How many times have you been feverishly writing your screenplay, making great headway, only to stop abruptly because you didn't know how to format exactly what's in your head? Learning how to write action or a character description can be tricky enough, but how do you write/format the phone calls, inserts, montages, and flashbacks (or audio flashbacks!) that you want in your stories? Screenwriter and founder of Mentorless, Nathalie, has taken a ton of the guesswork out by creating a catalogue (of sorts) of over 430 screenplay examples from 25 scripts, and she's offering it up to all of us for free! Continue on to learn all about it, as well as how to get your hands on it.
This is probably one of my pet peeves while writing on a screenplay. I'm writing, writing, chugging along, when I get to the part where -- I don't know -- my character gets a page (he's from the early 90s, okay?), he looks down at it, reads who it's from, and is immediately transported into a flashback from his childhood. Complete blank -- that's what I draw when I get to stuff like that, and it saps my creativity by stalling my momentum.
Scenes like my early 90s pager flashback example just aren't as straightforward as writing dialog or action -- at least not at first. That's why Nathalie's eBook How Did They Write It is so helpful. She has over 200 pages worth of screenwriting examples, like how to write improvised dialog, dialog in other languages, how to remind readers of who a character is, and even prop description. Here's what she shared on Mentorless about how she came about compiling all of this:
Over a year ago, I was working on a screenplay and found myself stuck. I was trying to write a scene I could clearly see in my head but couldn’t put into words so I picked up a recently popular spec script for inspiration. Without failing, I found the tools I needed to move forward with my scene. I started taking notes with the idea of building myself a library, some sort of catalogue reference of screenplays to look back on to better my own work.
There's a lot to like about HDTWI -- it takes examples from a wide range of contemporary films with different genres and budgets. So, whether you're writing a big budget car chase or a dreary morning routine sequence, you'll find an example in there that'll help you do it. Another thing I really appreciated is that it includes an information page for each film used, which means you can put the film into more context (which is especially important if you haven't seen it). However, one bummer is the fact that you'll have to rely on your own verbiage to find what you're looking for -- that is, if you use it like an encyclopedia rather than a textbook you read cover to cover and take notes on. (I recommend the latter.)
Now, of course we should all do our screenwriting duty and read 2 dozen screenplays ourselves so we know these conventions, but guess what -- for people like me who are not only impatient, but also have less than 12% of unoccupied time in any given day, I'd rather utilize an incredibly helpful resource like HDTWI and make the most out of the limited time I have to work on a screenplay. However, I'd try to find time to at least read the whole thing cover to cover (so to speak) at least once.
So, check out How Did They Write It and see if it helps you on your screenwriting journey. It's totally free, though you will have to subscribe to Mentorless.