Screenwriting (Frensham) | Reviews
Teach Yourself/Hodder & Stoughton 310 pages
'If you want to write a screenplay, however, you need to throw out everything you think you know about writing, and then start again from the beginning.'
'if you think you’d like to try your hand at screenwriting and are not sure what’s involved, this is probably the best book to start with.'
'Most vitally, Frensham provides plenty of up-to-date information about the film industry itself. .'
Screenwriting is not like any other writing discipline. In most instances, a writer has a rough idea, at the outset, of how to set down the words on the page: margin all round, double-spaced, pages numbered (please, it’s kinder to the manuscript reader), title, etc. Even a would-be playwright has a rough idea of how to set out a playscript from studying drama at school. If you want to write a screenplay, however, you need to throw out everything you think you know about writing, and then start again from the beginning. And I’m just talking about putting the words on the page in the right way, never mind the content. After that, it’s a roller-coaster ride, as the writer struggles with the eight basic plots, the whys and wherefores of the Hollywood three-act linear structure and how to produce immediately accessible, genre-satisfying characters that can be summed up in ten words.
It takes a special kind of person to want to be a screenwriter, let alone to persevere at it and become successful. I cannot think of any written artefact that is analysed more rigorously than a screenplay, nor that is so susceptible to being torn apart, rewritten (often several times) or more likely to end up in a form entirely unrecognisable to that in which it started out. Screenwriting is a highly collaborative business, and not for anyone with an easily dented ego or who’s possessive about their work. However, if you think you’d like to try your hand at screenwriting and are not sure what’s involved, this is probably the best book to start with. There are other books which go into the actual business of writing in more exhaustive, line-by-line, detail but this guide gives a broad overview of what’s likely to be involved in trying to write successful scripts, and it really doesn’t pull its punches. Ray Frensham is honest about the pitfalls of trying to be a screenwriter, and he’s honest about the slog involved. There’s also plenty of useful advice for the hesitant writer, getting to grips with the business of telling a story on film.
Most vitally, Frensham provides plenty of up-to-date information about the film industry itself. Success as a screenwriter comes from knowing the business and knowing it well. Ignorance means failure. He provides a mass of useful addresses and websites for the aspiring screenwriter, but it's up to you, the screenwriter, to take advantage of them.
|© Maureen Kincaid Speller a reviewer, writer, editor and former librarian, is our book reviewer and also works for WritersServices as a freelance editor. 2003||Reviewed by Maureen Kincaid Speller|