The guidebook is clear, well-organized, and sometimes painfully academic and overly analytical. This is a common attribute of all screenwriting guidebooks, but Landau's prose is, at times, more readable than Field and McKee.
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He places main points in bold for emphasis, making each chapter both digestible and thought-provoking. Landau's stated thesis is "there is no absolute formula when it comes to writing a successful screenplay. Susannah Grant maintains that "the deification of the three-act structure is ridiculous," a notion that seems to fly in the face of a book of this nature, which is, necessarily, regardless of its proposed thesis, absorbed with structure. There are many ways to write a script, but Landau's systematic approach reiterates the tried-and-true method. His analysis reads like the notebook of a topnotch teacher, and the addition of the interviews is what makes this book a true gem.
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Highbrow Magazine. Neil Landau on the Art of Screenwriting. Christopher Karr. Bottom Slider:. Add new comment If you're a human, don't change the following field Enter your name Your first name.
If you're a human, don't change the following field Enter your name Your first name. Your name. More information about text formats. Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically. Lines and paragraphs break automatically. I'm not a spammer. I'm a spammer. Read more Or "Clerks? Or none of the above? Beyond that, does the traditional advice actually make sense?
Or is so-called 3-act structure an artifact of the analysis? If you looked for 4 acts instead of 3, would you find them? This profusion of questions is perhaps one measure of the incoherence of the aspirational screenwriting world. I have, at least in myself, noticed my ego's sincere desire to believe it's in total control and seek to define all the "hows and why's" collected to best help repel the insecurity inherent to being flawed and human while endeavouring to create something worthy of other peoples time and attention.
Make's for a lot of useless chatter and activity along the way. Which ultimately does me fuck all good of course, and I am learning I just have to have to shut up, put up and get to work. Let's say you give an art student a white wall and unlimited access to paints and brushes. Now give another art student a piece of paper and a pencil.
Neil Landau on the Art of Screenwriting
If both of them produce something really good who is more creative? Guess what i'm trying to say is that knowing the rules can be very liberating and take away some of that fear of facing a blank page. Having said that I find that the best way to learn is by doing so I guess that as with most things in life virtue lies in the middle.
I have in turn been both greatly helped and hampered by books and gurus on screenwriting. Obsessing about the fact your at page 40, when "ideally" you should be at page 30 can really hit the creative breaks and put you into second guessing that can be quite destructive I've found personally. On the other hand when something is not working, having a good understanding of theories around structure or making sure a scene turns or campbell's comparative mythologies etc is invaluable.
I would say that the act of study itself is very worthwhile, but that it's very important "creatively" to then also let go of that study. And not just, not to be beholden to it, but actually to let really it go. I believe the points which are pertinent will then surface anyway in response and in harmony with your imagination if and when required if you have truly studied hard and put a lot of hours in.
It really is a ride for me, or a flow, or a zone, for me "creativity" and I'm learning that the zone itself while it may be valuably supported by or arrived at by any number of means, needs to supersede all the other factors. I think this debate is very well addressed by T. Eliot's essay "Tradition and the Individual Talent. That said I personally believe that a foundational understanding of the well established principals of writing, both regarding structure plot even , and indeed an understanding of character, is necessary for anyone hoping to be taken seriously as a writer, whether his medium be screenplays, novels, poems, or otherwise.
In my experience screenwriting gurus as this article has identified them are hardly the best people from which one can obtain this understanding. I think Mr. Boone is absolutely right that an excellent way to understand screenwriting principals is simply to watch movies.
Frank Zappa's prowess certainly shows that traditionally accepted learning methods for example, classroom learning are not the only route, although I would certainly say that attending university to study screenwriting is a far better route than screenwriting gurus. As I have observed, screenwriting gurus have generally bogarted traditional teaching methods and warped them into a money-making operation. Some of the information is still there absolutely, which is why some people are helped by screenwriting gurus; however, ultimately there is no real instructional substance in what they have to offer, and those seeking to learn to write from a traditional instructional approach would be better suited seeking out a B.
