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on 6 January 2014
Practical, inspiring, generous and clear. I wish I had read it twenty years ago. That's all I have to say but apparently Amazon wants m--oh, there we go.
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on 1 March 2014
Hulk's Screenwriting 101 is brilliant. Read it.

Hulk uses cinema to ground what may otherwise have been an abstract topic. As a class, `how to... story-writing' books are weak and repetitive: the shelves are filled with prescriptive tomes and vague advice for good writing disguised as specific advice for creating narratives. The subject matter is often abused to provide a stage on which Hollywood dreams are sold. Not in Screenwriting 101. Hulk avoids such clichés.

Hulk's purposes are honest, open, and admitted. Hulk's intent is to help--young writers start writing good stories, and experienced writers to identify pre-theoretical aphorisms to improve their craft. If you take nothing else from this review, know that Hulk achieves his aims. He does so with a focussed design.

Rather than tell readers what to do or brew a magical, novel solution, Hulk uses clear and vivid examples to explore the techniques used in the best scripts. Sure, this results in advice. But Hulk is careful to justify every bit. And the prose never hobbles itself by suggesting Hulk's way is the only way or Hulk's way is a guarantee for success. That is, Hulk affirms and reaffirms that success relies on practice and ensuing quality.

To do this, Screenwriting 101 constructs a logical format whereby function is regarded as more important than form. Good form, cult status, continuing enjoyment post-opening weekend all derive from solid underlying features.

Those facets are almost universal. Hulk shapes them as principles, not rules. For example, Hulk returns to his essay on the Three Act Structure ([...]) to suggest--not a rule to use three acts--but a principle based on what acts are, how to use them, and how to balance their requirements with other story elements: acts end with substantial choices and are not bounded by maximums or minimums. Each story, its themes and plots, its characters, events, and rhythms, determine act structure and organisation.

This translates holistically across storytelling: every story must construct and balance competing needs and wants. The correct ratio between these--for example character goals, necessitated actions, or story-length-requirement--differs between scripts, between rewrites, and between (in the cinema-production-world) evolving financial and logistic demands. The best way to write stories is to understand these realities, acknowledge the restraints they impose and freedoms they allow, and learn by practice how to adapt to create the best story possible in any given situation. It is important to remember that once a story manifests, its internal norms will begin to dictate possibilities and restrictions, too.

Hulk demonstrates all this without pretension. How? Unlike my attempt to praise Screenwriting 101 with little reference to the text (because I am reluctant to summarise and lose something thereby), Hulk refers to and applies his theories to movies, and draws upon all story-telling for inspiration. Thus where my attempt seems to be snobbish, Hulk's approach is accessible and friendly. Dissimilar to my `balance-is-everything' bold statement (above), Hulk exposits popular films, which readers may have seen or may watch, then analyses their stories to illustrate his thesis. For example, when stating endings should reinforce stories' messages or themes, Hulk discusses several films that comply with that idea. These films may then be viewed and Hulk's point made concrete.

I suppose my praise here relates to Hulk's process, as well as Screenwriting 101's content. He criticises good and poor, always pertinent examples, and develops theories to explain the evaluation. From there Hulk synthesises the theories, adjusts them in light of his other observations, and finishes with uplifting comments. The result motivates and reassures. I could talk all day about Screenwriting 101. But wouldn't you rather find out for yourself?
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on 5 December 2013
Everyone who cares about storytelling in film, television or hell, even videogames, needs to read this book. Seriously, at that price, why are you even bothering to read this review?
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on 1 September 2017
Good but not great. Helpful but not outstandingly insightful. Probably close to 4 stars but can't bring myself to give it 4 stars.
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on 20 March 2014
Having read a deluge of screenwriting books, I think Film Crit Hulk gets it just right. Rather than worrying about specifics and trying to break down the process into an ABC approach, he opens up a discussion on the subject and looks at much deeper, and far more important, underlying issues around writing. I think it's important to be critical of a lot of these kinds of books. For me, they often take the wrong approach and focus too much on surface-level components. What Hulk has done here is show that films can be very different things and therefore need completely different approaches, using entirely different methods. I genuinely think this book is one of the first to recognise that properly and open up the process meaningfully by really asking 'how do we write?' and 'why'...

TL;DR - It's DA BOMB.
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on 3 May 2014
What a fantastically generous, practical and wise book this is. And how needed as well. I found it thanks to a Tweet by the great (IT Crowd, Father Ted) Graham Linehan, whose review here speaks for itself (& love the 'comment'!).... Forget pantsers vs plotters; forget the hero's journey (as a film-goer oh yes please); forget the 3 acts! - this came at just the right time for me, post-pantser-first-draft novel and with 2nd draft plot cards plastering the wall. About to tear those down and start THAT BIT again. The ending (being the all-important conceit) blew me away. THANK YOU HULK. If you're reading on Kindle and the caps get too much there's a WHOLE VERSION IN LOWER-CASE IN THE 2nD HALF OF THE BOOK!
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on 4 February 2014
This is the most insightful, honest appraisal of the craft of screenwriting I have read. It has literally unlocked the great mystery of screenwriritng that all the other books skirted around. Act 2 no longer holds a fear anymore and I am no longer hostage to 3 act structure. This had great practival examples to help understand and solidify the methods and techniques. Thankfully you can choose to read this in Bruce Banner sentnce case, as the CAPITAL LETTERS would drive me nuts. Hulk has indeeded smashed it with this book.
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on 23 January 2014
I can honestly recommend this book for storytellers of any medium. This book is stunningly clear, applicable take on the fundamentals and philosophy of storytelling from the most insightful writer on the subject the internet has to offer. It lacks the cynical, lowest-common-denominator approach of other screenwriting books which, in Hulk's own words, essentially teach their reader how to write "Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot!" over and over. Thoroughly recommend it.
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on 30 August 2014
Everyone in Hollywood has read all the big screenplay books, yet there are a whole load of crappy movies. So perhaps the screenplay books aren't working. In here are a lot of the reasons why, and some of the solutions. But funnily enough, there is no secret shortcut to writing an exceptional story. You just have to get really, really good at writing. And here are some of the core principles to get you started.
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on 14 January 2014
Film Critic Hulk does a great job of explaining what works, what doesn't and why in modern screenwriting (with occasional Shakespearean diversions), in a really interesting and readable way that's still digestible for those without a film studies degree. Just for the sake of your eyeballs, read the sentence case version and not the caps locked one.
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