Quentin and Stephen’s screenwriting tips


Five nuggets on writing for the big screen from five famous screenwriters.


Quentin Tarantino: I steal

Some people call it homage, some call it standing on the shoulders of giants. Quentin Tarantino calls it stealing. “I steal from every single movie ever made,” Tarantino told Empire magazine. “If my work has anything, it’s that I’m taking this from this and that from that and mixing them together.”


Brian Helgeland: Be compelling and commercial

Pick something worth writing about and which seems fairly obvious. The man credited for the LA Confidential screenplay says you should make it “compelling and commercial”. He told the Guardian: “The thing about a commercial movie is all it has to do is make more money than it cost. So if your movie cost $10 to make and it makes $20, it’s commercial.”

Julian Fellowes: Scripts are auditions

The script that you write is not necessarily the one that gets made, says the Downton Abbey creator. When you presenting a script, the most important thing is that it acts as an auction that opens the door for you.


Stephen King: A kickass opening

The Shawshank Redemption writer says an opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.


Bruce Feirstein: Action and reaction

The Goldeneye and Tomorrow Never Dies writer says there are two fatal flaws a screenwriter can make: 1) Not making the hero proactive: Your hero can’t go through the script just reacting to things. He has to move the action. 2) Forgetting that your scenes have to be about conflict. In any script, on any page, in any scene, you should be able to ask, “Who is the hero? What does he want? What’s preventing him from getting it?” This is a key concern to keep in mind.