A good script can provide the recipe for a good film. Screenwriting itself is a craft which can be attempted by pretty much anyone, but it can be very difficult to master. A decent script can transform or take away from a film’s appeal. While a movie can be universally popular, not every film is internationally successful. While Hollywood system films still dominate the film industry, it is harder and harder to ignore new markets across the world which yearn for something new, something fresh – and I would argue, that it all starts with the script. So, what makes the script of a film interesting? What does it need to achieve? Why does script form the foundation of a film? And how can we bring new and different stories to a international audience?
Crazy Screenwriting Secrets is a book which tackles the question of global film appeal and examines it through a screenwriting lens. It’s written in a comfortable and interesting way, expressing the core practical tenets of scriptwriting. The book also gives an introduction into practices of both Hollywood and Chinese film industries with a thesis of global inclusion – which is one of the reasons why I enjoyed the book so much! Weiko Lin, the author, is a writer and producer who has written major film projects in both Asain and Westen markets. He has also taught at many prestigious institutions including UCLA, Northwestern University and Taipei National University of the Arts. Weiko bridges the gap between the Chinese and American film industries in order to find both an interesting and unique global filmmaking viewpoint.
Content: An Universal Outlook With Practical Solutions
Lin organises the book into two parts over five chapters. The technical side of screenwriting covers things like Story Ideas, Characters and the Screenplay, etc. The second part looks into the actual practical side of the craft. That is to say, he looks at concepts such as the U.S. market and how to work within it, as well as the Chinese film industry and its own brand of global appeal. The book goes through the tools that you need in order to write, how to construct a script and how to work in both the Hollywood industry and the Chinese filmmaking industry. It also lays out the craft of screenwriting through explaining various practical elements and discussing how to practically achieve them. He explains what industries standards to use (Final Draft software etc.), methods to conceptualise story ideas and how to present your script in the best way possible to potential buyers.
Weiko also takes the reader on a short trip around the scriptwriting profession- explaining the workflow from screenplay to screen, a couple of managerial agencies that he recommends as well as film schools that he has either been an alumni at or has connections too. It’s not a full list of recommendations or a comprehensive guide for a writing career but it can give you an understanding on what to look for. Furthermore, he briefly touches on legal concepts such as copyright rules for scripts and the Writers Guild of America union which are a small but essential part of a practical real world guide to the craft of scriptwriting.
My favourite ideas of the book must come from the section about the global appeal of Hollywood structure and how it can be used to for maximum effect for ‘universal movies’. Citing examples such as Slumdog millionaire, Brokeback Mountain, Get Out, Crazy Rich Asians, etc . Weiko explains that these films have critical and blockbuster success because of the few things they have in common. They take advantage of a culturally and ethnically inclusive storyline, they don’t preach to their audience and simply put, are good movies! Weiko also briefly mentions the unique aspects of the Chinese film industry, how it is organised, what material can (and can’t) be used in a screenplay and the particulars of Chinese networking. I really enjoyed this section of the book – as alongside this, Weiko also mentions various different examples of recent Chinese films which are critics’ favourites and what is popular in terms of box office appeal. As someone who is very much interested in the emerging Chinese film market, it’s a great opportunity to see what new gems to look out for.
Style: A Foodie’s Approach To Film
The book is also blessed with a style which is both easy to digest and refined. It’s is a nice length, and does not go into irrelevant detail – in fact, I could have had a second helping of it! Weiko uses recent and popular film examples in order to illuminate his points about how best to go about organising genre and structure. It also is written in a way which pays homage to its cultural roots as food is used to draw an analogy between it and scriptwriting in multiple, illuminating ways. To put it simply, you can’t have a good three act structure without a decent recipe to make it!
What if you walked into a McDonalds and the Big Mac was missing from the menu? Or it takes thirty minutes to get your meal? The Big Mac is a staple and that’s not the speed you expect from a fast food restaurant. It would be frustrating. The same goes for movies. There is a certain build up and momentum the audience has come to expect from films just as they expect a certain menu, food preparation, and promptness from a restaurant franchise.
Weiko’s passion for both food and film is consistantly used to ground the book in an easily digestable way. Both the Chinese and American cultural and social understanding of film shine within the book to create something unique and global. Finally, it primarily focuses on the essentials which makes it the book an easy recommendation to either beginners or writers from another medium looking for a good introduction into the craft of screenwriting.
Weiko Lin is a writer with a deep passion for film and food, which is reflected in the book itself. It combines the cultural footprint of his background with a lifetime of valuable experiences for a tasty and unique approach. While other screenwriting books may be more detailed or have more in-depth examples, this is a great start for a script-writer looking to write in a style which takes advantage of the increadly successful hollywood story construction and a global outlook on filmmaking.
If you are interested in learning more about scriptwriting or just want to learn more about film, please take a look at our short courses section on our website. Currenty, we are running a few things geared towards writing in film such as the weekend Script Analysis for Directors course, the weekend Script Supervision Masterclass and a 5 part series on scriptwriting starting at the end of July.