Watch Movies Like A Screenwriter

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Watch Movies Like A Screenwriter

When most people watch a movie, they react to it on an emotional level. Did they like it? Were they transported? Did the story make them laugh or cry? They base their judgment of the movie on their subjective experience and rarely think about it beyond that.

Writer Pedro de Alcantara says, "Most moviegoers tend to take the screenplay for granted. They don't know, and don't want to know, that what they see onscreen is Dustin Hoffman speaking lines written by Avery Corman, lines further chosen and edited by Robert Benton. All they care about is Kramer fighting, Kramer making mistakes, Kramer nearly destroying his child's life. Moviegoers don't leave the theater saying to themselves, 'The subtext in the dialogue was so subtle, it gave Hoffman's character tremendous verisimilitude.' They don't use six-syllable words. They say, "That bastard! He almost screwed it up!'"

From now on when you watch a movie, notice your subjective experience as you always have. But afterwards, take a step back and look at the film more objectively. "The writer in a permanent writerly frame of mind, goes home angry, tearful, elated—but also pondering character arc, the inciting incident in the first act, the length and variety of scenes, the point of view. Ask yourself, 'Whose story was it? Was there enough foreshadowing to prepare and justify the climax?'" says de Alcantara.

Start asking questions about what worked and what didn't. If you laughed at a joke, analyze how the punch line was set up and delivered. If you were bored, think about the movie's pacing and focus. If you didn't care enough about the main character, figure out what you would have done differently.

It's always easier to spot problems in other people's work. By doing this exercise, you'll train yourself to see flaws in your own work and you'll learn to generate solutions.



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