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Essentials of Screenwriting: The Art, Craft, and Business of Film and Television Writing

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Hollywood's premier teacher of screenwriting shares the secrets of writing and selling successful screenplays in this perfect gift for aspiring screenwriters. Anyone fortunate enough to win a seat in Professor Richard Walter's legendary class at UCLA film school can be confident their career has just taken a quantum leap forward. His students have written more than ten proj Hollywood's premier teacher of screenwriting shares the secrets of writing and selling successful screenplays in this perfect gift for aspiring screenwriters. Anyone fortunate enough to win a seat in Professor Richard Walter's legendary class at UCLA film school can be confident their career has just taken a quantum leap forward. His students have written more than ten projects for Steven Spielberg alone, plus hundreds of other Hollywood blockbusters and prestigious indie productions, including two Oscar winners for best original screenplay--Milk (2008) and Sideways (2006). In this updated edition, Walter integrates his highly coveted lessons and principles from Screenwriting with material from his companion text, The Whole Picture, and includes new advice on how to turn a raw idea into a great movie or TV script-and sell it. There is never a shortage of aspiring screenwriters, and this book is their bible.


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Hollywood's premier teacher of screenwriting shares the secrets of writing and selling successful screenplays in this perfect gift for aspiring screenwriters. Anyone fortunate enough to win a seat in Professor Richard Walter's legendary class at UCLA film school can be confident their career has just taken a quantum leap forward. His students have written more than ten proj Hollywood's premier teacher of screenwriting shares the secrets of writing and selling successful screenplays in this perfect gift for aspiring screenwriters. Anyone fortunate enough to win a seat in Professor Richard Walter's legendary class at UCLA film school can be confident their career has just taken a quantum leap forward. His students have written more than ten projects for Steven Spielberg alone, plus hundreds of other Hollywood blockbusters and prestigious indie productions, including two Oscar winners for best original screenplay--Milk (2008) and Sideways (2006). In this updated edition, Walter integrates his highly coveted lessons and principles from Screenwriting with material from his companion text, The Whole Picture, and includes new advice on how to turn a raw idea into a great movie or TV script-and sell it. There is never a shortage of aspiring screenwriters, and this book is their bible.

30 review for Essentials of Screenwriting: The Art, Craft, and Business of Film and Television Writing

  1. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    I'm hanging this book up because I'm pretty sure I don't *actually* have to read this book to pass my class. However, I really liked the writing and I felt like if I were in the mood, I could definitely just read this book for fun. I'm hanging this book up because I'm pretty sure I don't *actually* have to read this book to pass my class. However, I really liked the writing and I felt like if I were in the mood, I could definitely just read this book for fun.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Patrick

    This is the best book solely on screenwriting that I've come across (for filmmaking as a whole, see Alexander MacKendrick's On Filmmaking). Using copious anecdotes and a good sense of humor, Walter provides specific, cogent advice about structuring storytelling for film, the importance of good habits in writing, and best procedures for selling a completed script. I disagree with some of his advice (e.g., Walter is adamantly opposed to having two characters simply talking, while some great movies This is the best book solely on screenwriting that I've come across (for filmmaking as a whole, see Alexander MacKendrick's On Filmmaking). Using copious anecdotes and a good sense of humor, Walter provides specific, cogent advice about structuring storytelling for film, the importance of good habits in writing, and best procedures for selling a completed script. I disagree with some of his advice (e.g., Walter is adamantly opposed to having two characters simply talking, while some great movies, for example, Hunger, have used this very effectively), but he backs up his opinions with plenty of examples of what he believes works and doesn't work in movies.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jerjonji

    Everything is gonna be alright- you will write a screenplay that is technically correct that tells a moving story that others want to make into a movie. Richard Walter is my new hero- so comforting, yet content oriented, full of hope, yet strict on basics. This is the first screenplay writing book I've read where I've finished it and thought- I can do this! His years of experience teaching screenplay writing at UCLA shine through and I long to get a masters under him- not that that's happening! Everything is gonna be alright- you will write a screenplay that is technically correct that tells a moving story that others want to make into a movie. Richard Walter is my new hero- so comforting, yet content oriented, full of hope, yet strict on basics. This is the first screenplay writing book I've read where I've finished it and thought- I can do this! His years of experience teaching screenplay writing at UCLA shine through and I long to get a masters under him- not that that's happening! He is a source I'll turn to when the doubt gremlins hit!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Angela Maria Hart

    i just re-read this book for the third time. People interested in learning screenwriting will find this book useful - it is full of great tips and explanations (dialogue, setting, scene, etc.).

