New Information

Research is a great way to learn more about our characters. Your Task: Pick a subject that your character is familiar with that you might not know much about. Research and list 15 facts on that subject.

How To Write A Scene

One of the best ways to learn is to practice! Your Task: Read Screenwriter John August’s blog entry, “How To Write A Scene.” Following the instructions (minus step 11), grab an article from today’s news and write it into a movie scene.

The Producer Calls

A producer calls you. He wants to see you work on the fly. He wants to see how creative and sharp you can be. Your task: Come up with 25 original movie titles in 10 minutes.

What Does It Take?

What changes in your scenes when you reduce or expand them? Screenwriting books almost unanimously call for an economy of words — choosing your words wisely and using less to say more. Practice this. Your Task: Come up with a scene from a movie and write 3 versions of the same scene. Write the first one using a 1/2 page; the second one with 1 1/2 pages; and the third one using 3 pages.

Turning Point

Usually, a movie’s plot is what draws me to it and its’ plot twists are what keep me there. Your Task: Watch 10 movies and identify the turning points in the plot. Answer these questions: How did these turning points happen? Was there a consistent theme from movie to movie?

Creative Instruction

Beyond storytelling, the screenplay is a map for actors and filmmakers. The screenwriter conveys creative instruction through action elements in the script.

The Exercise

You’ll need a partner.

Partner A is to instruct partner B how to put on a shoe (preferably one with laces). To do this, partner B must take off one of their shoes. They are also to pretend that they have never seen a shoe, don’t know what it is and don’t know what its various parts are or do.

Partner A needs to explain the process of putting on a shoe. Partner A should do this verbally and without pointing at the parts of the shoe. Every part of the explanation should try to be clear, verbal and effective enough to get partner B to get that shoe on.

Journal

How can language create and shape action?

Sherlock Holmes And Moriarty

Written/Contributed by Hal Ackerman

Do this with a writing friend. Each of you separately concoct a perfect crime: Circumstances, motive, execution, getaway. Perpetrator. Victim. Write it out in some detail.

Then exchange papers. Create a character who will solve this crime. How will the hole in the plan be discovered? By what means of detection?

Editing Practice

Editing our own scripts is sometimes wrought with our own defensiveness and inability to let go of what we originally put on the page. Practicing with other scripts can improve our skills and help us see that no matter how done we think a script is, it can always use a little more work. Your Task: Download and read someone else’s script. Answer these questions: What opportunities have the writers missed? What loose-ends have not been tied up? Does this seem important to the writer? Why or why not? How would you make this script better? Explain each element you would change in detail. To go even further, share your notes with someone who has read the script or seen the movie. What do they think of your comments?

Defense Against the Critics

Can you defend the choices you’ve made in your own writing? Try it. Your Task: Take a screenplay that you’ve written. Pick out the major plot points and defend your decisions for the way you’ve written them. Write a short essay detailing the decisions you’ve made for the plot of your story and defend these choices against potential criticism.

Tarrantino Exercise

Written/Contributed by Hal Ackerman

1.Open the phone book Yellow Pages to two random pages, and select two businesses. Move two characters from Point A to Point B by whatever means you invent. Invent a good reason for the journey. Reveal that intent skillfully. If it’s huge, understate it. If it’s trivial, exaggerate.

2. Pick one of the following topics and write a dialogue scene between those two characters, exploring and disputing the topic fully.
a. Standard shift vs. automatic transmission
b. Leaf blowers
c. Teeth
d. Class seating on airplanes
e. Vegetarianism
f. Paying for cable TV
g. Burning CDs
h. Any other mundane topic in the world.

As in every good scene, use the interchange not only to explore the issue, but in doing so, reveal who the characters are, individually and in their relationship to each other.

3. Orchestrate part 2 into part 1 and write a sequence of scenes.

creative screenwriting exercises (Get the book for all 101 exercises)