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For Your Consideration: Screenplays are an Excellent Resource for Writers

December 10, 2012

By John C.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower - First Page of ScreenplayEvery year, one of my favourite parts of awards season is the downloadable screenplays that the studios upload to their For Your Consideration websites, allowing other writers to study the work behind some of the best movies of the year.

As a writer who has completed a feature length screenplay and is currently in the process of expanding the story and adapting it into a novel, being able to read some of the best screenplays of the year is an invaluable resource.  Brad Brevet over at Rope of Silicon has conveniently put all of the For Your Consideration links together into one post, which now includes a whopping total of 27 screenplays and more to be added on the site in the near future.

Universal was one of the first studios to the party, uploading their screenplays for the The Lorax, Snow White and the Huntsman, Ted and This is 40 back in October.  Although I won’t actually be seeing This is 40 until sometime next week, reading through a few pages of Judd Apatow’s lengthy screenplay makes me confident that I’m going to enjoy his usual blend of long dialogue-driven scenes, which are always incredibly entertaining to watch play out on screen.  He has a very free writing style that allows the conversations between characters to go on for several pages at a time, perfectly capturing the feeling of real life in all of its unscripted glory.

Along with the screenplays for their usual prestige films like Anna Karenina, Hyde Park on Hudson and the forthcoming Promised Land, Focus Features has also made available the scripts for the excellent animated film ParaNorman and Oscar hopeful Moonrise Kingdom.  Written by director Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, one of the great joys of reading the inventive screenplay for Moonrise Kingdom is realizing how much meticulous planning is behind the many spontaneous flights of fancy that are seen on screen.  It’s written in a very visual style that makes us able to instantly recall every beautifully shot frame of the film, and reminds me exactly why it still stands as one of the best movies of the year.

Fox Searchlight was equally generous with the screenplays for the four films they have vying for awards season attention this year, including The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Hitchcock and my personal favourite The Sessions.  Director Ben Lewin’s screenplay for The Sessions is a beautiful piece of writing that eloquently lays the groundwork for the deeply nuanced performances that make up the film.  The Weinstein Company has also uploaded screenplays for all three of their fall releases, including the script behind Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut Quartet, David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook and Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master.

There is a rapid fire quality to the dialogue in Silver Linings Playbook that sticks out in my mind as one of the things I look for in a great script, and it’s instantly understandable what attracted the actors to the film.  It’s one of my favourite films of the year, and I just love how the characters have been set up in a way that allows them to brilliantly play off each other.  What’s interesting about the script that has been uploaded for The Master is that it looks like a scanned in photo copy, offering a different order of events and including scenes that aren’t in the finished film.  It gives us a fascinating flipside to the masterful final product, while offering an example of how much a screenplay can change in the time that it takes to be brought to the screen.

Equally noteworthy is Tony Kushner’s screenplay that DreamWorks released for Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln, and it’s a dense political work filled with historical characterizations and deeply intelligent dialogue.  Even Disney has given the awards push to their films with downloadable screenplays, making available the scripts for their animated releases Frankenweenie and Wreck-It Ralph.  John August’s screenplay for Frankenweenie is a touching homage to classic horror films that is deeply personal on the part of director Tim Burton.  Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston’s Wreck-It Ralph script is a multilayered piece of work, rich with sharp dialogue and emotionally resonant characters.

The screenplay that Lionsgate released for The Perks of Being a Wallflower, written by Stephen Chbosky and “based on his novel,” offers the perfect example of an author adapting his own work.  The parts of the book that have been omitted and the dialogue that has been added around the first-person narration of the novel all work because they are kept perfectly in tune with how the author envisioned his story.  There is a beautifully descriptive quality to the action paragraphs, and fans of the book will appreciate reading the prose with which the screenplay has been written.  It truly is one of the best films of the year and an adapted screenplay that works as a perfect companion piece to the beloved source material.

Despite having their own unique styles, what all of the screenplays that I’ve specifically profiled share in common is that they rank among the best of the year.  From the dialogue to the way they are written, there simply is no better resource for other writers than to read the scripts behind some of the movies up for Oscar consideration.

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