Screenwriter’s Journey: Reading Scripts

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“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.” – Stephen King

A writer reads. Not only novelists like Stephen King need to read, but any writer there is who wants to sharpen their writing tool(s) – and that includes screenwriters. Besides writing and watching movies, this is the only way you can improve in your craft.

But what should you read?

Some people suggest that you should read anything you can get your hands on and interests you. This is not necessarily the worst you can do; it can be quite invigorating, if you do enjoy reading a lot – and have a lot of time.

But like most people, I’d imagine your time is quite limited, and you’d rather cut to the chase.

Here are my tips to get the most out of reading scripts (fast):

  1. Find a good resource. The Internet Movie Script Database is full of freely readable scripts. The only downside; you cannot download them. Keep an eye out on articles that make Oscar-nominated movie scripts available around the Oscars; that’s how I could download Nocturnal Animals, for instance.
  2. Pick high-quality scripts. Why waste your time reading poorly written scripts? After having read a lot of high-quality scripts, you may have a look at a low-quality one, just in order to see the difference. But I’d say doing so is rather unnecessary in general; especially because you do not want to develop a voice that is similar to that of someone who writes poorly. Now you may ask, what distinguishes a high-quality script from a low-quality one? Generally speaking, movies with a great story tend to have great scripts. As a screenwriter, you’ll also have to watch movies of course, and get a feeling for what kinds of movies have a good, tight, intriguing story. Read the scripts of those movies. You may also want to have an eye on Oscar-winners (see Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Screenplay, Best Picture), and read their scripts.
  3. Pick scripts that fit into your chosen genre. If you are about to or are already working on your own script, it could be advised to read high-quality scripts in your chosen genre. For instance, before I started working on my own Thriller script, I read those scripts which I imagined could be inspirational and educational: Memento and Nocturnal Animals. 
  4. Read everyday. Don’t let a day slip by where you are not reading any work of art. Ideally, you would finish reading a script within a day in one go, but for most of us this is rather unrealistic. At least read one script in a matter of a few consecutive days. Let your mind be consumed by that script, and don’t cut the cord by missing out on a day. Make it a habit to read everyday. When I was reading the aforementioned scripts, I’d set aside the time for each morning, just to read. The exception to this “rule”: You may not focus on reading other scripts when you are actively working on your own.
  5. Make notes. Take note of what excites, intrigues, frustrates you about the script you are reading. What would you do better? What do you find fascinating? What is especially cinematic (as in visual)?

The gist of it is quite simple: Read (high-quality) scripts (everyday). 😉

 

At last, I ask you: Which scripts have helped you on your journey to becoming a (better) screenwriter? Please share your recommendations in the comments!

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Meaning of: The Space Opera Boom in the 2010s

With the revival of Star Wars, the surge of other science fiction-related movies like Guardian of the Galaxy, the remake of Ghost In The Shell, and particularly the sequel (?) of Blade Runner, one finds themselves amidst androids, neon lights, rainy cities, aliens, stars; and asks themselves: What does this say about ourselves?

Why is the science fiction genre, especially the Space Opera, so popular at the moment? What does it reflect in terms of our collective (un)conscious?

Technological advancements have led us there, would be one simple answer.

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Indeed, technology has seeped into our everyday lives slowly and then all at once. Smartphones are ubiquitous in our cultural awareness; they are an integral part of our daily lives. The Internet is physically intangible but nevertheless influential and wide-reaching…

Several aspects of our lives have become divorced from the physical and/or human element in the recent years and decade(s).

In that regard, it is not surprising that science fiction related media has seen a surge in popularity. They are simply exaggerating and endowing the everyday experience with futuristic foresight – or magic.

Magical Space Operas are phenomenally and impressively over-sized; in terms of scale, technological advancement, drama; with a greater variety in terms of organisms (e.g aliens, robots), buildings, weapons, …  and the laws of nature are allowing of feats close to magic.

Perhaps we simply yearn for more magic in our lives; a magic that is submersed in the era and environment of technological advancement. 

There is another intriguing question that science fiction movies and books keep bringing up (when they are not focused on overwhelming the audience with action)…

The Science fiction genre (minus possibly certain “shallow” Space Opera movies) does not only appeal to our senses and magic-thirsty minds, but the question of whether the state of our culture is acceptable or not; but even more poignantly, what it means to be human.

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When we are faced with a being that is both fleshless and humanoid, physically dead and mentally alive, we enter a philosophical conundrum.

Is everything that looks human, human? Is humanity something more internal? Can humanity be superficially created? And if humanity is something deeply internal, is it possible for a robot to be more human in mindset than a human who is internally lifeless?

Everyday, we are faced with the choice to either do what we consider humane or inhumane, and a robot who is not biologically human may not feel inclined towards humane behaviour by their own volition – and this can raise questions and anxiety levels…

The dream (or nightmare) of robots (or similar) is nothing new: It has pervaded human consciousness for a long time – for a good reason.

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The Golem, the android, the cyborg; the creation of a human that is not truly human, not borne out of human physicality, but rather abstractly, through flesh-less means; with the help of cold, stainless metal tools or magic; in a petri dish or in a ritual; etc…

We are looking for either finding or creating something greater than ourselves which could last for eternity.

This seems to be one universal truth.

Another truth is, as mentioned above, related to wanting to dream and lose oneself in the entertainment of the mind…

But like most trends, the one of the Space Opera will eventually come to a momentary end and be replaced with another, just to (likely) return again at a latter time.

This is exactly what happened to the vampire sujet for instance: Stephenie Meyer re-ignited the fire with the Twilight series, so that for a while our cultural awareness was heavily populated by vampiric individuals who are also concerned with the question of what it means to be human in a world that keeps changing.

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It is not a coincidence that robots have replaced vampires: Both are “cold-blooded”, humanoid in appearance, undead, but filled with a desire for humanity – though for the robots, this desire is (most times) merely artificially created, whereas for the vampires it is a longing that has remained from their former human days – and their nature is inherently more animalistic…

It will be interesting to see which trend will replace the Space Opera one; though one could argue it is merely one trend besides several others, like the superheroes trend; and that all trends are in a constant flux, going up and down in popularity like the waves of the sea…

Either way: For now, let’s enjoy the space ride for as long as it lasts (this time). 😉