Notes on Craft – (Part 1 of 6): Premise and Concept

I just finished a 6-part series of screenwriting seminars, called Notes on Craft, through the Writer’s Guild Foundation.  Here is a paraphrased list of gleaned gems from the pros themselves.  I will post a new category every day for the rest of this week.

PART 1: Premise & Concept

PART 2: Structure

PART 3: Character

PART 4: The First 20 Pages

PART 5: Dialogue & Scene

PART 6: Rewriting & Polishing

DAN FOGELMAN (Cars; Tangled; Crazy, Stupid, Love)

– “People over think too much.  When I receive a script with a 4-page cover letter of why it’s worth reading, I know it’s got problems.”

– “My writing always begins with figuring out where my character starts and where he ends up.”

– (Re: when thinking about how to pitch an idea) “Here’s the premise, here’s the character, and here re 5 big things that happen in the movie.”

-“I know the beginning and end and kinda vomit the middle and let other people sort it out.”

– “Structuring is easy.  By page 30 the audience should know the premise of your movie; by mid-point, there should be a negative turn; by page 80, there should be sad music and you should be heading for the end.”

– “If you have the beginning and end then that should inform the middle.  Wherever you decide your character is at the end of the movie, put him at the beginning in the opposite spot.”

– “Notting Hill was a great script to read. Very efficient story-telling.”

– “If I’m trying to write 10 pages of my script and I get lost I’ll put up a Word document and write out 10 pages of beats instead.”

– “Live-Action is solitary and tough.  Animation is a group process; animators drawing your ideas as you’re developing them.”

ANNIE MUMOLO (Bridesmaids)

– “If, when reading my own script, I can fly through the pages then I know it’s worth pursuing.”

– “When creating an idea I start with a key scene and work around that.”

JAMES VANDERBILT (Zodiac, The Losers, The Rundown)

– “I always plan. I never regret over-planning. And when I start writing I go as fast as I can.”

– “I need to know where it ends (emotionally) before I can start writing.”

– “The best scripts are always well-structured but are invisible in it’s execution.”

JOHN REQUA (Bad Santa; I Love You Phillip Morris; Cats & Dogs)

– “I always figure out the ending first- where the character must be emotionally.”

– “Ideas are easy.  CHaracters are hard.  Story is easy when you have character.”


– Who’s your favorite screenwriter above?

– Anything you disagrees with above?

– What you would add to Premise and Concept?


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