Update, 2013. I recently changed hosting services for this old guy, thinking first that I would take it down entirely. A dozen years since my last revision of FADE has seen many substantial changes in the films you see and the film scripts that get written. Most of what is on screen now are either CGI driven -- think anything opening wide this summer -- or are truly niche small films -- think last season's SILVER LINING PLAYBOOK, the HANGOVER series, and others of that ilk. It seems to me that fresh writing from a new crop of screenwriters has a much smaller window of opportunity than back in the days when I first wrote this book. Changes have created a certain sameness in the product, and a really innovative piece may never have a chance, no matter how good it is or how hard you work at it. Yet the business of the business still drives the creative machinery, and I believe that there is always a chance that you who are reading this now will hit that lucky combination of visionary producer and willing financier that will let you experience the best rush a screenwriter can ever have, seeing what you have written realized on the screen in front of you. Notwithstanding the tighter market and sameness of product, I will still stand by much of what I wrote here many years ago. I believe that a few things are sacrosanct in penning good screenplays, and consequently making good movies: the linear story, the demand for visual storytelling, the need for cooperation, and clearly understanding the story parts of a script, to name a few. So I am keeping FADE online for anybody who might benefit from what it took me more than thirty years in the biz to learn. Good luck, and keep writing!
This is now the third and final edition of two books I originally wrote in 1994, and
revised in 1997, FADE IN and FADE OUT. This site now contains the entire
edition of from FADE IN through FADE OUT, complete and free. I had added some
additional material to those first works. There have been many changes in the past few
years, in the business and in my own perceptions of the craft of writing screenplays. A
good deal of what follows here will be familiar, if you have previously downloaded FADE
IN or purchased FADE OUT. Scan through the following material for what has
changed or been added. Those who have found something valuable in what they read here can
please me greatly by letting me know. Those who wish further information of clarification
can ask me electronically. Just click on the e-mail icon on this page and I will respond
as soon as I can.
Even though here in Los Angeles it has become the source for myriad jokes, it is true that a great many people want to write screenplays. Their problem is that they do not know how. Like any other craft, the craft of writing -- writing anything at all -- requires two elements; first, a modicum of fundamental abilities, those things we learned or should have learned in school; and, second, a set of acquired skills relevant to the form of writing the writer plans. The former should be acquired before anybody tries to write creatively. The latter may be honed with practice until the writer is capable of achieving a professional result.
I wrote this book to help those who want to learn how to write screenplays become familiar with the essential elements of the craft. I have tried to avoid those excesses of theory that appear so lucid but leave the writer scrambling for practical advice. I also have tried to avoid getting so bogged down in details of specific technique that the beginner loses interest in the process. If this book can serve as a bridge to connect the aspiring screenwriter with the necessary understanding of the basic processes which underlie the creation of every script, then I have succeeded in what I set out to do.
What you write is your decision. How you choose to write it will be your choice as well, at least until someone hires you to write for a particular project. Within this freedom, however, there are a number of general techniques and methods that you may learn and apply to your writing. These can enhance your skill level as a screenwriter, invoke an aura of professionalism in your scripts, stimulate your enthusiasm through showing you new ways to handle perennial problems, and even guide you toward that one event every screenwriter should passionately lust after, seeing your screenplay made into film.
Thanks to the magic of our brave new cyber-world, you can skip around freely in the text of from FADE IN to FADE OUT. However, I strongly urge you to read it the same way I sincerely hope you will approach writing your first script, as an exercise in linear storytelling.