Bits of Screenwriting 101 by Film Crit Hulk

I finished reading Screenwriting 101 by Film Crit Hulk, and I recommend it for anyone who writes stories—not only screenplays.

Below are some of my favorite passages. I highlighted a lot of stuff, so narrowing it down was hard!

Hulk’s working definition of storytelling:

a good narrative is compelling to the audience, economically told, feels real either in terms of emotion, detail, or texture, and speaks to some thematic truth that you recognize in yourself or the world at large.

On inspiration carrying you through to the end of a story:

A finished film is as close to the inspiration that spawned it as that original scribbled note on a napkin. To the creator, they are conceptually the same thing, no matter how much they might have changed. Never forget that. Because the germ of your idea can be the thing that must constantly light the fire underneath you as you go forth. When you are in the slog of working out the logistics, you must find that same inspiration. Even if the project radically changes, the idea itself should be a through-line that saves your script throughout the process. The moment of inspiration is both your motive and motivation.

On endings:

If all the ideas in our films mean something, then your ending should say everything. […] do not look at the ending of your piece as a burden, but as an opportunity. An opportunity to say everything you want to say in your movie. It is an opportunity to be poetic, resonant, and interesting. It is an opportunity to be soulful and underline the purpose of storytelling.

On heroes:

It’s not that anyone can be a hero, but that a hero can come from anywhere.

On the hero’s journey, and how you don’t have to use that model for a good hero story:

Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight is 1) about a superhero 2) one of the most respected and successful superhero films ever and 3) and it doesn’t even really touch the Campbell model in any strong way. Instead, it’s built around moment-to-moment propulsion of story. It grounds its characterization in theme and keeps things going in a far more involving and modern way.

On forward motion that keeps the audience interested:

So what I’m saying is that you come up with an idea and it’s like ‘okay, this happens’ and then ‘THIS happens.’ No no no. It should be ‘this happens’ and THEREFORE ‘this happens.’ BUT ‘this happens’ THEREFORE ‘this happens.’

On genre:

Every kind of story is different. Every one of them works with a certain set of expectations and catharsis. And part of being able to write any kind of story means you should know how to write every kind of story.

On Tarantino’s mastery of cinematic mechanisms:

People think that Tarantino is always trying to be cool or that he makes “cool” films, but if you ask Hulk this is a spectacular misdiagnosis. Yes, Quentin wants his films to be cool, but that’s not how he actually constructs them! Seriously! Oftentimes, his characters are grounded in a kind of regularity and focus on the mundane. He obsesses in the obscure and the uncool. More than that, he constructs his films in terms of function: his long-form dialogues are just as much about classic innovations of drama and build up and tension. He’s a guy who knows his craft and knows the purpose of every single cinematic mechanism he’s employing.

On the most important thing in writing adaptations:

You want the people of the property to be the same people in the film. That’s everything, really. Audiences just want to recognize the characters they have come to love or be fascinated by.

On getting through the first draft:

Just write the first draft no matter what. Don’t care if it’s good. Don’t care if it even works. Don’t care even if it’s gobbledygook. Just get it done. It doesn’t matter. Get it all up on the page because no one ever has to see it. Remove the paralysis. Get in a place so you can see it all before you. So you can see what needs to be done and how it needs to be changed. And then? Do, like, 7 rewrites… at least.

On having thick skin:

James Gunn said: “The key to show business is to give 110% while simultaneously not giving a shit.” Give 110% percent because you can’t accomplish anything in this business without enthusiasm and genuine intent. Be joyful and take pride when things go well. But don’t give a shit in the sense that you have to take rejection in stride. Don’t let failure bother you.


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