  5. 5 out of 5

    MaryAnn

    Absolutely essential reading for anyone who wants to be involved with film in any way! I learned so much from this book and will use it many times again.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Elias Gutierrez

    There are many books out there that deal with screenwriting and the process of it, and this is one of them. Yet, what makes this unique in its own way is the author's writing where he is both funny yet serious at the same time. Another thing that makes this unique is the author has been working in the industry for over thirty years where he gives useful advices on writing a screenplay, and the author would mention that you could either take it or leave it. In the book, there are three components There are many books out there that deal with screenwriting and the process of it, and this is one of them. Yet, what makes this unique in its own way is the author's writing where he is both funny yet serious at the same time. Another thing that makes this unique is the author has been working in the industry for over thirty years where he gives useful advices on writing a screenplay, and the author would mention that you could either take it or leave it. In the book, there are three components on making a screenplay. The first is on story structure, and what makes film different (and possibly harder) than any other writing medium (such as a book) is toning down everything into the audience's viewing: sight and sound. The second is on formatting a screenplay, and how to do it properly if you want to look like a professional with regards to the readers whom would be reading it (such as a producer or agent). If the formatting is incorrect, then you are simply wasting the reader's time. The last, or third, is on the business of screenwriting such as accepting offers, writing other materials, legalities, and amongst other things. There are a lot of materials which were extremely insightful and useful, and one of those are story structure and expectations. Writing a screenplay (or making a movie) is more than just themes, but it is on characters. If the characters do not grow, how would the story move forward? Lastly, I heard this in the past many times, and the book even touches on it, is that to not assume you know what the viewer wants. Just because it is a fad now, by the time you are done with the screenplay, filming it, and releasing it does not guarantee a success. It might be a boxoffice bomb because audience's perception and expectations changes everyday. What was a fad yesterday might not be a fad tomorrow. Overall, the book is really good with a charming author working at UCLA (represent!). There are some minor grammar issues, but it does not distract from the reading. There are many screenwriting books out there with wealth of information and you could educate yourself with them, but if you truly want to do something is to take action. Start writing now and not tomorrow!

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joshua Lane

    In this review, I must say that Mr. Walter has fairly outdone himself with this book considering he is the chairman of the screenwriting program at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. This was a very interesting read even for aspiring novelists who may find this book to be helpful in crafting their own stories in their own cinematic way, or for easier adaptation if their works are popular enough to make it into the movies. However, I did feel that certain aspects of this book w In this review, I must say that Mr. Walter has fairly outdone himself with this book considering he is the chairman of the screenwriting program at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. This was a very interesting read even for aspiring novelists who may find this book to be helpful in crafting their own stories in their own cinematic way, or for easier adaptation if their works are popular enough to make it into the movies. However, I did feel that certain aspects of this book were outdated, or pretty cliché; for in particular when Mr. Walter recommended prospective screenwriters to write an old-fashioned query letter to film talent agencies. This idea does not work anymore, and hasn't really worked for many when assessed critically for decades now. This could be partially due to his age, and when he started a career in Hollywood. This is only just a few suggestions he had made within this book that are clearly outdated, and need updating for the times we live in where many want to be screenwriters. The pluses in this book would have to be his take on story structure, and is by far the most engaging read other than the business part of the business, which is at the end of the book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Gonzalo

    I've come across many screenwriting books and this is the one that I always return to. For some reason, it is the one I find more practical and motivational to sit and write. The clarity, precision, examples given, and down-to-the-earth language used by its author, USC alumni, UCLA teacher, and Hollywood experienced writer himself, is exactly what any aspiring screenwriter needs to start its career. At the end of the day, there are many advices in the book but they can all be summed up in one: w I've come across many screenwriting books and this is the one that I always return to. For some reason, it is the one I find more practical and motivational to sit and write. The clarity, precision, examples given, and down-to-the-earth language used by its author, USC alumni, UCLA teacher, and Hollywood experienced writer himself, is exactly what any aspiring screenwriter needs to start its career. At the end of the day, there are many advices in the book but they can all be summed up in one: write, write, write. Just every day: sit and write. Practice makes perfection, and this is not, by all means, an easy job. Assume it and go for it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Don Kyo

