3 Questions A Screenwriter Should Ask When Developing A Story by Chapman Professor Paul Joseph Gulino

Film Courage: From being at Showtime what did you learn about a flat script versus a viable script?

Paul Joseph Gulino, Associate Professor at Chapman University Dodge College of Film and Media Arts: To me I’m looking for something that’s pretty basic, does it grab me and does it keep me (however they accomplish that).

Does it flow, does it have a natural flow? Does it make me want to turn the pages?

In my training I learned somewhat how to do that and then in subsequent experiences and study and we talk about it in the books [The Science of Screenwriting: The Neuroscience Behind Storytelling Strategies and Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach] the techniques that you can actually use. There are tools you can use to keep the audience engaged, but essentially that’s it.

I wasn’t looking (nor was I instructed to look for) any particular type of material. I was just handed things. And some of the things I did were reading stage plays. Like can we make this into a showtime on Broadway production. Sometime they’d send me off to see a theater group and I’d have to give a report on my judgment on that.

But beyond something that grabs you and keeps your attention that’s pretty much it.

Now there was one script and it will have to remain nameless. There was one script that I remember for a couple years that I was doing that and I thought this is funny. This is smart. This is clever. I sure hope this gets made somehow. And that was 1983–1984. And time went on and sure enough it got made 20 years later. And I thought that’s great. Same title but by that time it had been so rewritten that it was a famous disaster and that was just too bad.

But that would be all example. There was one, the cleverness of the writing, the way the characters were so sharp, the way it flowed, made me remember. It stood out in a pile of material.

Film Courage: Interesting. Why do you think so many…whether it’s hands got into the pie or whatever? Why do you think it had such a fresh voice and then it was almost…these are just my words by destroyed? Maybe that’s too strong?

Professor Gulino: Well that’s not too strong. The mode of production at least for big movies is a problem. Because when you have a big movie and…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).


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