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Essentials of Screenwriting: The Art, Craft, and Business of Film and Television Writing (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 29. Juni 2010

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Leseprobe. Abdruck erfolgt mit freundlicher Genehmigung der Rechteinhaber. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.

RICHARD WALTER has been chairman of UCLA’s graduate screenwriting program for more than thirty years. A novelist and screenwriter himself, he lectures and offers master classes throughout the nation and the world.

“The prime broker for Hollywood’s hottest commodity: new writing talent.”

—Wall Street Journal

“The Jewish mother of screenwriting.”


“Screenwriting is full of the expertise of someone who knows what makes movies worth writing, making, and seeing . . . [Richard Walter] instructs with wit, common sense, and love for his art and craft.”

—Steven Bach, author of Final Cut

“In the gold rush atmosphere of screenwriting, Richard Walter is a wise guide. A lively and provocative book.”

—Andrew Bergman, writer/director of The Freshman and Honeymoon in Vegas

“Richard Walter, a writer himself, is the only person teaching screenwriting who knows what the f*^% he’s talking about.”

—Joe Eszterhas, writer of Basic Instinct and Flashdance


The Art, Craft, and Business
of Film and Television Writing


Professor and Screenwriting Chairman, UCLA


My experience editing hundreds upon hundreds of screenplays over the decades positions me uniquely well to appreciate the importance of editing and also the qualities characterizing a worthy editor. There is none worthier than Nadia Kashper, wise beyond her years, without whose support this book would constitute not much more than a catalogue of Richie’s Greatest Hits.

I salute also the attention and consideration afforded me by my earlier editors at Plume: Arnold Dolin, Gary Luke, and Peter K. Borland.

For my leonine agent, Peter Miller: roars.

Eternal gratitude to my longtime pal and partner in Westwood Professor Hal Ackerman and also to Lew Hunter and all our UCLA colleagues over many wonderful years.

My writing and teaching continues to be informed and expanded by the spirit of my own teacher, the late and legendary Irwin R. Blacker.

Finally, as always, with love to Pat, for reminding me daily just who I am and what it is that truly matters, and for providing me with more fun and inspiration than any mere movie.

When citing movies and television shows, the names of all credited writers are provided the first time the title appears in the book.


The God Game

In the early 1970s, while I was still nominally a film student but had been writing professionally for a couple of years, the Writers Guild went on strike.

May I confess here and now that I loved the strike?

By that time I’d written half a dozen feature screenplays for the studios and had earned a steady, even a substantial living. At that precise moment, however, I was “between assignments”—Hollywood’s euphemism for out of work—and I did not, therefore, have to abandon any post.

The bright side of unemployment is that you cannot be fired.

It was springtime in Los Angeles and, notwithstanding my still-fresh New York chauvinism, I could not deny the season’s sweetness. I resided in a comfy, cozy cottage with a bright yard and plentiful fruit trees. There were birds, possums, raccoons, and skunks. I even liked the skunks. I noodled around in my head with a notion for a novel, but mainly, from my knotty-pine-paneled, north-light study, I stared serenely at the snowcapped San Gabriel Mountains.

Twice a week Guild members were required to present ourselves at a particular studio—my assignment was Paramount—and walk the picket line for three hours. I eagerly anticipated each round. It got me out of doors and into the sunshine, caused me ever so slightly to utilize my muscles. Best of all, for the first time in my life I met regularly with other writers.

Parading with my colleagues up and back before the studio’s Bronson Gate, conversation was endless. We talked sports. We talked weather. We talked cars. We talked Watergate.

Mainly we talked writing; not the profound, penetrating issues regarding beauty and truth but the hard-bitten nuts/bolts considerations, working writers’ shoptalk: hand-cranked versus electric pencil sharpeners, standard versus legal-size ruled yellow pads, felt-tipped markers versus ballpoint pens, liquid Wite-Out versus cut-rate bulk generic correction fluid available by the half gallon at an office supply outlet on Lake just north of Colorado in Pasadena.

Spoiled brats that we were, as all writers are and have been since the invention of writing in ancient Sumer five thousand years ago, we inventoried the injustices visited upon us by our oppressors: agents, actors, executives, the pal-of-the-producer hack who had rewritten and wrecked our latest draft, the director who had botched and butchered our otherwise flawless triumph, the literary manager who had refused to take or return our calls, the spouse, offspring, parent, pal, pet, or potted plant who had neglected to pay ample homage to our timeless and eternal genius.

Walking that line, talking with my fellows, amid all of the showbiz gossip I discovered a startling, liberating precept. I present it here as the first among many essential principles we’ll underscore from time to time throughout this volume.

Principle 1: All writers hate to write.

It is not I alone who dreads the blank page, who struggles daily to drag himself to his desk, who dawdles and procrastinates and picks lint from the carpet to avoid applying fingers to keys. Those nasty habits belong, I realized, to all writers.

