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Posts from the ‘Excerpts’ Category


The Three Act Structure: a Creative Straightjacket

There are those who claim that a film must have a three-act structure, and they often claim that Aristotle gave this “rule” to us. In fact, there were no acts as we define the term today in Greek drama, and Aristotle did not talk about acts at all because the plays he analyzed were all presented in a single continuous performance. Read more »


“Films Must Have a Happy Ending”: Wrong

The press, audiences, and people in the film industry itself all seem to believe that, to be a success, a Hollywood film must have a happy ending, but as the list below demonstrates, this is not born out by the evidence. While comedies and musicals generally end happily, a very large proportion of the most memorable popular films (those that were popular in their own day and have remained popular) do not. Read more »


Becoming a Filmmaker

During the course of having lunch with a friend who had recently been the C.E.O. of a major studio, I lamented all the creative people on planet Earth who might be just as talented as the people currently working in the industry and how they would never get a chance to make their films. He fixed my eyes and said: “Howard, I think all the really talented people are making films.”

His response reflected what I already knew about his Darwinian world view.  I thought of arguing the point but decided it would be fruitless, because you cannot prove a negative. That exchange echoed in my head for years, and in some ways provided the genesis for this book.

Is it true that those who “make it” are the most talented people practicing the art of film and therefore deserve to succeed? Or do other factors play an equally important role?   Read more »


Becoming a PROFESSIONAL Filmmaker

Professionals in all fields have a way of looking at the world, a set of values and procedures that tells them what they need to pay attention to and what they can ignore, those things that are either relevant or irrelevant to their goal and method of work. So, too, do filmmakers.

“Anyone can make a movie,” is true in the same sense that anyone can play baseball or write a sonnet, but few become a Babe Ruth or a William Shakespeare.  Becoming a professional requires not only a higher degree of skill than most people obtain; it also requires a mindset about the profession that is quite different from that of the weekend golfer, open mike comedian, or summer filmmaker.

Many books try to help you appreciate and understand how films work. (I’ve written one myself, The Power of Film.) A slew of others tell you how to write screenplays or master the technical aspects of filmmaking. This book is not about these things.  It is about the process of becoming a professional filmmaker.    Read more »


Letters to Young Filmmakers – Table of Contents

Becoming a Filmmaker.. xiv

Becoming a Professional Filmmaker ..xvii

Fate vs. Destiny .. 3

War .. 5

It’s Who You Know .. 9

“Born Creative”? .. 11

The Principal Principle of Creativity.. 13

Inspiration .. 17

Originality.. 20

Ideas.. 24

Pitching.. 26                Read more »