Screenwriting : The Unnatural Art of Screenwriting... by Shawn Speake

Shawn Speake

The Unnatural Art of Screenwriting...

As a judge for FILM FREEWAY I spent the last two months grading scripts. I'll withhold the name of the exact contest to protect the innocent. Every script I read failed. They were so bad. Not just bad. They were super bad. Some of the writers were from high dollar schools too. I could go on for days but we'll start with 'THE UNNATURAL ART OF SCREENWRITING' because it was the one component no one understood. Do you know what it means? First person to answer correctly in the comments gets coverage on their first 3 pages compliments of your boy....

Be on the lookout for my three page challenge coming soon.

Sky Caesar

When a writer uses so much structure and rules within their script it kills the writing and the story to the point where the script gives no life to the story they are trying to tell and so it does not all bind together organically and refreshingly and would not come to life on screen, it just is writing on a paper. It is a skill, an art to make something unnatural sound natural.

Bill Costantini

Man....all those boxes of donuts....the donuts with the name of my script written on them in delectable chocolate sprinkles...and that I had sent to a certain house in a certain city in a certain county in Colorado.. .and I STILL didn't advance in the FF time I'll try Chicago-style pizzas....the One True Pizza, and the Pie of the Gods....with the name of my script written in pepperoni....the imported pepperoni and not the cheap processed stuff....I swear....I can't catch a sir...I .can't catch a single break....

Owen Mowatt

I think someone spiked your donuts with crack, Bill

Pamela Bolinder

The scripts lacked clear action lines, underdeveloped character description, the dialogue is unnatural and does not drive the scene. The script can be used for window dressing. In other words, unnatural acting instructions and scene directions for all involved on the production side—unusable.

Eric Christopherson

My guess it's an Aristotelian reference of some kind.

David B. McEwan

Sometimes less is more. Credit Mies van der Rohe.

Phillip "No Parenthetical" Hardy

Shawn, my Colorado brother. Always a pleasure to read your posts. I've never heard of The Unnatural Art of Screenwriting but it sounds intriguing. However, I did a calculation and I'm hitting close to a 40 percent success rate (meaning official selection or higher) with my film festival and contest entries at Filmfreeway. Lately, probably a bit better than that. So I consider that I'm pretty successful at what I'm doing.

I would venture to say that the Unnatural Art would possibly refer the accepted, academic approach to screenwriting versus a more organic approach of trusting one's own instincts. For me, I read a great book about formatting, spent 20 minutes watching a how to video about using final draft (on Youtube) and then started writing screenplays. I got a lot of pushback from other writers on Linkedin, Amazon Studios and Trigger Street Labs. And with all my mistakes, the undeniable truth I demonstrated early on, was my natural ability to tell a compelling story. I also had a knack for writing good dialogue.

In any case, this is a cool question and I hope to see you posting more frequently in this forum. I know you're busy.

John Iannucci

The bad are a hit - just look at all the garbage out there.

Baden Edward Gilmore

On the nose dialogue

Owen Mowatt

Damn you guys are cheap. I actually know the answer to this question but for three pages?!?! lips are sealed. :|

Linda Bjork

Natural talent doesn't have to try, it's effortless, an inherent skill in storytelling... but the art of screenwriting is also about rules and regs... which is just like mathematics, I'm not sure which is of a greater value for the pro reader... maybe they lacked both elements!!

Shawn Speake

I fuckin' luv you guys! Even when I'm being a dick - 'cause it gets attention and sparks conversation - I fuckin' luv ya. Bill Costantini has me laughin' so hard, I'm waking the neighbors. You should write a comedy bro. You're a funny mother fucker, for real. Owen Mowatt you can always get a read from me. Any number of pages. I just can't do it with the newer writers because reading the entire story is not a good use of my time when I can glance at a page or three, and give them years worth of homework. The other reason is that can be overwhelming and they'll fall off. I'll answer the Unnatural Art of Screenwriting question Monday so others can get a shot. On another note, this got me thinking, after i finish the script that won't quit cause I''m a fuckin' perfectionist, we should huddle up FOUR HORSEMEN style and write a feature. Bill, Owen, Phillip and I, or whoever wants in. I'm willing to make that one of my projects next year. Let's think on it. I bet we could do something nice.

Pamela Bolinder

HEY! Shawn Speake MOD, I'm a little, no, a lot discouraged at your FOUR HORSEMEN selection! There are many 'seasoned' gal writers here on Stage 32.

