Screenwriting Fundamentals

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Screenwriting Fundamentals
The Art and Craft of Visual Writing
By Irv Bauer, Vimi Bauer

184 Pages



Screenwriting Fundamentals: The Art and Craft of Visual Writing takes a step-by-step approach to screenwriting, starting with a blank page and working through each element of the craft. Written in an approachable anecdote-infused style that’s full of humor, Bauer shows the writer how to put the pieces together, taking the process of screenwriting out of the cerebral and on to the page. Part One of the book covers character, location, time-frame and dialogue, emphasizing the particularity in writing for a visual medium. Part Two of the book focuses on the narrative aspect of screenwriting. Proceeding incrementally from the idea and story outline, through plotting and writing the treatment, the workshop-in-a-book concludes with writing the First Draft.

  •     A unique emphasis on the visual elements of storytelling because the camera is always present—the screenplay must act as a guide for the director and the editor.
  •     A "workshop in a book" approach that walks the reader step-by-step through a screenplay—focusing on character, location, time frame, visual components, and transitions—with plenty of exercises that generate material for the narrative writing process.
  •     A process-oriented approach, combined with a lighthearted tone and approachable style, that allows the reader to ease into the daunting task of writing a First Draft and takes them all the way through to the end— First Draft in hand.
Table of Contents

EDITOR’S NOTE

FOREWORD BY MICHAEL RADFORD

INTRODUCTION—ON BEING A WRITER

PART I - The Gathering Phase

Chapter 1 - Character, Location, Time Frame

    The Arbitrary Character

    Character Leads to Story

    Script Example

    Character Bio

    Location

    Time Frame

    Personal History

    Student Exercise Examples

    Exercise #1

Chapter 2 - Character Out Loud—Dialogue

    Sources of Dialogue

    Monologue

    Script Examples

    Student Exercise Examples

    The Character’s Own Sweet Song

    Exercise #2

Chapter 3 - The Visual Component—I

    Film Form—Screenplay Format

    Dialogue in Film Form—Second Character

    Script Example

    Screenwriting—The Recipe

    Student Exercise Examples

    Exercise #3

Chapter 4 - The Visual Component—II

    A Scene without Dialogue

    Script Example—1

    Script Example—2

    Student Exercise Examples

    Exercise #4

Chapter 5 - The Transition

    The Transition Defined

    A Coat of Many Colors

    Script Examples

    Exercise #5

PART II - The Narrative Arc

    Review

Chapter 6 - The Idea

    The Background of Film

    Narrow Your Focus

    The Mechanics of Storytelling

    Set Up, Build, Pay Off

    Questioning

    Student Exercise Examples

    Exercise #6

Chapter 7 - Story—Step Outline

    What Is Story?

    Step Outline Defined

    Creating the Skeleton

    Student Exercise Examples

    Questioning Your Work

    Evolution of an Idea

    Exercise #7

Chapter 8 - Plotting the Story—I

    Flesh on the Skeleton

    The Opening Scene

    Script Example

    The Bridge

    The African Queen—Opening Scene

    Plot the Opening Scene

    Student Exercise Examples

    Exercise #8

Chapter 9 - Treatment—Plotting the Story—II

    What Is a Treatment?

    Connecting the Bridges

    Basic Dramatic Elements

    Step Back and Question

    Questions to Ask Yourself

    Student Exercise Examples

    Recap—Treatment

    Exercise #9

Chapter 10 - First Draft Short Screenplay

    Fulfilling the Treatment

    The First Draft Screenplay

    Student Exercise Examples

    Exercise #10

PROTECTING YOUR SCRIPT

NOTES TO MY WRITERS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

INDEX

Biography

Irv Bauer’s vast experience in teaching screenwriting includes undergraduate programs at New York University and Sarah Lawrence College, playwriting at many universities and venues, and non-performance workshops for writers at the New Dramatists. Bauer has mentored countless up-and-coming industry writers and directors and taught his own very successful classes and tutorials, drawing students from all over the world. He is the author of several produced and optioned plays and screenplays as well as many commissioned rewrites of film and television scripts and stage plays. Irv is also widely known for the animated series Courage The Cowardly Dog on Cartoon Network.

