Friday, February 28, 2014

“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”

"What makes compelling fiction or cinema is when you're basically taking the most intense moments of experience and you're creating a song or a narrative out of it". 
 - director/writer David O. Russell 

       Phenomenal screenplay writer/ director Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, American Gigolo, The Canyons) once quipped -"When screenwriting, be prepared to drop your pants and show your dirty laundry. If you can't do that, better find yourself something more polite."  

  Screenwriting is extremely difficult and most writers will need to heed Paul Schraders advice to be successful. Many movie viewers or audience members arrogantly believe they could easily write something better than whats on screen. The truth is they have no idea how much time, effort and imagination it takes to create captivating cinema. What is a screenplay? A screenplay is the script for a movie, video game or television show (teleplay) which includes acting instructions and scene directions. The major components of a screenplay are action and dialogue. The "action" is written in the present tense. The "dialogue" are the lines the characters speak.

      Sunday, March 2nd during the 86th Academy Awards the Oscars will be honoring screenplay writers from two distinct categories, "original" and "adapted". What is the difference?  An original screenplay is a script not based upon previously published material such as a short story or novel. This category was first created in 1940 as a separate writing award from the Academy Award for Best Story. The nominees for best original screenplay 2014 are:
Woody Allen, Blue Jasmine
Craig Borten and Melisa Wallack, Dallas Buyers Club (view movie trailer above)
Spike Jonze, her
Bob Nelson, Nebraska
Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell, American Hustle ( Russell, pictured in the photo above is also nominated in the Best Director category for American Hustle)

Creating  the adapted screenplay is also a challenging process. Writers are often concerned with being true to the original work. On occasion the writer of the original book, story or novel has the power to exert considerable influence over the screenplay writing process such as editorial control.

The nominees for best adapted screenplay:

John Ridley, 12 Years a Slave
Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, Philomena
Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, Before Midnight
Billy Ray, Captain Phillips
Terence Winter, The Wolf of Wall Street

     Although a memorable movie experience is largely subjective there are certain factors that film aficionados agree upon; an inspiring story, brilliant direction, incredible acting and gripping dialogue. All films begin with words on a page but the emotional impact of extraordinary cinema brands a deep impression on our hearts and psyche forever. A story never stops. What are some of the best movie screenplays of all time?  Here are a few original and adapted screenplays that seem to appear on every movie lovers list.

Orson Welles and Herman Mankiewicz,   Citizen Kane (1941)
Julius J. and Phillip G. Epstein, Howard Koch,   Casablanca (1942)
Woody Allen, Marshall Brickman,  Annie Hall  (1972)
Robert Towne,   Chinatown  (1974)
Mario Puzo, Francis Ford Coppola,  The Godfather (1972)
Joseph L. Mankiewicz,  All About Eve  (1950)
Paddy Chayefsky,  Network  (1976)
Budd Shulberg, On the Waterfront (1954)
Quentin Tarantino, Roger Avery,  Pulp Fiction  (1994)
Sidney Howard,  Gone With the Wind (1939)