I told a student last week if he really wanted to know how one specific movie broke down?

[A film I didn’t love and wasn’t going to be bringing into class to block out? I have to really love a film to put that kind of work into it for a class. Which is why you are not seeing an image of THAT script and instead are seeing a shot of a script I did break down for a class, Juno, ow ow ow it is so painful breaking down scripts, but hey at least I love the material.]

The way to do it is to sit down with the script, the dvd, a tablet, a stop watch, and mark it out.

I’m not kidding about that. Structure was one of the hardest things for me, going in. Dialogue? Easy. It flowed. Character? I was born with that in hand.

Structure? I was not born with the gift of structure. I learned it. The hard way. Had to fight for it. Worked at it. Very hard. And to this day? If I want to show students structure? I do it the old fashioned way. The way I learned it. With a script, with a dvd, with a magic marker, with a stack of postits and a stop watch — and I sweat it out.

That is how I do it every single time. That’s how all of us do it every single time. Or at least those of us who had to learn it the hard way. And then need to show someone else how it is done.

We watch the film. We print the script. We read the script. We block out the acts. Then we get the hose —


Oops, sorry, segue into another film….


That’s how we did it in dance class when I was a kid too. The things you’re gifted at going in? You work at hard. The things you need more strength in? You stay late and do it again.

It works that way in writing too.

Work everything you’re strong at hard because you need to be stronger still.

And everything you’re not strong at? You stay late and do it again — and harder.