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WHAT MAKES GOOD SCREENWRITING "GOOD"?

The ability of the writer to achieve these three elements: BREVITY, SPECIFICITY and INTENT.


If you’ve spent time with me in my screenwriting discussions on Clubhouse or in any of my workshops, you are probably sick of hearing me say these three words. But they are the key ingredients to cinematic writing and if you want to be a successful screenwriter you need to understand them.




The following is adapted from an email I sent out to writers who submitted to be members of the acting, writing and directing workshop I am Co-Artistic Director of in NYC, The Actors Gym, describing what I’d be looking for in their submissions…


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Most of you know I spent 15 years as a writer’s assistant, meaning I've done coverage for a countless amount of screenplays. I can tell you unequivocally that I know on the first page whether a writer has merit or not.


There are three specific things that give it away: BREVITY, SPECIFICITY and INTENT.

Here’s a brief description of what I mean:


Brevity: meaning, cinematic language (particularly in screenplays). If I read a script written in present participle I know this writer has no actual understanding of screenwriting. A screenplay's job is to make you SEE, not imagine. In a screenplay, you are telling me what's happening on screen- describing to me the image that will portray your story. This is a skill that you can improve on over time. Suzy is never writing or sitting or reading. SUZY WRITES in real time. You must remove passive verbs from your sentences for the read to be as quick as possible. We can't let words get in the way of the images we are seeing in our minds (which will eventually become the film). One or two for the sake of rhythm is okay but you must understand and demonstrate that you understand the difference.


Specificity: the words you choose let me know the level of your writing experience. Too vague or too flashy- for the purpose of being flashy- are no good. This is where your ability as a poet really shines through!


Intent: Everything you tell me must have a purpose - a payoff. I know the difference between a writer who's giving me details for a reason and a writer who's just giving me too many details.

Here's one of my favorite character descriptions from one of my favorite screenplays "Children of Men" that exemplifies all three of the above.


THEO FARON (55). Detached, unkempt, scruffy beard,

glasses, Theo is a veteran of hopelessness. He gave up before the world did.


What am I looking for? That.


With love,

Amanda

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Anton Teichmann
Anton Teichmann
Sep 12, 2023

Always good to reread that. Never annoying. Rules to remember again and again. Because without rules, like Winston said it in the John Wick franchise, „we live with the animals“. ☺️

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