And the Best Screenplay Goes to…
As writers interested in bettering our skills, we are always looking for tools that can help to-day.
We need more resources.
We need them now.
And when it comes to real support, I can think of no better group than the one that tunes into this site.
The response from readers in the past few weeks has been outstanding.
I asked for pitches and you gave us some fantastic ones in “4 X 4 X 4”; some of those loglines make me realize how very skilled you are in this vital area.
I asked for favorite scenes from movies, and the wealth of information and insight that came from you has been truly inspiring.
And, most recently, what great wit and humor came from our “Title-ating” contest! Incredible!
You are making this site sing, and I love your can-do spirit. I love seeing posts in the Comments section; it gives me a thrill to know such bright and enthusiastic writers out there are giving so much to others.
Thank you all.
And now I think you’re ready for a new challenge, and one I think will be a really great addition to our site.
A thought came over the transom recently from a screenwriter who suggests that what he needs more than anything is to read some good scripts.
When working up his juices to write a new “Rom-com” for instance, wouldn’t it be wizard, he thought, to read a “state of the art” screenplay that challenges him to step up his game to deliver a really good story.
He suggested that if he could get recommendations from other writers, on the trail to success like him, on what scripts they’ve found to be “state of the art” it would be a real boon. That, he said, would really help.
Well, let’s help.
I’d like to throw it out there to our thousands of readers (and I’ve seen the numbers on our site, our numbers are growing AMAZINGLY!) — let’s hear from you on this.
What’s the best “Rom-Com,” “Horror,” “Action,” and “Family Film” you’ve read that you have found both inspiring and informative.
This can include un-produced scripts from your writing groups, but I would need more votes on those to make sure you are not just lobbying to adverstise your latest spec (as much as I admire the chutzpah of that plan).
Our webmaster might even be persuaded to create a front page box score of the ever-changing Top Five Screenplays our readers find most inspiring; and we can refresh that list with new input on a regular basis.
But let’s start with some feedback. What screenplay have you read lately that really is hot, and really made you take a look at your own and think: I gotta be more like this other guy!
I think this is an excellent suggestion and look forward to hearing your nominations. Our goal is to be THE resource for writers to turn to for any information they need to further their art.
And we are just the Cats! to do it.
Thank you all again for the excitement you are generating in our community.
Have a great writing week everybody!
- Scott W
“Memento!” (just kidding, Blake)
- John J. Austrian
Let’s not forget the “Hall of Records” on the forum.
- Martin Blank
Best New Rom Com: a teen sex comedy that sold and is being made called “HOT FOR TEACHER” by Jay Dyer. I read it and thought, really funny, really smart. I saw the movie by simply reading the script. Could not put it down. It has a scene that if filmed as written is going to be an instant classic. At the end thought of course it sold and is being made. And I’m not a big fan of teen sex comedies!
For ROM COM inspiration, I sometimes turn to “When Harry Met Sally” by Nora Ephron. Her script is so economical (hardly any action lines) and the dialogue just sings, which of course is important for romantic comedies to work well. You need that great banter and some classic lines.
As highly readable SCI-FI scripts go… “ALIEN” by Dan O’Bannon is one I turn to to see how a master does it.
As DRAMA / COMEDIES go, the shooting script for “Sideways” by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor is excellent (and won an Oscar for best adaptation).
Another well-written DRAMA (and adaptation) is “A Beautiful Mind” by Akiva Goldsman. Another Oscar winner.
Some of these are available in published form, and I think all of them are available online. Just Google “Screenplays Online” to get a few sites that offer online scripts. Just make sure they’re not “transcripts”, but the actual screenplay.
Hope that helps!
- Stephen Todoro
Two adapted scripts I’ve read recently were “Into The Wild” (Sean Penn) and “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (Ronald Harwood) – not very lighthearted romps; but great nonetheless. To me, what made them great was their seamless flow. If you’ve seen either film, they jump back and forth from the present to various times in each character’s life; and each scene was well-placed (i.e. it moved the story) and meant something. I was very impressed with how well each script pulled that off. I had no problem following the story despite all of the time-jumps.
On a lighter note, I love the “Thank You For Smoking” script. It’s very easy to get into from the beginning and the satire and sarcasm keep you laughing. For romantic comedy dialogue, how can you beat the classic “When Harry Met Sally”? For storytelling, Fargo is one of my favorites. I know I’m leaving out a couple of hundred others…
And now for a shameless plug that ties into Blake’s blog entry today.
Y’all must do yourselves a favor and scoot your browsers on over to http://www.pdfscreenplays.net. It houses the single largest library of screenplays the web has ever seen. It’s run by a selfless, tireless dude named Sheridan and probably has well over 1000 scripts IN PDF FORMAT within its electronic walls. All free, all the time!
