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Advice > Screenwriting Questions & Advice

Every script writer has a burning screenwriting question waiting to be answered. The Gatekeeper is here to answer that call with screenwriting help that can be used by screenwriters, scriptwriters, directors, playwrights, filmmakers, and writers of all genres. Looking for more? Check out the featured tips on screenwriting, expert writing advice, and screenwriting books to help further expand any writer's writing skills.

Questions Writers Frequently Ask Directors

Q: I can “see” the movie in my head as I write it. Why can’t the director see it too? A: You’ve heard of “the director’s vision”? The director CAN see the film before a single frame is shot, but since he or she is a unique individual, as ar...

Read more... | Published: 07/03/11 | by Bethany Rooney and Mary Lou Belli

Q&A With Syd Field

How much thought do you think writers should invest in terms of tracking the broad strokes of the protagonist’s emotional journey when structuring the story? I think all screenwriters should know the emotional journey from beginning to end. If y...

Read more... | Published: 06/20/11 | by Syd Field

Your Burning PitchFest Questions Answered

Summer is the season of selling, as people from all over the world flock to Los Angeles (or online) to pitch their ideas with the hope of getting their project sold. With these opportunities come questions, so we sat down with the leading authorit...

Read more... | Published: 05/12/11 | by Great American Pitchfest

Agent, Manager or Both?

Reader Melissa Gallardo from San Francisco, CA asks: Do I need an agent or a manager or both? Expert Fran Harris replies. I speak at about 15 writing conferences and film festivals a year and I'm always asked the same question, "Do I need an...

Read more... | Published: 01/08/06 | by Fran Harris

Cutting Scenes from a Screenplay

Reader Alexa Adams from Milford, CT asks My scene count is making my screenplay too long, but I can't see cutting any of the scenes I've written. What should I do? Expert Martha Alderson replies. The job of a good writer is to know which scen...

Read more... | Published: 12/01/05 | by Martha Alderson, M.A.

Writers and Directors

Reader Gail McCall of Toluca Lake asks What attributes do directors believe writers need to have for good collaboration to take place on the set? Expert Jack Rothman replies For my book, Hollywood in Wide Angle: How Directors View Filmmakin...

Read more... | Published: 10/31/05 | by Jack Rothman

Write a Worthy Script

Our reader, Jimmy Pearson of Minneapolis, MN asks: I've got 3 scripts under my belt. How can I get someone to read my work? Professor Richard Walter, longtime Screenwriting Chairman of the legendary UCLA Film School, answers: Writers never s...

Read more... | Published: 02/28/05 | by Richard Walter

Adding Depth to Villains

Our reader F.X. Snyder from Garden Grove, asks: My villain is a bit too one-dimensional. Any tips for fleshing out a character who's not the protagonist? David Freeman responds: Sure, I know a lot about villains, although not from personal ex...

Read more... | Published: 09/21/04 | by David Freeman

Unique Speak

Our reader Singh from Toronto, asks: My dialogue sounds flat and indistinguishable between characters. How can I work on writing more engaging dialogue? David Freeman responds: Dialogue has long been a problem for writers. The problem is that...

Read more... | Published: 09/13/04 | by David Freeman

Writing Effective Query Letters

Our reader Sanborn from Costa Rica asks: Why is there so much fuss about writing query letters? I always thought it's my story or script that counts, not my cover letter. Please advise. Marc Hernandez, Managing Partner and Literary Manager wit...

Read more... | Published: 06/21/04 | by Marc Hernandez

Collaborating on Documentaries

Our reader David Moepeng (from Botswana, Africa) asks: I am an upcoming documentary producer - currently working on a history documentary. [I've] identified someone very good [who] has knowledge of the issue I am covering to help write the script...

Read more... | Published: 05/08/04 | by Sheila Curran Bernard

Literary Manager or Agent: Which is Right for Me?

Our reader Seth from Colorado asks: What's the difference between an agent and a manager? Marc Hernandez responds: That's a good question, Seth. After all, writers need to understand the business of representation in order to maximize their po...

