It’s hard for anyone to process the scale and horror of events like the atrocities in Israel by Hamas, or genocide and ethnic cleansing, or the devastation caused by the invasion of Ukraine. But writers can play a vital role in helping us all process, and respond to, these unthinkable events when they happen.
Firstly, I’d like to state – on behalf of everyone at WriteMovies – our shock and revulsion at the attacks in Israel last week, and our heartfelt sympathy for everyone who has been affected by them or their consequences. My fear is that things are going to get a lot worse even than they are right now, for a much bigger number of people, over the weeks, months and years ahead, because of some of the factors I’ll talk about in this article. And I think writers do have the power to make some important differences in these situations, and I’d like to talk a little about that here.
Here are some principles for writers to consider about their role in the world and the influence that their work can have over world events. You’re welcome to respond to these and suggest others on our social media!
- Show us how we got here. Historical, biographical, or contemporary retellings of things that happened in the past are a vital insight into who and what we are today, and how we need to change for the future.
- Don’t let us forget the lessons of history. Find ways to reinvent and retell the stories that teach us the most from the past, for today’s and tomorrow’s audiences and obsessions.
- Don’t fall into lazy, familiar, safe views of the past that indulge and reassure us. Why create a faithful new adaptation of a familiar classic work, when you could be focusing on different angles within that world that speak to our modern views of that world? Or find other stories from that era which people then weren’t ready to tell about themselves?
- Don’t fall into the trap of treating anyone’s personal identities as more important than our shared humanity. That way lies tribalism, prejudice, war, and ultimately genocide.
- Avoid writing predictable ‘issue dramas’ that basically agree with everything we would already think about an issue, without teaching us why this thing happens or why we should look differently at it.
- Help us understand why people do ‘unthinkable’ things. Famous examples include: How can a responsible, ordinary person turn into a hardened, dangerous criminal (BREAKING BAD)? And, how can someone commit terrible criminal acts for their ‘job’ yet still try to be a good person for their family (THE SOPRANOS)? In the current crises, you could try to explain why Hamas doesn’t value life – their own, Israelis’, nor even their own people’s. Or how Russian rhetoric was describing Ukrainians as their ‘brothers’ in the run-up to the invasion – while their armed forces prepared to kill any of them who tried to stand up to oppression.
- See the bigger picture, and look further than people caught up in the crisis now will be able to. For example, here is an immediate reaction, one week after Hamas’ incursions into Israel in October 2023: the Hamas atrocities in Israel seem designed to show all Israelis and Jews that they will never be safe, and to provoke an extreme reaction in response. The reaction of Israeli forces to that has so far followed the pattern of previous attacks and hostage scenarios in that conflict very closely, but on a predictably bigger scale. Surely this is exactly what Hamas and their backers would have expected, and would have planned and prepared for? So if what Israel is currently doing, is also the goal of the attackers – who is actually winning? What will the longer-term consequences be as the rest of the world – Arab or not – reacts to what is happening in Gaza and beyond? Could this situation escalate far beyond its current focus – what if that’s exactly what Israel’s enemies are trying to bring about? And if so, how bad could things get for Israel and its allies, how quickly?
These are just a few of the ways that writers can add value to the world which can both recognize and help the situation, within and beyond any current crisis or recent shock. I hope they help you frame your own reaction to the many crises in the world, and to understand the part that you can play in helping us to address or prevent them in future. As ever, we would be very happy to mentor you further if this is something of interest to you – https://writemovies.com/script-mentoring/. But above all good luck, and if you or people you care about are caught up in these or any other crises, our sympathies are always with you.
A key part of our philosophy, as we review your submissions.
Reading lots of industry scripts gives you the tools you need to improve your own screenwriting – that’s the value of screenreading. It’s been a key feature of our philosophy over our decades supporting writers to fulfil their industry potential, and is no less important now as the industry emerges from the WGA strike and its impacts on writers and producers. Here’s an Insights article that encapsulates our philosophy that reading high volumes of scripts is crucial to making it possible to either write or edit them successfully. We’ve lived these values for decades: see if you agree!
