogomolova

Rutger Oosterhoff - interesting choice - very well written screenplay, though done back in 1990s. It reads easily and the dialogues are very good... Interview With The Vampire (1992) by Anne Rice http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/Interview_Vampire.pdf

Seraphima Nickolaevna Bogomolova

Dan MaxXx Hmmm... I would not say it is a very well written screenplay - it has more of a novelistic approach in writing and is not that easy to read... Quite dense with long descriptions. Here is a PDF of it - http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/RaidersoftheLostArk.pdf

Seraphima Nickolaevna Bogomolova

Richard "RB" Botto 'Raging Bull' - well... personally, I would not call it a very well written screenplay - it has got a mixture of novelistic and cinematographic descriptions and the dialogues are not great either... But again, it was written some time ago and bears signs of its time - like more theatrical approach to dialogues, for example. PDF: https://thescriptlab.com/script-library/raging-bull-pdf/

Richard "RB" Botto

We agree to disagree. Novelistic & cinematic because Scorsese co-wrote it with his vision on how to direct the film on the page. He didn't need approval from anyone on how to write it in "standard fashion" or "Save the Cat" style.

But that's not what I'm talking about.

The setups, payoffs, character arcs, and pacing are all a knockout...pun intended.

Cannon Rosenau

Usually, I'll watch a movie (or TV ep.) and then try to find the script. I guess if it's a great movie, it started as a great script. It inspires me to stick with my own style because they all have their own way of describing actions - I believe that's where the writer's voice shines.

Dan MaxXx

Smh. "raiders" is not a well-written screenplay? I'm out.

Richard "RB" Botto

Don't leave, Dan...I'm with you...Let's have a cocktail in the corner and discuss.

Ally Shina

Cloverfield.

Ally Shina

I'm confused by Dan and RB... are we saying Raiders is good or bad? I haven't read it tho.

Doug Nelson

Each screenwriter eventually settles into a self-comfortable writing style. You develop it by reading lots of scripts; the 'good' ones and the 'not so good' ones - take what works for you. Over the years I've developed a pretty sticotic style that is very tight. It works for me - but maybe not for you.

Theresa Seeberger

Jerry McGuire and Groundhog Day are 2 of my favorites to look to when writing. Groundhog Day does such a great job of the mini movie method. After PP 1 (Break into 2, etc.) Bill M. is traumatized for 10 minutes, then learns to use his new power for selfish gain (10 minutes), gets depressed and tries to kill himself (10 minutes) and so on. Great example of breaking down a script into manageable parts. Jerry McGuire has so many great aspects. Renee's sister is great mirror side-kick who serves as one of the 'voices' in Renee's mind, cautioning her the entire time about getting into the relationship while Renee wants to speed ahead. Tom and Cuba are phenomenal mirror characters who learn from each other in at times torturous, yet always humorous, ways - causing both to have transformative character arcs.

WL Wright

Love that alien script. So much for all the '"you better do this or that or else" mantra. lol

Stephen Carter

The Usual Suspects - brilliant, an easy read, and extremely well written, especially considering it was a debut screenplay.

Seraphima Nickolaevna Bogomolova

CJ Walley - I agree - very good adaptation. It’s great that the screenplay (an adaptation of the book by Robert Ludlum) inspired you to find your voice! 'Concise, fast paced, and packed with attitude' - the exact feeling I get when I read the screenplay.... I can also add that it starts on the right note - mysterious, intriguing and pauses questions - you just want to read on to see who the man is and why he happened to be out in the open sea.... The screenplay - https://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/bourneidentity.html

Seraphima Nickolaevna Bogomolova

Ally Shina 'Raiders' is not a very well written screenplay - it is rather difficult to read, perhaps because of long descriptions which feel tedious when you go through them The screenplay PDF: http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/RaidersoftheLostArk.pdf

Seraphima Nickolaevna Bogomolova

Doug Nelson it is great you have worked out your own screenwriting style :-) I would just like to add that, generally speaking, it is not about what works for me or for you, it is about what works for those who are going to work on producing a movie out of a screenplay. When one writes keeping in mind the audience - and by that, I mean everyone involved in the movie watching and making process from potential audience to producers to actors to designers to technicians etc. then it is a good screenplay. But if one writes having in mind only personal ambitions, ulterior motives, egocentric self-expression – and all under the pretext of being a great artist and doing it at the expense of the audience and the filmmaking team then it is certainly not a good screenplay. Of course, you may agree to disagree :-))))

Ally Shina

@Seraphima thanks for clarifying that for me. I will add it to my long "to read" list so I can learn from its mistakes.

Dave Begley

Read and watched "Shawshank Redemption." The movie is America's favorite and for good reason. Great script.

Jason Mirch

Yes, for sure "Back to the Future" is a perfect screenplay and one that I constantly use as a teaching tool.

I also want to address this whole "Indy didn't matter in Raiders" thing. Those who make that argument forget what Indy actually needed which was Marion. Indy - like all good protagonists - has a want and a need. His articulated mission "get to the ark before the Nazis and obtain it for the museum" is actually a failure. He doesn't fully succeed in his mission. BUT he does achieve his need - which is to reunite with Marion and revive that relationship. So while he doesn't achieve his articulated mission, he achieves his larger emotional need.

