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Alternative Scriptwriting: Successfully Breaking the Rules Paperback – 13 Oct 2006

3.9 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Frequently Bought Together

  • Alternative Scriptwriting: Successfully Breaking the Rules
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  • Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting: A Step-by-Step Guide from Concept to finished Script
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  • Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers
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Product details

  • Paperback: 424 pages
  • Publisher: Focal Press; 4 edition (13 Oct. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780240808499
  • ISBN-13: 978-0240808499
  • ASIN: 0240808495
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.4 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 586,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


Praise for the fifth edition:
"Screenwriting is about making choices. What Dancyger and Rush reveal so effectively in Alternative Screenwriting is just how many options are possible, how the various available choices work and how different decisions will impact screen storytelling. This book substantially broadens every screenwriters' -creative horizons."
-David Howard, USC screenwriting professor and author of The Tools of Screenwriting and How to Build a Great Screenplay."

"Alternative Scriptwriting is invaluable to anyone interested in screenwriting or in directing fiction. Using plain language it demystifies storytelling for the screen, and opens up myriad possibilities for using the cinema with invention, freshness, and imagination." - Michael Rabiger, Professor Emeritus, Film/Video Department, Columbia College Chicago.

"Just as Aristotle's "Poetics” and André Bazin's "What is Cinema” are an inseparable part of a Screenwriting reading list, Ken Dancyger and Jeff Rush's "Alternative Scriptwriting” is an absolute must read for a deeper understanding of the structure of Screenwriting. -Dr. John Bernstein, Director, Graduate Program in Screenwriting, Department of Film and Television, Boston University

"Alternative Scriptwriting," by Ken Dancyger and Jeff Rush, is one of the few books on the subject that doesn't make you feel stupid while you're reading it.
Instead of the usual boring list of "tricks of the trade" that replaces a real table of content in so many "How To Write A Screenplay And Sell It For A Lot Of Money To An Even Bigger Lot Of Talentless Hopeful People" Dancyger & Rush offer real insight for those who take their screenwriting seriously and are not afraid to venture a little bit "beyond the rules". Both as a filmmaker and as a teacher I have found this volume very precious because what the authors do best is mix American craftsmanship with European sensibility.
An excellent cocktail, if you ask me. And you did."
-Marc Didden - Head Of Screenwriting at St. Lukas Hogeschool, Brussels , Writer/Director ( "Brussels By Night", "Istanbul", "Sailors Don't Cry" )

Praise for the third edition:
"An insightful alternative to mainstream narrative and character analysis that presents the reader with a clear dissection of the mainstream before revealing the alternatives."
-- Script Factory

"[Alternative Scriptwriting] aims to challenge its readers to create writing that is exceptional. While no book can possibly replace your own creative vision, as a resource it's thorough and is a good way to help yourself consider alternative ideas."
-- Plugin Cinema

From the Publisher

Additions to the third edition include:* a comparative study of how two very different filmmakers handle different types of film.* a look at ways in which narrative tension, story structure, and perspective can be used when writing for the digital film * a study of adapting contemporary literature for film EDITIONNUMBER: 21 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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.
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