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The screenwriter’s Bible: Why write when you can preach?

David Trottier’s book 'The Screenwriter's Bible' is the ideal antidote to naivety. It gives us a good look at the wizardry of screenwriting.

The screenwriter’s Bible: Why write when you can preach?

We once overheard Hal Croasmun – president of ScreenwritingU – complain to one of his students that when he told people he taught screenwriting for a living, most were astonished such a profession existed. They believed the actors made it up as they went along.

David Trottier’s book The Screenwriter’s Bible is the ideal antidote to such naivety. It pulls away the curtain and gives us a good look at the wizardry of screenwriting.

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Trottier’s most important advice is on structure. He advocates six turning points:

  1. The Catalyst takes place around 10 to 15 pages into the screenplay when a problem arises, knocking the protagonist’s world out of kilter.
  2. The Big Event comes next and has to be bigger than the Catalyst.
  3. The Pinch comes at around the midpoint, where “the central character often becomes fully committed” or when “the motivation to achieve the goal becomes fully clear.”
  4. The Crisis is the lowest point for your character, where Trottier (like any good life insurance salesman) asks the reader to imagine the worst thing that could happen to the main character. It is at this point that the character must make a decision that will lead him or her to . . .
  5. The Showdown with the baddie. This is followed by a sort of levelling off . . .
  6. The Realization where “your character and / or the audience sees that the character has changed.”

A script supervisor is an important part of the team and when you inevitably move up in the biz and become a big shot in Hollywood, they are a non-negotiable part of the team. So what exactly do they do and why do you need one?

With such an invaluable and modestly titled resource (evidently the last word on screenwriting) available from someone who is clearly an authority in the field, it is a mystery why the public persists in the misbelief that actors are the architects of stories. Perhaps aspiring screenwriters aren’t buying the Bible fast enough. Trottier has unselfishly devoted himself to helping others rather than writing screenplays himself, which suggests where his heart is (and also perhaps, where the money lies).

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Rubik Roy is an arts journalist who contributes to a variety of publications.

rroy@filmdaily.co