Terry Rossio shares some screenwriting wisdom

In a dispatch from the Vancouver International Film Festival, film scholar Kristin Thompson relates craft tips from screenwriter Terry Rossio (Aladdin, Pirates of the Caribbean):

Rossio is a big advocate of succinctly creating a strong visual sense in each scene. Even on Rossio’s desktop he comes up with a distinctive icon for each folder (see top): a Rubik’s cube for “Screenwriting,” a little gramophone for “Music,” and so on.

For Rossio, each scene should consist of:

  • Opening image
  • Key moment (character revelations, reversals, etc.)
  • Throw (i.e., the setup for the next scene)

I love the mention of a desktop. What a good metaphor: each scene should have its icon.

Also, he takes the old question of whether writing can be taught, and the implication that if not you must be born with the it, and turns it on its head:

He feels that it is probably impossible to teach screenwriting: “No, the better question is, can writing be learned?” Yes, but people must teach themselves.

Hollywood storytelling: 3 act or 4 act structure?

Ready for the best distillation of screenwriting manuals and the most concise critique of them that I have ever seen? In a short slide deck, Eric Hoyt, Assistant Professor of Media & Cultural Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, compares the prescriptive three act structure that Hollywood hopefuls are told to follow with the four act structure that film scholar Kristin Thompson uses to describe the commonalities of dozens of well-crafted films.

View Hollywood Storytelling: 3 Act or 4 Act Structure?

Hollywood Storytelling: 3 Act or 4 Act Structure?