This isn't a review. I haven't read this book -- yet. But Karl Iglesias (author of that fine read 'The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters') says in his 'Writing For Emotional Impact': 'I planned to discuss genre and its emotional expectations... but discovered that (this book) beat me to the punch.' He considers it 'excellent'. That's good enough for me!
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Putting The Writer in the Picture18 July 2001
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Russin and Downs received the highest tribute from Lew Hunter, the head of the screenwriting department at UCLA, who called "Screenplay: Writing the Picture" the best work he had read on this subject, including his own. My own experience in reading the book prompts me to echo Hunter's words of high praise. So many times "how to" books in different areas can be downright dull, like a series of "do's" and "dont's" written in the manner of an old Sears Catalogue. Such is not the case here. This book uses numerous examples from scripts of major films to put the prospective writer on track in determining which techniques work as well as those that do not. The major element separating screenwriting from all other types of fictional writing endeavors is the all-important presence of the camera. Accordingly, the authors demonstrate the importance of stressing visuality and exercising word economy in crafting a professional level screenplay. One area stressed which greatly assisted me, someone coming from a non-fiction and journalistic background, was the importance of using index cards to set up the story. The authors explain that the reason why this technique is so important in structuring a story is that, with the profound influence of the camera and the role it plays, it is important for a writer to see the scenes unfolding pictorially before beginning the process of writing words to accompany the images. William Hare
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
First "Textbook" on Screenwriting I've Seen -- Great Read!27 Jun. 2001
Dr. Ervin Nieves
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Robin U. Russin's and William Missouri Down's SCREENPLAY: WRITING THE PICTURE is the first "textbook" quality paperback I've seen in screenwriting literature. Chapter 2 (Format), together with Chapters 12 (Narrative), 13 (Dialogue), and 14 (Rewriting) provide a solid foundation in the mechanics of writing. If you augment these chapters with Trottier's chapter on format in THE SCREENWRITERS BIBLE, Flinn's format section in HOW NOT TO WRITE A SCREENPLAY, and Argentini's entire book, ELEMENTS OF STYLE FOR SCREENWRITERS, you pretty much cover the mechanics of writing a properly formatted script. Russin and Downs also present a solid overview of story building, which can be augmented by reading Jennifer Lerch's 500 WAYS TO BEAT THE HOLLYWOOD SCRIPT READER. Russin and Down's text doesn't favor any structural approach over another. One is given a thorough summary of various screenwriting structures which would take reading many screewriting volumes to distill: three-act, five act, seven act, mythic, and more contemporary structures. What I enjoyed most in SCREENWRITING: WRITING THE PICTURE were chapters 8 (Beat, Scenes, and Sequences - which identify building emotion, rhythmn, pacing, and coherence in one's script), 9 (Scene Cards -- which has the entire movie "SEA OF LOVE" on film cards to teach us how it's done!), 11 (The Structure of Genres - a wonderful overview of different expectations of readers and audiences when "reading" a particular kind of script or film), and the entire third part on writing (the chapters on Narrative, Dialogue, and Rewriting). No one screenwriting book has it all, but SCREENPLAY: WRITING THE PICTURE makes a wonderful effort to do so. The authors are humble, yet entertaining. They offer no shortcuts, make no claims to be better screenwriting authors than anyone else. In fact, Russin and Downs constantly recommend books by other authors to supplement their own well-written sections on a particular topic, when in fact they did such a knock-out job, little supplementary reading is needed. As a first dip into screenwriting literature, SCREENWRITING: WRITING THE PICTURE is a wonderful splash! And DO READ other wonderful books on screenwriting by: Jennifer Lerch, Denny Martin Flinn, Paul Argentini, David Trottier, Katherine Atwell Herbert, Michael Hauge, Robert McKee, Vicki King, Lew Hunter, Tom Lazarus, Linda Seger, D.B. Gilles, Linda Palmer, David Howard & Edward Mabley, Pamela Wallace, Andrew Horton, and all the other wonderful screenwriting authors, including the UCLA and USC gurus: Richard Walter, Lew Hunter, and Irwin R. Blacker. And don't forget the two "King Williams" of screenwriting pedagogy: William Goldman and William Froug! And the many wonderful interview books by: Jurgen Wolff & Kerry Cox, Joel Engel, William Froug (again), et. al. Read them all! But also read SCREENWRITING: WRITING THE PICTURE. It has one of the funniest jokes on screenwriting I've read: "A producer and a screenwriter are stuck in the desert...."