Writers love having written, but we hate to write.

This may appear cynical, but it is simply a statement of observed fact. To sit hour upon hour in an empty room, attempting to fill blank paper—or, these days, glowing LCD screens—with story, character, and dialogue worthy of the time, attention, and consideration of an audience is as lonely as life gets. Writing, like banging your head against the wall, feels terrific mainly when you stop.

On the picket line, putting one foot in front of the other along Melrose, turning the corner at Van Ness, we inventoried the clever and elaborate methods by which the lot of us evade our task. One writer described a technique he had developed whereby he gazed blankly from his window at traffic; as soon as the fourteenth car bearing Nebraska plates drove past, he started writing. Another claimed he would put cool, quiet jazz on the stereo in the background, sharpen all his pencils, lay out neat, fresh stacks of heavy-gauge rag-content bond, test his typewriter ribbon, and then, at long last . . . defrost his refrigerator.

This is not to deny that there are soaring, triumphant moments attendant to writing. Professional screenwriters are paid, after all, for the very same activity that earns civilians reprimand: daydreaming.

To write, however, is far more than merely to dream.

Principle 2: To write is to play God.

As God created the universe, writers create the universe of our screenplays. If we want it to rain, it rains. If we are weary of rain and covet sunshine, out comes the sun. If we get mad at somebody and want to kill him—who has never wanted to kill somebody?—a screenwriter kills him. Afterward, should he...

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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 56 Rezensionen
29 von 30 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Essentials of Screenwriting 13. August 2010
Von J. Leisawitz - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
Some teachers teach because they love school and never want to leave. Others teach because they get summers off. But the best teachers in the world do it because they have an insatiable desire to master a subject and share it with anyone who'll listen. If you're ever fortunate enough to find yourself in the same room (or book) as one of these types, it can be a life changing experience.

Professor Richard Walter, UCLA's Screenwriting Chairman, is one of these guys. He's been pondering the dynamics of story and structure every day for the past several decades and doesn't break a sweat referencing everything from Aristotle to Avatar in the same breath.

Essentials of Screenwriting covers all the big stuff in detail-- theme, conflict, character, dialogue, etc. But this book goes deeper, exploring the interplay of psychology, art and commerce before defining a 'foolproof, shockproof, waterproof, tamper resistant' method for reaching an agent.

Throughout these pages Richard also lays out a series of Screenwriting Principles. They are short and sweet, barbed and brilliant. These sixty odd philosophies (along with the story of the clueless Kindergarten teacher) are alone worth many times the cover price of this book.

Essentials cuts to the chase with more style, wisdom and funny than all of the other screenwriting books I've ever read... combined. It's a fun and informative read packed with practical knowledge about the biz along with profound insights on every conceivable subject, mistake, obstacle and/ or challenge a screenwriter is likely to face.

Professor Walter knows that movies are much more than just a way to kill a few hours on a Saturday night. Great movies express the love, pain, suffering, joy, triumph and tragedy of the human experience. That's why we love them.

This book will help you write them.
25 von 29 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Deep and inspiring 14. Dezember 2010
Von Pen Densham - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
As an active Hollywood Filmmaker I've had the privilege of working with students who studied with Richard. They adore him and write with a great strength. I also teach and adjunct class at USC and I ask my students to review a great many books on film. Richard's new revision of Essentials stands out as a wonderful deep and resonant overview of the craft and business. It speaks to both newer writers and as a great refresher course for working pros. Richard wants to inspire you to think, and enjoy the process, and he succeeds admirably at both!
7 von 8 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
ANIMAL CRACKERS! 27. Januar 2011
Von HIPPO COOKIE - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
A teacher can only be a guide on a journey that ultimately one must take on their own. Richard Walter is the guide I'm taking.

He is wise yet hilarious, unequivocal and unshakably optimistic. Neither bitter nor jaded. If at times he's authoritative, it is to chop the crap constipating other how-to tomes and pamphlets. In sixty-six principles dusted through the text, hard-won truths lay bare what most aspiring screenwriters and screenwriting pundits would know given enough experience and the requisite perception. There is no filler in this book.

Mr. Walter's voice is like rice: there is more there than it seems. The humor is shorthand communion; his ability to flash from ego and abundant self-esteem to jocular self-disparagement and humility is striking and compelling and always insightful. Anything less from the Chair at The Holy Grail of Screenwriting and I'd donate this book at my own unrealized loss, somewhere around the twenty-five percent mark.

Principle 6: "Screenwriting's one unbreakable rule: Don't be boring." A good principle all around: vacation food, nicknames, hairstyles, first-date monologues... and screenwriting books. This book is effective both in content and delivery: "Lie through your teeth. What matters is not the data but the emotion." If you seek tissue-soft pronouncements the bathroom is on the way out. Just kidding. Seriously, you should look elsewhere - another profession some would suggest.