    As a writer working on a novel, this book was invaluable. While many lessons are aimed directly at someone wishing to write scripts for TV and film, the majority of the advice is very broad and general. I learned so much about theming, dialogue, and how to build writing habits, that it has no doubt improved my work tenfold. I recommend this book to any aspiring writer, no matter what form you write in.

  10. 5 out of 5

    LuckyBao

    As an aspiring screenwriter myself, Richard Walter's book is filled with advice that I found to be quite helpful as well as humorous. Whether or not I agree with all of it there's no doubt that I feel like it's put me in the right direction, as well as leaving me inspired to read more scripts and FINALLY finish the draft before rewriting last week's work. I'd recommend this for other people looking to start writing for the screen. As an aspiring screenwriter myself, Richard Walter's book is filled with advice that I found to be quite helpful as well as humorous. Whether or not I agree with all of it there's no doubt that I feel like it's put me in the right direction, as well as leaving me inspired to read more scripts and FINALLY finish the draft before rewriting last week's work. I'd recommend this for other people looking to start writing for the screen.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ryan Kerch

    Almost feels as though I attended his lectures. Great mix of practical tips and insider anecdotes. Written with professional depth, but in layman's language. Almost feels as though I attended his lectures. Great mix of practical tips and insider anecdotes. Written with professional depth, but in layman's language.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stuart Fail

    One of the great screenwriting books by a great professor and writer. This book is pithy and informative and inspired. Richard knows what he's talking about. One of the great screenwriting books by a great professor and writer. This book is pithy and informative and inspired. Richard knows what he's talking about.

  13. 4 out of 5

    C.Y. Dillon

    Transformative. While others talk formula, Professor Walter comes to the writer as Aristotle incarnate. I stumbled into his creative process in 1991 at a book store in Houston, seeking to turn my first novel into a proper movie script. After reading his textbook from cover to cover (I really enjoy his style!), I sat before my home computer evenings and weekends (while working full-time as the Corporate Secretary at Jefferson Associates, Inc., a NASA software contractor), and cranked out my first Transformative. While others talk formula, Professor Walter comes to the writer as Aristotle incarnate. I stumbled into his creative process in 1991 at a book store in Houston, seeking to turn my first novel into a proper movie script. After reading his textbook from cover to cover (I really enjoy his style!), I sat before my home computer evenings and weekends (while working full-time as the Corporate Secretary at Jefferson Associates, Inc., a NASA software contractor), and cranked out my first screenplay in two weeks. Proud of it, yet timid, I wrote a letter to the Professor as he said it would be acceptable to do so at the end of his book, and asked if he would take a look at it and give me a little feedback. He wrote back within a month (my goodness, how did we survive in the days of snail mail?), and told me that if I would be patient, he would do so. I waited, and waited, and waited--six months. In October 1991, he wrote to me with his analysis and recommendations. Above all, he congratulated me for creating a story that is (and he still stands by this, ask him,) "original, refreshing, inventive and highly marketable!" Following his guidance on what to improve, I began to rewrite. My son was born three months premature before I could finish, and needless to say, writing fiction was the last thing on my mind for a very long time. In 2004, ready to get back to work on my first movie script, I purchased another copy of this book (I had given my copy away--I have given this book to a few writers--I have purchased replacement copies for myself, and now I keep one handy. Having moved within driving distance of UCLA and having the advantages of the internet, I searched for his classes and signed up for Basic Screenwriting Lab in the summer of 2005. Imagine my unhappiness when he delegated instruction to someone else on staff! Even though the instructor was great and used Professor Walter's textbook, it was not the same as being able to show him my revision. In 2007, I found a seminar that he was teaching in my region and took it. He read my April 2007 revision (I had rewritten it twice, based on the 2005 class, even though the instructor had graded my script an 'A-'), and offered to work with me as a consultant. I was thrilled! "Let me make it clear what I am not offering," he said. "I will not act as your agent or co-writer. I will read your script, give you detailed notes, you will rewrite it, I will read it and give you notes, and we will continue that process until we both agree that it is ready to present to a studio. I cannot promise you that you will sell your script. The only thing I can promise you is an education." Good lord, the man delivered on that promise in spades! No more do I have any doubts about where to begin, how to structure the plot, how to foreshadow, how to utilize my characters, how to stay focused on the protagonist, how to end the story--structure was previously my nemesis. Now, it is second nature. I have never read another screenwriting textbook. My final draft, after a total of twelve iterations, from 1991 and 2003-2009, earned numerous nominations and won best script awards in two competitions--Action On Film International and KIDS FIRST! He also delivered an official letter of recommendation that I can use when pitching the movie to agents and studio representatives. So, all that, and it still has not been optioned--why? As I was warned by many in the industry, Hollywood executives are extremely terrified of unknowns when it comes to big budget CGI science fantasy films. There have been too many flops, too many millions lost, too many careers ended by greenlighting projects that were written by a new, unknown writer. They are also prejudiced against women writers and against middle-aged writers. Strike three! Ask me if I care. Not anymore. I am thoroughly enjoying the creative process, my freedom as a writer, my independence, and I know very well that when I die, suddenly, there will be a buzz about the Saardu Lady, because I do have many loyal and passionate fans out there--even though they don't go online and post everywhere--most of them were children in lower income families who do not own computers. That's a fact. Yet someday, my rabbit hole (String Theory) and the little black girl who leads the superstitious genetic engineers of the future as well as the barbarians of a sweetly scary planet known as Saardu, will be a movie...of that I have no doubt. Professor Walter is a man of his word and has taught at UCLA, this subject, for three decades. He has lectured all over the world on the subject, and is a frequent guest on radio talk shows. In my opinion, there is no better book on the subject. If you like someone's formulaic approach better, good for you. Do not be unappreciative of this man's legacy--MANY of the finest, most memorable moments in movies have been written by his students! That is a fact that UCLA Film School proudly airs every year at graduation.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Whitehead

