Next Level Screenwriting is an intermediate screenwriting book, for those that have already learned the basics of screenwriting, written a screenplay or two and want to bring their writing and stories to the next level.
Each chapter of the book examines a specific aspect of screenwriting, such as character, dialogue and theme, and then provides the reader with ideas, tips and inspiration to apply to their own writing. Rather than being another “how to” book, this volume features a variety of case studies and challenging exercises throughout – derived from a broad selection of successful feature films and TV shows from the 1940s to the present day – to help spark the imagination of the writer as they work through different styles and approaches of screenwriting.
An absolute must-read for any screenwriter wanting to improve their writing and storytelling skills.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Don’t be afraid of Genre – keeping your promise to your viewer
- Enjoying the Genre
- Crossing Genres
- A Final Note
Chapter 2: The Write Approach – Finding how to approach telling your story and the
point of attach
- Motivated Style
- The Internal Approach
- Maintaining an Established Style
- Style that fits the Genre
Chapter 3: Character depth – Thinking about more layered characters and their motivations
- Character Motivation
- the Character Mask
- Humor as Character
- the Other Character Change
- Television Characters
Chapter 4: Dialogue that does more than further the plot
- A Distinct Voice
- Attitude Dialogue
- Period Dialogue
- Dialogue that Reveals Character
- Poetic dialog
- Contemporary Dialogue
- When Talk is Action
Chapter 5: Poetic Description – Writing your settings can be as creative as writing your story
- Choosing Your Words
- Describing for the Mind’s Eye
- Writing for the Reader
- Humorously Said
Chapter 6: Finding the Theme – Discovering what your writing is all about
- Popular Movies have Themes
- Shared Themes of Westerns & Horror
- We have met the Enemy and they are us
- The Stronger the Theme the Stronger the Story
- Even Comedy has a Theme
- The Naked Theme
Chapter 7; First Person Narrative Screenwriting – Writing voice over narration and found footage stories
- Narration that isn’t a Crutch
- Hardboiled Wit Narration
- Found Footage as First Person
Chapter 8: Dealing with Multiple Protagonist Syndrome or Navigating the ensemble screenplay
- Ensemble vs Episodic
- Linking Stories
- Playing with Time
- Ensemble Characters
- Reoccurring Locations
- The Ensemble Anchor
- Ensemble in the Park
- The Trouble with Ensemble
Chapter 9: Based on True Events & Research – Writing the core of the truth without being boring
- Adapting History
- Free yourself from the Truth
- Find a Special Event in History
- Find a Special Place in History
- Research that Works for You
- This All Applies to Television
Chapter 10: Set-up, Pay-off and the Twist – Writing in things that go around and came around
- Twilight Zone Set-up/Pay-off
- Twist Ending Set-up/Pay-off
- Character Character Character
- Twists in TV
- Comedy Set-up/Pay-off
- The Aristotle Connection
Chapter 11: Writing for a Budget – Writing screenplays under budget constraints
- Micro-budget Feature
- Independent Low Budget
- Hollywood low budget
- Limited budget TV
Chapter 12: Rewriting: The Pain and the Gain
- Working in backstory
- Development Rewrite
- Production Rewrite
- Post Production Rewrite
- A Note on Taking Notes
- Three Tricks to Note Taking
Chapter 13: Wrote the Script, Now What?
- Producers and Agents
- They Call it Hollywood
- Make it Yourself
- Low Budget Independents
- How and How Much
- Show Me the Money – in the Movies
- Show Me the Money – in Television
- Don’t Undo Your Sale
David Landau is an award-winning screenwriter and playwright with seven plays published and is the author of the books Lighting for Cinematography and Film Noir Production in addition to numerous articles on screenwriting for such magazines as Script, Screenwriter’s Monthly, Student Filmmakers Magazine and HD ProGuide. His feature screenwriting credits include Murder at Café Noir and Dark Tarot. David earned his MFA in Screenwriting from Goddard College and is a full Professor at Fairleigh Dickinson University. He is also a member of the Dramatists Guild and the University Film & Video Association.
David Bennett Carren is an award-winning screenwriter whose work includes numerous episodes for such television shows as Star Trek: The Next Generation, Stargate SG1, Martial Law, Dennis the Menace, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles among others. His feature films include Mr. Hell and Waiting for Sandoval, and he was the writer/director on the feature film The Red Queen. A member of the Writers Guild of America and the University Film & Video Association, David earned his MFA in Screenwriting from Spalding University and is an Associate Professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley where he is the Interim Chair of the Department of Theatre.
‘Whether you’re writing your first script or your twentieth, this book will help you take your screenplay to the next level. An absorbing read – great examples and explanations from well-known films and television shows, all with practical applications to your own work!’
—Anna Weinstein, Series Editor, PERFORM: Succeeding as a Creative Professional, and Screenwriting Instructor, Auburn University
"David Landau and David Bennett Carren are two professionals who complement the craft of screenwriting with practical experience from the industry trenches. This new book bridges the gap for emerging writers who often find themselves energized to learn beyond formatting basics and struggling to produce quality scripts that hold readers interest. This intermediate level books is ideal for faculty aiming for students to write their first feature length scripts while continuing to develop more imaginative storytelling skills."
- Joseph Giomboni, ABD Screenwriter, Assistant Professor of Communications, Keystone College
"Next Level Screenwriting, by David Landau and David Bennet Carren, is not simply a useful, insightful book. It goes into none of the tropes common to most academic screenwriting works – the three-act structure, the Hero’s Journey, the Rule of Three, how to format – though these are all important points to master, to be sure. But this book doesn’t bother with all that. This book is a User’s Manual.
The focus of this How-To is in the nuts and bolts of crafting a narrative script and getting it into the marketplace. This is done through examples of well-known films and TV shows, analysis of what worked and what didn’t, and why; as well as entertaining anecdotes from the writers’ own careers in the Industry trenches.
The authors cover a dozen areas useful for a journeyman screenwriter to wrestle with – ways to think about a script, ways to deepen it. Right from the start it embraces the notion of genre, the benefits of choosing a good match for the story being told, in order to take advantage of the genre’s established rules – and then how to break those rules when the occasion calls for it.
There’s a chapter on how to be conscious of the masks that the characters wear, and how to reveal what’s beneath them; a chapter on making good use of the voiceover narrative; a chapter on set-ups, payoffs, and twists. This is all part of the craft and skillset of scriptwriting, as opposed to the "idea" of scriptwriting.
It ends with a few issues often not covered. First, how to write within a budget – which will inevitably require a rewrite if the writer is lucky enough to get a script produced. This leads to the important lesson of rewriting – the numerous drafts most scripts should go through, to really cut away the dross and end up with the best possible screenplay. Rewriting is a critical skill, and the authors do a great service to address it.
And finally, the book looks at how to turn a script into a movie: what the marketplace is all about, how to break into it, or how to avoid it, if that’s what you want.
This is an engaging, enlightening book – both personable and professional – and I can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone who wants to throw their hat in the ring of fire that is film and television production. Five Stars – and those are Hollywood Stars."
James Kahn - Award-winning feature film producer (The Bet), Emmy-nominated television writer-producer (All My Children, Star Trek: Voyager, Melrose Place), and New York Times #1 Bestselling author (Return of the Jedi).