Austin Film Festival (AFF) is the first organization of its kind to focus on the writer’s creative contribution to film. Its annual Film Festival and Conference offers screenings, panels, workshops, and roundtable discussions that help new writers and filmmakers connect with mentors and gain advice and insight from masters, as well as refreshing veterans with new ideas. To extend the Festival’s reach, AFF produces On Story, a television series currently airing on PBS-affiliated stations and streaming online that presents footage of high-caliber artists talking candidly and provocatively about the art and craft of screenwriting and filmmaking, often using examples from their own films.
This book distills the advice of renowned, award-winning screenwriters who have appeared on On Story, including John Lee Hancock, Peter Hedges, Lawrence Kasdan, Whit Stillman, Robin Swicord, and Randall Wallace. In their own lively words and stories transcribed from interviews and panel discussions, they cover the entire development of a screenplay, from inspiration, story, process, structure, characters, and dialogue to rewriting and collaboration. Their advice is fresh, practical, and proven—these writers know how to tell a story on screen. Enjoy this collection of ideas and use it to jumpstart your own screenwriting career.
Foreword by Brian Helgeland
Introduction by Barbara Morgan
A Conversation with Randall Wallace
What Makes a Great Story: A Conversation with Bill Wittliff
Steven Zaillian on Where the Story OriginatesPeter Hedges on Crafting Story
Lawrence Kasdan on Story and Theme
A Conversation with John Lee Hancock
Sacha Gervasi on Getting Started
The Basics with Nicholas Kazan
Advice from Bill Wittliff
Anne Rapp's Writing Routine
Caroline Thompson’s Writing ProcessLawrence Kasdan on the Challenges of Writing
Structure and Format: A Conversation with Frank Pierson, Whit Stillman, Robin Swicord, and Nicholas Kazan
Caroline Thompson on Structure
Lawrence Kasdan on the Rules of Script Formatting
Visual Storytelling: A Conversation with John August, John Lee Hancock, and Randall Wallace
V. Character and Dialogue
Building Characters and Mapping
Their Journeys: A Conversation with Lawrence Kasdan and Anne Rapp
Nicholas Kazan on Writing Characters
Crafting Characters: A Conversation with Lawrence Kasdan
Dialogue and Finding the Voice: A Conversation with John August and John Lee Hancock
Writer's Block: A Conversation with Bud Shrake and Bill Wittliff
Bill Wittliff on When to Let Something Go
Steven Zaillian on Defining Scenes: What to Keep In, What to Leave Out
Anne Rapp on Keeping the Writing Fresh
Nicholas Kazan’s Rewriting Process
On Rewriting: A Conversation with Daniel Petrie, Jr., Peter Hedges, and Sacha Gervasi
Lawrence Kasdan on How You Know When You’re Done
A Conversation with Steven Zaillian
Peter Hedges on Collaborating
Lawrence Kasdan on Writing with a PartnerRandall Wallace on Working with Other Writers
VIII. Go Forth
Austin Film Festival
Barbara Morgan cofounded Austin Film Festival in 1993 and has served as Executive Director since its inception. A feature filmmaker and producer, she also developed and produces the TV series On Story: Presented by Austin Film Festival.
Maya Perez is a producer/consultant for On Story: Presented by Austin Film Festival and a board member of the Austin Film Festival, for which she has also served as Conference Director. She is a Michener Fellow in Screenwriting at the University of Texas at Austin until 2015.
"Chock-full of wit and sage advice, this collection is a must-read for writers with silver screen ambitions."
—Kristine Huntley, Booklist
“On Story is film school in a box, a lifetime’s worth of filmmaking knowledge squeezed into half-hour packages.”
—Kenneth Turan, film critic for the Los Angeles Times
"One of the reasons so many humdrum screenplays are produced is that so many screenwriters write by the book—somebody or other’s how-to guide to writing—and so many Hollywood executives who can barely write their own names try to impose those dull templates on stories with the potential to be something better. On Story is not one of those guidebooks."
—David Luhrssen, Shepard Express