    A no-nonsense look at the world of screenwriting through the eyes of the head of the UCLA Screenwriting department. A must-read for aspiring screenwriters.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gail Jeidy

    This is a valuable screenwriting text although not the first one I would recommend for beginners. It underscores the essentials and adds depth to the process. Plus it makes you feel like you're getting the benefit of being a coveted UCLA screenwriting student since Richard Walter heads up the program there. I found his sure-shot advice for query letters a bit misleading since much of his students' 96 percentage of success surely begins with the first sentence: "I am a student in the master's scr This is a valuable screenwriting text although not the first one I would recommend for beginners. It underscores the essentials and adds depth to the process. Plus it makes you feel like you're getting the benefit of being a coveted UCLA screenwriting student since Richard Walter heads up the program there. I found his sure-shot advice for query letters a bit misleading since much of his students' 96 percentage of success surely begins with the first sentence: "I am a student in the master's screenwriting program at UCLA" but still, the idea of three extremely brief paragraphs is something I will try w/my next query. My favorite sentence of the book fell under a subhead "Hollywood Nightmares." This is a truth of the variety I could not list in your standard facebook cheery, cheery, writing update, but it speaks loud and clear to me:"...Hollywood abounds with dark stories about how cruelly its artists are cheated, mistreated , and abused...Infinitely more painful than the harshest criticism is the yawning, hollow silence that accompanies being ignored." Yawning, hollow silence. Yup. Walters is an excellent writer and his book is highly entertaining.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Terri Lynn