Read to Write: Screenwriting by Example
by Matt Rose, WriteMovies Analyst
Theoretically, almost anyone could spend 5-10 minutes with an “elements of a screenplay” diagram like the one at https://slugline.co/basics, and churn out 90 pages of something with a beginning, middle, and end. “I’ve seen plenty of movies, how hard could it be?”
Sure, that’s as good a start as any if you’re just dipping a toe in the writerly waters of the film and TV industry, and any page-generation is of course a feat to be proud of. Though, doesn’t it sound strange to attempt to make a movie without ever having seen a movie? So, think about attempting to write a screenplay without reading screenplays.
No matter how big a film buff you may be or how read-up you are on “How To” screenwriting articles, if you want to be a screenwriter, you first need to become a screenreader.
Screenwriter reader? … You get it. The point is, with every screenplay you read, good or bad, you’ll develop your taste for what works and what doesn’t work. Of course you can dissect story structure from watching produced films or series, though you’ll miss out on vital on-the-page aspects that got the script made to begin with.
If you’re new to script-reading, start with the scripts of your favorite films or by your screenwriting idols.
Read a script all the way through, then try some of the below exercises:
• As you read, try to picture a scene holistically, even beyond what’s on the page. Try to “watch” the movie in your imagination. How might the actors deliver these lines or perform these actions, and what about the written script made you think that? What did the description make you “see”: a close-up, a wide angle, shot/reverse-shot? How efficient is the scene set?
• Watch and read a scene simultaneously (or, more accurately, with quick starts and stops). How did it translate? How did the tone of the writing affect its execution? Were you surprised at what was or wasn’t specified on the page (costume, setting, décor)?
• Watch a scene and then try to write it yourself in screenplay format. Then, compare your version with the actual script. While you may have objectively written the “same scene” in that they cover the same plot points, in what subjective, stylistic ways do they differ? Were your action verbs different, and how might word choice impact execution/performances? Did you capture the script’s “attitude” towards its characters? In your opinion, what makes either their or your version more compelling on paper?
By reading with an active mind for what works and what doesn’t, you’ll begin to develop your “taste,” which will ultimately amalgamate into your own personal style, and eventually—along with your unique perspective and lived experience—your “voice” as a writer. Once you feel you have some sense of what makes a great script great, further narrow down your tastes by reading scripts for movies that failed, either in your personal or the general critical opinion. In developing taste, exclusions can be as important as inclusions. Consider what didn’t work, and how it could be improved.
Branch out from extremes into gray areas. Reading scripts for movies that make you unpassionately say, “Eh, not the worst, but could’ve been better,” is a useful tool in developing your inner constructive-critic. Also try to get your hands on unproduced scripts or amateur screenwriting with intriguing premises. With a grasp on what makes screenwriting pop or flop, think of what changes might’ve made for a better read.
Even a long-active writer benefits from getting outside of themselves and assessing someone else’s work. Think about the trope of the narrative foil: sometimes we’re not able to notice our own feats or shortcomings until we see their exaggeration or their opposite in another. Maintaining an active readership, you may be surprised to find that something you loved or hated in one script—from plot twist to dialogue to tone—unlocks a new way of looking at your own rewrite that’s had you stumped.
For all screenwriters, it’s important to start or continue reading scripts. There are many resources for finding full screenplays to read online, including:
• Script Slug – a vast, searchable database of screenplays
• Simply Scripts – a plethora of scripts with a toolbar of useful categories like “Unproduced Scripts” and “Oscar Scripts”
• TV Writing – mostly for US and UK television pilots
• Indie Film Hustle – compiled list of Oscar-contender screenplays for the 2022-2023 season
Enter our latest contests now – click here!