Learn more at www.bauerscreenwriting.com

Reviews

    "Screenwriting Fundamentals is not simply a book; it is much more. It is the revelation of what I like to call "the secret path of a writer." Irv Bauer is not grudging with his tools. On the contrary, he takes the hand of a budding screenwriter and carefully gives him a step-by-step, clear line to follow from the birth of an idea through its development until the miraculous materializing of a screenplay. In addition to the explanation of Bauer’s method, the book also generously demonstrates this development in the many exercises and examples in each chapter. If by contrast you are not a beginner but already an experienced writer, you will find a refreshing and inspiring blend of creativity and pragmatism in this master's mind – a very rare combination. In this book, the author has decided to share with us his deep passion for his craft, gained from his long professional experience and his obvious love of teaching."

    —Donata Carelli, Writer and Teacher of Storytelling at Università LUMSA, Università Roma Tre

    "How do you quantify inspiration? After reading Irv Bauer's Screenwriting Fundamentals, not only do I have clear tools to write a visual script but also implicit permission to explore my creativity and imagination freely. The exercises, examples of scripts, edits and phrasing, and true professional guidance make this book a ‘must read’ for any aspiring scriptwriter. I am truly inspired by seeing my own potential as a writer come to life."

    —Maryanne Grisz, Producer, Onerock Moving Pictures

    "This is a must-read book for those who aspire to be successful screenwriters. In his own inimitable style Irv gives the reader many insights from a lifetime of writing and teaching. I myself am a beneficiary of Irv’s teaching in person, and when I read the book it felt like I was again in Spoleto in Italy where I spent a fascinating ten days on a screenwriting course with Irv. In particular, Irv focuses on one of the most important aspects of writing – how to write visually. This is one of the most difficult skills to acquire as a screenwriter, and Irv’s book is full of many useful exercises from his lectures and workshops that help the potential screenwriter develop this essential skill. Irv also avoids the pitfalls of many other screenwriting teachers who talk endlessly about structure by concentrating on what really matters when writing a screenplay – the characters. He instructs the writer how to create convincing and realistic characters that will take on a life of their own in the mind of their creator. Characters that live and breathe will in turn guide the writer and the storytelling will emerge from this. Once the characters and story have emerged Irv then instructs the writer in all the practicalities of producing a step-outline for the story, a treatment and a first draft of the screenplay.

    This is a book about craft and not gimmicks. Irv aptly finishes his book with not only the best advice but a line that describes how he himself lived and the example he has set for others who would be successful: ‘Being a writer is a way of life. Stay with it. If you have the passion, you’ll find your way.’ If you have that passion - then READ IRV'S BOOK!

    The volume has already been ordered for our BA course that includes Advanced Screenwriting and also the MA Course in Screenwriting at Oxford Brookes University in the UK. It will be recommended reading for all the students."

    —Dr. Stephen Curran, Screenwriter and Associate Lecturer in Media Studies, Oxford Brookes University

    "Irv Bauer`s Screenwriting Fundamentals is a great book, and the method is original and brilliant. The book gives what it promises – essential tools for visual writing. It serves an easy step-by-step approach for the demanding and highly-complex subject. Following the logical chapters tells how to start from the character, how to build up an element of time, and finally end up to writing your first draft.

    Irv Bauer´s book reveals the secrets of a master storyteller and offers a vast variety of draft examples of his students taking their first efforts in screenwriting. What makes the biggest impression is Irv´s insistence on the logic of visual storytelling. If you are a real film lover and you have a story to tell, take this book and just follow its instructions. You will be amazed by how much can you achieve with the help of this book. I’d like to highly recommend this book on the art and craft of screenwriting."

    —Juha Hietanen, Journalist, Writer, TV-Presenter, Helsinki, Finland

    "Irv's strength as a teacher is his ability to make screenwriting comprehensible and fun. His step-by-step method in this book puts you on the right track. Follow it from the beginning and you will have the result."

    —J. Olesen, Graduate Film studies, Copenhagen University

    "Irv Bauer is a force. An inspiration in teaching, he challenges the story at its deepest emotional level."

    —Brad Furman, Director/Screenwriter, Lincoln Lawyer, Los Angeles

    "Irv inspired me and opened a whole new world to me. His clear structure and sharp understanding of the craft is peerless."