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
The new favorite5 July 2004
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The vast majority of screenwriting books fall into 2 categories: pretty good, or pretty average. Then there is the occasional book that is horrible - Robert Berman's "Fade In" for example - and the very rare book that is extraordinary. Screenplay: Writing the Picture falls into this last category.
The problem with most screenwriting books is that they manage to cover only a small angle of the process, or they try to span the gamut and do it so thinly as to be useless. Writing the Picture succeeds in covering every aspect of writing a screenplay (or any work of fiction for that matter), and presenting the info in a way that makes it sink in to an applicable level - more than any other book available.
It's written as a textbook, and will surely work its way into all screenwriting classrooms across the country within the next few years. Aside from the instruction, there are several great appendices, including a list of other screenwriting books that you need to have, specific clich?s to avoid for each genre, where to find scripts and where to attend graduate screenwriting programs.
I do have one complaint though. The degree to which these guys pander to political correctness in the use of gender-specific pronouns is truly staggering - I've never seen anything like it. If a subject is of an unspecified gender, they will always go with "she," and on the rare occasion they do use "he" they always write "he or she" or "s/he." They can't even write a simple euphemism like "The main man." They write - and this is not a joke - they write "the main wo/man," and then a page later write "right hand wo/man."
Personally, this really annoys me. It's distracting from the text, and approximately 1% of the population actually gives a rip about this anyway. It's unfortunate they chose this route over the much more readable usage in Robert McKee's "Story." In his book he states very simply, right up front, "...I have avoided constructions that distract the reader's eye, such as the annoying alternation of `she' and `her' with `he' and `him,' the repetitions `he and she' and `him and her,' the awkward `s/he' and `her/im,' and the ungrammatical `the' and `them' as neuter singulars. Rather I use the nonexclusive `he' and `him' to mean `writer.'" We have no such luxury in Writing the Picture, which is filled with enough "wo/man's" and "he or she's" to, well, write a book.
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
1 of the Top 2 or 3 Must-Have Screenwriting Books17 July 2003
Jeffrey L. Armbruster
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This book will give you a better understanding and approach to writing a screenplay than any others out there. Supplement it with Bill Johnson's "A Story is a Promise" to get to the heart of what your story is about, and Linda Cowgil's "Secrets of Screenplay Structure" and you'll have more story/screenplay knowledge than what is taught in most screenplay courses. Note. I gave it 4 stars instead of 5 because the book can not stand on its own. You will have to supplement it with the other books mentioned. It does give you a lot of great and useful how-to information that you won't find in other books, but it does not show you how to build a story that will span 2 hours. The authors don't like the formula gurus too much (such as Syd Fields, they do like some of Truby's ideas), and they do offer their own ideas using conflict building as a tool to build a story. But they do not provide a model that uses their ideas to span a 2 hour story. To me, this is a glaring omission. Saying you have a better idea, but not providing proof, is useless. Story structure (and the Guru formulas) exist to help you successfully construct 120 pages of story. To me, this book is missing the author's approach to this critical requirement for any screenplay writing book. If they had supplied their own approach with a model, this would be a 5 star book. So you will need the other books mentioned earlier.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Read Carefully19 May 2000
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As a working screenwriter, and a former film school student, I've read just about every book on screenwriting that's come down the pike. "Screenplay:Writing the Picture" is one of the very best. It's full of useful information and inspiration regardless of your experience level. But like any book, in order to get the most out of it you have to actually read it. Skimming it while on the toilet or talking on the phone is not going to help much -- at least in terms of your writing. I mention this seemingly obvious observation because one recent "sincere" reviewer "dissed" the book on the basis of something the book's authors DIDN'T say about Rambo! In other words, the reviewer based his negative review on his own sloppy reading of the text! Don't be misled. If you want to improve your writing, IMPROVE YOUR READING. If you want to improve your screenwriting, as well as your chances of selling your work for big bucks, read "Screenplay: Writing the Picture.