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06/12/2001 - READ GREAT SCRIPTS
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GREAT SCRIPTS


My Fellow Writers,

I firmly believe that you must read great scripts in order to know what you're striving for.

I don't know which scripts are my absolute favorites, but I can name a few great ones that come to mind right this minute. ALIEN is stunning in its simplicity and atmosphere. MEMENTO has a great woven mystery on the page. USUAL SUSPECTS, which I read before I saw the movie, shocked me with its ending in the same way that the movie shocked others. THE PRINCESS BRIDE always makes me laugh, in reading or on film. THELMA & LOUISE has amazing energy and life. Even several drafts before it was a movie, THE MATRIX had its share of great concepts. EXCALIBUR was, to me, a surprisingly wonderful script, as I was too young to appreciate the film's texture when it first came out. Though Sir Anthony truly brought Hannibal to life, read SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and you'll see that he had a damn good roadmap. PULP FICTION is another like that. Sure, the actors were charismatic, but I'll tell you, it's a lot easier to be charismatic when someone just told you exactly how to do it.

"A great script reads like a movie that's already made." Robert Towne said that. And the corollary to that is that you can never count on the movie to be better than the script. Sure, it happens. THE MATRIX was a good script with many intriguing ideas, but the film was terrific. I've never read CROUCHING TIGER, but I'd guess the case is the same there, and for lots of movies that count on visual style and action more than characters and drama. Just as common is the scenario where a great script becomes a ho-hum film.

As a rule, your script sets the bar for how good the movie can become. Because the filmmaking process is a complex and collaborative effort, and if the writing - the engine that drives the whole process - isn't great, then its weaknesses will be magnified every step of the way.

So set the bar high on those scripts. Write films. Visualize every beat, every line, every image. See the movie in your head so you can put it on the page.

One last beating for the week: You can either talk about writing and waffle around for years, or you can do something about it. If you want to do something about it, here's the short version of what you need to do: Write every day. Read the great scripts. Make a movie, any way you can. Set deadlines and meet them. Strive for the highest standards.

All right. Stop reading. The writing first!

Proselytizing,

Grady
P.S. E-mail me at EmailGrady@aol.com with other suggestions of great scripts that you've read out there. What are your favorites in script form? Favorite drama, comedy, action, suspense, etc.? I need more great scripts to read! Thanks for the suggestions.

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