THE SCREENWRITER’S ROADMAP: 21 Ways to Jumpstart Your Story,
Reviewed by Ia Uaro of Bookpleasures.com
Author: Neil Landau
Publisher: Focal Press
ISBN: 978-0-240-82060-6 (pbk): ISBN: 978-0-240-82063-7 (ebk)
THE SCREENWITER’S ROADMAP aims to minimize floundering, stumbling and flailing by new screenwriters. Each chapter systematically guides screenwriting students on a specific topic, and continues with a relevant interview of this topic’s expert to help readers envision the scope. An assignment is given to allow readers explore the viability of the suggested ideas.
An experienced professor in screenwriting with many successful screenplays to his name, Neil Landau states on the outset that there is no absolute formula when it comes to writing a successful screenplay. This is illustrated by the differing responses of the successful screenwriters he interviews. Landau’s questions are incisive and straightforward, yet at times he receives lengthy roundabout replies.
Simplistic readers may object to the full quotes in several interviews and wonder why they have not been simplified. The truth, I conclude, is that simplistic people have no business screenwriting. There are various aspects and layers you need to look into and must never neglect or belittle. Brilliance, I see, is a prerequisite. And brilliant students will have no problems discerning these experts’ answers, which, in the first place, are there not because Mr. Landau is not in a position to edit direct quotes, but because they are necessary. I found them not only helpful, but enjoyable, in fact. You get to look into various heads and learn how the fascinating minds work, while at the same time see these admirable individuals for the persons they are. For me, this is a delightful bonus. Here is one example,
“I gather and gather and gather and gather and just build all kinds of ridiculous piles of paper and speeches and extraneous things that will never make the movie. And, just build and build and build until it just gets to some blister point where it can’t go on any longer. All that indulgence. You have to hang on to some things as your career goes on. You have to hang on to indulgence and whatever passes for childlike wonder and innocence and confidence. But, the one thing you must get is that there has to be an extremely brutal part of yourself which is just unforgiving. So, at a certain point, you turn into the evil proctor of the story, and whatever doesn’t want to be there, just disappears. To me, the real mark of an amateur is when you give someone a note on something to have them say, “Do you know how long I worked on that?” And, you want to just go, “Really?” Because I’ve thrown away years of work. In fact, it should actually get to the point where it feels incredibly cleansing and uplifting to throw things away. I’m never happier than when I’m cutting stuff out when I find stuff I don’t need. Better than getting it, was throwing it away.”
The human aspects, intriguing insights, and tips from real-life experiences are parts that no reader will ever find when they google Screenwriting 101. THE SCREENWRITER’S ROADMAP is unique and is so much more than your usual lessons in writing techniques, which, here, are easy to follow and clearly outlined in details.
Will following the book’s 21 chapters jumpstart new screenwriters to the expert level? Not overnight because that requires practice. However, the mapped road is certain to take them there along the straight path.