Wild about Wilder

One of my favorite screenwriters/film makers is Billy Wilder. He's responsible for classic movies such as Sunset Boulevard, The Apartment, Sabrina, and one of my all time favorites, Some Like it Hot. This man knew how to tell a story. I tripped upon a list of Mr. Wilder's screenwriting tips over at writer, Billy Mernit's blog Living the Romantic Comedy. Click here and scroll down to his post Wilder Wisdom. Mr. Mernit provides insightful commentary on each tip.

In the meantime, here are Wilder's Ten Tips on Screenwriting compliments of Conversations with Wilder by Cameron Crowe. To me, whether it's a screenplay, novel, or short story, storytelling is storytelling. And Wilder was a master.

1. The audience is fickle.

2. Grab 'em by the throat and never let 'em go.

3. Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.

4. Know where you're going.

5. The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.

6. If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.

7. A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They'll love you forever.

8. In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they're seeing.

9. The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie.

10. The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then--that's it. Don't hang around.


Tori Lennox said…
Reading that list I suddenly have this horrible feeling I should scrap my entire book. *sigh*
Beth Ciotta said…
The tips are meant to inspire, not discourage, Tori. LOL Hang in there!

Charlene, I agree about 6. 7 and 10 also hit hard. Actually so did 2 and 4. And 5. Dang. I need to print this out and post it near Grisham's ten tips. :)
Jordan Summers said…
Very sound advice indeed. I especially like 2 through 9. Of course all of it is wonderful advice. Six is my favorite.
Caro said…
Wilder was brilliant. That he could go from The Major and the Minor to The Lost Weekend to Sunset Boulevard to Sabrina and all the others in between is mind-boggling to me.

Those tips are wonderful. Thank you.
T-Lo said…
Beth, thank you so much for the tips. I loved them. As I've informed you, I am on a current project (just for fun). There is still no title, although I am throwing around "A Road Less Traveled". That'll come to me later. The tips helped me in two ways:
1.) The suggestions they made reassured me that I was doing the right thing (Tips #4, #10).
2.) The other tips set me on a path of clarity that, before now, had me a bit in a fog. I appreciated #8 and #6.

Oh, and #2 is especially important for a horror screenplay. ;)
Julia Templeton said…
Great tips, Beth!
Thanks for sharing.
Josie said…
Oh, I love Billy Wilder. I enjoy the fast-paced writing in his films, especially Some Like it Hot. Great list!
Beth Ciotta said…
Glad you all got something out of Wilder's tips. I know I did. :)

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