And let's not forget that if Indy wasn't in the story, Marion Ravenwood would have almost certainly been tortured and killed by Tot and his Nazi thugs as they looked for the medallion. That is why Indy is essential to the story.

Richard "RB" Botto

Agree completely, J. Great explanation. It's a phenomenal script and one many managers we work with give to their writers as a sample.

Theresa Seeberger

Agree about Back to the Future. For teaching purposes, it has a well defined PP1, MP and PP2 (for Syd Field readers) and has so many set ups that truly pay off - made easier by the time travel. Raiders is perhaps the best example of the Impressive Failure lead - he ultimately failed at everything (except Marion I guess) but was so impressive doing it. Also, the first 10 minutes is a mini movie of the entire movie - brilliant.

Ally Shina

Jason just taught me something new about Raiders which just made it so much better. I'm so confused you guys... some say it's good, some say it's bad... Jason just blew my mind but I still have to see how it reads on paper too so, I'm out with no opinion on the matter.

Aray Brown

Basic Instinct

Ally Shina

@aray Basic Instinct is a brilliant script and an even better movie. Nice one.

Nick Assunto - Stage 32 Script Services Coordinator

My favorite writer is probably Alex Garland. He's one to check out, especially if you're into sci-fi.

Richard "RB" Botto

Garland is a good one, Nick. For those interested, here's the screenplay for EX MACHINA: http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/exMachina_script.pdf

Jason Mirch

Ally Shina If you want to check out how they walked through the development of Raiders, there are transcripts from calls and meetings that George Lucas, Spielberg, and Lawrence Kasdan had while breaking the story. And for a film geek they are gold: http://maddogmovies.com/almost/scripts/raidersstoryconference1978.pdf

CJ Walley

Damian Lloyd, check out Easy Riders, Raging Bulls which goes into some detail about the risks those filmmakers were taking at the time with Raiders.

Nick Assunto - Stage 32 Script Services Coordinator

Oh I almost forgot, Melissa Mathison's earlier draft of E.T. called "A Boy's Life" can be found online.

Evelyn von Warnitz

THE APARTMENT and two great scripts I have been reading by fantastic screenwriter friends here on stage 32.

Richard "RB" Botto

Easy Riders, Raging Bulls is essential reading, CJ. Great recommendation.

Frank Blaney

The best written screenplay I have read (which had me on the edge of my seat, even though I had seen the movie) was "Slumdog Millionaire." I also loved "Network," a classic. Unfortunately, from what I have seen Paddy's "style" is considered "too wordy" now. I still loved it and the film from it is one of the best ever. Any recommendation for where we can download some great screenplays? I am particularly interested in Action/Thriller which is my main genre. Cheers!

Aray Brown

Ally Shina couldn't agree more

Brian Walsh

I loved the screenplay from "Starman". So well written, you can see it as you read it.

Cannon Rosenau

Mean Girls. Boom.

Cannon Rosenau

Damian Lloyd Ha, not a movie...more of a drop the mic. Boom. Lol, I'm a dork.

Ally Shina

Jason Mirch thank you very much for the link, I'm kinda geeking out big time on it already. Awesome!

Michael Musal

Easy. When you have a well designed main character, and build up an authentic story around his purposes and traits, you´ll win the audience. Thats a great script, imho.

Jason Mirch

Evelyn von Warnitz LOVE The Apartment! One of my top 3 favorite films!

Evelyn von Warnitz

Jason Mirch, were are those classic style written scripts today. They become rare. Glad to have screenwriting friends with the ability to write in a classic style. Another amazing one: WHEN HARRY MEETS SALLY.

Juhani Nurmi

Hey guys! I must bring up Jeffrey Boam's script to David Cronenberg's THE DEAD ZONE (1983). One of my very fave Stephen King adaptations, with a career best performance by Christopher Walken. So empowering. So prescient. So prophetic.

Juhani Nurmi

When we are talking about Steven Spielberg, Carl Gottlieb's script for JAWS (1975) shouldn't be overlooked. Riveting. Rousing. Taut. My own #1 fave film of all time alongside ALIEN (1979). Remember ... we'll ALWAYS need a bigger boat.

Lee Bailes

Hi Seraphima Nickolaevna Bogomolova 'brevity' as in being short. Also punchy and still cinematic. Not 'brave' :)

S.B. Goncarova

I found "Stranger than Fiction" a true pleasure to read. Made me laugh out loud, and I found it wonderfully fresh and original. Haven't seen the movie yet, still on my to watch list.

Ralph Soll

IMO: David Lynch is clearing going for something outside of traditional narrative, which he largely makes work very well. I'm with Juhani Nurmi on the script for Alien - which I remember having a great, staccato style. Aliens is also a very well written, punchy, clear, authoritative-feeling script. I remember Risky Business being an especially good script as well - though in general, I think any script where one has already seen the movie will have a large advantage in "readability".

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