Top 50 Screenwriting Quotes for Script Frenzy
Script Frenzy is an international writing event – from the folks that brought you NaNoWriMo – which sets aspiring screenwriters the challenge of writing 100 pages of scripted material in just 30 days. To keep you going as you near the mid-way mark, we thought we’d assemble a collection of quotables to motivate and inspire you crazy scriptwriting fiends! From Robert McKee’s workshop guidance and William Goldman’s practical advice, to the wit and wisdom of loads of amazing screenwriters past and present – there’s a huge wealth of quotable goodness to get those creative juices flowing. So, get writing, and remember Raymond Chandler’s famous tip: “When in doubt have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.”
2. And that’s the goal: writing that’s ALIVE.
— Chuck Close
4. I don’t think you can get around it: good writing’s INSPIRED. Period.
— Chuck Mondry
6. All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.
— F. Scott Fitzgerald
7. Write every day, line by line, page by page, hour by hour. Do this despite fear. For above all else, beyond imagination and skill, what the world asks of you is courage, courage to risk rejection, ridicule and failure. As you follow the quest for stories told with meaning and beauty, study thoughtfully but write boldly. Then, like the hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world.
— Robert McKee
8. What you are starting out with may not be exciting or interesting, but don’t let that deter you from embracing it and making it your own. There is wonder in all things, you just have to be willing to seek it. As my favorite author, G.K. Chesterton puts it “The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.”
— Ethan Nicolle
9. If you want to write films become a writer director. Get yourself a video camera and construct your stories on film and go to film school. Go that route so that you are in control of your stories.
— William Nicholson
10. For the first time, I heard actors saying my lines and my partner’s lines, and it was – it was extremely thrilling because the kids — most of them — were too young to change them, so they were actually reading them as written, which was nice, and it hasn’t happened a lot since then.
— Paul Guay
11. Ideas can come from anywhere, they are the vital spark that starts the writing process. One of the best ways of deciding whether you’ve got a good idea fora movie is to ask yourself one simple question: “If someone else had written this story, would I get on a bus, go down to the cinema and pay to watch it?”
— David Griffith
14. A structural approach to screenwriting requires patience and discipline, but the rewards are great. You might find if you spend three weeks hammering out your story, the actual screenwriting will take only a week.
— Greg Marcks
16. Think of the most obvious thing, then don’t do it: It is easy to fall in love with an idea because you thought of it, but often you thought of it because it was obvious. This is not a rule, only a wise practice. Sometimes you will find that the obvious choice was the best choice, so in that case do the obvious thing, but not in an obvious way.
— Ethan Nicolle
17. Not using dialogue can give a character an extra layer of personality. Think about the people in your life and their body language, the quirks they have and how it helps define what you think of them. One defeated shrug can speak to a character’s entire philosophy of life… You’ve got the power to make your actors do anything you want, so use the hell out of that imagination.
— Curt Franklin
18. So much of good comedy comes out of strong, vivid character ideas. Creating two unique characters an audience will fall in love with and need to see united is the most important key to your screenplay’s success. All great characters have purpose and credibility, are empathic and complex.
— Billy Mernit
19. There’s absolutely no reason you can’t write in ANY genre if you are prepared to put the work in. Genre is craft. Craft can be learnt. So learn the conventions of the genre you want to write. Watch all the movies in that genre, big and small; read all the scripts. Go to events, learn about it. Read articles, blogs, soak it all up.
— Lucy Vee
20. When in doubt have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand.
— Raymond Chandler
21. You may have a set, a setting, world, or a physical comedy opportunity that will open up and enliven your movie. Annie Hall takes place in a fairly mundane urban world, but it’s packed with sight gags, from the cocaine sneeze to the errant lobsters, and inventive visual ideas, from split screen to animation. Make sure your script makes use of all the cinematic storytelling techniques a good movie-movie uses.
— Billy Merfit
23. I love fantasy. I love horror. I love musicals. Whatever doesn’t really happen in life is what I’m interested in. As a way of commenting on everything that does happen in life, because ultimately the only thing I’m really interested in is people.
— Joss Whedon
24. Think of story as the plan and screenplay as the execution. A screenplay is a story told in scenes, each scene necessary to tell the story. At this stage you’re just testing if each scene is necessary. When planning a screenplay, I try to write the story in prose first, without dialog, with each scene represented by either a sentence or a paragraph. Then I read and revise the condensed story, omitting what is unnecessary.