I personally learned an immense amount very quickly from watching movies, once I began consciously seeing how a screenplay works as it plays out, and I hope that by saying that I can revitalize some people's interest who may be intimidated by the daunting task of learning the craft. I disagree therefore with only one thing Frank Darabont said. Other than that, I think he hit the nail right on the head about those nonsense gurus.
Furthermore, other poets and writers have written similarly enlightening pieces about what an artist should take responsibility for when he wants to create art. Ezra Pound, douchey though he may be, comes to mind. I do not feel qualified to to judge the real world value of any particular screenwriting book or teacher.
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But, none the less, I feel that some of this discussion misses an important an important point. Teaching and "doing" are often completely different talents. I had a couple of excellent physics teachers who were mediocre physicists. I doubt that Einstein would have been a good physics teacher. I had other professors who did great work in their academic field but were lousy teachers. Many outstanding sports coaches were mediocre players with minimal playing careers in the sports they coach.
There are famous acting coaches you know their names who influenced generations of great film actors e. Even Tiger Woods and athletes of his caliber seek advice and coaching, even as adults, from people who are not great athletes. Is there anyone who thinks Tiger would have been a better golfer if he had had no coaching as a child? Furthermore, even if an aspiring writer wants to learn from a successful and prolific screenwriter instead of a "guru", realistically, how many will be able to get access to one?
Furthermore, anyone with any common sense should know that mastering any art or craft requires years of hard work. That is a given. Who really thinks you learn to play classical music or jazz from a book. But that does not mean that that a music theory class can't help you on your journey as long as you do the work. I noticed that Aristotles poetics is among the books recommended on this site. How many screenplays did he write? Screenwriting books and gurus may or may not be of significant value. But in my opinion, to try determine their value based on how many successful screenplays or screenwriting credits the teacher has is very false reasoning.
It was argued above that these teachers can cause writers to overemphasize structure and to be formulaic. That may be true and should be guarded against. But I suspect there are even more screenplays submitted that are rambling incoherent messes with atrocious dialogue. Many of these were written by people who are clueless about structure and dialogue. Even if formula should be avoided, there are clearly principles of drama that have withstood the test of time.
As regards "learning from watching movies and reading screenplays", this may be a valuable way to learn. But I still think that a combination of that with some "book study" would be even better. It could help you watch more intelligently and see things you might have missed. I really think the key point of all that is expressed above is to not think that a teacher or book will take the place of years of hard work in mastering ANY art or craft. But that does not mean the teachers and books are of little or no value. I agree with you that teaching and doing are different things. I took truby in boston in and though i am not a writer I wanted and did direct and produce in hollywood by and to learn the basics of story structure is something for anyone even reality tv producers..
If you wanted to work you need as many skills as possible- i became a reader and work in story development at 2 studios after using this knowledge. When working in production a producer I was working for who was writing his own script saw me reading a screenwriting book.
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He said, "Careful with those books. They'll have you writing from sign post to sign post". He was commenting on the structure-centric nature of many books. One of the best books on writing for me was Stephen Kings.
Neil Landau on the Art of Screenwriting | Highbrow Magazine
He basically says read a lot and write a lot. Also, the War Of Art was a quick and motivational read.
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None of these really tell you how but motivate you into reality. Those all served me better as an artist. They certainly helped me to write and create the short films I've done and the Artist's Way was revalatory. I finished that and produced a play for myself that I was the lead in. Fantastic, self-empowering motivator.
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My own writing made a quantum leap when I finally stopped outlining my stories according to so-called Classic Story Structure. For years, I thought if I followed that structure, I'd have to come up with winners. Don't get me wrong, there are elements of structure that every good story must include.
But they must come about organically, and not from forcing the story into a "mold. Thanks to everyone for the new book tips. I just purchased the War of Art and Now Write.