John Yorke: What Makes A Great Screenplay?

John Yorke (former Head of Channel Four Drama and Controller of BBC Drama Production) has some ideas about writing screenplays that he shares (at least in broad strokes) in an article that was published in The Guardian on March 15th, 2013.

Although I am suspicious of easy recipes, I am also always on the lookout for useful tools, and Mr. Yorke's essay suggests a well-read and intelligent approach that should give beginners - and maybe even some more experienced writers - insight into how classic stories (from mythology, literature, theater and movies) have been structured.

And many of the examples in his article are much more recent than the ones in the texts I typically use when I teach screenwriting (i.e., Lajos Egri's The Art of Dramatic Writing).

For example, here's what Mr. Yorke says about antagonists:

"What do Bond and Blofeld, Sarah Connor and the Terminator, Sam Tyler and Gene Hunt (Life on Mars), Fiona and Frank Gallagher (Shameless) have in common? They're all opposites. "We're not so very different, you and I," says Karla to Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. "We both spend our lives looking for the weaknesses in one and another's systems. As the Joker, displaying an uncharacteristic grasp of story structure, says to Batman in The Dark Knight, "You complete me." All forces of antagonism embody the qualities missing in their protagonist's lives."

This March 2013 article is apparently a teaser for Mr. Yorke's book, Into The Woods: A Five Act Journey Into Story, that Penguin is publishing later this year (April 2013).  I may just buy it.

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