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About the author
Joseph McBride is an internationally renowned film historian and biographer and a veteran film and television writer whose decades of experience have brought him a Writers Guild of America Award, four other WGA nominations, two Emmy Award nominations, and a Canadian Film Awards nomination. McBride was one of the screenwriters of the cult classic punk rock musical Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and co-wrote five American Film Institute Life Achievement Award specials for CBS TV.
McBride was a film critic, reporter, and columnist for Daily Variety in Hollywood for many years. His books include the acclaimed biographies Frank Capra: The Catastrophe of Success, Steven Spielberg: A Biography, and Searching for John Ford. The French edition of the Ford biography won the Best Foreign Film Book of the Year award from the French film critics' organization in 2008. McBride has also published a celebrated book of interviews with director Howard Hawks, Hawks on Hawks, and three books on Orson Welles, including What Ever Happened to Orson Welles?: A Portrait of an Independent Career. That book is partly a memoir of McBride’s experience working as an actor for Welles for six years, playing a film critic in the director’s legendary unfinished film The Other Side of the Wind, for which McBride cowrote his dialogue with Welles.
McBride is an associate professor in the Cinema Department at San Francisco State University, where he has been teaching screenwriting and film history since 2002. In 2011, he became the subject of a feature-length documentary on his life and work, Behind the Curtain: Joseph McBride on Writing Film History, written and directed by Hart Perez. McBride lives in Berkeley.
Writing in Pictures is a refreshingly practical and entertaining guide to screenwriting that provides what is lacking in most such books: a clear, step-by-step demonstration of how to write a screenplay.
Seasoned screenwriter and writing teacher Joseph McBride breaks down the process into a series of easy, approachable tasks, focusing on literary adaptation as the best way to learn the basics and avoiding the usual formulaic approach. With its wealth of useful tips, along with colorful insights from master screenwriters past and present, this book is invaluable for anyone who wants to learn the craft of screen storytelling.
Introduction: Who Needs Another Book on Screenwriting?
Part I: Storytelling
1: So Why Write Screenplays?
2: What Is Screenwriting?
3: Stories: What They Are and How to Find Them
4: Ten Tips for the Road Ahead
Part II: Adaptation
5: Breaking the Back of the Book: or, The Art of Adaptation
STEP 1: THE STORY OUTLINE
6: Research and Development
STEP 2: THE ADAPTATION OUTLINE
7: The Elements of Screenwriting
STEP 3: THE CHARACTER BIOGRAPHY
8: Exploring Your Story and How to Tell It
STEP 4: THE TREATMENT
Part III: Production
9: Who Needs Formatting?
10: Actors Are Your Medium
11: Dialogue as Action
STEP 5: THE STEP OUTLINE
12: The Final Script
13: Epilogue: Breaking into Professional Filmmaking
Appendix A: The Basic Steps in the Screenwriting Process
Appendix B: “To Build A Fire” by Jack London
In the press
“Impressively readable, unpretentious, and remarkably useful. Based on a lifetime of experience and observation, as well as conversations with some of the greats (like Orson Welles, John Ford & Howard Hawks), Joe McBride's comprehensive yet very succinct work should become a standard text.”
--Peter Bogdanovich, screenwriter, director, film historian
“I must confess that I had never read a how-to book straight through for the sheer pleasure of it, and I never expected to—until I got my hands on the splendid Writing in Pictures. . . . A word of warning: in this book you will not find the Six Keys to Compelling Characters, the Seven Secrets of Successful Plotting, or the Eight Jungian Archetypes No Studio Executive Can Resist. There are no magic formulae here—but if you do have a story to tell, this book will give you the solid practical advice you need to tell it in the most effective way. Writing in Pictures is a short course in how to think cinematically. It will change the way you write. It will change the way you watch.”
-- Sam Hamm, screenwriter of Batman, Batman Returns, and "Homecoming"
“If this isn't the greatest screenwriting book ever, I'll eat my hat! Writing in Pictures is the kind of how-to book Ben Hecht would have written on that subject: a Socratic tour of the profession the novice aspires to, filled with screenwriting lore, for illustration and entertainment. If you want to judge someone's work by how personal it is, this may just turn out to be Joe McBride's masterpiece.”
--Bill Krohn, author of Hitchcock at Work and Hollywood correspondent, Cahiers du Cinéma
“In this unique contribution to the screenplay literature, Joe McBride invites writers to connect themselves to literary tradition, relying less on formulas and more on intelligent uses of classic storytelling technique. He blends general precepts, concrete examples, hard-won experience, and lively anecdotes into something more than the usual script manual: an invitation to participate in the great human adventure of sharing stories.”
--David Bordwell, author of Poetics of Cinema
“A real contribution to a much-abused genre. Most screenwriting “how to” books are either formulaic, craven, or both. . . .McBride’s book is something else. It’s a straightforward, considered and lucid meditation on the arts and crafts of storytelling for the screen, informed by McBride's unsurpassed knowledge of, and deep love for, the movies.”
--Howard A. Rodman, screenwriter, teacher, and vice president of Writers Guild of America West
"If it is possible for only one book to embody the ethos of screenwriting, this is the one, a guide to screenwriting that is more than a guide -- craft, history, practical advice, philosophical bedrock, wisdom, wit -- and through it all, as in the very best screenplays, the reassurance of one clarion voice."
-- Patrick McGilligan, film biographer and editor of the Backstory series of interviews with screenwriters
“McBride offers the kind of friendly but honest advice that will make him the mentor to a new generation of aspiring screenwriters. Born of long experience and exceptional insight, he distills the lessons of screenwriting history into a first-rate primer for the screenwriters of tomorrow.”
--Julian Hoxter, screenwriter and author of Write What You Don't Know: An Accessible Manual for Screenwriters