Screenwriter resources for those of us trying to become one

Judging by the writers thread, there maybe a few around here who would be in to screenwriting, so I thought would start a thread with some writing resources that people have used and their opinions. Maybe Ron Moore will join the thread (wishful thinking).

This post is long, but I thought it might be useful so I went ahead just left it as it is. Feel free to skip sections.


Let me start by covering some of my favorite free resources. Why start with free, well, most writers (or wannabe writers) are like me, broke. My first free item is This is a website started by Kevin Spacey and friends. Is it a great place to have long conversations with Kevin Spacey, no. Trigger Street is a place where writers of all backgrounds and skill levels talk scripts, review scripts, submit their own scripts for review by members of the community, and more.

For me Trigger Street was a great way to see what was good and what was truly bad. That helped me to get over the fact that my first few scripts are crap. I am not being hard myself, it is just the reality that unless you have been writing professionally in other areas and have a knack for writing, that you will be among the 99.9% that will write a bad script for your first few. That is not to say you will not be able to salvage the ideas in your early scripts. For me, seeing how badly some did, helped me to say if these other writers are willing to put themselves out there with their scripts, I should do the same. Thus, I am about 1/3 of the way through what will be my first submission to Trigger Street. It feels great to be writing and not caring to much about how bad it will be. With that said, I am trying to make it the best I can at this stage of my development.

For those who might be worried about someone stealing your idea, odds are slim you have a truly 100% original idea and there is a good chance someone may have something that is close to your idea. From all the books, podcasts, and websites that I have gone through, the most common comment is you have to put your ideas out there for someone to discover them. Warner Brothers or Universal is not going to call you in to write a fat check for your idea if you have no track record.

The best thing you can do to protect yourself is register your first draft scripts with the WGA and record dates for all your work. When you share your scripts, make notes about whom you talked or submitted work with and keep those records handy. If the day comes you see a studio making something that looks like your script, see if you can find anyone associated with the production that may have seen your work and stole it. Based on what I read and heard so far, stolen ideas are not as common as you would think. Just use common sense. If you find out the writer of a script that got made is a member of Trigger Street and he has no proof of making their script before the script they made, then you may have a leg to stand on. When you see how many other writers have submitted scripts to Trigger Street, I think it will make you feel like it is a something you can do without to much fear of getting ripped off.

The bottom line with Trigger Street is you can learn many things at the site, get advice directly from other writers, and hear the latest news for writers related to entertainment media.

One last note about Trigger Street, the website and the production company are not directly tied together. The site is considered their own organization, so do not expect someone from Trigger Street Productions to be calling you just based on the script you submitted. With that said, if your screen play is rated best of for the month or year, it could open some doors.


As odd as it sounds, Google was a great way to find many sites featuring free movie and television scripts to download. Reading other scripts that have been made into movies is a great way to learn how to do scriptwriting. Just keep in mind, the older scripts may not reflect the current standards for script formatting, but great dialogue and story telling is the same no matter what.


On The Page

Another great free resource is iTunes. Yes, you read it that right, the same place I discovered the great GWC podcast is where you can find a few excellent screenwriter podcasts. For excellent talk about the mechanics of writing and interviews with people active in the business, “On The Page” is a great podcast. Pilar Alex Alessandra and Matt Belknap have a very conversational tone to the podcast that is easy to listen to and learn from. It is not a lecture style podcast. Alessandra does a very useful DVD she recently put out, but she does not push hard on the podcast. Her core business is teach script writing and doing script consulting, but again you are not pounded with buy my product or use my services, unlike a few podcasts I have found which feel like informercials.

Sam and Jim goto Hollywood

The next podcast I would suggest is for those looking for some inspiration is called “Sam and Jim goto Hollywood.” This is podcast is done by two guys who lived in Minnesota and had a pair of successful restaurants, but they pull up tent and moved to Hollywood to become screen writers. Their podcast is more like dairy of their adventures or some weeks, lack of adventures. I say their podcast is inspiring, but maybe a reality check is better word for it. Regardless of how you want to describe it, these guys tell it like it is. They are chasing the dream and they are sharing their ups and downs with anyone who wants to listen. As you listen you will pick up useful writing tips, but the focus is more about their story as they try to become show runners or maybe producers.

Creative Screenwriting Magazine Podcasts

My next suggested podcast is the “Creative Screenwriting Magazine Interviews” series. Jeff Goldsmith is a screenwriting uber geek and has interviewed a large number of top screenwriters. If you listen to this series, you can learn many things, but it is not a podcast to help to learn the basic of writing. You will learn how different writers broke into the business and how they approach writing. Some interviews are better than others, but overall the series is a good one to listen to if you are serious about becoming a writer.

