Someone was kind enough to share with this blog the Fox Searchlight URL where it also has nominated scripts posted, but your comment was sucked away by my sometimes arbitrary spam filters. I saw it disappearing too late to rescue it. If anyone has the link, please share it. You can send it to me on the questions page if it does not post when you submit it.

UPDATE: Per Christina (see her comment), here is the URL for Fox Searchlight Scripts: Thanks. They have another great collection, including “JUNO”, “Waitress”, “The Darjeeling Limited” and some others.


Martin from San Fransisco writes:

Just thought you’d be interested: we’re in the process of beta-testing our combined screenwriting / pre-production app (Sophocles 2007). I hope you can spare some time to have a look at it. I’d love to hear any thoughts or ideas you might have for future versions, etc.

You can pick up the beta at Or have a look at our Wikipedia article:

If you have any filmmaking friends you think might be interested, I hope you’ll let them know as well. The more feedback the better!

Thanks, Martin. I’m a Mac writer, so I won’t be trying it out. But windows writers, please let us know what you think.


Apple GifMariner Software is beta testing new screenwriting software for Mac computer users. I have downloaded it but have not had a chance to play with it. Generally, in my opinion, technology is not that important to writing a good script. Some of the best were written on note pads or using Underwoods. Nevertheless, if you enjoy playing with the latest toys (as I do), you can get the download from Mariner software here.


[Editor’s Note: I’m busy as hell, so no time for reflecting on the past year and the new year. I will get to it shortly. In the meantime, here is a question I meant to answer some weeks ago.]

This question from Hong Kong:

Could you point me to a good online screenwriters course for absolute beginners.
I appreciate your help.
kind regards

AFI has a free introduction for beginners seminar online here. Other resources you will want to consult include the following:

First are the many sites that have downloadable screenplays, including the script gallery at I like this one because all the scripts are PDF files and, therefore, in there original format. You should read scripts voraciously.

Second, there are the wonderful columns at Wordplayer, the website run by A-list writers Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio. You should read all of them. In fact, the entire site is terrific.

Third, the WGA west website has a number of great resources for writers, including columns on craft.

Fourth, there are a number of websites that explain traditional three-act screenplay structure. The substantial caveat on these is that every writer develops his or her own ideas about structure – so do not take any one set of ideas as gospel. In fact, some of them will just send you in the wrong direction. One example of a site that explains structure is Screenplay Mastery. I am not endorsing this site in particular; you should look at a number of sites to see different points of view.

I hope this gets you started. Good luck….


I have recently received a number of questions about Writer’s Boot Camp. Here is one of them. Dave from Los Angeles asks:

I am thinking about attending writers boot camp however it is quite expensive. I was wondering if anyone has taken the classes and what they thought of the tools they teach? Thanks!!

I have no experience with Writer’s Boot Camp, so I turned to a working writer who has. Todd Samovitz is a former entertainment attorney turned screenwriter. He wrote the original screenplay of the film WONDERLAND starring Val Kilmer, Lisa Kudrow and Kate Bosworth. Other film assignments include projects for Warner Bros., Klasky-Csupo Productions and The Edward S. Feldman Company. Todd has also sold television pilots to Touchstone Television and USA Networks.

Here is what he has to say about Writer’s Boot Camp:

As a Writers Boot Camp alumnus (I took Basic Training and two Think Tank classes)and a working writer in television and film, I can’t recommend the program highly enough. WBC is all about teaching practical, effective and efficient tools for developing and writing scripts. The program also educates writers about the business of screenwriting which is as crucial for a writer to know as writing a script. In my opinion, screenwriting is a profession and a writer should do whatever he or she can to educate themselves about the profession. Just as one would go to law school to become a lawyer, one should invest in the best possible resources to become educated in the profession of screenwriting. If you want to compete in this profession and want a practical approach, then the cost of WBC is well worth it.

Thank you, Todd, for your answer. As I said, I have had no experience with Writer’s Boot Camp, but I remain ever the skeptic. There are those who believe commercial writing courses are always bad. For example, this from The Artful Writer. I do not go that far. I believe many of the basic skills can be taught. However, I have previously provided this advice and this advice about writing courses.

If anyone else has experiences with Writer’s Boot Camp, good or bad, please feel free to share.


S. Pettyway of Connecticut asks:

What’s the deal with that writing program “Dramatica Pro” and is it really worth it? Or Should an inspiring screenwriter such as myself stick with the old tools of the trade, my heart and mind.

After having played with many programs over many years, my feeling about software and technology in general is that the best thing it can do for you as a screenwriter is get out of your way. Screenplay formatting software (Final Draft and others) is terrific when it is not buggy because it just sits there and lets you write. Some outlining software is pretty good this way, too, but it does not seem to be much better than a legal pad or index cards.

