September 24, 2014

Oscar-Winning Screenwriter Eric Roth Takes You on a Tour of His Writing Process

Eric Roth
If you're going to learn about the process of screenwriting, it might as well be from an Academy Award winner. 

Every writer has their own process -- some prefer waking up at the crack of dawn and working in an office, while others prefer working on their couch in their pajamas until the sun comes up. (I like to keep it classy.) You may not know what you prefer, but know, at least, that there's no right or wrong way to write a script. It doesn't matter if you take your time to research and meticulously plan out every scene, or if you become the Zazel of screenwriting and blast yourself into the P.T. Barnum Circus that is your script. The important thing here is finding out what works for you.

In fact, I admire how Roth uses that old DOS program. I'm not a hater of trends or technology or anything, but sometimes the bells and whistles are a little too much for me, at least in the beginning. And I occasionally feel a bit behind the times when I bust out my notebook to write scenes by hand (laptop = mysterious brooding writer; notebook = hormonal angsty teenager), but it helps me get my story on the page more efficiently. Roth embraces his process, which is a great lesson to learn, because in the end, your process exists to accommodate (and even inspire) your creativity, and if it doesn't, well -- you might want to try a new approach.

How/where/when do you write? Share your thoughts on Eric Roth's process as well as your own in the comments below.     

Your Comment

20 Comments

Gotta commend the NFS for getting us these great articles and personalities!

Thanks for all your hard work guys!!!

September 24, 2014 at 5:01PM

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Alex Zakrividoroga
Director
3810

Sort of off topic, but does anyone know of any good screenwriting programs? I really need one that's able to import Microsoft word files or .PDF's.

September 24, 2014 at 5:06PM

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Emerson Shaw
Student
667

final draft should work (https://www.finaldraft.com/), not sure about celtx (https://www.celtx.com/index.html)

September 24, 2014 at 5:24PM

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Arjun Kukreti
Cinematographer/Editor
133

Thanks very much! I'll check it out.

September 24, 2014 at 6:17PM

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Emerson Shaw
Student
667

September 24, 2014 at 6:10PM

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Micah Van Hove
Writer
director, producer, dp

Thanks, I'll check it out!

September 24, 2014 at 6:17PM

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Emerson Shaw
Student
667

I have been collaborating with another screenwriter this year.... we have become big fans of writerduet.com. Free. Web-based. It's great. Don't know about importing though.

September 24, 2014 at 6:11PM, Edited September 24, 6:11PM

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Bob Peck
Director
81

Thanks for the info!

September 24, 2014 at 6:17PM

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Emerson Shaw
Student
667

Thanks, do you can export in other formats?

September 25, 2014 at 2:36AM

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Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director
7660

I believe Writer Duet imports PDFs. (https://www.writerduet.com). It's an excellent program, and it's free! That is, if you don't mind the script living in the cloud. In order to backup documents on your hard drive, you'd need the PRO version. Which still is pretty affordable at $45. ($35 with the student discount you'd probably qualify for)
Another program you might want to consider is John August's Highland (http://quoteunquoteapps.com/highland/). I believe it has a very reliable PDF conversion. Mac only, $30.
Good luck with your writing aspirations.

September 24, 2014 at 6:18PM

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Haha, cloud-based screenwriting software would give Eric Roth a heart attack.

September 24, 2014 at 6:32PM

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Micah Van Hove
Writer
director, producer, dp

I'll be sure and check it out, thanks!

September 24, 2014 at 9:45PM

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Emerson Shaw
Student
667

Great tips! I was going to ask the same thing. I tried Final Draft and I'm ok with it, but I'm gonna give other options a chance to see how they work out.

September 24, 2014 at 6:22PM

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Highland will import PDF, and I assume Word docs as well. It's fountain-based and very minimalist, if that's up your alley.

September 25, 2014 at 1:53PM

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Brynn Sankey
Filmmaker
394

Have a look at Scrivener. Bit of a learning curve, but you'll love it.

September 26, 2014 at 4:09PM

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Eddy Kindermans
Screenwriter/Director
74

I'm still finding my process but I like to work on things after 10pm with little to no distracting people awake. I play some ambient music from SoundCloud and let those guards down.

September 24, 2014 at 8:04PM, Edited September 24, 8:04PM

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Adam Flo
173

Wow. Really simple process that works for him.

September 24, 2014 at 10:11PM

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Dantly Wyatt
Musical Comedy & Content Creator.
778

This great professional give us a clear idea than our brain still being the better technology in the world and matter more than all of everything ;D

September 25, 2014 at 2:35AM

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Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director
7660

The dude needs to try Slugline...

September 25, 2014 at 1:51PM

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Brynn Sankey
Filmmaker
394

My routine (and this is just for my craft and just wrote my first feature) is to go to the gym first and work out. Most of the story and character slowly trickles in when on the treadmill. After, I go get an ice coffee, put "Journey to the Line" by Hans Zimmer on repeat and write in the library till closing. I definitely understand Roth with writing on an outdated system, being part of the spiritual ritual of his craft. I write my scripts on word and find it enjoyable doing all the margin work myself. I don't know, I just find it part of the meditative process.

September 25, 2014 at 8:15PM

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bobunitone
Editor/Director/Writer/All Round Great Dude
81

Eric Roth is a real genius. It's my dream to get introduced to him one day to order a screenplay for my movie "Life-Long Return" (aka Full Circle).

September 27, 2014 at 7:30AM

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Oleg Lubske
Producer / Developer
81

I write my first vomit-drafts longhand (where I have to just vomit the idea onto the page in a blurr of activity; no editing, no worrying if the scene "works" etc). Once finished I leave it to simmer for a while, working on something new, and then I start to type it up.

I use Celtx for this. Nice simple program, very intuitive to use and best of all - it's free. I edit as I go and this becomes my rough draft. Two more passes, all edited within Celtx and there we have it: my official first draft, which can be sent out.

September 30, 2014 at 2:38AM

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Jonathan Peace
Screenwriter
81