Tuesday, November 03, 2009

101 Best Of MM Articles!

Hey guys,

I’m back for one last post – links to 101 of my best articles!

Who needs film school?



Cinematic Storytelling
I read Cinematic Storytelling, which was written by the great Jennifer Van Sijll, and I just LOVED IT. This should be in the library of every aspiring screenwriter on the planet and every single technique should be memorized backwards and forwards. Period. This book is exactly what the screenwriting community needs right now.

The Art of Visual Storytelling
…reminds me of a quote by Ingmar Bergman’s Swedish cinematographer, Sven Nykvist: The truth always lies in the character’s eyes. It is very important to light so the audience can see what’s behind each character’s eyes. That’s how the audience gets to know them as human beings. It opens up their souls.

Visual Storytelling, Part II
To sum it up - if we are to take from all of those straight, rigid lines that John, like Harry Caul, is perhaps a rational, technically competent, detached, and remote individual, then the image on the television tells us that there is something very disturbing at the core of his "dilemma."

The Completely Visual Screenplay
Creative writing exercises are good for the writer's soul. We never do them enough. Billy Wilder did "limbering up writing exercises" every morning of his life by imagining more and more original ways in which a young couple could meet for the first time.

Write the Shots!
It’s not enough that we, as screenwriters, must have a god-like knowledge about the story we wrote and about the art of storytelling, characters, dialogue, and structure. Screenwriters are filmmakers, too, and we have to think like filmmakers and endeavor to render our stories CINEMATICALLY, which means that we should write the shots.

Locations, Locations, Locations
It is such a pet peeve of mine when writers are so thoughtless, unoriginal, and uncreative about locations in their scripts. (Or they keep returning to the same boring location again and again. Or a protagonist goes halfway around the world to Italy only to spend the majority of the time in a hotel room. Are you kidding me..?)

Examples of Cinematic Storytelling
Reading this for the first time was such a revelation to me. I love the way Towne uses Secondary Headings to cut back and forth between Gittes and Mulwray. In the hands of lesser writers, this sequence could have been a bear to read and follow. With a pro like Robert Towne, it’s simple, seamless, and visual. As far as I’m concerned, there was no other way to write this sequence.

More Cinematic Storytelling
This is brings to mind the scene in Citizen Kane, where Kane, having just learned from his guardian, Thatcher, that the crash of ’29 wiped out his estate, paces along the Z-Axis and walks from the foreground to the background and back to the foreground again. Orson Welles communicated visually without one word of dialogue that Kane had returned to a state of boyhood. Great!

Minghella on the Page
I love the simplicity of this visual statement about Ripley. The light and darkness say it all about Ripley’s arc with crystal clarity. This is also the one and only time I can recall Minghella actually referencing the camera.

Kieslowski’s Blue
Throughout the film, you’d see blue lights reflected on her face, particularly the glass crystals she carried with her, which she ripped from the blue chandelier that hung in her daughter’s bedroom. That was the only thing from her past she could not let go. The light on her face signified the ghosts of her past, the presence of memory.


As I’m sure all of you fanatical students of screenwriting know, one of the ways you create depth is by constructing contradictions in the character. For example, a character talks one way but BEHAVES another way. Or a character ACTS one way but at his/her core, that person’s True Character is in fact, something very different.

See my character depth descriptions of Cyrano de Bergerac, Michael Corleone, and Lois Lane.

Character Development Sheet, which includes articles on Backstory, Character Goals, Inner Conflict, Character Arc, Character Depth, and Cast Design.


A 9-Part Script Review on Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon
Time and again, in scene after scene, Stanley uses his own style of poetic cinema in which he shows us one thing on the screen but he makes us hear something quite different that undercuts the meaning of what we are seeing.

Batman vs. Superman (Part One & Part Two)

A 3-part series on Batman: Year One

A 3-part series on Clash of the Titans

A 3-part series on Hitman


Fahrenheit 451

Donner's impeccalbe vision of Superman II

That notorious "Crossroads" Review

How to Write a Constructive Review


3 articles from my Art of SUBTEXT! Series:

Film Noir & the Subtext of Gilda

Subtext in Apocalypse Now Redux

Subtext in Birth


Top Ten Format Mistakes

Secondary Headings

Side-Topic: Perfect Formatting


The Raiders Story Conference

50 Flaws of Indy IV

50 Strengths of Darabont's Draft


The Exposition of Rear Window

Elements of Suspense

John Michael Hayes, Lucky Bastard

Mary Rose Part One & Part Two


Never ever sell yourself short

Where’s the Screenwriting Revolution?

2-Part Series on Sex in Screenwriting

On Adaptations

In Praise of Jean-Pierre Melville

Fatal Flaws in Screenwriting

Even Shakespeare Failed

Kurosawa on Screenwriting

“Morality,” Exposition, & Adverbs

The Timid Screenwriter

Trust the Reader

That Oh-So-Unsympathetic Hedda Gabler

R.I.P. Harold Pinter

The Nature of Today's Storytelling Debate

The Art of Dialects

Today’s Sermon: “Quantum of Solace”

On Breaking Structure

Eyes Wide Shut

A Look at The Dark Knight Script

A Screenwriting State of Emergency!

The Writers Strike & The Great Big Elephant in the Room

Breathing Room in Films

Formula Freaks

The Question of Exposition

Close-ups, Baby!

Goodbye, Lois

The Lives of Others

Satire & the Protag Serial Killer

A Long Time Ago... (for the Star Wars Blog-a-thon)

The Psycho Shower Scene!

The Godfather (for the blog-a-thon)

The Great Ones That Failed (for the blog-a-thon)

15,000 Useful Phrases

The Reverse Arc


The Great Voice Over Debate

Merciless Logicians & The Sliding Scale of Plausibility

Characters as Individuals

Weak Characters in Comedies

And finally…

Further Revelations of the Man of Mystery