I just started running a little section over there called “Script School,” taking one script at a time from his master hall of records. For each script, I do a brief overview of the draft and then do a script-to-screen comparison. It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a long time in an effort to ramp my craft up a bit. With the amount of material to be found there, I believe I will complete this task around late 2021.
Anyway, of the three analysis I’ve done thus far, the first one, a script/film called “12 and Holding,” was quite good. The story was a bit scattershot but the writing was superb. Give it a look.
And in reponse to Blake’s question of the day, I always seem to turn to the old Faber and Faber publication of the Coen’s Miller’s Crossing and Barton Fink scripts for a quick blast of inspiration.
First off, kudos to Blake for his excellent blog!! A great place to learn and be inspired.
In response to the question about reading scripts:
Reading successful screenplays is absolutely one of the best ways to get a feel for what works in any given genre. When it comes to romcoms, classics like the above-mentioned When Harry met Sally can be extremely inspiring.
However, genres develop all the time, and romcom especially has changed a lot in the past ten years. These days there are a lot of “guy-centred” romcoms, which is a relatively new twist in the romcom idiom. One of the funniest and best-written of these is Knocked Up. Definitely worth studying!!
For some specific insights into what makes successful scripts work, check out one of my blogs: http://greatscreenwriting.blogspot.com/, where I include excerpts from the screenplays themselves to illustrate why and how certain techniques and genres work.
To specifically keep abreast of developments in the romcom genre, I would highly recommend Billy Mernit’s wonderful blog http://livingromcom.typepad.com/.
Another very useful place to download scripts for free is The Internet Movie Script Database: http://www.imsdb.com/.
Happy reading and writing,
- Matthys Boshoff
Rom Com — As Good as it Gets
Drama — The Shawshank Redemption
Horror — Granny (I mean it, Blake)
Action — Heat & Terminator2
Fargo has to be mentioned.
There’s an unproduced script called The Wheelman that is just awesome for action writing. For comedy, there’s a script that sold about a year ago called Prick. It’s comparable to Old School in tone. Worth a read if you write comedy.
As for produced scripts, I really enjoyed Little Miss Sunshine. Also, the pilot episode of Pushing Daisies was vivid and funny and beautiful.
Thank you, Naomi! Great suggestions!! For those who don’t know, Naomi Beaty played a very valuable role in researching Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies. Along with BJ Markel who edits all the Cat! books, Naomi was our go-to source for the intricacies on all 50 films in that book. Naomi is living up in the Northwest now but we miss her! Great to hear from you, Naom!
- Brad Ferguson
The story is constantly moving forward with great pace. When I read this script, I can feel it. It feels like I am sitting in ‘Ricks’ viewing these scenes firsthand. Dialogue is short and crisp as well, effortlessly weaving it into the development of the characters and story. I know this is an obvious choice, but when you read it…it cannot be denied as the greatest.
Hi Blake! Thanks for the kind words!
Since you mentioned it, just a quick aside… Yes, I’m in Portland now and would LOVE LOVE LOVE to form a writing group of people who are: 1) devoted to completing screenplays, and 2) familiar with all the Cat-isms. If anyone is interested, please e-mail me directly at [email protected].
Oh, and one more thing [sorry, I can’t seem to shut up today!]…
I’ll post the 2007 Black List in the forums; it’s a list of the best scripts of the year, as voted by industry folks. You get to see a logline, writer and rep info, if it’s available or already sold or set up somewhere, and how many votes each script received. Pretty interesting. If I remember correctly, Juno was on a previous year’s list.
- Rich Lucas
Lars and The Real Girl is a great read and perfect example of how to take a “normal” event (introducing your girlfriend to the family) and breaking that rule to turn the story on its head (thanks Pilar).
- Doug Miller
By far the best script I ever read is “Steinbeck’s Point of View” by Brandon Camp & Mike Thompson. (Genie in the bottle/Dude with a problem story)
This was a spec that sold in 2001 for 5 MILLION DOLLARS! Unfortunately, 9-11 diffused its heat due to the fact that it involves a plane crash in Act I. I hear now it’s back in production, however.
If you haven’t read it yet, you must find it and read it!
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Thanks so much for STC. I use it and refer back to it almost every day.
I’ve been thinking: Cats need to be saved when good guys aren’t good enough. And, as you point out, sometimes the good guy can be made better by making the bad guy worse.
However, this effect does not have a catchy moniker.
Until now. And it’s yours to use as you like, on the house …
“Kick the Puppy!”