Screenwriting Tips... You Hack
How Not to Write a Screenplay


Inspired by this post, I thought I’d share some tried-and-true methods for not writing your screenplay:

  • Agonize over your script’s title.
  • Start a pointless argument on Twitter.
  • Decide you need to do more research. Fall down a Wikipedia hole and forget what you were doing.
  • Change your screenwriting software.
  • Wait for your manager/agent/friend/reader to email you back.
  • Make more coffee; you need…

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Truly, Madly, Detective

I wrote an article about TRUE DETECTIVE for Here’s the link:

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Two Documentaries

I recently watched two excellent documentaries, FREE TO PLAY and LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF. Both are unapologetically subjective, designed to serve specific agendas, yet they also deal with universal issues. Both have unusual production histories: FREE TO PLAY is the first film by Valve, the legendary video game studio, and is available free on YouTube and Steam; LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF was put…

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Computer Chess and Getting to the Point


I recently watched COMPUTER CHESS, a 2013 film which I guess is best described as an indie mumblecore mockumentary… about computer chess. It surprises you. What starts out as a dark, sad, funny, Christopher Guest-style film slowly morphs into a stealth remake of BLADE RUNNER. For those playing at home, that makes two stealth remakes of BLADE RUNNER in one year (the other being Spike Jonze’s HER).

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True Detective: Seasons Two Through Six
HBO's "True Detective" Season 1 / Director: Cary Fukunaga

Season 2, 2015

In the 1930s, two female Pinkerton agents — one Orthodox Jewish, the other a lapsed Catholic — unravel a Masonic conspiracy to dismantle California’s streetcar system. TV critics are outraged at the show’s unflattering portrayal of organized religion. Elisabeth Moss wins an Emmy for her role as Scarlett “Red” Steelspur.

Season 3, 2016

Three generations of NYPD detectives…

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Why Flashbacks Suck

I’ve been reading Samuel Delany’s book “About Writing”. It’s fantastic — easily one of the best books on writing I’ve ever read. He comes across as effortlessly wise without ever feeling like he’s handing down instructions from on high.

If you’re not familiar with Delany, he’s a gay, black, science fiction author who writes weird, looping novels full of bizarre sex. So you might expect his…

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In With The New

I used to have a screenwriting blog.

I started it 5 years ago while working as a script reader in LA. I posted a screenwriting tip a day — over 1200 tips in total. Each post a short meditation on writing. People seemed to like it; it was hosted by the Black List for a while, and was even adapted into a book by Focal Press. Then, about a year ago, I stopped blogging. I went away and wrote other…

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Screenwriting Tip #1222

Actors are trained to think in terms of scene goals, and you should too. If a character is speaking and acting at cross-purposes with their goal, it’s probably because they’re being influenced by some unspoken inner need.

Screenwriting Tip #1221

Character must be demonstrated before we’ll believe it. If you tell us a character is a “smooth-talking lawyer”, we’ll accept the “lawyer” part. The “smooth-talking” part must be verified by watching what the character says and does.

Screenwriting Tip #1220

When sending out a script, don’t try to hedge your bets by saying “it’s an old script” or “it’s a rough draft”. If it’s not good enough to show people, don’t show it. If it is good enough, back it 100%.

Screenwriting Tip #1219

Writing a comedy? In the first draft, concentrate on making the characters feel real. Jokes are for the second draft.

Screenwriting Tip #1218

Every once in a while, step back from film theory and plot structure to think about your story’s place in the overall culture. What do you want your story to say, and why do we need that message right now?

Screenwriting Tip #1217

Avoid opening scenes that exist just to demonstrate to the reader how clever/daring/evocative you are. If the scene has no bearing on the protagonist, it shouldn’t be there.

Screenwriting Tip #1216

What you write belongs to you. Every word is a decision, and every decision is a reflection of yourself. Never forget that.

Screenwriting Tip #1215

Audiences don’t love set-pieces. They love characters who do amazing things during set-pieces.