Screenwriting Product Review: “Screenwriting – Behind Enemy Lines” by John Schimmel

I don’t like writing in books. I feel like I’m destroying them somehow, but in reading Screenwriting – Behind Enemy Lines by John Schimmel I had to overcome my obsession. I did just that, I wrote in it. Highlighted to be more specific. The book just has so much information for a novice screenwriter such as myself that I felt it necessary to highlight stuff so I could reference back to it. Heck, it has so much information that even a veteran screenwriter is sure to gain some new knowledge.  I loved this book. It’s like a textbook for filmmaking except way more interesting to read.

screenwriting behind enemy linesJohn Schimmel knows what he’s talking about. He has been in the business for over twenty years and has worked on films such as The FugitiveBatman, and Lucky Number Slevin to name a few. The book is an insiders view of the screenwriting world. Schimmel shares his knowledge in an easy to understand way, by using examples from well known movies to drive his points home. The book starts by asking you to look at your screenplay, or any screenplay for that matter, and ask yourself “Does it make a good movie?” He analyzes several excerpts from scripts to demonstrate why certain stories appeal to people and why others, or yours, may not.

You will learn about creating structure and how to make characters that people will be willing to see in a film. Think of your favorite movie. I guarantee you first think of a character in that movie. Characters are what make films memorable. When people quote a film they are quoting a character. You will learn how to write these beings into your script and move them around in the world of your story and do it right. Much of this is basic stuff, but it is then built upon, with more complex ideas. For instance, one question is “What is the characters age?” Most people would just write down an age but Schimmel tells us why you shouldn’t do that. He urges us to consider factors such as who we are writing for and create ages using that information. That is something I would not have thought of before reading Screenwriting – Behind Enemy Lines.

This is a hands on book designed to make you take action. Schimmel raises the bar by creating writing exercises at the end of each chapter, so don’t think that you’re just going to sit back and read. Have your computer ready because you will be busy writing that screenplay that is stuck in your head or scattered on sticky notes everywhere. The book is written in a very organized fashion and covers everything from story concept to polished script. If you have a screenplay, I recommend reading the entire book, then starting over and do the exercises… That way you have the entire picture of what a finished script should both look and sound like. There is a lot of information packed into the 211 pages of this book.

Bottom line? If you dream of writing a screenplay, or want to increase the sellability of your existing screenplay, get John Schimmel’s Screenwriting – Behind Enemy Lines. It will be money well spent. Have a highlighter and your favorite screenwriting software in reach and ready to go…

You’ll need it.

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