During the course of my speaking engagement in Chicago this past fall, I met with several writers working on great screenplay ideas. In talking to them about their scripts, I referenced certain movies I thought would be helpful. I also suggested they read the scripts for these movies. They hadn’t read them; in fact, they told me, they rarely read screenplays.

No harm done, we can’t be on top of every detail — I’m not — but it does suggest some further homework and brings up an early 2007 challenge: What screenplays are you reading lately?

As part of the annual thumping of the tub that hopefully will lead to Oscar gold, the studios send out “screeners” to members of the voting public. I have been getting DVDs of Flags of Our Fathers, Notes on a Scandal, Little Children and Babel. I’ve also been getting the scripts of some of these films: Bobby, Little Miss Sunshine, Thank You For Smoking, The History Boys and more.

Great stuff! And what an education. I devoured the script of Little Miss Sunshine and really learned alot. Michael Arndt, the author of Sunshine, has a great style of writing. It’s clear, funny… and inspiring! Seeing the words on the page, and knowing the film, reminds me that it’s possible to see our visions on screen (this was his first sale!!). And I learned a few tricks from his method of getting information across to readers, moving characters efficiently in and out of rooms, and voice! It’s a fantastic example of how, on the page, every character is clear, distinct, and unique… just in the words they speak, a point I am forever preaching. And the movie itself is an example of what I have been suggesting we write for over a year, and what I think is still the “silver bullet” in screenwriting right now: high concept-low budget. In my opinion, that is the ticket to many more chances to sell your script.

So on your list of things to do this year, for yourself or your writing group, put down “read more scripts.” If you’re in a writing group, you might all read the same script as a group assignment and discuss what you learned.

Reading also will help you visualize how your award-winning screenplay will look… and get sold… and get made!

P.S. I am honored to have been asked to speak this weekend at the Alameda Writers Group. We’ve had 134 rsvps so far and it looks like it will be a great event. If you are in the L.A. area, the meeting starts at 9:45 til noon. I start my talk at 10:30.

The location is The Glendale Public Library Auditorium, 222 E. Harvard St. Glendale CA. There’s no charge to attend.

For more info, here is the link: http://www.alamedawritersgroup.org/meeting_next.html

And here’s the link to their Home Page: http://www.alamedawritersgroup.org/

Now back to work! Today I am writing reviews of Crash and Saw for my book, Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies:The Screenwriter’s Guide to Every Story Ever Told. How do these two movies beat out on the BS2? We shall see!