Programs like Dramatica Pro seek to impose a particular story philosophy on you. In fact, that is their whole reason for being – to shape your ideas to fit their story philosophy and thereby make your task easier and make the result better. The problem is, part of being a writer is developing your own story philosophy. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work hard to understand as many well thought out ideas about story as you can, but I find any software that tries to marshal me into its story structure and concepts quickly becomes extremely frustrating.

There is no shortcut.

You are the creator of the story; you are not merely a scribe filling in blanks. This is not a moral position, but a statement of fact. Filling in the blanks simply does not work. Ideas about story structure are all imperfect – mostly after the fact analysis (even the old Aristotle). That means you need to invent each story you write – struggle through the issues the same as every writer, even the best of them, reinvent your personal story philosophy as you go, and no software, no book, no video tape, no CD will ever give you the answer. You must find it for yourself.

With all that said, there may be some successful screenwriter somewhere who made a sale using some story crafting software, but I guarantee it wasn’t because of the software. If you enjoy tinkering with new software (I know I do) and have a couple hundred bucks to spare – go ahead and play with it. Play is good and it might inspire you to create something. But don’t spend your food money or your school money or your mortgage money on it. Writing software is just a toy.


First, you need to make a million dollars….

And here’s a produced screenwriter, member of the WGA, represented by an established agency (according to the WGA website) who thinks he can tell you how to do it. Chris Soth has a new website and is offering a screenwriting course. I know nothing about the course nor about Chris, but he was kind enough to drop me an email and I thought this might be interesting to all of you.

From looking at his website, Chris’s method apparently is based on breaking movies down by their “reels” (instead of by acts) which, actually, was historically the way Hollywood motion pictures were made in the early days. It was all part of trying to make studios run like car factories – but that’s a topic for another day.

If anyone has taken his course, feel free to chime in.


I wish formulas worked. God, I wish they worked. I wish I had a bucket of moral dilemmas, a box of self-revelations and lists of reversals. I wish I could just grab some of them, line them up in the right order and have an amazing story.

Because of this desire (and my secret fear that maybe some formulas do work but I just don’t know the right one), I did something most writers who’ve been around the block a few times would not do. I bought John Truby’s “Great Screenwriting” series of tapes. (To be fair, I bought it only after reading this ringing endorsement.) Not only did I buy it, I listened to the whole damn thing – 14 hours worth. After that, I wrote… a lot. To see if the tapes made a difference.

I thought I’d report on it.

Let me say, up front, that I really enjoy Mr. Truby’s mesmerizing voice. Over the several weeks it took me to get through the tapes, I came to look forward to turning on my little old-school cassette player and being drawn into his Zen vortex, making me feel at ease, making me believe that screenwriting is an orderly process, one that can be planned and executed and everything will work out just fine.

And let me say, some of his ideas, while not new, are central concepts and are explained very nicely. For a beginning screenwriter with no training, they are important ideas to be exposed to. On the other hand, some of his ideas were just…wonky…. But that’s okay. As I’ve said here before, take what works. Lose what doesn’t.

The real trouble comes with applying the ideas. (Isn’t that always the case?) Mr. Truby applied his structural ideas to many films and always showed us why the scripts were flawed. The only problem is, for most of his examples, the “flaws” were the most interesting aspect of the scripts, at least to me. For example, he talked about why “Unforgiven” does not work. To me, it works fine. Maybe not the best script ever written, but nice solid work. Another example, “The Verdict.” What’s wrong with “The Verdict’? Great writing. I don’t care if the moral self-revelation comes too early.

After the first ten or so examples, I came to realize that Mr. Truby and I simply have different tastes. But what does that say about his method? To me, it says, “Generalities are just generalities. Writing is a subtle mixture of skills, judgment, tastes and imagination. Any analysis is imperfect and no analysis fits all stories.”

Nonetheless, again to be fair, the core of his ideas are very traditional and, for those without any real training, important to be exposed to. Not to embrace wholeheartedly, but to know and consider. If you have a writing degree, forget it. You’ve been there. If you’ve been writing for ten years, had scripts covered forever, been given notes by producers, you’ve been there. If not, maybe it’s worth a listen.

So did the tapes make a difference in my writing? Well, yeah, in a sense. They reminded me to keep my eye on the basics. Like, make sure the audience can follow your lead’s desire line. The more rewrites I do, the more I forget the basics. Even Tiger Woods studies the basics.

So, to sum up…

No magic secret answers;
Some important ideas, especially for beginners;
Some really wonky ideas;

And that Zen voice….