I introduce this week’s episode of the superbly written radio serial Gunsmoke. If you’re interested in lean, pithy exposition and sharply defined character work, it’s worth your time.
I expound upon another classic offering of “Gunsmoke.” This one has been called “the quintessential episode.” If you can write like this for characters you can’t see, you can handle any characters you can.
This week I introduce a particularly great episode of “Gunsmoke.” The podmaster, Buck Benny, lines up three versions of the episode: the original radio version, the second radio version (altered script), and the TV version (altered script, new cast). He introduces my introduction. There’s no better way to watch great scriptwriting (and acting) evolve over time and media.
I introduce and expound upon another classic episode of the excellent radio series “Gunsmoke.” The best of classic radio can be your secret weapon for better scriptwriting.
Take a listen, spread it around, maybe even subscribe to the podcast.
ctr-l said: Hi! I have a slight interest in scriptwriting but no idea how to write a script! What are the basics of scriptwriting? Are there any key things I need to keep in mind when writing?
There’s an old story about one of history’s greatest Rabbis, Hillel. A rich man rushed up to him and said, “Rabbi, I want to benefit from your wisdom, but I’m a busy man and don’t have a lot of time. So teach me all the brilliance of the holy books of the Torah while I am standing on one foot.” And indeed he stood on one foot. Undisturbed, Rabbi Hillel said, “Don’t do to anyone else what you would not want them to do to you. That is the entirety of the Torah, the rest is detail. Now go study.”
You are in essence asking me to teach you how to write a movie or a TV show while you are standing on one foot. It’s not an exaggeration to say that people spend years studying the questions you have asked. I still am. So let me say this: “Create characters that are relatable yet unique and compelling. Put them in stories that test them and change them. Make sure your stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end. The rest is detail, now go study.”
Study how? Where? Well, start with this blog and its archives. Try related sites I mention in my answers, or use a simple Google search. If you live in a larger town or city, try your local library or bookstore for good books on screenwriting (I mention some of those in the archives as well). When you get more serious, you might consider taking a course (I teach at USC). And simultaneously and without interruption except for meals and bathroom breaks, write, write, and write.
One other point: anyone who has a “slight” interest in scriptwriting should probably turn her attention to furniture making, competitive driving or almost anything else. Scriptwriting is for those with a burning desire, who can’t chose to not write. It’s too painful and unrewarding too much of the time for you to play around with. Go for it, or forget it.
Feel free to follow up with me.
Anonymous said: Do you write with a specific actor or actress in mind when developing a script? I'm working on one now where I can only see one particular actor playing the role, which is not how I typically work.
I “mindcast” the major roles when I can; that is, I decide what famous actors would be best suited for the roles I’m writing. You might be surprised how helpful that is in writing the dialog. Movie stars each have a particular voice, despite the variety of the parts they play. And it helps to mention my choices in my script; i.e. “a Johnny Depp type.” Many of the people who read my scripts are even less imaginative than me, and this sort of shorthand puts an instant picture in their collective head.
So go ahead and mindcast. But don’t expect to get that man or woman to play the role. And if you get anyone to play the role, be prepared to rewrite.
Hope this helps.
binomialdistribution said: Hi there I'm really interested in filmmaking and I'm actually doing film studies as an IGCSE(high school diploma) subject. I sadly can't take film for IB(college aka year 12-13 british system) because I replaced one of my art subjects with a science. I know this is all a lot and probably very boring but I was wondering if I could still get into film school if I wanted having done film at IGCSE and not in IB?
You certainly can get into film school, if you’re talking about the United States. It’s a question of what type of film school. There’s everything from online classes open to anyone, to private trade schools that don’t necessarily offer academic credit but prepare you for the world of film production, and credit-bearing colleges and universities that offer entire schools of film studies. Any one of these might accept you. Some ask only for money. Other demand you go through an application process. I teach at the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, reputed to be one of the premier film schools in the country. It’s private, expensive, hard to get into and demanding. But UCLA is a public university with an equally famous film studies school. It’s also hard to get into, but somewhat cheaper and possibly easier to be accepted since it’s public (I honestly don’t know). Then there’s the Los Angeles Film School, more like the trade variety I mentioned above.
It’s like getting into any other type of school: your academics must be at least sound, preferably outstanding, and you must jump through the many-hooped process of American college application.
Now, if you’re talking about film school anywhere else in the world, sadly I can not help you. I’m strictly red, white & blue!
Hope this helps. Feel free to follow up.
thedxrkknight said: Hello, Mr. Schulman! It's an honor to get to send you a message. I'll definitely be trying to be in constant contact with you and I'll beleaguer you with questions and comments [I hope you won't mind too much]. 1a) How'd you first get into the screenwriting world? 1b) Did you have an agent? 2) You wouldn't read scripts of ours and comment on them, would you?
Yes, Knight, is is an honor to query me. Kneel down! Down, I say! ;)
In answer to your question, the story of my introduction to screenwriting is a long and (I think) fun one that can not be retold in this space purposed for education. In sum, I was a journalist, interviewed a celebrity whom I respected very much, and later asked him if I could pitch him some material. He generously assented, I sold something and soon thereafter made the transition from journalism to screenwriting (TV and film). As far you are concerned, I think the lessons are two: studying writing — and type of real writing — is fine preparation for writing movies and television. And much success can be put down to good fortune and the kindness of strangers.
I did not have an agent for that first sale, but that’s common. The first sale can often be thought of as a “waiver,” an exception that gets you through the door. If you can sell even one thing, agents will be more or less interested in representing you. They want a piece of the action.
I read and comment on scripts as part of my job. I teach at the University of Southern California and on webinars through The Writers Store. Anyone who wants personal attention on a particular piece of work can hire me to critique his or her treatment, pitch or script. But it’s not cheap :) and requires your signing a disclaimer that allows me to read your work without fear of lawsuit. Hollywood’s a fun place.
Hope this helps. Feel free to follow up.