Dan Guardino

When I first started writing screenplays the only thing I found unnatural was not overwriting. I am sure writing economically isn't the right answer but that is okay because I don't need or like getting feedback, so even if I am right don't tell me.

Shawn Speake

Pamela Bolinder , Hey homie, I didn't mean to exclude anyone. Those are guys I've known for years on S32. That's all. No need to get discouraged. The invitation is for all who know story craft.

Pamela Bolinder

Shawn, no problem =) The four of you would make an awesome team!

Patricia Zell

The Unnatural Art of Screenwriting could be about the skill of writing dialogue where there could be two major problems: writing dialogue that is on the nose or trying to write dialogue the way people actually speak. Great dialogue in a screenplay is not natural at all. It is carefully constructed to get points across in the most concise way possible.

Shawn Speake

What's good, ladies and gentlemen! Erik Jacobsen luv your style. Bill Costantini I hate to let you down but this isn't one of those 'deep posts'. All of you knew it, just haven't heard it phrased this way. Unfortunately, I forgot which book I got it from so the definition is not verbatim. I'll do my best...

THE UNNATURAL ART OF SCREENWRITING. Screenwriting is not natural...

Dialogue isn't how we naturally talk. It's how we wished we talked. If your scene opens up with nicetys: hello, how are you, I''m fine, how was your day. You are writing natural real-life dialogue.

Fine in real life. Fatal for a script.... Story actions aren't the actions we'd naturally take.

We naturally avoid conflict so emotions are heightened to ensure story actions are just the opposite. We don't go to movies to see anyone avoid conflict. We go to movies to safely experience things we would never naturally say or do. In life someone does us wrong, we think about revenge and move on. If we're screenwriting we get revenge!

There you have it. THE UNNATURAL ART OF SCREENWRITING. Thanks for hanging out with your boy. Hope this helped. I'll look at anyone's pages on this thread. Your first 3, or any 3 / 6 page sequence. Here's me and Pookie at the RAGE OF THE MUMMY Premiere Tuesday. I met him through STAGE32. We play the bad guys!

Shawn Speake

Me and S32er Pookie DeRose at the RAGE OF THE MUMMY Premiere in Denver Tuesday. We play the bad guys.

David B. McEwan

Interesting and helpful. Thanks Bill.

D. E. Jackson

I'm going to offer my take on this because the discussion is still open and no one has given my answer (and because I would welcome the 3-pages coverage offered to thread participants).

What new screenwriters fail to recognize is that "screenplay" is a poetic form. As with other forms, its aim is to provoke in the reader a visceral response through written techniques that transcend language——to conjure images and memories so as to startle and draw a reader into hidden realms; to tap a circuit to her heart.

They ignore the premise that a reader comes to a poem with criteria. While novices expect poems to merely rhyme (and a rarified some are prepared to suspend all convention and follow a writer's unique abstractions anywhere), sophisticated readers may be unsatisfied unless those rhymes fit classical schemes: The sonnet and the villanelle need fulfill their respective standards in order to qualify as such. A poet can enrich one by embedding rhythms, internal patterns, colors, math, thematic development (such as posing a dilemma in quatrains before resolving it in couplet), or etc.

A screenwriter may similarly load his deliverable by exceeding technical expectation——or by deliberate pruning in the cultivation of its thesis. One must write simply yet not rest on being read simply.

The unnatural act of screenwriting is craft. Craft isn't a mere imposition of order but the iterative refinement of it. Topiary is superficial. Bonsai is not.


coals in a cold field.

juicy swings of a honed axe.

tender leaves unfold


If you like what you've read so far, please consider reviewing my logline(s).

Thank you.


Shawn Speake

what's good, yo. strong stuff there. first off let me apologize to everyone. I feel like my post has that 'know it a' aka 'best writer on the planet' vibe. I put in my reps, confidence comes with craft, but I did not mean to insult. Writing is hard freaking work. Anybody who does this gets mad props from me. As a musician with about 12years of screenwriting. I recognized the majority of the writers had three years of homework at best. That got me to thinking... I'm posting pages from my long overdue MadMountainMassacre soon so you'll be able to see some of my latest pages and anyone who reads this can shoot me three pages however you choose. If it's cool I'd rather give you your feedback on the phone. I get enough tapping and I feel like it's more beneficial... my business line is 720-808-2401. , or here. Message me in any way when you shoo your pages so I don't lose in spam.

Pamela Bolinder

Love your posts, Shawn! Will check out: Mad Mountain Massacre pages. Best, always!

Phillip "No Parenthetical" Hardy

Word, brother Shawn!

LaKesa Cox

Was it character arc?

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