KCRW’s The Business & The Treatment

The two podcasts from KCRW are good quality podcast. “The Business” is as it sounds, about the business. They cover news and do some great interviews. I really enjoy this podcast. It may not help you to much as a writer, but it is still a great podcast related to Hollywood. “The Treament” is all interviews. Some times I find myself drifting off when listening to this one because the host, Elvis Mitchell is very low key. This show will also do very little to improve your writing skills, but it is a good show.

Before this post become fifty pages long, I will stop here. I would love to hear about anyone elses experiences in their efforts to write movie or TV scripts. Post about any books, DVDs, etc, that you found useful or useless for helping your writing. If you want post about where you draw your inspiration for plots or dialogues that is cool. If there is a script you read which you think is awesome, mention that.

I hope there are a few screenwriters crawling around these boards besides me. Kudos to anyone who has taken on the challenge of making scripts. It always sounds so easy, but the reality is you will work your butt off to make a really good script and if you really want to make a living at it, you need to do it everyday. This is where I need a screenwriting group that is kind of like AA, expect instead of checking to see if I have not taken a drink, they will be checking to see if wrote a few pages each day.

Is there a writers’ thread here at GWC I’m missing? I’m a fiction writer not a screenwriter, but would love to play around on a writers’ thread. Jane Espenson’s blog is a great resource for screenwriters. I read it all the time and find that much of what she says about creating great scenes can be applied to a novel as well.

Good picks, HOM! I’ve been listening to the Creative Screenwriting Magazine podcast for several weeks now, on the recommendation of a friend who knows Jeff Goldsmith. I’ve really enjoyed it, although it usually depends on the guest.

I think we’re all comfortable enough to share our work with each other at the GWC if something were set up for story/script sharing, and I would trust the judgment of the folks here over 99% of the rest of the population.

Thanks Dawn for the mention of Jane Espenson’s site, I like what I have seen so far, so just bookmarked it.

I agree, Jeff very rarely fraks up and usually sounds like he has done his homework unlike some of the fluffy entertainment reporters on most shows. When Jeff has a guest who is on the ball, the show is awesome. When he has a guest who is not so into it or has stage fright, the show is still good because Jeff keeps working at them.

[QUOTE=I think we’re all comfortable enough to share our work with each other at the GWC if something were set up for story/script sharing, and I would trust the judgment of the folks here over 99% of the rest of the population.[/QUOTE]

I am not sure if Sean is ready to try and mod this forum to take something like that on. I know this is a great sci-fi crowd here at the GWC and the people have manors, unlike some message boards. (I am knocking on wood with hopes of not jinxing that). I think any writer should welcome any chance to get feedback, even from people who have never read a script before. When you think about who watches a movie, it is just about anyone, so just about anyone should be able to review a script. It does not take a true writer to see a bad plot or weak character development.

Here is a quick book recommendation. I am almost done with “Save The Cat” by Blake Snyder. I found his book to actually be a somewhat new approach among “How to Write Screenplays” books. Unlike Syd Field or Robert McKee, Snyder goes striaght for the basics for getting something sold. It is a very logical approach and gets rid of the fluff that some instructors spew out. I am not saying there is not value in those other books, but Snyder’s book is worth the read even if you have read other books on writing.

As I find time, I will post some other resources.

A scripting program useful for radio as well as the screen is CeltX. You can find such at

I was just about to mention Celtx. It’s not just a screenwriting program, but a colaborative production tool for the whole process of creating all kinds of media. I’m using it to write an animation script for a romance flic I’ll probably never make about a misunderstood working-class vegetarian vampire. So far I love it because you can tag parts with reference or production media (storyboard frames, audio clips, location scouting, character model sheets, animation tests, …pretty much anything). Everything is kept online, and you can keep your work private, hand out keys to whoever needs to see it, or even make versions public for critique on their forum. I’m amazed it’s free.

I’ve been listening to Creative Screenwriting Magazine Podcasts for a couple years now. Find them very insightful and entertaining. Totally recommend even the oldest ones.

I also listen to Animation Podcast for the craft and history of animation told through interviews with the greats

…and The Spline Cast by The Spline Doctors featuring interviews with Pixar employees on all aspects of film creation (they even got Brad Bird).

