Tuesday, November 20, 2007

And now a word from Billy Wilder.

Billy Wilder, you could argue, was America's greatest movie maker. Oh, I know that I'm supposed to say Kubrick or a modern auteur, but Wilder made great movies (he won six Oscars) in more different genres than I think anyone else. Double Indemnity (noir), Sunset Boulevard (tragedy), The Apartment (black comedy), Some Like it Hot (comedy), plus Stalag 17 and Five Graves to Cairo (war), Witness for the Prosecution (courtroom) and a host of other great flicks.

I bring this up because as I was writing my last post on the jargon that infects our business, I kept thinking of Wilder's rules for screenwriting. Though many of these appear to be applicable only to the silver screen, I think they apply to our business as well. Here they are:

Billy Wilder's Screenwriting Tips

As told to Cameron Crowe:

1. The audience is fickle.

2. Grab 'em by the throat and never let 'em go.

3. Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.

4. Know where you’re going.

5. The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.

6. If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.

7. A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They'll love you forever.

8. In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they’'e seeing.

9. The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie.

10. The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then -- that's it. Don’t hang around.

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