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Dan Obannon's Guide to Screenplay Structure: Inside Tips from the Writer of Alien, Total Recall and Return of the Living Dead by [O'Bannon, Dan, Lohr, Matt]
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Dan Obannon's Guide to Screenplay Structure: Inside Tips from the Writer of Alien, Total Recall and Return of the Living Dead Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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This book is a chance for writers facing structural problems to learn the tools and tricks that a master screenwriter used to create films that will endure for as long as people care about thrills, excitement, and things that go bump in the night...or in the blackness of space. --Zombie Times, Feb, 2013

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  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 813 KB
  • Print Length: 274 pages
  • Publisher: Michael Wiese Productions (21 Mar. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #353,511 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this to be a useful book which re-alerted me to the importance of not losing sight of the essential elements of the story, especially the specificity of the issue to be resolved, when one is down in the trenches of the intricacies of the story, that may be developed via Dramatica. Intricacies that, when finessed into place, too quickly become an end themselves. It was interesting to note that Dan did not do an analysis of the Alien that he wrote. Which, although substantially similar to the Ridley Scott movie version, neither of them conforms to Dan's dynamic structure, as I understand Dan's dynamic structure. By contrast, the James Cameron movie sequel, Aliens, does.

The Alien that Dan wrote, and the variation that Ridley Scott directed, is based on rhetorical repetitions that build to a dramatic climax of options. Dan's criticism of Dramatica (and I am not an advocate for Dramatica, even though I do use Dramatica), is somewhat cursory. The Alien that Dan wrote, is a fundamental piece of Sci-Fi, as in the literature of an idea for a monster that is distinctive and distinctively different to the Vampire, the Predator, the Werewolf, for example, that did not require much in the way of development, as per the dynamic interplay of the story and characters' dynamics. Aspects of story that Dramatica does help to develop and guide one, to keep consistent. It should be pointed out that the original Predator follows a similar form to that of Alien, which is probably why it was that Predator did not WOW the critics, on it s release.

The Ridley Scott version of Alien, did try to fatten things out, beyond the appeal of a straight Sci-Fier, via an emphasis of the characters' interrelationships and their relationship to the company.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
O'Bannon talks with his trademark intelligently sardonic style, for those who happen to have watched him in several video interviews he has given in the past, especially about Alien. The book contains good exercises and is nicely laid out. A joy to read with chapters devoted specifically to classic writers such as Aristotle and many more. I don't particularly agree here with everything 'O Bannon says but for anyone interested in writing a screenplay or is already in the process of writing in general, or wants to get more intimate with O'Bannon's very interesting thought process this book is certainly worth a try.
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This is a great book that explains how Dan O'Bannon believed that certain structures of screenplay work better than others and it uses various films as examples of what works and what doesn't. It makes sense, and is very readible too.
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This arrived promptly and went down really well with the recipient. Just what i needed as it was so easy and fast.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x92d31984) out of 5 stars 35 reviews
22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9331551c) out of 5 stars Great book on structure...told by one of the masters. 18 Dec. 2012
By Matthew Terry - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Full Disclosure: My first screenplay "Vegas Dreams" was optioned by Dan O'Bannon's co-screenwriter on "Alien" and "Total Recall" - Ron Schusett. I have never spoken with Mr. O'Bannon nor have I worked with him on any screenplay.

Structure is a funny thing. You don't really notice it until it's not there. Recently, not by choice, I attempted to watch a version of "Dinner for Schmucks" on my mobile device. But the version was somehow confused as per the chapters. It started out just fine with the credits and it established, pretty quickly, the Paul Rudd character and his desire to move up and then cut to him and his girlfriend and the implication that he had already met the Steve Carell character. Though I knew this didn't seem right - I had to start filling in the blanks. Why were the filmmakers choosing to completely skip any sort of relationship with one of the main characters? This didn't make sense and I had to start to re-think the structure. After another scene in the restaurant with the investors (or whomever) I was even more confused. Now it appeared that Rudd had a deeper relationship with Carell but that didn't make sense since I hadn't see that relationship develop in any sort of way. And then, 20 minutes into the film, we're half-way through the dinner, then we're at the end of the dinner, then we're at the half-way point again and then we're at the beginning of dinner and then we see the scene where the Rudd character runs into the Carell character and then I finally gave up and turned it off.

I will repeat: You really don't notice it until it's not there. And that's the way it SHOULD be. Structure is something that is best left hidden and only realized when the glow of the movie is fading in a post-film cocktail at the nearest bar.

Dan O'Bannon's book "Guide to Screenplay Structure" does a masterful job of explaining what structure is and what it shouldn't be...in his opinion. The reason why I point out "in his opinion" is that he spends the first quarter of the book explaining OTHER peoples' structure theories. THEN he tells you his with humor and grace. Going over these other structure theories first gives the reader a much needed background on where structure comes from - whether it is from the ancient story-tellers or Robert McKee. Using this understanding that core elements need to be in place - O'Bannon (and his co-author Matt R. Lohr) then explore O'Bannon's take on structure.

