Today marks a decade since the death of legendary filmmaker, Billy Wilder — a man responsible for writing and/or directing some of Hollywood's most iconic movies (just three examples: The Apartment, Some Like It Hot, and Double Indemnity). It therefore seems like the perfect opportunity to revisit his list of tips for screenwriters, as told to Cameron Crowe in the late-1990s and published in the superb book, Conversations with Wilder.
(Source: Conversations with Wilder; Image: Billy Wilder, via.)
- The audience is fickle.
- Grab 'em by the throat and never let 'em go.
- Develop a clean line of action for your leading character.
- Know where you're going.
- The more subtle and elegant you are in hiding your plot points, the better you are as a writer.
- If you have a problem with the third act, the real problem is in the first act.
- A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They'll love you forever.
- In doing voice-overs, be careful not to describe what the audience already sees. Add to what they're seeing.
- The event that occurs at the second act curtain triggers the end of the movie.
- The third act must build, build, build in tempo and action until the last event, and then — that's it. Don’t hang around.