Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Reading is fundamental

Unlike the hurried, late-night dash around Baltimore that was my previous Writer's Arc mailing, this time around was a sedate affair. Again, if you're in L.A., allow me to put in a good word for Maziar's Script Copier shop on Wilshire Boulevard. Fast and cheap (always an attractive combination). As for the script itself, who knows? For a first draft, I liked it. If Amy & Ami don't, I at least have another spec under the belt to get in shape and send out for representation inquiries. Also, should be getting the first word from Nicholl sometime next week.

Now having completed a second full screenplay, and being fairly comfortable with most of the style and formatting conventions, I find myself reading more and more scripts by other authors. Not as a template but to hear their "voice." How much do they put into their scene directions? How detailed are their character descriptions? But mostly how they use words and language to bring the visual aspects of a film to life on the written page. Especially coming from the background of legal writing, transitioning to a more "filmic" voice of my own has been challenging.

Although copies of many screenplays are available online, at sites such as IMSDB, Simply Scripts, and Drew's Script O'Rama, and for purchase in bookstores, most tend to be of more recent vintage and still only a fraction of all the movies ever made. One of the benefits to living in Los Angeles is the easy access to hard-copy screenplay collections at the several libraries around town.

The first is located at the Frances Howard Goldwyn branch of the Los Angeles Public Library (1623 N. Ivar Avenue). Although the special collection there includes much more than just scripts, the library has a number from both feature films and television. They did have one film script that I had been unable to locate online but there is a good deal of overlap with those on the websites. The television scripts I saw were mostly from the 1970s, the standout to me being the entire universe of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman and Fernwood 2Nite shows. While the Goldwyn branch is open to the public at large, they do ask that you schedule your visit to the special collections room in advance.

A step up in the scope of its collection is the Writers Guild Foundation's Shavelson-Webb Library (3d St. and Fairfax). Home to more television and feature film scripts, the WGA's library not only has more than are generally available online but also the t.v. scripts are pretty current, i.e., within the immediately prior season. Additionally, the space has free wi-fi access in case you want to work while you read. They also offer a limited number of DVDs accompanying some of the better-known screenplays and screenwriting instruction videos for viewing in the library.

But the cream of the crop, in my experience, is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science's Margaret Herrick Library (333 S. La Cienega Blvd., just north of Olympic). Though only open to the public four days of the week, the library's holdings of feature film scripts is unparalleled. Over 9000 in their Core Collection, they had the one that I had been looking high and low for out to me in a matter of minutes. Their special collection of documents, letters, and other materials related to the motion picture industry is similarly extensive and available for browsing at the Herrick's reading room.

Between these three locations, a writer in town should be able to get his or her hands on almost any screenplay they wanted to read. Both the Shavelson-Webb and the Herrick have online catalog searching available at their websites, just to be sure. And, best of all these days, they're all air conditioned and offer a cool refuge from the summer heat.


Post a Comment

<< Home