We welcome the resolution of the WGA strike, and we’re looking forward to exploring all the new terms of trade and sharing insights and news with you as we pitch our winners to industry again!
WriteMovies has successfully delivered contests, mentoring and pitching services for aspiring writers and producers since 1999. The global disruptions of recent years have created constant unanticipated challenges, especially the pandemic and the strike, but we’re still here and happy to be able to share exciting updates with you again. We’re continuing to enjoy our many discussions with industry insiders, and all the entries to our latest contests! We’re now into the Standard Entry phase of our contests, with screenplays now $59 and books and video games $69 to enter. Don’t forget you can enter any script, book or video game script, and receive:
1. An analysis of your crucial first ten pages from an industry perspective, telling you how well your writing stands out in the market and any areas in need of improvement
2. A free resubmission of your next draft to the same contest until it closes, for us to consider for representation and pitching to industry at our own expense
3. Entry to our Grand Prize contest, worth $3500, whichever contest you enter!
4. Guaranteed pitching to industry for every winner, and many other prizes…
We welcome your entries anytime and look forward to helping you fulfil your potential in the industry! Use the payment buttons now to enter – payment is available in multiple currencies and can accept credit and debit cards. Don’t forget that any of our Mentoring, Consulting and Script Consulting services also automatically provide free resubmission and automatic future contest entry too! We have services for every price point and welcome the chance to work with you on fulfilling your potential – enter now! Don’t forget that any of our Mentoring, Consulting and Script Consulting services also provide all the prizes and opportunities of our contests too!
Romance and Comedy Award 2023!
Sci-Fi and Fantasy Award 2023!
BLOCKBUSTED author speaks out on modernizing Disney’s problematic older content
As controversies rage about the problematic features of traditional Disney films and content, Newsweek has published an article about how “Disney Is Offending Its Audience”, and our founder is prominently featured. Here’s what Dr. Alex Ross had to say when featured in Newsweek:
“Disney would face an “impossible” task to ensure its vintage titles met today’s standards, according to Alexander Ross, author of The Evolution of Hollywood’s Calculated Blockbuster Films: Blockbusted.
“What would be even worse would be to ban the inappropriate; elements. We need to see these within a historical context [as a] reflection on the times. They shed light on our past, however unpleasant,” Ross told Newsweek. “With the now usual advisories, they should remain accessible to those who are interested. We need to continue engaging with these, the worst thing that could happen would be to shut down the debates.”
Ross was referring to Disney’s decision to put advisories ahead of older shows and films on its streaming service, Disney+, warning of potentially offensive content and even putting age restrictions on beloved titles such as Dumbo, Peter Pan and The Aristocats.
“Whether Disney can sanitize some of the problematic IP [intellectual property] in order to commercialize it is an entirely different matter. Some of their older IP, going back to their earlier, classic animation films is very valuable and adds hundreds of millions to the value of the studio’s library,” Ross added. “Does re-tooling it to make it acceptable and relevant to new generations make sense? Absolutely.”
CLICK HERE to read the full article at Newsweek.com!
CLICK HERE to hire Dr. Alex Ross as consultant for your own project.
We now support entries in the currency that suits you…
We have now enabled all of our submissions to be entered in $USD, £GBP, $AUD and $CAD!
Did you know that WriteMovies was once described as having a ‘virtual monopoly… on the concept of world cinema’ by Moviemaker Magazine? We’ve worked in many countries and even many languages. Now our latest contests are available in multiple currencies too!
Follow this link to our Current Contests page and follow the process from there! We accept PayPal and then email us your script with a coverpage including your contact details to complete your entry.
Don´t forget all submissions receive FREE feedback on your crucial first ten pages, with a one-page summary of their strengths, weaknesses, and areas for improvement! Yes, you read that correctly – FREE FEEDBACK! And what’s more – once you’ve received that feedback you have the chance to update your script and RESUBMIT YOUR NEW VERSION FOR FREE too! That’s open to you until the contest you’ve entered, comes to a close!