Some of my favorites: identity as the only theme; the `hydrant effect' or why every producer and rewriter has to dribble a few drops on a script; Principle 39: "Breathers are for after the movie. During the movie audiences seek not breathers but breathlessness"; truth is always sought but never known (Principle 22); movies are structured dreaming; the need for screenwriters to learn how to live with dissonance, discord, and a generally unsettled opinion of themselves and their work...

... read the book for details. It will help muscle out your baby.

On Implication versus Expression: "... Writers are well advised to imply rather than express. What is expressed hangs there full and whole in front of the audience for their observation and comprehension. What is implied, however, seduces and engages. It plays out where all worthy art ought to play: in the mind of the observer. That is the most effective form of creative expression because it involves the audience not as a dispassionate observer but as a willing participant, a collaborator."

On the Integrated Screenplay: "... Integration is an essential, elusive quality informing all creative expression... it is every bit as easy to understand as it is difficult to achieve - indeed, if from beginning to end a screenplay is genuinely integrated, the writer can successfully do even nothing at all. If that sounds crazy, remember that to no small extent crazy is precisely what art is." Diverse examples then add meat.

Integration is something I've intuitively understood. What Richard Walter does is articulate it and in doing so, he tightens my boots. Not only does he point out the tool in my hand, but he sharpens it and shows me how to fight.

Part III: "Business" imparts much insight and advice both time-tested and current. If you wonder what to do after you've written a quality script, his advice alone is worth the book's purchase - paraphrasing: "Query letters aren't dead; you're just doing `em wrong." Prophets roll down mountains harking truths but I'm going with Richard Walter. Not only has he walked through fire but due to his teaching position, he has a close and present view of folks gaining representation - some of which no doubt he orchestrates. His insight in mail manners and telephone etiquette among other goodies certainly come from a man who may be a doorway connecting writers to the powerful bipeds.

Keep in mind, he chimes, getting representation is easy - the challenge is to write a screenplay worthy of representation. If that sounds mysterious then let this book blaze through your darkness.

With each turn of the page Richard Walter's aura wafts off and fills the home. This is not a book you quit on after first quarter; for years to come, you will fall back in for guidance, new-found wisdom, and above all - nourishment: the head-pats and chin-ups we all need time to time.

Where are the reviews for this book? How do other books lesser in content, style and nutrients, garner trucks of reviews? It isn't strongly co-related to the value of what's between covers. Much of it I think is due to self-promotion. Unlike your co-workers who involve themselves with no actual work yet spend fifty plus hours grooming their image, Mr. Walter prioritizes writer success over prostitution. This can only come from someone who is successfully navigating his journey and is so kind to leave behind animal crackers.

Essentials of Screenwriting is portable, the off-white pages are eye-friendly, and the binding allows it to keep open on the desk - all good things for a book I'm packing on my own journey. It is now the first I recommend to anyone who asks.

Screenwriting is hard enough. Take the opportunity to increase your odds in this game.
4 von 4 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Exceeded already high expectations 14. Dezember 2010
Von drinkclean - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
I felt like I was sitting face-to-face with the man. Which is brilliant because he communicates from the page like no teacher I've ever known face-to-face.

Mr. Walter offers a rare combination of correction and empowerment that makes one feel, in every sense of the word, better. Upon finishing my time with this book, I feel more confident about the work I've done, and I know I'm capable of taking the next steps toward becoming a professional writer-for-hire.

Other "insider" books have left me feeling locked out of the clubhouse without first being considered. Here, though, I learned from an "insider" who prioritized my growth over displaying his extensive experience, described exactly where I'm treading water, and set a clear course toward the next set of rapids without making me feel inferior.

As a visual learner, I particularly appreciated the example revision notes. I put the book down and immediately started cutting through one of my scripts! It was like having a new tool, better suited to my work than anything I've used before.

Buy the book. If you're looking to stay motivated and keep learning, it might just be the fresh wind your sails have been straining to catch.
16 von 21 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Enjoyable and honest, but redundant for experienced writers 24. Februar 2012
Von Celeste Thoms - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Taschenbuch
This is must in the collection of beginner and intermediate screenwriters. It really goes through every single detail of what you need to know about, not only the art but what it means as a job. It's an entertaining and easy read. I read through it in a couple of sittings. However, I will say that with a lot of the books I've read about the topic and writing screenplays myself, what is written is all that you will come to know and understand with experience. Even with experience it's sometimes good to have a reminder of what's important in a story. This book is a great reminder, but I did feel that a lot of the topics I have gone over so many times before and this wasn't really a new perspective on those topics. I recommend it especially for beginners who need an excellent overview of what it takes to be a writer. This book is honest about what it really takes and it's extremely hard work but Mr. Walters is never discouraging about that. If you are an experienced writer the topics may be bit redundant. Therefore, I would take it as a good refresher and not as something that will give you a lot of new insight.
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