How To Write Movies: Mazin and Arndt’s Screenwriting Philosophies

I’ve spent a lot of time recently recommending a couple of fantastic resources to anyone and everyone I know in the middle of slogging it out on a screen story. The below two story lectures are fantastic for lots of reasons, but key to their impact is that they’re incredibly useful, craft-focused overviews for anyone involved in the storytelling business, and relevant to both newbies and old-hands alike.

Earlier this year, Craig Mazin, the award-winning writer, producer and creator of TV series Chernobyl, put together a solo episode of the excellent podcast Scriptnotes, which he co-hosts with fellow screenwriter John August, to deliver his big picture take on what a story is and how a screen story works.

This is an excellent big picture look at what it means to really tell a story that resonates with audiences, proving a number of fascinating insights into the construction and development of character in particular. I highly recommend you make yourself a cup of tea and take in his wise words.

You can listen to (and download!) the episode here: Scriptnotes Ep 403: How To Write A Movie.

My second recommendation is from screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3 and more) who has produced a video essay called Endings: The Good, The Bad, and The Insanely Great.

In this incisive overview, highlighting the specific examples of Star Wars, The Graduate and Little Miss Sunshine, Arndt deftly advocates for imbuing your stories with three sets of stakes – internal, external and philosophical – in order to add greater meaning to your work that hopefully will leave your viewers with, as the title suggests, an insanely great ending.

You can watch the video on Arndt’s website here: Endings: The Good The Bad and The Insanely Great.

Incidentally, you should also treat yourself to his much shorter but equally enlightening video Beginnings.

It’s wonderful that these two highly successful writers have been so willing to share their personal takes on storytelling. I hope you find their words as inspiring and useful and I do.

Note: The feature image in this post is the 100-page Story map downloadable from Arndt’s Pandemonium.

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