Scriptwriter shares Hollywood screenplay secrets

“The more you study movies and scripts, especially good ones that you admire, the more you will start to identify certain attributes,” said Kathy McCullough. “They will start to become a part of your repertoire, a part of your general understanding of how to develop a story.”

McCullough, a Hollywood script reader, writer, analyst and script doctor spoke Feb. 17 to a gathering of 30-40 scriptwriting students in the PS building. McCullough currently works for such studios as HBO, Castlerock Entertainment, Miramax, Imagine and many others. Her lecture was part of the Digital Media Speaker Series which works to bring industry professionals to students.

During her lecture, McCullough explained how readers in Hollywood act as a studio’s gatekeepers and gave students tips to make their scripts as attractive as possible.

“Basically it’s developing a story,” said McCullough. “There are a lot of scripts I see where it has an interesting idea but it’s not able to follow that idea all the way through…it’s very difficult to keep surprising the reader, or the audience.”

McCullough described common mistakes and clichés, giving advice on how to avoid them. She showed how to develop unique and compelling characters, illustrating techniques the writer can use to get to know his or her characters to be better able to write them.

She also acknowledged the difficulty in taking up such a task. “This is not necessarily something you’ll be able to do in the first draft,” McCullough said. “But you’re going to have to do it eventually.”

McCullough ended the evening showing script examples from a number of recently released films. Students then asked questions regarding their own scripts, as well as career advice for breaking into the film industry.

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