Read more... | Published: 03/14/04 | by Marc Hernandez

Pop Culture to the Rescue

Our reader, Kathy from West Hollywood asks : How I can hold the executive's interest who's already read a million screenplays? By now, most probably hate to read! Richard Walter replies: Place yourself in the mind of the reader. That's what you...

Read more... | Published: 03/14/04 | by Richard Walter

Moving on from Square One

Our reader Tim Kessler asks: I have developed an idea into what needs to become a film treatment. Can you suggest how I can take what I've got into a piece of work that can be properly used to apply for funding for the expedition/ documentary? Do...

Read more... | Published: 03/01/04 | by Steven D. Katz

Winning Spec Scripts

Our Reader Allen Ventura from Springfield, IL writes: I am a professional writer who has recently turned his hand to screenwriting. Can you give me the insider's view of "spec scripts?" Is this a sound way to proceed or are there better ways to g...

Read more... | Published: 02/15/04 | by Richard Walter

Hang Out With Writers To Succeed!

Our Reader Mark McC from Canyon Country (not too near Hollywood), CA writes: Coming to L.A. has not at all been what I expected. I've tried to follow the experts' advice, like get a job in a production company , but that was impossible. My borin...

Read more... | Published: 02/01/04 | by Richard Walter

Quirky or Plain Crazy - Where Do I Draw the Line for My Character?

Lynn, a Writer/Producer from Palm Springs, CA Asks : In your book REEL PEOPLE you talk a lot about characters that seem to be quite disturbed. Can the theories of personality types apply to characters that are just quirky or eccentric rather than ...

Read more... | Published: 01/05/04 | by Howard Gluss

Capturing the Reel Racist - A Debate

A Reader Asks: I have read your book REEL PEOPLE on developing psychologically sound characters. I am working on a character who has to transition from being somewhat of a racist into being a full-blown racist with murderous intentions. Can you g...

Read more... | Published: 10/12/03 | by Howard Gluss

I Want My Rights Back!

A Reader Asks: I sold a five-year option to my screenplay three years ago, and it appears that we're going nowhere with the company that bought it. I recently "pitched" my story to a well-heeled friend in the film business, and he showed interest,...

Read more... | Published: 07/31/03 | by Larry Zerner ESQ

Taking the Leap to Playwriting

Our Reader Asks: I'm currently doing research for a creative nonfiction book but the more I delve into the subject and characters, the more I feel it should be written as a stage play rather than a book. It has a fascinating story, a strong femal...

Read more... | Published: 07/04/03 | by Jonathan Dorf

Do I Need to Obtain Rights to Portray the Ex?

A Reader Asks: I have the rights to do a screenplay on the life of a person, but how do you handle the rights to include other people in life, like an ex-wife and others who may be important to the story. Do you need get their rights also? Larr...

Read more... | Published: 06/20/03 | by Larry Zerner ESQ

Can Sinatra Get Me Into Trouble?

Patrice from Los Angeles asks: I'm currently writing a screenplay that I'll be directing myself in about 10 months. I would like to use a Frank Sinatra look-alike to sing 3 ORIGINAL songs in the STYLE of Sinatra. Is that a copyright violation? Do ...

Read more... | Published: 05/12/03 | by Larry Zerner ESQ

Action vs. Dialogue

Question: The first five pages of my script contain a lot more movement than speech. Because of this, it's exceeding the one-page-per minute rule . It just seems to take me more pages to describe action than it does for dialogue. Is this a common...

Read more... | Published: 02/14/03 | by Jeffrey Alan Schechter

Are Sequels Fair Game?

I am interested in writing a sequel to someone else's movie. I was wondering, do I need permission from the original filmmakers, or can I just write the screenplay and market it as one of my own spec scripts? Margaret C., Far Hills, NJ Dina Appl...

Read more... | Published: 02/04/03 | by Dina Appleton

Who'll be Reading my Script?

Question: Can you tell me what the process is once I've submitted my screenplay to a production company? Where does it go once it's been delivered? Who reads it first, who next, and what exactly happens to my script next? Leticia R., Toronto, Ont....

Read more... | Published: 01/17/03 | by Larry Brody