— Greg Marcks
25. That’s the hard part – writing is all about the preservation of your own voice. So if you give that voice away by guessing what you think and you think and you think as you go, you’ll have less to say and then it’ll go away completely!
— Gary Ross
27. Close the door. Write with no one looking over your shoulder. Don’t try to figure out what other people want to hear from you; figure out what you have to say. It’s the one and only thing you have to offer.
— Barbara Kingsolver
28. When talented people write badly, it’s generally for one of two reasons: Either they’re blinded by an idea they feel compelled to prove of they’re driven by an emotion they must express. When talented people write well, it is generally for this reason: They’re moved by a desire to touch the audience.
— Robert McKee
31. Writers awaiting feedback are in a very vulnerable position. Yes, yes, we have to have thick skin but writers are sensitive, let’s face it. This is not a new toilet we have installed; our stories are our hearts.
— Julie Gray
32. Every writer I know has trouble writing.
— Joseph Heller
33. I think living with all that failure makes us vulnerable. It makes us weak. And it explains why all those goddamn screenwriting books fill the bookstores. Don’t be fooled, friends. They can’t save you.
— Chuck Mondry
36. We don’t give feedback to be right or superior or better. We do it to be constructive and productive. Given, I do this every single day; it’s my day job. So I’m pretty good at it. But if this is not normal for you, reading a script and giving notes, just remember to give feedback in the same way you’d want to receive it.
— Julie Gray
38. Good feedback is kind, thorough and timely. It’s professional and focused. It leaves the writer feeling challenged to do better but great about their strengths. Even if that just means the location they chose was cool. Give your feedback relative to the skill set of the writer. Never lie or obfuscate. Just serve it up gently. An upset writer isn’t going to hear your points anyway. But an encouraged one will. Trust me on this.
— Julie Gray
40. Film’s thought of as a director’s medium because the director creates the end product that appears on the screen. It’s that stupid auteur theory again, that the director is the author of the film. But what does the director shoot—the telephone book? Writers became much more important when sound came in, but they’ve had to put up a valiant fight to get the credit they deserve.
— Billy Wilder
41. So the writer is the only person who’s taking absolutely nothing, and 120 pages of it, and dirtying it up in such a way that it’s gonna gross hundreds of millions of dollars and make a lot of people happy.
— Paul Guay
42. The first screenplay I ever sold was something I’d written with Chris Matheson, my sometimes writing partner. It was Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure. And we had a meeting with a director who had some really lame ideas. And Chris and I said, ‘I don’t think that would really work.’ And this director said, ‘Well, if you don’t think that’s a good idea, we’ll find some writers who do think it’s a good idea.’
— Ed Solomon
44. There was a great director who directed a picture that I wrote who barred me from the set—quite appropriately—and said, “I’m sorry, Jim. When you’re directing, you don’t need to know everything. You need the illusion that you do.” And, you know, and I WOULD be there—behind him trying to signal the actors in, you know, in a way I wasn’t even aware of.
— James L. Brooks
45. Well, Jack Warner may have been celebrated for calling writers “Schmucks with Underwoods,” but 20 years earlier Irving Thalberg … said, “The most important person in the motion picture process is the writer, and we must do everything in our power to prevent them from ever realizing it.”
— Steven De Souza
46. You have no idea that years later, people in cars will recognize you on the street and shout, ‘You talkin’ to me?’ I don’t remember the original script, but I don’t think the line was in it. We improvised. For some reason it touched a nerve. That happens.
— Robert De Niro
47. Speed is crucial in TV. Under the pressure of production, you have to be able to bang out good scripts on a clock. A writer who can finish a solid draft in two months? They’re easy to find. I’m interested in the writer who can write that draft in two days.
— Matt Nix
48. Writing is finally about one thing: going into a room alone and doing it. Putting words on paper that have never been there in quite that way before. And although you are physically by yourself, the haunting Demon never leaves you – the knowledge of your own terrible limitations, your hopeless inadequacy, the impossibility of ever getting it right. No matter how diamond-bright your ideas are dancing in your brain, on paper they are earthbound.
— William Goldman
50. Now. What are you doing still reading this? You’ve got writing to do!
— Beth Brandon