I remember when I was asked if I would like a review copy of Mike Goodridge’s Directing (part of the FilmCraft series), it seemed like a daunting task. I had never written a book review outside of school and that was a long time ago. Diving in, the book was filled with interviews from top directors as well as the obscure. Now, comes The Screenwriter’s Roadmap from Neil Landau. Subtitled 21 Ways to Jumpstart Your Story, Landau sets out to literally live up to the book’s title. It’s also been interesting to have the book’s contents in the back of my head over the last few weeks and seeing that the book’s method is tried and true.
Divided into 21 chapters, it’s basically a how-to guide for writing the best screenplay you can. Being an accomplished screenwriter himself (Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead being his chief credit), Landau keeps each chapter surprisingly short, while packing them with as much information as possible. Starting with the most important aspect, “What’s the Catch?” covers your film’s central conflict. We also find out why characters must have something to win and lose; how to feed the audience “inciting incidents”; why some movies are like ticking clocks; and finally, rewrites, er… revising and refining intentions and your film’s vision.
The Screenwriter’s Roadmap also has assignments attached to the end of each chapter, which I’ll admit I didn’t do. Who knows how much longer it could have taken me to read the book? Before the assignments there are interviews with 21 accomplished screenwriters as well to add their own unique perspective on the writing process. While most are writers you’ve probably never heard of, at least Landau includes their list of credits. David Koepp proves to be as much fun to hear from as his films are to watch (Death Becomes Her, Jurassic Park, 2002’s Spider-Man, and this summer’s Premium Rush), while David S. Goyer (the Dark Knight and Blade trilogies, Dark City and The Crow) proves to be as egotistical as I’ve read he can be.
If you’re looking for something more educational than entertaining, The Screenwriter’s Roadmap is a fantastic book to pick up for anyone looking to start his or her own masterpiece.