Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Screenwriting: Match Tarantino in Two Days

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Screenwriting: Match Tarantino in Two Days

Article excerpt

It's that time of year again when our film-makers migrate south for two weeks of schmoozing and boozing at Cannes. But don't panic if you forgot to book your flight: stay at home instead and cobble together a book called How to Write Totally Awesome Screenplays. Then watch the money roll in.

With only one British film, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers, showing in competition this year at Cannes, it sometimes seems there are more people in Britain teaching other people how to write films than writing any themselves. While the industry lurches from one cash-strapped crisis to the next, screenwriting training courses boom. Who are these movie Messiahs, offering to unleash your inner Charlie Kaufman or Quentin Tarantino for just [pounds sterling]249 (lunch not included)?

It's rare these days to meet a producer who does not have a copy of Robert McKee's Story somewhere in the office. This is not necessarily a bad sign--his book is a decent guide to structuring a classic three-act film. McKee's real fame, however, comes from his two-day seminars, where the faithful can listen to the master in the flesh. McKee's closest rival is Chris Vogler, a former Disney executive. In 1992, he wrote to studio bosses outlining his views on storytelling, which he later expanded into a manual. In the same way that bestselling thrillers end up as Tom Cruise vehicles, screenwriting manuals becomes seminars. Vogler, too, promises to teach you everything in just two days. …

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