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on 28 September 2007
This book has a lot of solid information on how to write and analyse screenplays and breaking out of the standard "Hollywood" three-act structure as outlined by Syd Field etc. Undermining this are some silly errors which make you doubt the rest of the solid information

To give a few examples of the errors that I spotted:
They call the main character in Hitchcock's Vertigo by two different names (it's Scottie not Johnny); misspell Nabokov, Clouzot, Joe Mantegna, Dovzhenko; call Robert De Niro's character in The King of Comedy Rupert Popkin (it's actually Pupkin); confuse the director of Muriel's Wedding P.J. Hogan with Crocodile Dundee actor Paul Hogan; think Louis Malle's Murmur of the Heart is a "classic war film" (they must mean Malle's Lacombe Lucien); and finally (on page 216) can't quite decide whether Yojimbo and Seven Samurai are remakes of classic Westerns or inspired them. To quote: "Kurosawa made a gangster film, High and Low, as well as two films remade from classic Westerns, The Seven Samurai remade as The Maginificent Seven, and Yojimbo, remade as A Fistful of Dollars." I think they mean remade INTO but it would leave most people scratching their heads. Surely a moment checking these things wouldn't be too much trouble.

Once Focal Press properly copy-edit this book for the next edition I would certainly recommend it but until then it might be better to stick with Syd Field, Robert McKee or one of their many colleagues.
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on 29 June 2008
I like reading books on screenwriting as they teach you how to install the skeleton of story...have three acts, a clear premise based on conflict for the main character, someone or thing to fight against and you are away once you have chosen the genre. So in a western it's the lone flawed hero against the cattle baron struggling to find his place between the call of the wild and the lure of the town as he fights his way to the big showdown before riding off in the sunset. Or in a horror film, it's the lone victim and her family/friends trapped in the house on the hill fighting against evil sub-human monster who kills indiscriminately until finally defeat as the dawn of a new day breaks.

What Alternative Scriptwriting by Ken Dancyger and Jeff Rush does is to show the rules so you can break them. They give a detailed breakdown of 14 genres and how they use the individual building blocks before discussing such things as how to:

* mix and match genres and what works and what doesn't;
* change structures so 4 Act or two Act stories;
* reframe the roles of passive/ active characters; and
* use tone or narrative voice.

Its not done in a dry way as the discussion is linked to case studies or comparisons of different Directors and international styles but it does help if you have seen the films or have them on DVD! The important thing is that they argue that screenwriting is part of the tradition of storytelling/writing and so need to draw on the full range. Its not a book to read if you want a how to layout a film script but it is one if you want to explore the narrative force of a book.

An interesting alternative take on genres and the film narrative is The Writers Journey by Christopher Vogler. He explores how the mythic Hero's journey shapes plots and characterisation and so genres are merely different aspects of the journey. Again the rule is know the rules to break them.

So read both and enjoy the Saturday movie more but also check why the book works or doesn't
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on 17 August 1998
If you have already read the "how-to" books from Syd Field, Linda Seger, and others, then you must know that the three most important things you should be doing to enhance your craft are: reading screenplays, watching movies, and writing screenplays. After that, if you still need some motivation to write, then reading an exceptional book such as "Alternative Screenwriting" might be just the kick in the pants you need to keep you going. It's presentation is clear and fresh. And it does not just emphasise "alternative" approaches, either. In fact, it presents some of the most useful and succinct summaries of "mainstream" dramatic screenplay structure I have ever seen. This is not just another "how-to" book.
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on 4 May 1999
While the concepts presented in the book were interesting, I found the writing itself not very compelling. Furthermore, the frequent typographical errors (and/or factual errors) were distracting and caused me to question the content. As an example, the authors use the phrase, "It is worth nothing...," when in fact they mean, "It is worth noting."
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on 12 January 1998
I already had the earlier edition of this book, but bought the update, thinking that it could even help my writing by osmosis. My god, I was right. This is not a book to be taken lightly, nor is it a "new" edition by virtue of adding a couple of new words, an updated comment here and there. These authors take their task very seiously, including taking to heart comments they'd received about the first edition, and making sweeping and important changes for this new version. Buy this book. It couldn't hurt. It could change your life. At the very least, it will give you a new list of rentals for the video store. And you'll understand why you like them.
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on 12 August 1999
No book in the Universe will teach you how to write, or how to tell a story. The intention of this book is to compell the reader to think about many common places of the story telling in general, and the scriptwriting in particular, like structure, genres, etc. So don't expect any chewed prescription; be ready instead to bite on your own.
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on 22 April 1997
This book is simply the best. No other screenwriter's book comes close.
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