Celtx is very cool. I’ve always been suspicious of screenwriting software because I could get all the proper formatting I needed on Word (or should I say, “Wrod”?). But all the options for tagging elements in the script, plus the ability to just keep typing instead of having to stop to re-style every line, was a great boon. And having to fill out character descriptions also helped me get a handle on my characters’ personalities and motivations (I’d stopped doing that sort of thing since I got out of film school and didn’t have to anymore).

Also, as far as book recommendations go, JMS of Babylon 5 fame has one called “The Art and Craft of Scriptwriting” that I’ve had since high school. There’s also one called “How NOT to Write a Screenplay” by Denny Martin Flynn that I found very refreshing. Neither of them blow any Hollywood sunshine up your a**.

CeltX is based upon TeX more than Word. Since scripts and other such documents have common design elements, TeX has a structure in place for such. It also makes it easier in cranking out PDF files.

I have the JMS text known as “The Complete Book of Scriptwriting”. It is a good read. Even though the podcast I put together is not a drama matter, it is something that has scripted elements that take work. Whenever I write an exposition lecture for the podcast I know I have to do things carefully but in a common form.

What’s TeX?

That’s the correct title, thanks AH.

TeX is a typesetting system. It is popular in science and mathematics areas of academia as it runs on UNIX boxes. The idea is not to focus on document structure but to focus on the content. Since there are roughly standardized forms of scripts the same tool for creating a formal paper on FTL Drives could be used to make a script about Diana “Hardball” Seelix having trouble with FTL Drives.

TeX is really powerful but really you don’t want to mess with it by itself. Normally front-ends like LyX or CeltX exist so you’re not fiddling under the hood so much. I like the MacOSX version of CeltX but do end up working without Internet access at times.

Yeah, I really haven’t used the online features of CeltX much yet. I’m mainly exploiting the formating, tagging, and organizational capabilities. Maybe when I finish this draft I’ll let the CeltX community take a look at it.

Thanks for the reminder. I haven’t looked at CeltX in a while, but it could come in handy now.

Looks really cool. Reminds me of what iNews wanted to be. Back around 2002 I was working for a local Fox station, KTVU, and TechTV, and the both used iNews to do scripts, schedules, etc. It was not the easiest program to use, but at the time they had a grip on the professional broadcast market. The problem was they did not seem to be evolving the software very fast and charged huge money. By now things may have changed.

I am going to have to spend sometime using Celtx. It looks great. Thanks TAH.

I just added those to my iTunes. They sound like they will be great podcasts.

I am thinking of trying to have one or two of my scripts animated for the web. I figure if the stories and characters are good enough, people will check it out on the web. If I manage to build a following, maybe I can get funding for a live action version or at the very least a high budget animation version done.

Just curious if anyone else is using Final Draft. I own it. Bought it just a little while ago, so I am using it for the first time to make a script. So far, so good, but I wanted to see how happy others are with it.

"The Devil’s Guide to Hollywood by Joe Eszterhas, is a riot to read. There is some practical advice in the book, but it is just more fun then educational. Eszterhas unloads with some stuff that just made jaw drop. Good stuff, but if you are low and cash and need something to learn the basics from this is not it.

We could always create a GWC Writers’ group on Google or Yahoo as a place to share work and give feedback. One of my thoughts is to do a screenplay of my novel, because right now it looks like it may be better that way, but I need to finish the revision first before I tackle a new medium. If I could only buy one book for beginning screenwriting what would it be?

If you must buy a book, get the “Save The Cat” book. I would say the best way to learn is to read other scripts. You can start at which does have a book writers section by the way. Also use Google to find free movie scripts to download. Try to find scripts from the past four years. If you go to far back, you will be looking at slightly outdated formats, but they can still be useful scripts. There should be many free scripts to download from movies that have been made. If you start reviewing on you will also learn.

Right now, if someone is going to spend money on books or DVDs, I would say “Save The Cat” book and “On The Page” DVD. Most of what you would get from a Sid Mead or Robert McKee book can be found online or discovered by reading other scripts and listening to free podcasts.

Good luck on the rewrite of your novel. I hope to write one of those someday as well. I look forward to seeing what you wrote. Maybe the writers group at TriggerStreet can be helpful. I know the scriptwriters seem to be good at helping each other. I would assume the novelist side are as well.

The “ON The Page” DVD is filled with exercises and tips. Both “Save The Cat” and “On The Page” have exercises in them which leads to the key of becoming a good screenwriter, seat time doing it. I have wasted months reading and educating myself, but now I wish I had started writing from day one. I am finally moving along in script that may have been done by now. Just remember, first scripts will suck, but rewrites can save them.