Get Excited and Bang It Out (A Screenplay)

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Have you ever wanted to write a screenplay? Here is a secret to writing one, from Robert Rodriguez’s book Rebel Without a Crew:

“…if you really want to write [a screenplay], the best way is find an idea that excites you, no matter how small (mine was simply the guy with the guitar case full of guns). All you have to do is use that excitement to sit down and start banging it out and not stop until you’re done”

So there you have it. Straight from the horses mouth. (If you’ve seen his very first film, El Mariachi, you know what guitar case full of guns he’s talking about.)

The thing that stops most would-be writers is not lack of education or ideas or opportunity, it’s that they simply don’t start writing.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.”

-Mark Twain

So it helps to take a large task, like writing a screenplay, and break it down into simple steps. And then start on the first step.

The first step to writing a screenplay is to put your ass in your chair. And that’s really the most important step. No joke. That’s because it’s the one that everyone fails to do.

Sit down, and start writing. That’s really the only secret to writing a screenplay. You’ll figure everything from there.

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2 comments

  1. Great stuff. Thanks for this post. That Mark Twain quote is incredible but it’s even difficult to figure out how to break a screenplay into pieces. Do you focus on the “3 main acts” or are there “8 main sequences” or is it “16 beats that every screenplay should have”?

    1. Thanks Andrew!

      I think you may be making it too hard. Actually, something that Rodriguez talks a lot about in his book is intentionally not doing what Hollywood does. As a low budget filmmaker that is not inside the Hollywood scene, your greatest advantage is making movies that Hollywood could never make, because they are constrained by their budget and the need to make a return on their investment to stick to formulas that have proved successful financially. Well honestly that sucks. It makes for “boring and predictable” movies, to quote the Wachowski brothers.

      So forget the 8 sequences and the 16 beats and the 32 shakes or whatever the hell Syd Field is teaching in his books and just write. The three acts are good, but just keep them in the back of your mind, don’t focus on that. Ultimately all those rules are like the Pharisees who created a mess of pointless rules that stopped them from living the simple truth. We all have a natural inclination to want to cling to rules, thinking they will make our work good, when what we should really be doing is forgetting all that and, like Indiana Jones, step out over the chasm and trust that a bridge will appear beneath our foot. The leap of faith requires forgetting everything you’ve learned and just sitting down and actually doing the work. Or as Steven Pressfield says:

      “TRUST THE SOUP.”

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