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Step 1: The Story Outline

Joseph McBride

Joseph McBride is a film historian and associate professor in the Cinema department at San Francisco State University. His many books include Searching for John Ford, Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success, Steven Spielberg: A Biography, Hawks on Hawks, Whatever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career, as well as the critical studies John Ford (1974, with Michael Wilmington) and Orson Welles. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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Writing in Pictures : Screenwriting Made (Mostly) Painless

Faber & Faber, 2012

Book chapter

...A Chinese proverb says, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” This is your first step as a screenwriter.Write a two-page ( double-spaced) outline of the story you choose. The outline should be in narrative paragraph...

Step 2: The Adaptation Outline

Joseph McBride

Joseph McBride is a film historian and associate professor in the Cinema department at San Francisco State University. His many books include Searching for John Ford, Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success, Steven Spielberg: A Biography, Hawks on Hawks, Whatever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career, as well as the critical studies John Ford (1974, with Michael Wilmington) and Orson Welles. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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Writing in Pictures : Screenwriting Made (Mostly) Painless

Faber & Faber, 2012

Book chapter

...Now that you’ve outlined the story you’ve chosen to adapt, write an outline of your adaptation. This two-page (double-spaced) outline should tell the story of the film you want to write, based, however loosely, on the original story....

Step 3: The Character Biography

Joseph McBride

Joseph McBride is a film historian and associate professor in the Cinema department at San Francisco State University. His many books include Searching for John Ford, Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success, Steven Spielberg: A Biography, Hawks on Hawks, Whatever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career, as well as the critical studies John Ford (1974, with Michael Wilmington) and Orson Welles. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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Writing in Pictures : Screenwriting Made (Mostly) Painless

Faber & Faber, 2012

Book chapter

...The new frontier in film style is character. They’ve pushed film style so far that there’s no sense trying to change these music video and film school kids. You go back to basics. . . .That’s what it’s about. Particularly on a lower budget,...

Step 4: The Treatment

Joseph McBride

Joseph McBride is a film historian and associate professor in the Cinema department at San Francisco State University. His many books include Searching for John Ford, Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success, Steven Spielberg: A Biography, Hawks on Hawks, Whatever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career, as well as the critical studies John Ford (1974, with Michael Wilmington) and Orson Welles. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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Writing in Pictures : Screenwriting Made (Mostly) Painless

Faber & Faber, 2012

Book chapter

...Below is a sample of the beginning of a professional treatment. This is from François Truffaut’s treatment for the 1960 film À bout de souffle/Breathless, directed by Jean-Luc Godard. For those readers who are surprised to learn...

Step 5: The Step Outline

Joseph McBride

Joseph McBride is a film historian and associate professor in the Cinema department at San Francisco State University. His many books include Searching for John Ford, Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success, Steven Spielberg: A Biography, Hawks on Hawks, Whatever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career, as well as the critical studies John Ford (1974, with Michael Wilmington) and Orson Welles. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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Writing in Pictures : Screenwriting Made (Mostly) Painless

Faber & Faber, 2012

Book chapter

...Now it’s time for your step outline. Not many people know what one is; a step outline is actually quite simple, although it may take some doing to achieve that simplicity. The purpose of such an outline of your screenplay is to break...

Dialogue as Action

Joseph McBride

Joseph McBride is a film historian and associate professor in the Cinema department at San Francisco State University. His many books include Searching for John Ford, Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success, Steven Spielberg: A Biography, Hawks on Hawks, Whatever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career, as well as the critical studies John Ford (1974, with Michael Wilmington) and Orson Welles. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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Writing in Pictures : Screenwriting Made (Mostly) Painless

Faber & Faber, 2012

Book chapter

...After I went to the first Hollywood screening of John Huston’s The Man Who Would Be King in 1975, I ran into a studio executive I knew and admired as someone with uncommonly intelligent taste in movies. When I praised the film...

Actors Are Your Medium

Joseph McBride

Joseph McBride is a film historian and associate professor in the Cinema department at San Francisco State University. His many books include Searching for John Ford, Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success, Steven Spielberg: A Biography, Hawks on Hawks, Whatever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career, as well as the critical studies John Ford (1974, with Michael Wilmington) and Orson Welles. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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Writing in Pictures : Screenwriting Made (Mostly) Painless

Faber & Faber, 2012

Book chapter

...Yes, actors are your medium. That statement may surprise some of you. But the actor is your primary means of expression as a screenwriter. Stanley Kubrick made this point in a 1960 article for Sight & Sound entitled “Words and Movies...

Breaking the Back of the Book; or, The Art of Adaptation

Joseph McBride

Joseph McBride is a film historian and associate professor in the Cinema department at San Francisco State University. His many books include Searching for John Ford, Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success, Steven Spielberg: A Biography, Hawks on Hawks, Whatever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career, as well as the critical studies John Ford (1974, with Michael Wilmington) and Orson Welles. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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Writing in Pictures : Screenwriting Made (Mostly) Painless

Faber & Faber, 2012

Book chapter

...There’s another terrible phrase in Hollywood, but one that is much more useful than “high concept.” This is what is known as “breaking the back of the book.” It’s the elegant way movie people have of explaining the delicate process...

Ten Tips for the Road Ahead

Joseph McBride

Joseph McBride is a film historian and associate professor in the Cinema department at San Francisco State University. His many books include Searching for John Ford, Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success, Steven Spielberg: A Biography, Hawks on Hawks, Whatever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career, as well as the critical studies John Ford (1974, with Michael Wilmington) and Orson Welles. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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Writing in Pictures : Screenwriting Made (Mostly) Painless

Faber & Faber, 2012

Book chapter

...Before we move on to our practical applications and exercises, here are some of the key dos and don’ts that help define the craft of screenwriting.1. Don’t write what we can’t see or hear. If I can leave you with one basic rule about...

Three Slices of American Pie

Tom Stempel

Tom Stempel is the author of five books, two of which were published by Continuum–FrameWork: A History of Screenwriting in American Film and Storytellers to the Nation: A History of American Television Writing–the others being Screenwriter: The Life of Nunnally Johnson; Screenwriting; and American Audiences on Movies and Moviegoing. He is Professor of Cinema, Cinema-Television Department, Los Angeles City College. He has taught on these subjects for more than thirty years. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

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Understanding Screenwriting : Learning from Good, Not-Quite-So-Good, and Bad Screenplays

Continuum, 2008

Book chapter

...American Pie (1999. Screenplay by Adam Herz. 95 minutes) Adam Herz based American Pie on his youth in the eighties in East Grand Rapids, Michigan, and on the films of those years. You might think this would be the genteel films of John...