    This was fair and had some good advice but the author is so sure he is some sort of gift to the world he gets in his own way. He actually annoyed me through much of the book and often I wished he'd get out of the way with his personal beliefs and just put the information down without inserting his thoughts and personal stories into it. He also leads people to mistakenly believe if you send a short note to agents, 96-99% will request your screenplay to read. For example, he suggests writing "Dear This was fair and had some good advice but the author is so sure he is some sort of gift to the world he gets in his own way. He actually annoyed me through much of the book and often I wished he'd get out of the way with his personal beliefs and just put the information down without inserting his thoughts and personal stories into it. He also leads people to mistakenly believe if you send a short note to agents, 96-99% will request your screenplay to read. For example, he suggests writing "Dear Agent, I am a student in the UCLA Master's in screenwriting program. May I send you my screenplay about a man who goes between 21st century America and 18th century Europe?" and to expect almost all of the agents to reply favorably. The problems are (1) Most of us are NOT in the renowned UCLA program and (2) a 10 word description of the screenplay from an unknown writer is unlikely to arouse all of the agents in Hollywood. He gave a couple of other examples- we could hint that we had killed our fiance for getting caught in bed with our room mate or that we had committed another crime but if we haven't killed anyone or committed crimes, how does that work for us?

  17. 5 out of 5

    Carrie Dawn

    As a novice to screeneriting, my purpose for reading this book was to figure out where to begin. I picked it up at the public library, but quickly decided that I needed to own a copy. This book is filled with knowledge and guidance of a very practical sort, and as a huge bonus, it is easy to read. Not only does it instruct on the writing process, it also gives valuable advice regarding the business aspect of selling a script. I found the recommended reading section at the end to be quite valuabl As a novice to screeneriting, my purpose for reading this book was to figure out where to begin. I picked it up at the public library, but quickly decided that I needed to own a copy. This book is filled with knowledge and guidance of a very practical sort, and as a huge bonus, it is easy to read. Not only does it instruct on the writing process, it also gives valuable advice regarding the business aspect of selling a script. I found the recommended reading section at the end to be quite valuable as I look for my next book on the screenwriting craft. But not to delay putting fingers to the keyboard!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Antoinette Perez

    This was like the screenwriting version of On Writing Well -- lots of dry humor, great perspective and helpful suggestions. The section on the author's own shorthand, when he is providing feedback on scripts, was a bit cumbersome and repetitive. By the time I got to the business sections, I realized I hadn't written a thing in days besides FB status updates. So I stopped reading the book, for now. This was like the screenwriting version of On Writing Well -- lots of dry humor, great perspective and helpful suggestions. The section on the author's own shorthand, when he is providing feedback on scripts, was a bit cumbersome and repetitive. By the time I got to the business sections, I realized I hadn't written a thing in days besides FB status updates. So I stopped reading the book, for now.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Trey

    Walter pounds away at us, telling us how important integration and brevity is, how important it is "to keep scripts lean, neat, spare, devoid of detail and dialogue that are not absolutely essential." So of course his book is nearly 400 pages long. It could have been a little shorter, but it was a pleasant read that covers the lifecycle of screenplays from conception to production, with quite a few anecdotes thrown in from an extended career as a writer. Walter pounds away at us, telling us how important integration and brevity is, how important it is "to keep scripts lean, neat, spare, devoid of detail and dialogue that are not absolutely essential." So of course his book is nearly 400 pages long. It could have been a little shorter, but it was a pleasant read that covers the lifecycle of screenplays from conception to production, with quite a few anecdotes thrown in from an extended career as a writer.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Justin Robinson

    Good for people who want apprentice-to-journeyman-level advice in the subject without feeling constrained by the author that there's such a thing as a "right" way to write a screenplay. I recommend Dan Decker's "Anatomy of a Screenplay" as a companion book, as AoaS offers a "skeleton" screenplay format for beginners to hang their stories on. Good for people who want apprentice-to-journeyman-level advice in the subject without feeling constrained by the author that there's such a thing as a "right" way to write a screenplay. I recommend Dan Decker's "Anatomy of a Screenplay" as a companion book, as AoaS offers a "skeleton" screenplay format for beginners to hang their stories on.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Alf Noriega

    Práctico, conciso y de gran ayuda. Básico.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Janavito

    If you're looking for poignant, direct, and integrate book about screenwriting, then look no further than this Richard Walter popular book. If you're looking for poignant, direct, and integrate book about screenwriting, then look no further than this Richard Walter popular book.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Renee

    If you write anything or want to be try to draft a screenplay own this book and read it now! Amazing!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tijs_d

  25. 5 out of 5

    Gustavo

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nick Heathcote

  27. 4 out of 5

    E.J. (hauntedburgerplant)

  28. 4 out of 5

    Tom Smith

  29. 5 out of 5

    Priyanka

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jason

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