I will be honest, though, that one of the things that irritates me most about books on screenwriting structure is that they don't give many or any examples. This is were O'Bannon's book takes this to another level. Giving not only examples of good structure but bad structure as well. So often an author will just point out any sort of film that holds up their argument. O'Bannon and Lohr point out films (and stage plays) that hold up their arguments and pick on films that fail. This gives the reader an perceptiveness that I haven't seen before and is very refreshing.

Along with each chapter - O'Bannon and Lohr give exercises for the reader to do to give this more of text book feel. Including film watching and digesting ones own writing. Obviously you don't have to do the exercises but doing so may push your writing to another level that you may not have experienced before.

The detail and nuance that O'Bannon and Lohr bring to the table is unprecedented but as much as this may be a recap of the core basics of structure - as taught by O'Bannon - there are still things to learn in these pages and discoveries to be explored. Plus there's a sense of optimism and support that filters out of these pages to the writer struggling to get their story told. In short - this book is unlike any other book on structure out there.

Mr. O'Bannon's book is both insightful and very entertaining. Written in a way as if taking a Master's Class by one of the greats. May he rest in peace.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93315570) out of 5 stars For All Writers 10 Dec. 2012
By Dave Watson, Editor, Movies Matter - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"Dan O'Bannon's Guide to Screenplay Structure" stays strong throughout with a great balance of writing exercises and screenplay techniques. The book never drags, or patronizes the reader, seeing the ideas behind popular films, or those that simply work. Take his analysis of "Dumb and Dumber": unchanging characters that work only in a comedy where even if the narrative isn't coherent, does the story achieve its intended effect? Absolutely. The book covers story typology, character origins and growth, and all components all writers should absorb along the way, right down to fear. Especially fear, coming from the writer of "Alien."
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x933159a8) out of 5 stars Essential Reading for the Serious Screenwriter 19 Feb. 2013
By Whamo - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed reading this book because the man summarizes and contrasts and compares all the other writer gurus before him, from Aristotle onward, with a rock solid understanding of what makes sense and what does not. He's fair to the old masters. He points out Aristotle's strengths and weaknesses and Ergi's confusion with premise and character. This man has put in his time studying the craft, as well as writing brilliant movies, and adding his own contribution to the art. I do think he spends a little too much time dissing the directors, but he's hardly the first screenwriter to do that. He's wordy, but easy to understand, which isn't always the case with screenwriter gurus. This certainly isn't the only book you need to read to become a screenwriter, but it's one of the best. And make no mistake about it, this isn't a rehash of old ideas. It shows a healthy respect for what came before as it moves the craft forward.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93315990) out of 5 stars Good stuff. Structure by Conflict 28 April 2015
By D. Endecott - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I picked up “Dan O’Bannon’s Guide to Screenplay Structure” last week. I am a huge fan of his movies. A lot of Sci-Fi schlock braced with moments of awesome ness. Dark Star (1974), Alien (1979), Dead & Buried (1981), Blue Thunder (1983), Total Recall (1990) to name a few. By the way Blue Thunder is way underrated, love that movie, I miss Roy Scheider. What’s interesting is each one of his movies relates to an interesting time in my life and I can remember vividly the first time I watched each one.

Anyways, I saw that he wrote a screenplay book and thought I would pick it up and see what one of my favorite screenplay writers has to say. I was pleasantly surprised at the oddness of this book.

Mr. O’Bannon starts his book by reviewing a handful of other seminal story how-to’s. Poetics, Story, The Art of Dramatic Writing among a few others. He gives an opinionated run down of the high points of each book.

He then goes into structure by conflict. Something I found refreshing and somewhat similar to the process Mr. Etheredge teaches. He also breaks down several movies using this structure technique.

The most interesting point in the book is how he defines conflict as a transaction. Two characters or groups of characters who disagree on how to resolve an issue. I like this thought process and I am using it on my current story to see where it goes.

The last few chapters he goes on a rant about different aspects of film production. Not sure what to make of that but it was interesting reading none the less.

I am always looking to refine my writing process. I think everyone’s is different. The only way to find out what works for you is to write, read and try new things.


4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x93315d5c) out of 5 stars Excellent structural advice that assists in the emotional development of story... 4 Jan. 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As one of the lucky folks that got a preview copy of this book, I have to say that this is an amazing examination of screenplay structure and the emotional development that must occur in order for your screenplay to be successful. O'Bannon's ideas are extremely helpful and require you to really consider what you want to convey in your screen story.

Matt Lohr's concise prose enhances what already was a unique and compelling work.

I can't recommend this enough. There's no way to be disappointed by this book.
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