    —Grit Fischer - Filmuniversity Babelsberg "Konrad Wolf" - Producer, Munich

    "Irv Bauer’s screenwriting course was a huge benefit to me at the start of my career as an independent film producer. I was able to gain a fresh per- spective on how to look at a script and understand what makes it good or bad. Irv has a simple and effective method of developing characters and story, and translating ideas into properly written, comprehensive screen- plays. Once you learn and understand his process, you can easily see in a script where some of those fundamentals are solid or lacking."

    —Steve Shapiro, Producer, November Man, Into The Forest, Winters Bone, New York/Los Angeles

    "When I was a student at NYU, and later as well, Irv Bauer not only taught me about the craft of screenwriting he also helped me find and shape my own voice. He taught me the importance of creativity and originality, and turning out material that resonates with the heart. Irv is truly my mentor and I’ll always value him as my teacher."

    —Meng Ong, Director/Screenwriter, A Fantastic Ghost Wedding, Miss Wonton, Singapore

    "I think of Irv often especially when I read scripts. "What would Irv think and suggest here?" He helps me a lot. I owe him a lot."

    —Luigi Ferrara-Santamaria, Producer, Rome

    "We must undo what we think we know in order to be in the embrace of Irv’s wisdom, a real privilege and a great surprise! He walked me through the dark tunnel of writer’s block. Irv Bauer’s process and intimate hands on experience of screen writing, comes from a lifetime. ‘I am the lucky one!’"

    —Joanne Cheng, Director/Screenwriter, Bound Feet, C/O Butterfly, Beijing/New York

    "Irv was my screenwriting teacher at NYU in the 90s. Later, I studied with him privately. His deeply rooted passion to character development and storytelling was and will always be an inspiration to me. They don’t make them like Irv anymore."

    —Evan Footman Kreeger

    "Irv Bauer is a powerful antidote to the Hollywood meat grinder school of screenwriting. You won’t find pat templates, or tired plot-by-numbers schematics, but a unique method combining the tools working writers have been utilizing for centuries, all presented in concise, easy steps. Irv helped me reclaim that sine qua non of all successful writers—passion."

    —Stephen Beckner, Writer/Director, Paris

    "A master teacher, Irv Bauer has the rare ability to break down the craft of screenwriting into an understandable step by step process. Extremely knowledgeable, Bauer synthesizes his many years of experience, giving students the tools they need to develop their work from character sketch to finished screenplay. A dynamic and inspiring approach that yields extremely gratifying results."

    —Eileen Kurtis-Kleinman, Student, Sarah Lawrence College, New York

    "Kudos for Irv Bauer’s screenwriting course. It definitely ain’t a bombastic, boring lecture. It’s a hands-on, minds-on, writing process. It is said that if you want to learn to write you have to write. They coined this expression for Irv’s course and he makes it fun."

    —Robert E. Lee, Screenwriter, Editor/Writer, Long Beach Style Magazine, New York

    "I completed a BFA at New York University Film School and I hold Irv largely responsible for my success in my career, without him I would be in a totally different place. I cannot complement Irv Bauer enough on his help, humor and style of teaching. He made script writing fun."

    —Martin Kovel, Producer/Director, Sydney, Australia

    "Irv Bauer is the best hands-on screenwriting teacher in the business. He doesn’t dictate. He knows that every work is different. His experience and guidance elevated my work."

    —Robert K. Wilcox, Author, Journalist, Screenwriter, Editor

    "Screenwriting Fundamentals by Iv Bauer is a handbook that should sit on every writer’s desk for reference before and during all the steps of screenwriting. In his book, Mr. Bauer lays out an easy-to-follow-and-understand 10-step writing process that includes 10 assignments; in essence, ‘walking’ a writer through each element of the craft needed to write a successful screenplay. Of enormous value is that each of the 10 steps is accompanied by examples of what works, and/or what a written scene is lacking, and then how it could be improved on. What sets Mr. Bauer’s book apart from other screenwriting books is that he demystifies the art of screenwriting. In a conversational and often amusing style―he takes writing out of the academic and puts it into the practical, giving the writer a clear and logical road map to follow. This is a must-read for both aspiring screenwriters as well as seasoned writers experiencing ‘writer’s block.’

    (Script Formatting Note: Specific formatting styles keep evolving and changing, as well as what is required in one market may not necessarily be so in another. I, therefore, recommend, as does the author, that when writers go to their final draft, they research formatting requirements that may be particular to the market they hope to interest.)"

    —Carlotta Schoch, Actress, Screenwriter, Producer, Los Angeles/New York

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